The following exhortation to remember what is of prime importance in life comes from the Carolingian scholar Alcuin’s poem “My Little Cell.” After lamenting the loss, in his old age, of the monkish cell of his youth, Alcuin writes more generally:
And so all the beauty of the world is quickly upturned,
And all things in their time are transformed.
For nothing remains forever and nothing is immutable,
Dark night obscures even the clear[est] day.
A freezing winter cold strikes down gorgeous flowers,
And a bitter wind unsettles calm seas.
On fields where the pious boy once hunted deer,
A tired old man now stoops with his walking stick.
Why do we wretched ones love you, O fleeing world?
Always crashing down, you still flee from us.
May you flee, fugitive world, let us always love Christ.
May the love of God always grip our hearts.
May kind Christ defend his servants from a dreaded enemy,
Carrying our hearts upwards to the heavens.
Let us praise and love him, fully with our hearts,
He, ever kind, is our glory, our life, our salvation.1