Apr 12 2013

Hadewijch – All things

Published by at 8:29 am under Poetry

All things
by Hadewijch

English version by Jane Hirshfield

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast

In the Infinite
I reach
for the Uncreated

I have
touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide

Everything else
is too narrow

You know this well,
you who are also there

— from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield


/ Photo by Alice Popkorn /

This is the mystical recognition: the realization that in your Self of selves you are immense!

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast

Just read those lines again.

Everything that can be called a “thing,” each item of perception and thought is just a glimmering sliver of the whole Being we inherently are. No body, no name, no job, no history can truly contain what we are. A glass of water can suggest the lake, give us a taste of it, but not contain it.

The middle section of this poem is almost erotic in its naked yielding to “the Uncreated,” in the recognition of how that “touch” completely “undoes” us. That too is the mystical recognition. As we finally realize that we are not contained by the body or the social roles we play, where then is the boundary of identity? Where do you say, Here I stop and beyond is not-me? That point no longer exists. We are “In the Infinite;” our source is “the Uncreated.” Those old, limited identities are undone, they fall away, and the inner core of the Self, the Heart, is spread “wider than wide.”

But why bother with explanations? You already “know this well, / you who are also there.”






Hadewijch, Hadewijch poetry, Christian poetry Hadewijch

Belgium (13th Century) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Hadewijch — often called Hadewijch of Brabant or sometimes Hadewijch of Antwerp — lived in the 13th century in what is now Belgium. She is rightly called one of the greatest names in medieval Flemish and Dutch literature.

Little can be said for certain about the life of Hadewijch. Unlike many other women mystics of the time, no biography was written about her, so all we know is what scholars have been able to deduce from her writings themselves.

Hadewijch was probably the head of a Beguine community. The Beguines were a sect of devout women in Belgium, Holland, Germany and northern France. Beguines did not take vows, but they gathered together to live in simplicity and service. Many Beguines were mystics and poets of the highest order.

Hadewijch’s poetry has a rich love mysticism. Like her contemporary, St. Francis of Assisi, Hadewijch was clearly inspired by the courtly love poetry of the Troubadours and Minnensingers. The fact that she was familiar with this courtly art form suggests that Hadewijch was probably born to a noble family.

The writings of Hadewijch were gathered and studied by the Flemish Christian mystic John Ruusbroec in the 1300s, but later fell into obscurity until rediscovered in the 1800s by scholars.

More poetry by Hadewijch

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Hadewijch – All things”

  1. rosellen little, new nameon 12 Apr 2013 at 5:20 pm

    thank-you

  2. milvia arbaiza romeroon 13 Apr 2013 at 10:02 am

    NO DOUBT AMONG THE GREATEST POEMS … NO WORDS TO EVALUATE ITS MESSAGE, FOR IT TRANSMITS THE UNTRANSMITTABLE … NO WORDS OF PRAISE FOR IT IS ABSOLUTELY TRANSPARENT BEYOND INTELLECTUAL EVALUATIONS… ENLIGHTENING, RADIANT, ILLUMINATING WORDS COMING FROM A SOUL-IN-TOUCH WITH THE DIVINE…

  3. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 13 Apr 2013 at 10:07 am

    To realize the vastness of who we really are–so hard when we get caught up in the externals. It takes reminders from the mystics like Hadewijch and the poems you send, Ivan.
    Blessings on your book trip to Colorado. Some day I hope to meet you–in NY!
    Therese

  4. ebrahimon 15 Apr 2013 at 8:14 am

    who cannot find themselves drunk with this wine must surely be dead!