Correspondence

3109.  EBB to Anna Brownell Jameson

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 18, 212–214.

Welbeck street 58–

Tuesday– [?14 September] [1852][1]

Dearest Monna Nina, Here are the verses.[2] I did them all because that was easiest to me, but of course you will extract the two you want.

It has struck me besides that you might care to see this old ballad which I find among my papers, from one of the Percy or other antiquarian society books, & which I transcribed years ago, modernizing slightly in order to make out some sort of rhythm, as I went on.[3] I did this because the original poem impressed me deeply with its pathos– I wish I could send you the antique literal poem, but I have’nt it, nor know where to find it—still, I dont think I quite spoilt it with the very slight changes ventured by me in the transcription.

God bless you– Let us meet on wednesday. Robert’s best love with that of

your ever affectionate

Ba.

Publication: LEBB, II, 80–83.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

Enclosures:

Stabat mater.

 

Mother full of lamentation,

Near that cross she wept her passion,

Whereon hung her child & Lord.

Through her spirit worn & wailing,

Tortured by the stroke and failing,

Passed & pierced the prophet’s sword.

 

Oh, sad & sore, above all other,

Was that ever blessed mother

Of the sole-begotten one;

She who mourned & moaned & trembled

While she measured, nor dissembled,

Such despairs of such a son!

 

Where’s the man could hold from weeping,

If Christ’s mother he saw keeping

Watch, with mother-heart undone?

Who could hold from grief, to view her,

Tender mother, true and pure,

Agonizing with her son.

 

For her people’s sins she saw Him

Down the bitter Deep withdraw Him

’Neath the scourge and through the dole!

Her sweet son she contemplated

Nailed to death, and desolated,

While he breathed away his soul.

EBB—

 

Ballad. beginning of Edward IId’s reign–

 

“Stand up, mother, under cross!

Smile to help thy son at loss–

Blythe, o mother, try to be!”

‘Son, how can I blythely stand,

Seeing here thy foot & hand

Nailed to the cruel tree?’

 

“Mother, cease thy weeping blind.

I die here for all mankind,

Not for guilt that I have done.”

‘Son, I feel thy deathly smart–

The sword pierces through my heart

Prophecied by Simeon.’

 

“Mother, mercy! let me die,—

Adam out of Hell to buy,

And his kin who are accurst.”

‘Son, what use have I for breath?

Sorrow wasteth me to death–

Let my dying come the first.’

 

“Mother, pity on thy son!

Bloody tears be running down

Worse to bear, than death to meet!”

‘Son, how can I cease from weeping?

Bloody streams I see a creeping

From thine heart, against my feet–’

 

“Mother, now I tell thee, I!

Better is it, one should die

Than all men to hell should go.”

‘Son, I see thy body hang

Foot & hand in pierced pang.

Who can wonder at my woe?’

 

“Mother, now I will thee tell–

If I live, thou goest to hell–

I must die here for thy sake.”

‘Son, thou art so mild & kind,

Nature, knowledge have enjoined

I, for thee, this wail must make.’

 

“Mother—ponder now this thing.

Sorrow, childbirth still must bring–

Sorrow ’tis, to have a son!”

‘Ay, still sorrow, I can tell!

Mete it by the pain of hell,

Since more sorrow can be none.’

 

“Mother, pity mother’s care!

Now as mother dost thou fare,

Though of maids the purest known.”

‘Son, thou help at every need.

All those who before me plead,—

Maid, wife .. woman, everyone.’

 

“Mother, here I cannot dwell.

Time is that I pass to hell,

And the third day rise again.”

‘Son, I would depart with thee–

Lo! Thy wounds are slaying me ..

Death has no such sorrow .. none.’

 

When He rose, then fell her sorrow.

Sprung her bliss on the third morrow.

A blythe mother wert thou so!

Lady, for that selfsame bliss,

Pray thy son who peerless is—

Be our shield against our foe.

 

Blessed be thou, full of bliss!

Let us not Heaven’s safety miss,

Never! through thy sweet son’s might.

Jesus, for that selfsame blood

Which thou sheddest upon rood,

Bring us to the heavenly light.

1. Conjectured day and month suggested by reference to letter 3115, in which EBB writes that Mrs. Jameson “was here last night” and that she was concerned about “Lady Lovelace’s illness.” The verses EBB has enclosed are meant to comfort the mother of a sick or dying child. Mrs. Jameson’s good friend Lady Byron was the mother of Lady Lovelace. The year is provided by reference to the return address.

2. See enclosure. This partial translation from a thirteenth-century Latin hymn, “Stabat Mater dolorosa,” was first published in LEBB, II, pp. 80–81.

3. The ballad EBB transcribed (see enclosure) can be found in the Percy Society’s Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages (1842), IV, 80–83.

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