Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday Office of Readings Even Week noctu

I am bit late posting this today. My son wanted the computer last night at bedtime, and my wife needed the computer early this morning to take a test for her online class. She is studying to become a medical assistant.

Lentini's title: Rising from sleep to a new life in Christ

Ales diéi núntius
The winged messenger of the day
lucem propínquam praécinit:
proclaims the approaching light:
nos excitátor méntium
to us, the awakener of souls
iam Christus ad vitam vocat.
Christ now calls us to life

The winged herald of the day
proclaims the morn's approaching ray,
and Christ the Lord our soul excites,
and so to endless life invites.

2. «Auférte--clamat,--léctulos
"Take up," he cries, "your bed
aegros, sopóros, désides:
sick ones, sleepy ones, lazy ones:
castíque recti ac sóbrii
you who are chaste, upright and sober
vigiláte, iam sum próximus.»
watch, for I am very near."

2. "Take up thy bed," to each He cries,
"who sick, or wrapped in slumber lies:
and chaste, and just, and sober stand
and watch; my coming is at hand."

3. Ut, cum corúscis flátibus
That, when with quivering breath
auróra cælum spárserit,
the dawn strews the heavens,
omnes labóre exércitos
all who have labored with toil
confírmet ad spem lúminis.
it(the dawn) may strengthen by the hope of light.

3. - (see below to explain omission)

4. Iesum ciámus vócibus
With our voices we invoke Jesus by name
flentes, precántes, sóbrii;
weeping, imploring, though sober;
inténta supplicátio
intense prayer
dormíre cor mundum vetat.
forbids the pure heat to fall asleep.

4. With earnest cry, with tearful care,
call we the Lord to hear our prayer:
while supplication, pure and deep,
forbids each chastened heart to sleep.

5. Tu, Christe, somnum dísice,
Thou, O Christ, dispel our sleep,
tu rumpe noctis vincula,
break Thou the chains of night,
tu solve peccátum vetus
loosen Thou our chronic sin
novúmque lumen íngere.
and cast the fresh light upon us.

5. Do Thou, O Christ, our slumbers wake:
do Thou the chains of darkness break:
purge Thou our former sins away,
and in our souls new light display.

6. Sit, Christe, rex piíssime,
tibi Patrique glória
cum Spíritu Paráclito,
in sempitérna sæcula. Amen.

6. All laud to God the Father be;
all praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
all glory as is ever meet,
to God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

Author: Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, d. 405. Metrical Translation by the great J. M. Neale.

These are verses chosen from the Cathemerinon, or The Daily Round, which is a collection of early Christian hymns. Two other hymns, Wednesday and Thursday Lauds for odd weeks are also taken from this work. (See the Thursday link for more about it.) Today's hymn contains the actual opening lines from the first of two Morning Hymns Prudentius wrote.

In the Roman Breviary, this hymn is used as the Lauds hymn for Tuesdays. Lentini says "it was observed that (the hymn) fits more the Office of Readings." I am guessing this is because of all the references to sleeping and waking. But like the other Lauds hymns, (and unlike the other Matins hymns)there seems to be more references to dawn. Indeed the opening lines of the hymn celebrate the ales, who is clearly the rooster, (symbol of the preacher of the gospel) whom the monks would not hear until way after Matins in finished.

Lentini also introduces verse 3, "a beautiful stanza" which was not traditionally included with this hymn in the past. It is taken from the same Prudentius work as the rest of the hymn. I agree, the images are beautiful, but I think verse 3 steers it once again back in the direction of a morning hymn rather than one to be sung by lamplight at 3 a.m.

In any case, this explains why J.M. Neale did not include this verse in his wonderful metrical translation. At the time he translated, this verse was still buried in Prudentius' work, not part of the hymn Ales diéi núntius.


Figulus said...

I'm pretty sure you meant "heart" when you wrote "heat".

"Auferte, clamat, lectulos
aegros, soporos, desides"

Here, aeger, soporus, and desis are modifying "lectulos". Christ calls us to remove, or quit, our beds - the sick beds, the sleep-beds, and the sitting-beds or couches. It doesn't really translate well into English, but basically Christ is telling us to get well, wake up, and stand up. In this hymn, he is using the image of beds, an image that is probably still lingering in the minds of us sleepy "monks".

I hear what you are saying about this being more of lauds hymn than a matins hymn. But in Europe in summer, the shimmering blasts of pre-dawn sprinkle the sky quite early, especially when you ignore daylight saving time. Also note that "sparserit" is future perfect and not present, so we are looking forward to the dawn as something that has not happened yet. Also note that the "ales nuntius" fortells the dawn as something that is not here yet.

I always assumed that the "ales nuntius" was the planet Mercury; a rooster never occured to me, although it seems obvious now that you mention it. That's what I get for being a geek, I guess. In my defense, though, I point out that Mercurius is commonly portrayed in art as a winged messenger, and if you can see it in the morning, it means dawn is not far away.

I can imagine poor Frere Jaques assigned to watch the stars at night so that he can ring the bells in time for matins. He unexpectedly spots Mercury, and suddenly realizes he's been dozing. The planet's guilt-inducing eye pierces him and seems to say to him, "Frere Jaques, dormez vous? Sonnez les matines!".

Once again, I'd like to thank you and encourage you in this your blog ministry. Your comments and crib notes have provided me with quite a bit of insight into the meaning of these sometimes difficult songs.

Geometricus said...

you have been a great help to me with the Latin. I am paying better attention every time to case and grammar to try to get the simplest but most meaningful translation, thanks to your comments.

Thanks again for your encouraging words. They make all the difference!