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Judith as recounted to the Dauphin

by Claude Oronce Finé de Brianville, abbot of St. Benoist de Quinçay, Histoire sacrée en tableaux pour Monseigneur le Dauphin (Paris,1677), vol. 2, pp. 107-111. (For the original French, see the online version available through Google Books, or Jean Duron's introduction to his edition of Judith by the CMBV.)

Nebuchadnezzar having defeated Arphaxad, King of the Medes, put Holofernes at the head of 80,000 foot soldiers and 12,000 cavalry, who conquered, almost without resistance, all the vast lands they were crossing and who found that only the Jews had enough courage to defend themselves. Holofernes besieged them in the city of Bethulia and soon reduced them to the last extremity. But their young men and their prayers armed God in their favor, and it was by God's inspiration that a young widow came to offer herself to deliver them. She was called Judith, and her virtue was not less than her nobility and her beauty. After she had encouraged her brothers, promising that they would soon be helped, but without having said anything to them about her plans, she went out from Bethulia, keeping in mind everything that would heighten her natural graces for her great undertaking; and she went to the enemy camp with a single serving girl. The advance guards stopped her first, but they found her so lovely that they had to take her to their general, who was even more dazzled by her than the others. She led him to believe that her God was sending her to him, to surrender to him the perfidious nation of the Jews, who, because they could adore only their Creator, irritated him increasingly. And thus she obtained permission to eat only the meats that were permitted by Jewish law, and to go about freely to say her prayers wherever she wished. Holofernes let himself fall into this trap and gave himself over totally to his new passion. He did everything he could to please Judith by all manner of indulgences and good treatment; after four days he requested that she sup with him, and gave her magnificent treats. He himself drank so much that he became drunk, and in that state he gave the order that they be left alone in his tent. Since he was overwhelmed by wine, he soon was buried in a deep sleep, and then the saintly heroine, having fortified herself with an ardent prayer to God, took in one hand the sword of this general that hung from the column of his bed, grabbed his hair with the other hand, and struck off his head in two blows. During this time, her serving girl kept watch at the door of the tent. Judith called her and gave her the bloody head to put into her sack, and leaving the torso wrapped up in Holofernes's banner, the two women went out through the enemy fortifications, under the pretext of attending their usual prayers; and without any trouble they finally reached the gates of Bethulia. As soon as they had been allowed to enter by torchlight, all the Jews ran up in a crowd, and the women showed them the frightful head that Judith had just cut off. Once people began to get over their surprise at such an unexpected event, they hung the head of Holofernes from the city walls, to show it to the besiegers at daybreak; then the Israelites went out against the Assyrians, while the latter were visibly terrified over the loss of their general; and meeting almost no resistance, the Israelites chased the Assyrians from their fortifications. The inhabitants became rich upon the booty and came to thank God for their miraculous deliverance; but everywhere great gratitude was expressed toward Judith. They wanted to give her all the riches that had been found in Holofernes's quarters, but she only accepted them in order to consecrate them to God in the temple. And having withdrawn to her house after that, she was no longer seen in public except on feast days. In this saintly way she grew old in her sweet retreat until the age of one hundred and five, without ever having denied the great glory that her heroic action had produced in the world.


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