“Incensed Conversely”: A Fifth-Century Hymn (3)

This week for “Melanchthon Monday,” we once again…aren’t getting Melanchthon. Instead, here are the next three stanzas (G, H, I) of Sedulius’s hymn A solis ortus cardine.

The first stanza (G) would have been particularly appropriate for last week, which was Gaudete Sunday. But, alas, you had to wait until today.

The third presents us with our first instance of a problem I mentioned in the initial post, viz., the fact that the Latin alphabet is shorter than the English, such that an abecedarian translation in English would be missing a few stanzas in the target language.

I’m still uncertain how to solve this problem, or whether it should be attempted. But I’ve given it a shot. The first missing letter is “J,” and so I started the second line of the “I” stanza with a “J” to sneak it in. Anyway, hope you enjoy it. There’s a bit more that I want to say about a stanza or two of this, and I may do that in a future post.

A solis ortus cardine

ad usque terrae limitem

Christum canamus principem

natum Maria virgine.

Beatus auctor saeculi

servile corpus induit,

ut carne carnem liberans

non perderet quod condidit.

Clausae puellae viscera

caelestis intrat gratia;

venter puellae baiulat

secreta quae non noverat.

Domus pudici pectoris

templum repente fit Dei;

intacta nesciens virum

verbo creavit filium.

Enixa est puerpera,

quem Gabrihel praedixerat,

quem matris alvo gestiens

clausus Iohannes senserat.

Faeno iacere pertulit,

praesepe non abhorruit,

parvoque lacte pastus est,

per quem nec ales esurit.

Gaudet chorus caelestium

et angeli canunt Deum,

palamque fit pastoribus

pastor, creator omnium.

Hostis Herodis impie,

Christum venire quid times?

non eripit mortalia,

qui regna dat caelestia.

Ibant magi qua venerant

stellam sequentes praeviam;

lumen requirunt lumine,

Deum fatentur munere.

Afar from rising of the sun

Unto the limit of the earth,

The Christ, our prince, now let us sing–

His holy Mary-virgined birth.

Behold: the author of the world,

Though blessed, is clothed in slave’s attire,

In order flesh by flesh to free

And save his creatures from the mire.

Concealed within the maiden’s womb,

The grace of heaven enters in;

Her belly does not know it bears

The secret saving us from sin.

Domained in Mary’s modesty,

God makes a temple of her breast.

How strange! Untouched, the girl brought forth

Her Son, the Word-created guest.

Ere long her labor bore the King

Whom Gabriel had once foretold,

Whom John’s prenatal preaching had

Before proclaimed with leaping bold.

For, sleeping, he did not despise

To take the prickling straw as bed;

A mother’s milk sustained the babe

By whom the birds of heav’n are fed.

Good tidings!” chant celestial choirs

Of angels as God’s praises ring.

To shepherds now is manifest

The Shepherd who made everything.

How, Herod, can your hostile mind

Greet his arrival with dismay?

He gives eternal realms and does

Not grasp at kingdoms of a day.

Incensed conversely Magi came,

Judea’s star their mystic guide.

By light they seek the light; their gift

Declares that God with man abides.


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