Collection of Letters: Detail
- Herbert of Losinga, bishop of Norwich
As a nursing child desires the breast, a thirsty man water, a tired one quiet, an exile the fatherland, so my soul desires the restorative power of your presence. Your name is poured oil, to whose fragrance the lovers of truth in our fatherland hasten. Esther, who delighted more in piety than in the daintiness of the kingdom, the eastern queen [of Sheba] who filled the earthly Jerusalem with gowns and stones, unguents and spices, whose excellence amazed Solomon, did not have a spirit beyond yours. So you, most blesed queen, have so enriched our west with wealth of faith and virtues, customs and acts, that we do not wish to adhere with similar love to any beyond what we have. The odor of your religion has penetrated to the ends of the world and the firmness of your integrity and chastity are known to the surrounding regions. The queen, the prophet says, is at the right hand of God in a golden gown, enveloped in various colors. You are next to this queen, whom none but queens serve, so much the happier as they are more devoted to her service. You are, I say, beside this queen whose sons, Christ and John, you serve with insatiable desire, whose power of giving is as great as yours of receiving will be. The queen you serve can do all things, since she brought forth the most powerful one of all, that is Christ her son, the spouse of your soul, beautiful in form above the sons of men.
I have said little though I desire to say much; but I feared to add burdens to the royal business which you administer with praiseworthy sollicitude. I seek high things, but the accustomed favors of your munificence have strengthened my presumption to seek high things. May your greatness greet the lord bishop of Salisbury on my part, telling him not to find occasion to forsake my love, scornful of my poverty, nor to believe enemies about his friends. Further about my sickness, which your excellency deigned to ask about, your brother and our son Starnard who bore the present letters to you will answer.
Sicut uber lactens, vel aquam sitiens, aut fessus quietem vel exul patriam, ita anima mea vestrae praesentiae desiderat refectionem. Oleum effusum nomen vestrum, in cujus fragrantias nostrae patriae veritatis amatores insatiabili aviditate cucurrerunt. Ester quae potius pietate quam regni fastidio delectabatur, illa orientalis regina terrenam Jerusalem implevit vestibus et lapidibus, unguentis et aromatibus quorum excellentias Salomon admiratus, ultra non habuit spiritum. Sicet vos, beatissima Regina, nostrum occidentem tanta opulentia fidei et virtutum, morum et actuum ditastis, ut ultra non habeamus cui consimili dilectione inhaerere velimus. Penetravit fines mundi vestrae religionis odor et circumjacentibus regionibus vestrae integritatis et pudicitiae soliditas cognita est. Astitit, inquit Propheta, Regina a dextris Dei in vestitu deaurato, circumdata varietate. Huic et vos Reginae astatis, cui non nisi Reginae serviunt, tanto feliciores quanto in ejus obsequiis inveniuntur devotiores. Huic, inquam, Reginae astatis, ejusque filiis Christo et Johanni insatiabili desiderio deservitis, quorum tanta est potentia retribuendi, quanta fuerit vestra voluntas recipiendi. Regina cui servitis potest omnia, quia omnium potentissimum generavit, Christum videlicet suum filium, animae vestrae sponsum, speciosum forma prae filiis hominum. Pauca dixi, cupiens multa dicere; sed timui videri onerosus regalibus negotiis quae laudabili sollicitudine administratis. Alta quaero, sed ut alta quaererem, vestrae munificentiae consueta beneficia meam praesumptionem confirmaverunt. Vestra magnitudo salutet dominum Salesberiensem episcopum ex parte mea, dicens ei ne meam fastidiens paupertatem, inveniat occasiones discedendi ab amore meo, et ne credat inimicis de amicis suis. Caeterum de infirmitate mea, de qua vestra excellentia dignorata est requirere, respondebit vobis frater et filius noster Starnardus qui praesentes litteras vobis attulit.
Herbert sends the queen a letter of praise for her virtues and a request for intercession. He also wrote an Oratio for the queen, according to Anstruther, which is printed as Ep. 18 in his edition of the letters, though it is addressed to John the Evangelist and does not mention the queen, except perhaps as the deserving handmaid ("merentis ancillae") for whom Herbert asks John to act. The queen was, however, particularly devoted to John, as Herbert's letter to her makes clear.
Epistolae Herberti de Losinga Primi Episcopi Norwicensis ed. A. Robert Anstruther (New York, Burt Franklin, 1969, first pub. 1846), ep.25 p.48-50