Auf sein allerheiligstes Blutvergiessen

[This page by Madeleine Brook]

Auf sein allerheiligstes Blutvergiessen

O Guldne Blutes-Münz / ach du allgeltends Geld /

das mein' und aller Welt ihr Sünden-Last aufwäget!

auf jedem Tröflein / ist mein Seeligkeit gepräget /

und das Haupt-gütig Bild / der höchste Sieges-Held.

Die schaue-Pfenning wirfft man aus in alle Welt /

aus seiner Wunden Thron / der Gold und Silber heget /

dem Blut- und Wasser-Strom. Die Jahrzahl man drauf schläget /

die Ewig' Ewigkeit / der Nach-Welt stäts vermelt.

Ach weg mit Geld / und Welt! nur dieses sey mein Schatz /

mein Theil / mein Erb' und Zier / mein Trost / mein Ruhm und Leben.

Nur diß nimm' ich mit mir / wann ich sonst alls aufgeben

und sterbend lassen muß: dis hat im Schifflein Platz /

ja / dieses sey das Meer / auf dem die Seele fähret

in sichern Himmels-Port / in Nectar dann verkehret.

On his all-holiest shedding of blood

O golden blood-coin, oh you universal currency

that weighs up my and all the world’s sin-burden!

My blessedness is embossed on every droplet,

and the benevolent profile image, the most high victor-hero.

These medallions are scattered out everywhere

from his Wounds-Throne, which bears gold and silver,

the stream of blood and water. The year is minted thereupon,

the eternal eternity, proclaimed ever more to the ensuing ages.

Oh away with money and the world! Let this alone be my treasure,

my portion, my inheritance and ornament, my comfort, my glory and life.

This alone will I take with me when I must otherwise give up everything

and leave it, dying: this has a berth on my small vessel.

Yes, this is the ocean on which the soul sails

into safe heaven-harbour, there to glide through nectar.

This sonnet is a good example of how Greiffenberg takes up a simple motif and explores all the angles it offers to create an extensive allegory. In ‘Auf sein allerheiligstes Blutvergiessen’, she takes the motif of money to meditate on the death of Christ and its importance for the Christian. Each drop of Christ’s blood shed on the cross is a coin that pays for the sins of humankind. Greiffenberg expands the metaphor to include ideas of a universal currency (note the play on words in ‘allgeltends Geld’ in line 1), the processes of making coins (minting and embossing), and the parts of coins (the ruler’s profile on one side). Lines 5-6 are a clear statement on the Lutheran idea of justification by faith alone: the saving blood of Christ is shed unconditionally, ‘good works’ are not necessary to ‘earn’ salvation. Here, the money/coin imagery has altered so that, instead of being currency, Christ’s drops of blood are ‘schaue-Pfenning’ or commemorative coins that would be given out at important civic events. The coins’ ‘commemorative year’ is ‘eternal eternity’, marking eternal salvation through Christ. From line 9, the coin motif changes again. Money is abruptly associated with temporal existence (‘Geld / und Welt’) and the poet renounces both in favour of the spiritual currency of salvation, which, as ‘treasure’, is of far greater value. In line 10, Greiffenberg lists all the things that (worldly) money might represent in life, but these will be replaced by her faith in Christ unto death. This is Greiffenberg’s final image in her extensive allegory: the last journey of the dead across water with a coin to pay the ferryman, or, in this case, to guarantee entry into the ‘Himmels-Port’ (‘heaven-harbour’).

This poem also exhibits some of Greiffenberg’s inventive facility with word images that can, sometimes, be quite difficult to get to grips with or may seem paradoxical or even tautological. These frequently involve alliteration and internal rhyme (l. 1 ‘allgeltends Geld’), cumulative repetition (l. 8 ‘die Ewig’ Ewigkeit’), or unusual noun or noun-adjective pairings (l. 1 ‘Blutes-Münz’; l. 2 ‘Sünden-Last’; l .14 ‘Himmels-Port’). The effect is to give new meaning to the words and thereby also to the image the words would conjure up individually. They also serve to emphasise an idea through hyperbole, but most frequently, such pairings are attempts to express the essentially inexpressible ideas and feelings when discussing the relationship of the mortal believer with God.