Notker Balbulus: Heavenladder (Latin)

To wrench a phrase from Pushkin: what splendid poetry, and what disgusting theology.

Heavenladder
Notker Balbulus (9th Cent)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A ladder rising up to heaven 
 with bane all round it
 
At its base a sharp-eye dragon  
Stands wakeful forever on guard 
  So that no one can climb even
  to the first rung unmaimed
 
From its ascent an Ethiop 
Blocks all with brandished blade 
Threatening destruction 
  While over its top rung
  A young man leans in radiance,
  With a gold bough in his hand
 
This is the ladder which the love of 
Christ made free for women to go 
Stomp down the dragon underfoot 
And march right past the Ethiop's blade 
  Through every sort of bane and torment
  And make it to the heavens' summit
  To take the golden laurel up
  From the emboldening King's hand
 
What good did it do you  
Unholy serpent  
That you managed  
To hoodwink once a single woman  
  Since a virgin has brought forth
  The incarnate
  Lord begotten
  Christ of God the Father  
 
Who pried the pelf away from you 
And pierced your jaw with armlet hooks 
  Making it an open door for
  Eve whose race you yearn to trammel
 
So see you now the virgin maids 
Triumphant over envious you 
  And see as married women bear 
  Sons pleasing unto God
 
You groan and grumble 
Now at widows' 
Loyalty to their dead husbands 
  You who inveigled
  A maid to be
  Disloyal to her Creator
 
Now you see women, in the battle 
Waged against you, becoming generals 
  Women who rally their own sons to
  Courageously vanquish all your torments
 
Even your own vessels,
The whores, are purified by God now 
  Who turns them to burnished
  Temples for Him and Him alone
 
For these graces let us now 
Both the sinners and the just 
Glorify together 
Our Lord as a community  
  Praise Him who strengthens those who stand  
  And reaches His right hand
  To the fallen, so at least 
  After transgression we may rise
Scalam ad caelos subrectam   
 tormentis cinctam 
 
Cuius ima draco servare 
cautus invigilat iugiter 
  Ne quis eius vel primum gradum
  possit insaucius scandere;
 
Cuius ascensus extracto  
Aethiops gladio  
vetat exitium minitans, 
  Cuius supremis innixus
  iuvenis splendidus
  ramum aureolum retinet
 
Hanc ergo scalam ita Christi  
amor feminis fecit perviam 
ut dracone conculcato  
et Aethopis gladio transito 
  Per omne genus tormentōrum
  caeli apicem queant capere
  et de manu confortantis
  regis auream lauream sumere
 
Quid tibi profecit,  
profane serpens,  
quondam unam  
decepisse mulierem, 
  Cum virgo pepererit
  incarnatum
  Dei Patris
  unicum dominum Jesum;
 
Qui praedam tibi tulit et  
armillā maxillam forat, 
  Ut egressus Evae natis
  fiat, quos tenere cupis?
 
Nunc ergo temet virgines 
Vincere cernis invide, 
  Et maritatas parere
  Filios deo placitos,
 
Et viduarum 
maritis fidem 
nunc ingemis integram, 
  Qui creatori
  fidem negare
  persuaseras virgini.
 
Feminas nunc vides in bello 
contra te acto duces existere 
  Quae filios suos instigant
  fortiter tua tormenta vincere.
 
Quin et tua vasa 
meretrices dominus emundat 
  Et haec sibi templum
  Dignatur efficere purgatum.
 
Pro his nunc beneficiis 
in commune dominum 
nos glorificemus 
et peccatores et iusti, 
  Qui et stantes corroborat
  et prolapsis dextram
  porrigit, ut saltem
  post facinora surgamus

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