Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abelard: David's Lament for Jonathan

A friend notes that Peter Abelard (1079-1142) composed a Lament (Planctus) of David for Jonathan. A snippet:

...You now, my Jonathan,Dor_david_jonathan_2 
I mourn above all,
among all delights
there will always be tears.

 Woe, why am I
followed by evil counsel, 
and could give you 
no protection in battle?

 If I had fallen by your side
I would have died happy
for there is nothing greater
than what love will do.

 and living after you
would mean continual dying
since half a soul
is not enough to live.

So I have won
an unhappy victory:
what emptiness, 
what short-lived joy
have I had from it.


I silence my lyre:
if only I could silence too
my mourning and weeping.
My hands hurt from playing,
my voice is hoarse from crying
and my breathing faint.

       --Peter Abelard (1079-1142)

A more complete version here.

Interesting as a predecessor to the recruiting of Biblical, pagan and historical figures in the Divine Comedy - Dante certainly would have read Abelard. Also, a kind of Christian parallel to Ovid's Heroides, which offer imagined scenes and speeches of mythical women.

Also notable: David's remorse for relying on "the worst counsel."

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