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a biography

The following biography is reprinted from The Ridpath Library of Universal Literature. Ed. John Clark Ridpath. New York: Globe Publishing Co., 1898. pp. 128-9.

HROSVITHA, or HROTSUIT, a German poetess and playwright, born in Lower Saxony, probably between A.D. 930 and 935; and died at Gandersheim about the last year of the tenth century. Nothing is known of her childhood or early youth; but her writings suggest a knowledge of the world and intimate acquaintance with the human heart. An old wood-cut represents her as a kneeling nun offering her poems to Otho I, to whom she is supposed to have been related. At the age of twenty-five she entered the Benedictine Abbey of Gandersheim; where, by diligent study of holy works and the masterpieces of antiquity, she became a woman of vast learning. Her works, which were written wholly in Latin, consist of early miscellaneous verses; later poems dealing with the legends of the saints; a sort of epic entitled The Panegyric of the Line of Otho; and six plays intended to wean the scholars of those days from the reading of Terence. These dramas, collectively known as Comaedia Sacrae VI, are the most remarkable part of her productions, as being the work of "the woman playwright who caused the tragic muse to emerge once more from the midnight gloom of the Middle Ages, and to speak in tones adapted to the mystical temper of the time and the austere surroundings which this temper had created." Chastity is the theme upon which they play their variations. Dulcitius exhibits the ludicrous failure of a patrician to overcome the virtue of three young Christians. Callimachus represents the miraculous resurrection of a married woman who has prayed that she might die rather than yield to a youth with whom she is in love. In Abraham, a pious hermit enters disguised into a house of ill-fame for the purpose of arresting the downward career of a beloved niece. Hrosvitha's Pafuntius, which suggested to Anatole France the idea of his Thaïs, deals with the legendary endeavor of the monk to bring back to the fold of virtue that celebrated courtesan.


O Earth, I confide to thy keeping these tender flowers, born of my womb. Carry them tenderly in thy bosom, framed of the self-same elements, until the resurrection day, when they shall again blossom forth, haply with greater glory. And do thou, O Christ, fill their souls the while with celestial splendor, and grant peace and rest to their mortal bodies.


O Thou, the Uncreated, the truly Immaterial, whose very essence has framed the different parts of man therein unlike thee, the Self-Existent One, grant that the elements once united in this creature of Thy hand may without let or hindrance be again gathered to the principle from whence they came; grant that the soul, which came from heaven, may share the heavenly joys, and that the body may rest in peace in the bosom of the earth from whence it sprang, until that day when the dust shall be gathered together, and the breath of life again breathe through these limbs, and Thaïs shall arise, the same complete being as of old, to take her place amongst the white flock of the Lord, and to enter into the joys of eternal life; grant this, Thou who alone art self-existent, who reignest in the unity of the Trinity and art glorified for ever and ever.

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