Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences/Pange lingua gloriosi (Fortunatus)
Pange lingua gloriosi.
Venantius Fortunatus, whose life extended from 580 to 609, is the connecting link between the poetry of Sedulius and Prudentius, and that of the middle ages. The friend of S. Gregory of Tours and S. Radegund, he long wandered over the South of France, the fashionable poet of his day. The latter half of his life, however, raised him to a higher post, and to a holier character. He died Bishop of Poitiers. The following is in the very first class of Latin Hymns: and is retained, with a few ill-judged retouchings, in the Roman Breviary.
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
With completed victory rife:
And above the Cross's trophy
Tell the triumph of the strife:
How the world's Redeemer conquer'd
By surrendering of His Life.
God his Maker, sorely grieving
That the first-made Adam fell,
When he ate the fruit of sorrow,
Whose reward was death and hell,
Noted then this Wood, the ruin
Of the ancient wood to quell.
For the work of our Salvation
Needs would have his order so,
And the multiform deceiver's
Art by art would overthrow,
And from thence would bring the med'cine
Whence the insult of the foe.
Wherefore, when the sacred fulness
Of th' appointed time was come,
This world's Maker left His Father,
Sent the Heavenly Mansion from,
And proceeded, God Incarnate,
Of the Virgin's Holy Womb.
Weeps the Infant in the manger
That in Bethlehem's stable stands;
And His Limbs the Virgin Mother
Doth compose in swaddling bands,
Meetly thus in linen folding
Of her God the feet and hands.
Thirty years among us dwelling,
His appointed time fulfill'd,
Born for this, He meets his Passion,
For that this He freely will'd:
On the Cross the Lamb is lifted,
Where His life-blood shall be spilled.
He endured the nails, the spitting,
Vinegar, and spear, and reed;
From that Holy Body broken
Blood and water forth proceed:
Earth, and stars, and sky, and ocean,
By that flood from stain are freed.
Faithful Cross! above all other,
One and only noble tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peers may be:
Sweetest Wood, and sweetest Iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee.
Bend thy boughs, O Tree of Glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For awhile the ancient rigour,
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of Heavenly Beauty
On thy bosom gently tend!
Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world's ransom to uphold;
For a shipwrecked race preparing
Harbour, like the Ark of old;
With the sacred Blood anointed
From the smitten Lamb that roll'd.
To the Trinity be glory
Everlasting, as is meet:
Equal to the Father, equal
To the Son, and Paraclete:
Trinal Unity, Whose praises
All created things repeat. Amen.
- The recension of Urban VIII. here entirely spoils the original,
Pange lingua gloriosi
by substituting the word Lauream. It is not to the glory of the termination of our Lord's conflict with the Devil that the poet would have us look: but to the glory of the struggle itself: as indeed he tells us at the conclusion of the verse.
- A verse is added by some which, though not original, seems ancient:
When, O Judge of this world, coming
In Thy glory all divine,
Thou shalt bid Thy Cross's Trophy
Bright above the stars to shine,
Be the Light and the Salvation
Of the people that are Thine!
[The translation as it stood in the first edition was adopted, with a few improvements, in the Hymnal Noted. Those improvements are retained here, as they will be in the like cases through the present volume.]