Poem-A-Day 2021, Day 2: Mechtild of Madgeburg

I have often wondered about the link between historical figures who experienced divine or supernatural visions and modern figures who suffer from various types of mental illness. Whether people then and people now are describing the same kinds of occurrences with different vernacular, influenced by the contemporary intellectual tools they have at their disposal.

No idea, and I’m not going to pass judgment on it either way. But it is interesting to think about, I think.

This poem seems appropriate for all those who are observing Good Friday today.

I cannot dance, O Lord,
unless You lead me.
If You wish me to leap joyfully,
let me see You dance and sing —

Then I will leap into Love —
and from Love into Knowledge,
and from Knowledge into the Harvest,
that sweetest Fruit beyond human sense.

There I will stay with You, whirling.


Peter Paul Metz: Mechthild von Magdeburg, Fantasieporträt am Chorgestühl der Pfarrkirche Merazhofen (Leutkirch im Allgäu), 1896

Mechtild of Madgeburg (ca. 1207-1282, Germany) was born into a wealthy family and at age twelve said that she saw “all things in God, and God in all things.” In her early twenties, she entered the Beguines sisterhood and led a life of simplicity, service, and prayer. Over a fourteen-year period, she received ongoing mystical visions and the divine instruction to record these experiences. Mechtild’s love poetry has been compared to that of the Sufi poets of the Middle East and the bhakti poets of India. (Biographical information respectfully quoted from Mala of the Heart, edited by Ravi Nahwani and Kate Vogt.)