“The Battered Brood of Baby Boys”: A Fifth-Century Hymn (4)

We’re back this week with three more verses from Sedulius’s A solis ortus cardine (K, L, M). The timing works out well, because the “K” verse is about the Holy Innocents, and Tuesday (12/28) is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, of whom Auden, in For the Time Being, had Rachel say:

Somewhere in these unending wastes of delirium is a lost child, speaking of Long Ago in the language of wounds.
To-morrow, perhaps, he will come to himself in Heaven.
But here Grief turns her silence, neither in this direction, nor in that, nor for any reason.
And her coldness now is on the earth forever.

The other two verses are about Jesus’s baptism and Christ’s miracles.

As in the past, I’ve included all the previous verses as well.

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.

Katerva matrum personat

conlisa deflens pignora

quorum tyrannus milia

Christo sacravit victimam.

Lavacra puri gurgitis

caelestis agnus attigit;

peccata qui mundi tulit

nos abluendo sustulit.

Miraculis dedit fidem

habere se Deum patrem,

infirma sanans corpora

et suscitans cadavera.

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.

Knave tyrant, do you hear the sound

Of mothers weeping for their dead,

The battered brood of baby boys

Whose sacrificial blood you shed?

Let down into the Jordan’s flood,

The Lamb of heaven made it pure–

The Lamb who took away our sins

With Worded water as the cure.

Miraculous deeds fathered faith

His Father was not man but God,

As sickly bodies found their strength

And corpses rose up at his nod.


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