Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Abbot, Adam of Eynsham, Archbishop of Canterbury, Baldwin, Benedictine Rule, Bishop of Salisbury, Blessed Souls, chain of being, Charismatic Renewal, Compline, corporal punishment, Easter, Edmund of Eynsham, election, Geoffrey of Eynsham, Good Friday, hallucinatory drug, Holy week, Joscelin, Lent, Matins, nepotism, Osney, Oxfordshire, Paradise, Purgatory, quinsy, Rapture, Saladin, sanctification, Sanctus, St Lawrence, St Nicholas, Sub-Abbot, vanitas
Vision of Edmund of Eynsham
Adam – now there’s a fine symbolic name
for a Sub-Abbot, but it is not he
of whom we wish to write. No, the fame
belongs entirely to his brother: Edmund. He
is the one whose ‘deathbed’ revelation
showed him Paradise and Purgatory.
Taken by the hand of St Nicholas,
he saw the penalties of Vanitas.
We are in twelfth century Oxfordshire,
but the application is for us too,
though believers in Rapture are fewer.
Nowadays it would be put down to ‘flu,
a fever, or hallucinatory drug.
Out-of-body experiences – who
would credit them with the spiritual?
Movements like Charismatic Renewal?
Imbibing only some tepid water,
for fifteen months, Edmund lay, very weak;
his quinsy made him hotter and hotter.
As Easter approached, he commenced to speak
and, with the help of a supporting stick,
he wanted to celebrate Holy Week
in the monastery chapel. Brothers
claimed he remained longer than the others.
From midnight until noon on the next day,
he confessed all his sins and lamented.
The following night, he began to pray
and lay on the ground, as if demented.
Adam had cold water splashed over him.
He thought Edmund had simply invented
this behaviour to gain some attention –
thus he wanted to defuse the tension.
How Edmund arrived there, without some aid,
was a point to be considered (but post-
Good Friday.) Yes, though fresh blood was displayed
on the cross, the monks felt the Holy Ghost
was not behind Edmund’s troubling conduct.
Maybe he wanted discipline, to boast,
boost spiritual pride. He’d asked for penance,
but was too weak for simple observance.
Through Good Friday evening, the next day,
water dribbled from his lips, till sunset.
They thought he was returning to the clay,
for he made no response and didn’t fret
when pricked. They blew a horn in his ear,
but he did not stir – at least, not yet –
till Compline, when his eyes opened. He sighed
and ‘Sancta Maria‘ many times cried.
He had begged for corporal punishment
and he kept on sobbing into his hands,
while compelling everyone to repent.
One of his more unusual demands
was to have a silver cross brought to him.
No one to this day really understands
why he was agitated; in this state:
raving like some kind of inebriate.
On Saturday evening, he ate some bread.
Miraculously, he went, unaided,
to Matins, where he bowed his tonsured head
and the cross and relics venerated.
The Prior and Sub-Prior heard him confess,
till no omission had been evaded
and he received the Sacrament as well,
to the ring of the credence Sanctus bell.
He then shared his dream, which began in Lent:
how a man had stood beside him, who said
that the prayers of a Godstow postulant
should join with his and be intermingled.
Then, roused to consciousness, he kissed the cross,
penitent for time he had spent in bed.
Entering the chapel of St Lawrence
and All Martyrs, he bowed in obesiance.
He begged Adam for further punishment
and bathed his eyes in blood and swallowed it.
He was birched further and did not give vent
to spleen; nor did he ask for a remit.
Adam denied the Benedictine Rule
condoned this practice. He felt its ambit
was for daylight hours, but, apparently,
St Nicholas had amended the decree.
Edmund saw souls flogged and bound together,
but they still had a hope of salvation.
You could have knocked him down with a feather
when he saw, in the throes of purgation,
(previous Abbot) Geoffrey of Eynsham,
negligent in his organisation,
though he’d been in charge for forty four years,
now past nepotism induced his tears.
The Bishop of Salisbury – Joscelin –
committed sexual immorality
and, as for the dire dealings of Baldwin,
he had tinkered with criminality:
unwise Archbishop of Canterbury.
(Most preferred Saladin’s mentality.)
Much given to Chapter disputation,
Baldwin funded Crusades through taxation.
In the next place to which Edmund was led,
he smelled a vile pond and climbed a steep hill:
souls were burned on one side and they perished
with cold conversely. A rotating grill
principle moved them from one location
to the other, like ants from an anthill.
To see a goldsmith from Osney- a drunk-
being purged here did not surprise the monk.
The third realm was a place of snakes, devils –
reserved for the homosexual.
A lawyer was suffering for evils
and monks too were punished by gradual
degrees. Unchaste churchmen who had blasphemed
(so nothing much there far from the usual)
by dispensing holy things with foul hand,
epitomising the wrongs in England.
Those who had been successful in the world
endured more than those of a low degree.
Regions of Paradise were then unfurled
to Nicholas, Edmund: a panoply
of Blessed Souls, who approached a huge gate
set in a wall of crystal – so shiny
that, blinded, he scarcely saw the entrance
of those receiving their inheritance.
Edmund then saw Jesus Christ on a throne,
but, at this point, his guide made him return
and yet he sensed that there were those who’d flown
to higher realms and who with joy would burn.
They exuded Light Inaccessible,
but he was not yet ready to discern
the joys of one who finished his course –
his sanctification was yet perforce.
This vision showed him a chain of being,
linking angels and the perfected souls,
descending from God, who is all-seeing,
to those who’ve just embraced heavenly goals.
Necessary purging of perception
allots individuals specific roles.
Adam wrote this down for our perfection:
Verify your calling and election.