Laus Patriae Celestis

For other English-language translations of this work, see De contemptu mundi.
Laus Patriae Celestis  (1867) 
by Bernard of Cluny, translated by Oliver Andrew Morse

Laus Patriae Celestis.




Edition 100 Copies,
For Private Distribution.



THE Poem, a Portion of which is here freely translated, is an elaborate and elegant Production of the Middle Ages. It was written by Bernard, a Monk or Abbot of Clugni, who flourished in the 12th Century, and is, perhaps, the most beautiful of the many Latin Hymns which have sprung from the Abbeys of France. The favourite Passages in our popular Hymnology are those which give Expression to what one of these old Latin Poets has called "the heavenly Home-sickness;" but they all seem passionless and cold by the Side of these glowing Hexameters. The original Verses, uniting the leonine and tailed Rhyme, with every Line broken into three equal Parts, present a Metre so strange and difficult, that the Poet in his dedicatory Epistle declares that Nothing but especial Grace and Inspiration could have enabled him to bring his great Work to an End. The following Lines, with which the subjoined Translation commences, show the Structure of the Verse:

"Hic breve vivitur, hic breve plangetur, hic breve fletur,
Non breve vivere, non breve plangere, retribuetur.
O retributio! stat brevis actio, vita perennis;
O retributio! cœlica mansio stat lue plenis,
Qui datur et quibus, æther egentibus et cruce dignis,
Sidera vermibus, optima sontibus, astra malignis."

The chief Defect of the Poem is its Want of Progress. It eddies round the Subject, recurring again and again to Illustrations and Thoughts which before have been thoroughly treated and dismissed. This Blemish has been obviated, as far as possible, in this free Translation. But the hopeful, liberal, and humane Theology which breathes through the whole Poem, the Spirit of which is indicated in the Lines above quoted, has been rendered according to the obvious Tone and Inspiration of the Poet. The whole Work, entitled De Contemptu Mundi, is of great Length. That Portion of which the Translation is here given, can be found in Trench's Sacred Latin Poetry, in the Astor Library.

O. A. M.

Cherry Valley,
Feb. 20, 1859.



LIFE now so brief, in its Joys and its Tears,
Will find Retribution in oncoming Years;
O blest Retribution! a Moment of Strife,
And Time will be merged in perennial Life;
O blest Retribution! which dawns on our Sight,
From thy full flowing Glories, fair Mansion of Light!
Where the Lowly will breathe in thy Æther divine,
And thy Stars on the Sinful in Whiteness will shine.
For here is the Battle, but there the Reward,
And Refreshment and Peace in the Towers of the Lord;
When, the Mysteries solved and the Glories expressed,
They'll forever repose in their Sabbath of Rest.
The Hebrew from Egypt will travel forth free,
And find in yon Canaan a long Jubilee;
Will dwell in that quiet and luminous Land,
With Throngs of the Ransomed of Israel's Band;
And the Faithful, now Pilgrim, long torn by the Thorns,
Will inherit a World which all Beauty adorns;
And there, as they track its strange Streams to their Springs,
Will meet, Face to Face, with the King of all Kings.

Majesty, Wisdom, and sanctified Peace,
Shall rule in that Realm where Tumult shall cease,
And Leah and Rachel to Jacob shall bring
Their Pitchers celestial fresh-filled from the Spring:
And then, O our Syon, at Peace and at Rest,
He'll clasp in thy Halls his Beloved to his Breast.

O Country so dear! I behold thy blest Flame,
And weep for the Glories that hallow thy Name;
A Name whose sweet Mention is Unction and Cure,
As pure to the Soul as thy Æther is pure.
Alone in thy Beauty, O fairest of Heights!
So jocund with Laughter, so calm with Delights,
Where Laurel and Cedar and Hyssop for all,
Unite in gay Garlands on thy jasper Wall;
Where Synods celestial, thy Fabric, arise,
Adorned with the Pearls and the Gems of the Skies;
But their Onyx and Topaz and Jewels unpriced,
Are dimmed by the Lustre which circles their Christ.

O Day without Time, O Sea without Shore,
O sweet Fountain flowing with Wine evermore,
The Waters of Life come gushing alone,
From thy Wells which are set in the pure living Stone.
Fair Bride! bedecked with the Laurel's best Flower,
And graced with the Brightness of thy golden Dower,
In Necklace of Lilies and Garments of White,
Thy Lips shall be pressed by the Prince in Delight;
And Canticles sweet shall be murmured along,
And Love for thee breathed in conjubilant Song.

O Syon so golden, O City so pure!
Thy Beauty and Brightness what Heart can endure?
I know not, I know not, the Joy and the Light
Which in thy grand Portals will burst on my Sight,
And vanquished I falter to utter thy Praise,
Am conquered, exhausted, thy Glories to raise.
Fair Syon! thy Halls are resounding with Song,
Full, full of the Pæans of Earth's martyred Throng,
Bright Bands of the Blessed, their Prince stands between,
And shining the City with Light aye serene.
There Pastures are flowing in unfading Spring,
And there is the Throne of the Lamb and the King,
And there is the Sound of the Song and the Feast,
And there are the Saints and there is the Priest;
And there in our Syon, in calm, holy Seats,
A Leader in Splendor his loved People meets.

When seen thou unfoldest, O City renowned,
To the Eyes of the Soul thy Blessings profound;
But the Light deep within me, the Edge of the mind,
Alone while on Earth thy Blessings can find;
Still all Hearts burning now with Hope at thy Gate,
Shall reach thy Rewards and possess them by Fate.

O Mansion unseen, O Syon so dear,
For thee spreads the Joy, for myself flows the Tear;
For my Flesh is of Earth, and earthward must keep,
Far, far from the Gladness I yearn for and weep.

O City eternal, built safe on the Shore,
Thy Walls and thy Turrets shine white evermore.
Long hallowed thy Splendors, fair City of Peace,
When Time and its Tumults, then silent, shall cease.
I seek thee and cherish, I mourn and I long
For thy Beauties which kindle yet baffle my Song.
But not by my Merits I ask for thy Breath,
For by Merit 'tis mine to perish in Death;
Yet in Hope will I walk along my lone Way,
And demand thy Rewards by Night and by Day;
Unceasing will seek, though blindly I grope,
Thy Rewards everlasting, in Faith and in Hope.
For my Father, the best, the holiest One,
Created in Light his now sinful Son.
In Light he created, in Light he sustains,
And in Light yet will wash my Sins and my Pains;
And the Fountain of David flows onward with me,
Still speeding and surging to its shoreless Sea;
Aye healing and cleaning wherever it laves,
And the Vilest of Earth shall be washed by its Waves.


Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.