Chapter 14

[ 14 ]

                     Preface of the Third Book

Omnipotent God, whom our faith truly asserts to be the Word Incarnate,
Begotten and sprung from a sacred Virgin of a mother,
Once bade his disciples
To board a ship and go away
To the other side of a lake, winged with sails and wave-driven. (note 1)
Soon he orders the innumerable multitude to withdraw (note 2)
And, scaling the high peaks of a mountain,
Demands to know the divine will of the heavenly Father.
Soon the calm blue sea has boiled ominously
In the adverse darkness of the cerulean night,
Due to the unfavorable wind of a swollen whirlpool.
Safety, hope and confidence are bewailed as lost
By all the disciples, trembling (note 3) greatly
Before the baleful image of a violent death.
But now in the restless region of the fourth watch (note 4)
Christ has entered the wave-driven main
And hastens with dry soles on the liquid flood
Over the calm surface of the passible sea,
And presents himself to his trembling disciples.
And then dread seizes the disciples' quivering limbs,
Their astounded hearts are brought to a standstill.
They do not know what they should do before their final death.
Cold terror quite batters their breasts,
Their great outcry reaches the stars in heaven.
After God made himself known to his disciples,
Standing with dry feet on the fluid sea,
Peter then offered these ringing words to the Lord,
Having regained his strength and vigor:
"O you, Christ, who have power over the heavens and seas,
If it is your holy Grace and your Protection,
Generous and salutary towards everyone, that now approaches us,
Command me now, by order of your invigorating command,
To come with you over the sea."
Indulgent, he delights in these words, and has replied: "Come."
And Peter, trusting in the Lord who has power over the seas,
Immediately leaves the vessel
And places the soles of his feet on the waves of the calm smooth sea.
This unheard of event had excited his quaking mind,
Since the deep occasioned fierce hazards.
As long as he did not doubt,
The swollen surfaces of the sea had supported Peter;
Distrusting, having been bodily submerged in the midst of the sea,
Peter has repented greatly,
And cries out: "God, snatch me away from these waves."
Then the sacred right hand of Christ has seized him.
He has said: "You of little faith,
Why now, faltering on the sea, do you waver and doubt?"
Then God and Peter embark together,
While the disciples are still grieved by the whirlpool.
Immediately the harmful gales stop.
A short while ago we too entered the swollen main
By the divine will of Christ the Highest.
We too almost got half-way across.
But now dread so dolefully devours my breast,
And everywhere, everywhere is seen the outspread sky,
On every side the menacing cerulean fluid.
The calm smooth sea is supporting the huge bulk of my inexperience,
So far the undertaking dissatisfies and disgusts and displeases me.
God, Christ the Highest, I beg on the bended knees
Of my soul, (note 5) reveal your face now.
Turn your attention to my sunken hopes, with the stimulus of your divine will.
Extend your holy hand to me, now so alarmed
Because savage dangers are present for me,
That I too might be able to clamber up, under your highest leadership,
With your leading guidance, to where there are shining deeds.
From the font of advantageous knowledge, sprinkle
My mind with the nectar of the sevenfold (note 6) Spirit,
And my heart with the stimulus of the rhetorical whirlpool,
Outfitting my tongue likewise with trimodal utterance,
So that the narrative of this history, which we will reveal,
May henceforth be concise and credible,
And intelligible to the discerning man.
Let concision gleam in my articulation of each division,
And let resolution glitter in the whole work,
And let only a small number of facts be joined together
For the description of a personage,
And let rhetorical method be applied in this enterprise.
The seven first principles and all artifice likewise
Are now well known, having been ordained
By your gift, God, who, sprung from the Virgin,
Reign with the unbegotten Father and with the sacred Spirit,
Constant God, seeing all things.


Supernal glory,
Omnipotent pillar
And sensation-producing stimulus,
Mighty heavenly divine will,
Origin of light,
Celestial ideal,
Beginning of all things and
Famed sequence of causes
And first offspring,
Of the unbegotten Father,
Light from the sacred light,
And true God from God,
Oh nourishing Father
And unbegotten God,
Oh begotten Son
And God the Spirit, proceeding from them,
Oh one God
Oh Deity and force,
We extol you as one God,
For there are not three gods.
Suppliant, I ask
That you favor my prayers,
Trembling at first,
Sorrowful at my inexperience.
Nourishing martyr,
Under your leadership let me now recite
Your shining life.
Let it show itself despite sluggish understanding,
Let he himself approve it,
Whose deeds I am reciting,
Whereby I might be able to make clear
To the world the good things that he did,
And how
This extraordinary witness of God
Is killed by the treachery
Of the malicious duke Arnulf.
Glory to the Father,
And likewise to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit,
Simply one God,
Always from now on,
For unbroken time,
Throughout all the connected
And continuous ages.

Here begins the prologue to the description of the life of duke William
Because, indeed, to set out in order the bright praises of the most glorious martyrs and publish abroad their superior deeds, is to illumine the great things of that one who has conferred on them the reward of victory in this world, and has granted them the benefit of unblemishable glory in the celestial realm, for this reason, we have briefly composed the life and acts and triumph of the mighty duke William, written simply and in the plain language of natural utterance, and not sublimely girt about with pretentious words and the ornament of excellent oration, in order that the oft-recited history of his deeds might excite the souls of all, and especially his own descendants, to the rewards of celestial joys. And as the fruit of his salutory labor, may the foundation of our faith be enduringly strengthened, the worship of our religion sagaciously nourished, contempt for this fading and deceptive world brought forth, desire and love for supernal things profusely generated, the incentive to sanctity increased, the stages of advancement encouraged, and the gate of supernal contemplation penetrated by the salvation-giving road.


1. Mt. 14:22 - 36; Mk.6:45 - 52; Jn. 6:15-21. The episode takes place on the Sea of Galilee.

2. Preferring the "cedere" of CC 276.

3. Preferring the "praetrepidis" of CC 276 to the "perstrepidis."

4. The fourth watch of the night is the time just before dawn.

5. Preferring the "pande, animi" of CC 276.

6. The seven virtues were perceived as gifts of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the imagery of the Hebrew prophetic text, Isaiah 11:2 ff. As officially systematized by St. Augustine of Hippo, the gifts of the "sevenfold" Spirit were faith, hope, love, fortitude, temperance, justice and wisdom. The seven gifts of the Spirit were opposed in ecclesiastical thought to the seven deadly sins, namely pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth.

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