In the Library on Wednesday the 3rd of April, Emily Frazer conducted a Carmelite Conversation on ‘The Martyrs of Compiègne and their Victory of Love’. The Martyrs were sixteen Carmelite nuns, executed during the Reign of Terror in Paris in 1794. In her preparation, Emily translated poems by Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906) that were inspired by the Martyrs of Compiègne. Emily apologises for her school French, saying “there are a few mistakes, but we can get a general idea.” Emily Frazer and Philip Harvey, whose French is likewise imperfect, worked on revisions of the three poems, with results below.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, of the Dijon Carmel, is known to have written 123 poems, all of which appear in ‘J’ai trouvé Dieu. Oeuvres Complètes, Tome II, Journal et notes intimes, Lettres de Jeunesse, Poésies’ Paris, Les Editions du Cerf, 1979. The three translations are of P123 (pages 411-412), P85 (pages 358-360), and P94 (pages 374-377). The editorial notes to the poems have been included in English.
P123 [Place me on your heart] (1)
[for October 22, 1906]
To answer, o my Sister, to the call of your Master,
Rise up in strength and deliver all your being,
Then recollect yourself beneath this very great love
So that He will consume you and the night and day.
Is that not why He takes you entirely,
That He leads you to Carmel, that He makes you prisoner?
In the evening of this beautiful day, listen, my Sister,
Here is where He says to you “Place me on your heart.”(2)
Place it on your heart, adorable mystery,
It is keeping it in you as in a sanctuary
And live with Him alone in intimacy
Who asks of you,(3) o my Sister, great fidelity.
To place it on your heart is to love Him for Himself
In the release and forgetfulness of yourself,
It is fixed constantly in simplicity,
Embracing His will completely.
Place it on your heart like a bouquet of myrrh,
It’s leading your life(4) into the Spirit of martyrdom.
That your rule, o my Sister, keeps in truth
Immerse yourself in our God, Light and Charity.
(P123) 1. Draft, in pencil. On the back, we read sixteen lines of the hand of Mother Germaine, belonging to the report she made for the SRD (21, 1906, pp.690-693) on the Triduum au Carmel of October 13-15, 1906. Mother Germaine has no doubt passed her text to the patient. The “beautiful day” that Elisabeth is talking about is October 22, the habit of “Sister” Marie-Josephe (cf. L327, n.5).
2. Ct 8,6: “Put me as a seal on your heart.”
3. First try: “suppose”
4. First two tries: “It is to immolate for Him in” - and: “It is to live your life.”
P 85 [The heart hurts with Infinity](1)
<< We can not give a greater proof of love
to give his life for the One we love(2)!...>>
Do you not already hear the silence,
The hymn of love that is sung above?
Sister, forget the exile and the suffering
And may our hearts salute this day, so beautiful!
Do you not see the eternal splendour
The Trinity who looks into us?
Heaven opens up: listen… we are called…
Let us go look, my Sister, here is the Bridegroom!...
Do you not see the bright cloud(3)
That has revealed to us his clarity?
Ah, let us stay here in all silence,
Fixing the Immutable Beauty!
From our Christ the gaze clarifies
By imprinting the purity of God.
Sister, stay, for Him to deify us
The soul in his soul and the eyes in his eyes.
He comes Himself to meet His virgins
To give them the ineffable kiss.
He hovers here, his shadow protects us
Let us look upon Him to virginize us.(4)
He is so beautiful(5), Christ, Splendour of the Father(6),
Illuminated with Divinity,
He is Himself a source of light
Wrapping his own in his clarity!
Let us love, Sister, and everything disappears.
The loving soul identifies with God.
Let’s not wait for his glory to appear
To contemplate like the blessed!
He is ours, we have him by his grace
And as in Heaven, we already adore!
But at this time, contemplating his Face,
His divine name will shine on our forehead!
When will come the end of the waiting?
When will we finally be able to sacrifice ourselves?
While waiting, let us be all adoring,
Because our Lamb wishes to purify us.
Do you not feel the supreme passion
To give back to Christ a little of his love?
I wish to die, to say to Him, “I love you,
And like yourself, I give myself in this day!”
Saint Thérèse in Heaven must smile upon us
Because she too wanted to escape one day(8).
God kept him a different martyr,
She died “Victim of Love”! (9)
Oh! how beautiful is the martyrdom of the virgins
That of hearts hurt by the Infinite,
Divine torment whose love is the sword!
Flaming arrow, pierce us too(10)!
(P85) 1. The authenticity of this poem is attested by Sister Agnes (cf. our Note on autographs of Elizabeth of doubtful attribution, supra, p.270). Two autographs are kept with the DCO’s and in addition the photocopy of a third one on which one reads: “These couplets were composed and written by the Servant of God Sister Elisabeth of the Trinity in 1902 [as the graphic confirms]; they were addresses to me, Sr. Agnes de Jesus- Maria, to encourage us reciprocally by going to martyrdom. I certify the authenticity. Sr. Agnes de Jesus- Maria.” Except for one word (see No.5), the three texts are identical, but the punctuation differs slightly. We chose the green paper autograph, where Elisabeth made some underlining.
2. Cf. Jn 15, 13. Elisabeth directed the citation to Christ. Same thing in P94.
3. See Mt 17, 5.
4. See L126, n.2.
5. The other two copies say “pure.”
6. See He 1, 3.
7. See Ap, 14, 1.
8. See Teresa of Avila, Life, Chap. 1
9. “Victim of Love”: see L.169, n.4
10. Allusion to the “Transverberation” of the heart of Teresa of Avila, Life, Chap. 29 (translation Bouix, I, Paris, 1857, p.394): “(The angel had) a long dart which was gold, and whose iron tip had at the end a little bit of fire.”
P94 To Love (1)
[for July 29 1905*]
My Sisters, I’m from Bethany(2)
Where I met the Lord.
Sister Agnes, who had followed me,
Felt the melting of the heart.
Yes, it was truly ineffable
To prepare a feast for Him,
While that adorable Master
We offered a divine meal.
“It was the banquet of love”
Where Jesus gives himself,
Because his good always prevails
The soul who seeks it and who loves it :
In the measure of his faith
She reaches the Sovereign King.
To love, for a Carmelite,
Is to surrender like Jesus
A true love never hesitates,
It wishes to give always more and more.
Let us be a faithful image
Of our Bridegroom sacrifices,
Retrace in us the model
Of this divine Crucified One.
Looking at him night and day
Let’s climb the austere mountain,
It is the home of Love,
His palace and his sanctuary.
In this mysterious temple
Sacrifice ourselves with a happy heart.
To love is to forget oneself
Like the Angel of Lisieux
To become lost in the one we love
And be consumed in his fires.
Sister Thérèse knew how to understand
In its great simplicity
This call so strong and so tender
“Stay in my charity” (3)
“I love both the night and the day”(4)
Such was the divine song
From the victim of love
To Jesus, his mystic Bridegroom.
“My vocation is love…” (5)
“I love both night and day.”
To love is, like Magdalene
Never to leave the Lord
But to stand in full peace
At the feet of this divine Saviour.
She listened in silence
“The word He told him.” (6)
Better to savour his presence
Oh, everything in her was silent.
His soul finally took hold
Jesus the One Necessary.
Before this divine Being
All the earth vanished.
Buried in his love
She surrendered without return.
To love is to be apostolic
Zealous for the honour of the living God
It is truly the ancient heritage
That the great seer left us.(7)
Collected by St. Thérèse
Who gave it to us in turn.
Carmel became the furnace,
The home (8) of divine Love.
Our saints had understood it so well…
As they were enflaming souls!
All in them gave Jesus Christ
By radiating his bright flames.
My Sisters, let’s be real
Apostles of Charity.
To love is to imitate Mary
Exalting in God’s greatness (9)
While her soul delighted
Sang her song to the Lord.
Your centre, o faithful Virgin,
Was the annihilation,
For Jesus, everlasting splendour,
Hides in abasement.
It’s always through humility
May your soul magnify him.
The Apostle in his infirmity
Cried out, “I boast
In the strength of the Redeemer
Living and triumphant in my heart.” (10)
To love is to testify
To our Christ, to our King;
And give our life as a pledge
To better affirm our faith.
Like our sixteen blessed,(11)
May we shed our blood
Singing in our happy souls
A hymn all grateful.
Truth, speaking one day
Says this supreme word:
“The greatest proof of love
Is to die for the One we love.” (12)
O my Sisters, “let us die every day”(13)
To make Him love for love.
“To the praise of his glory” (14)
Let us sacrifice ourselves always
Because to win the victory
God claims our help.
Let us imitate our revered mothers (15)
In their zeal and fervor.
We will come out of our miseries
And our King will be victorious.
We will redouble fidelity
For this plan to be realized.
By our generosity
We will help the Holy Church
And we will see love reigning,
A foretaste of the divine abode.
(P94) 1. Elizabeth indicates at the top of the poem: “St. Martha 1905” S345 does not indicate air.
2. Sister Agnes and Elisabeth, who are cooking this day, are busy working as if they were Martha and Mary welcoming Jesus to Bethany (cf. Lk 10, 38-42). See the testimony of Sister Agnes in L205, n.2.
3. Jn 15, 9.
4. This verse comes literally from poetry My peace and joy of Therese (“The Angel”) of Lisieux: HA, p.368 (My Joy, PN45).
5. HA, p.208.
6. See Lk 10, 39.
7. The prophet Elijah. From him Carmel received “the heritage” of “zeal the honor of the living God” as Elisabeth expresses it, joining 1Kings 19, 10 and 17, 1.
8. See footnote 3 of L190.
9. See Lk 1, 46.
10. Cf. 2Co 12, 9.
11. The Martyr Carmelites of Compiegne (see L324, No.7)
12. See Jn 15, 13. As in the epistle of P85, Elizabeth returns the Word of Jesus to Him.
13. See 1Cor 15, 31.
14. Ep 1, 12.
15. The expression generally indicated the first Carmelites of France. The Carmel of Dijon was founded by the Venerable Anne de Jesus, very related to Therese d’Avila and came to France as founder. Dijon was the third French Carmel.