Monday, September 05, 2005



In his Christus: A Mystery (1872), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) quotes part of a beautiful medieval Latin hymn written by Hildebert of Lavardin (1056-1133), Bishop of Le Mans and Archbishop of Tours. The entire hymn appears below. The Latin is easy, and if you ever studied Latin, I encourage you to skip my pedestrian translation and attempt to make sense of the original. Or if you remember how to pronounce church Latin from your days as an altar boy or choir member, say this hymn aloud and revel in the festum melos, the festive melody of the words. We can't imagine "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2.9), but this exquisite hymn gives us a glimpse.
May that famous Zion receive me,
Zion, David's peaceful city,
Whose architect is the creator of light,
Whose gates are the wood of the cross,
Whose keys are Peter's words,
Whose citizens are always cheerful,
Whose walls are living stone,
Whose protector is a merry king.
Within is a fragrance filling the air,
Within is an always joyful song.
Heavenly city, city of happiness,
Built upon a rock,
City in a safe haven,
From afar I greet you.
I greet you, I sigh for you,
I long for you, I desire you.
How greatly your citizens rejoice,
How merrily they feast together,
What love binds them!
What precious stones adorn your walls,
What chalcedony and jacinth
Do they know who are within!
In the streets of this city,
Joined with the devout throngs,
With Moses and Elijah,
May I too chant a fervent Alleluia.

Sion me receptet illa,
Sion, David urbs tranquilla,
Cujus faber auctor lucis,
Cujus portae lignum crucis,
Cujus claves lingua Petri,
Cujus cives semper laeti,
Cujus muri lapis vivus,
Cujus custos rex festivus.
In hac odor implens caelos,
In hac festum semper melos.
Urbs caelestis, urbs beata
Super petram collocata,
Urbs in portu satis tuto,
De longinquo te saluto.
Te saluto, te suspiro,
Te affecto, te requiro.
Quantum tui gratulentur,
Quam festive conviventur,
Quis affectus eos stringat,
Aut quae gemma muros pingat,
Quis chalcedon, quis jacinthus,
Norunt illi qui sunt intus.
In plateis hujus urbis,
Sociatus piis turbis,
Cum Moyse et Elia,
Pium cantem Alleluia.

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