Epitaph of Alcuin

May 19, 2009

Today the Church remembers Alcuin of York (d.804), an abbot and scholar, and a major figure in the Carolingian renaissance.  Here is his epitaph, done into English by I know not whom.

Here halt, I pray you; make a little stay,
O wayfarer, to read what I have writ,
And know by my fate what thy fate shall be.
What thou art now, wayfarer, world-renowned,
I was; what I am now, so shall thou be.
The world’s delight I followed with a heart
Unsatisfied: ashes am I, and dust.

Wherefore bethink thee rather of thy soul
Than of thy flesh; — this dieth, that abides.
Dost thou make wide thy fields?  In this small house
Peace holds me now; no greater house for thee.
Wouldst have thy body clothed in royal red?
The worm is hungry for that body’s meat.
Even as the flowers die in a cruel wind,
Even so, of flesh, shall perish all thy pride.

Now in thy turn, wayfarer, for this song
That I have made for thee, I pray you, say:
“Lord Christ, have mercy on thy servant here,”
And may no hand disturb this sepulchre,
Until the trumpet rings from heaven’s height,
“O thou that liest in the dust, arise,
The Judge of the unnumbered hosts is here!”

Alcuin was my name; learning I loved.
O thou that readest this, pray for my soul.

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