Thursday, 17 December 2015

Medieval Christmas Poetry (ii)

My favourite medieval poem for Christmas is this Hymn to the Virgin. The trick of inserting rhyming Latin into rhyming English, whilst making the meaning quite clear, really appeals to me.

This is from about 1300.

Of on that is so fayr and bright
Velut maris stella
Brighter than the day is light
Parens et puella
Ic crie to the, thou see to me,
Levedy, preye thi Sone for me,
Tam pia,
That ic mote come to thee,

Al this world was for-lore,

Eva peccatrice
Tyl our Lord was y-bore
De te genetrice
With ave it went away
Thuster nyth and comes the day
The well springeth ut of the

Levedy, flour of alle thing

Rosa sine spina
Thu bere Jhesu, hevene king,
Gratia divina
Of alle thu ber'st the pris,
Levedy, quene of paradys
Mayde milde, moder es

Well he knows he is your Son,
Ventre quem portasti
Your prayers to him he will not shun,
Parvem quem lactasti.
So kindly and so good he is
That he has brought us all to bliss
And shut for ever the foul abyss

What do you mean, it is not obvious?  OK, here are some clues:

on - one; levedy - lady; thuster - dark; pris - prize.

Velut maris stella - like the star of the sea

Parens et puella - mother and maiden
Eva peccatrice - by Eve's sin
Ventre quem portasti - whom you bore in your womb
Parvem quem lactasti - the little one whom you suckled

Ask in the comms box if anything else needs elucidating (and correct all my errors…)

For historic reasons (see last December's posts) the last verse is translated by Brian Stone, unlike the others, (I've forgotten my source for them).

This has been set to music often, with varying success… A quick visit to Youtube will give several examples.

Here is Benjamin Britten's:

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