The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Dies est lętitię

For Christmas

Words and Music: Latin Christmas Carol
Compare:
Dies est lętitię (four verses) from J. H. Hopkins, ed., Great Hymns of the Church Compiled by the Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young, with sheet music and notes.

See: Theodoric Petri, ed., Piae Cantiones Ecclesiasticę Et Scholasticae Et Scholasticae Vetervm Episcoporum. (Gyphisuualdię: Augustinum Ferberum, 1582)

Source: George Ratcliffe Woodward, Pię Cantiones (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press for the Plainsong & Medieval Music Society, 1910), pp. 11-13.
Also found in Richard R. Terry,
Old Christmas Carols. Part One.
(London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., n.d., ca. 1923),
Carol #34, pp. 46-47.

1. Dies est lętitię in ortu regali,
Nam processit hodie de ventre virginali
Peur admirabilis, totus delectabilis
    In humanitate,
Qui inęstimabilis, est et ineffabilis
   
In divinitate.

2. Orto Dei filio virgine de pura,
Ut rosa de lilio, stupescit natura,
Quem parit juvencula, natum ante secula
    Creatorem rerum,
Quod uber muniditię, dat lac pudicitię
   
Antiquo dierum.

3. Mater hęc est filia, pater nic est natus,
Quis audivit talia, Deus homo natus,
Servus est et dominus, qui ubique cominus
     Nescit comprehendi,
Pr
ęsens est et eminus, stupor eius geminus,
     Nequit apprehendi.

4. In obscuro nascitur, illustrator solis,
Stabulo reponitur, princeps terrę molis.
Fasciatur dextera quę affixit sidera,
    Et coelos ascendit,
Concrepat vagitibus, qui tonat in nubibus,
   
Ac fulgur accendit.

5. Angelus pastoribus, juxta suum gregem,
Nocte vigilantibus, natum cœli regem,
Nunciat cum gaudio, jacentem in pr
ęsepio,
    Infantem pannosum,
Angelorum Dominum, et pr
ę natis hominum
   
Forma speciosum.

6. Ut vitrum non lęditur, sole penetrante,
Sic illęsa creditur, post partum et ante;
Felix hęc puerpera cujus casta viscera
    Deum genuerunt,
Et beata ubera in ętat
e tenera
   
Christum lactaverunt.

7. Mundus dum describitur, virgo pręgnans ibat
In Bethlehem dum nascitur puer qui nos cibat,
In c
œlorum curia canebatur gloria
    Novę dignitatis.
Deus in sublimibus det pacem hominibus
   
Bonę voluntatis.

8. Christe qui nos propriis manibus fecisti,
Et pro nobis omnibus nasci voluisti,
Te devotč petimus, laxa quod peccavimus,
    Ne nos interire
Post mortem nos miseros, ne simul ad in
feros
   
Patiaris ire.

Editor's Note:

Substantially the same as in Gustaf Edvard (G. E.) Klemming, ed., Pię Cantiones - S. Trinitas. Iesus Christus. S. Spiritus. S. Maria. (Holmię [Stockholm]: P. A. Norstedt & Filii, 1886), pp. 19-22. Klemming notes "P.C.8."

Wackernagel has ten verses and Mone has nine verses, whose first lines are.

1. Dies est lętitiae
2. Mater hęc est filia,
3. Orto dei filio
4. Angelus pastoribus
5. Ut vitrum non lęditur
6. In obscuro nascitur
7. Orbis dum describitur, [Mundus dum describitur...]
8. Christum natum dominum
9. Christe qui nos propriis

Source: Franc. Jos. Mone, Hymni Latini Medii Aevi. Volume 1 of 3. (1853), #47, pp. 62-64. Mone cites the Trier Manuscript as his source; there are extensive notes following his lyrics.

The verse not found in Piae Cantiones / Woodward / Klemming:

8. Christum natum dominum
omnes imploremus,
matremque cum filio
pariter laudemus;
est satis mirabilis
et multum laudabilis
vere puer iste.
ergo solus dominus
solus et altissimus
es tu Jesu Christe.

Philipp Wackernagel, Das Deutiche Kirchenlied. Volume 1 of 5. (Leipzig, 1864), #332, pp. 206-207. First Lines of verses:

1. Dies est laetitiae
2. Mater haec est filia
3. Orto dei filio
4. Angelus pastoribus
5. Ut vitrum non laeditur
6. In obscuro nascitur
7. Orbis dum describitur,
8. Christum natum dominum
9. Christe, qui nos manibus

The tenth verse in Wackernagel was written by J. Spangenberg for the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6:

10. Ut stellain conspieiunt
viri sapientes,
Ab Oriente veninnt
secum adserentes
Praeciosa munera,
Christo valde congrna,
aurum regi inclito,
thus deo altissimo,
myrrham in sepulturam.

Also found in Hopkins, Great Hymns Of The Church: Dies est lętitię, four verses, plus notes concerning the carol, additional musical settings, etc.

By way of comparison, here are the first lines of the four verses found in Terry's Two Hundred Folk Carols:

1. Dies est lętitię in ortu regali,
2. Orto Dei filio virgine de pura,
3. In obscuro nascitur, illustrator solis,
4. Ut vitrum non lęditur, sole penetrante,

There are additional notes from Dr. Julian and Rev. Woodward below.

Translations on this web site:

Sheet Music from Richard R. Terry, Old Christmas Carols. Part One. (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., n.d., ca. 1923), Carol #34, pp. 46-47.

Sheet Music from J. H. Hopkins, ed., Great Hymns of the Church Compiled by the Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young (New York: James Pott & Company, 1887), #71, pp. 110-1.

"Original Melody.
Harmonized by Hermann R. Schrœder"

Note:  Hopkins includes Royal Day That Chasest Gloom by Rev. John Mason Neale, Carols for Christmas-tide, 1853, from Piae Cantiones, 1582.

Sheet Music from Christian Folk, Day Of Joy (with Latin verses) in Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #168, pp. 18-19.

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Theodoric Petri, ed., Pię Cantiones Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae Veterum Episcoporum. (Gyphisuualdię: Augustinum Ferberum, 1582)

Sheet Music and Notes from Rev. George R. Woodward, ed., Pię Cantiones. A Collection of Church & School Song, chiefly Ancient Swedish, originally Published in A. D. 1582 by Theodoric Petri of Nyland. (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press for the Plainsong & Medieval Music Society, 1910), Carol #9, pp. 11-13, Notes 215.

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See: The Christmas Songs in Woodward's Pię Cantiones (1910)

Texts from Mone, Dies est laetitae (1853), pp. 62, 63 & 64
Nine verses from the Trier Hymner, plus notes

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Texts from Wackernagel, Dies est laetitae (1862), #332, pp. 206, 207, 208, & 209,  9 verses plus the Epiphany verse
reprinting Adolf (1542), Joh. Spangenberg (1544), Lossius (1553-1579), Joh. Leisentrit (1567), and the Tegernsee Book (1577).

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Texts from Klemming, Dies est laetitae (1886), pp. 19, 20, 21 & 22
reprints the verses in Piae Cantiones (1542)

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Dies Est Laetitiae - Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), pp. 294-295.

Dies est laetitiae, In ortu regali. [Christmas.] This Christmas hymn or carol, which Luther spoke of as a work of the Holy Spirit, seems to be of German origin, and is probably not earlier than the 14th cent.

G. Goeze, of Jena, in 1703, started the theory that this hymn was written by Benno, created Cardinal in 1085 by the Anti-Pope Clement III. Other German writers of the 18th cent., misunderstanding this statement, forthwith pronounced it the work of Benno, Bishop of Meissen, who d. 1107. See Wetzel, I. 108, and a wonderful combination of the two theories in O. F. Homer's Nachrichten von Liederdichtern des Augspurgischen Gesangbuchs, Schwabach, 1775, p. 62. For neither supposition is there the slightest vestige of evidence.

It exists in various forms, and as will be seen below, the early German versions give no help in determining what number of stanzas it originally possessed. Mone, No. 47, quotes it from a manuscript of the 15th cent, now at Trier, and from other sources; with notes and various readings. The stanzas of the Trier manuscript are:-- 2 "Mater haec est filia." 3. " Orto dei filio." 4. " Angelus pastoribus." [p. 295] 5. " Ut vitrum non laeditur." 6. " In obscuro nascitur." 7. "Orbis dum describitur." 8. " Christum natum dominum." 9. "Christe qui nos proprils." He describes it as "having been recast and expanded."

Wackernagel, 1841, No. 53, gives stanzas 1, 3, 5, 4 from Lucas Lossius's Psalmodia, Nurnberg, 1553; but in his new ed. I., No. 332, he quotes the text of Mone with a 10th stanza:-10. "Ut stellam conspiciunt," added for use at Epiphany, which he takes from J. Spangenberg's Alte und Neue Geistliche Lieder. Erfurt, 1544. Ramback, I. pp. 330-335, has stanzas 1, 3, 5, 4 with a note on the authorship. Daniel, I. p. 330, quotes the text of Rambach and Wackernagel, and at iv. pp. 254-257 gives the various readings and additional stanza from Mone; with notes from other sources.

The text is also found, generally in stanzas 1, 3, 5,4 in Simrock, Konigsfeld, Bussler (these with German translations) and other collections. Hoffmann von Fallersleben (Geschichte des Deutschen Kirchenliedes, ed. 1861, pp. 295-301) refers to it as in a 15th cent. manuscript now at Graz with stanzas 1, 3, 5, 2, 6, 4 ; as in a manuscript of 1422 now at Munich with stanzas 1, 3, 2, 4, 6, 5 (both of these with German translations); and as in another 15th century manuscript at Munich with stanzas 1, 2, 6, 3, 4.

Translations in Common Use :-

Royal Day That Chasest Gloom. By J. M. Neale, pub. in his Mediaeval Hymns, 1851, in 3 stanzas of 10 lines. This is a paraphrase rather than a literal rendering of the shorter form of the hymn. In 1854 it was rewritten by Dr. Neale for his Carols for Christmas-tide [Royal Day That Chasest Gloom], and in this form it passed into The People's Hymnal, 1867, No. 34.

This hymn also passed into English through the German:--

Der Tag der ist so freudenreich, Wackernagel, ii., p. 520, gives this as a 15th cent, tr., and reprints 11 (really 12) versions, varying from 1 to 13 stanzas The form tr. into English is that in Klug's G. B., 1529, in 4 stanzas , repeated as No. 29 in the Unv. L. S, 1851. The tr. in C. U. is :-  "A Wondrous Child, The Virgin-born," by A. T. Russell as No. 49 in his Psalms & Hymns, 1851. It begins with stanza ii. (" Ein Kindelein so lobelich "), and is of stanza ii., i.

Other translations. are :- (1) "Hail To The Day ! So Rich In Joy," by Miss Fry, 1845, p. 13. (2) "To Us The Promised Child Is Born !," a translation of stanza ii. by Dr. H. Mills, 1856, p. 274. [J. M.]

 

Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, p. 1559 (1907)

Dies est laetitiae, In ortu regali, p. 294. G. M. Dreves, in his Cantiones Bohemiae, 1886, p. 42, cites this as in four manuscripts now at Prague, the fullest form being in a manuscript circa 1410 of the Abbey of Hohenfurt, which omits Mone's stanza viii.

 

Rev. Woodward's notes to #IX. Dies Est Lęticę, pp. 215-220.

Ein gar alt freudenreich christlich Lied auff Weihnachten, Leisentrit (1544); Canticum veteris ecclesię (Lossius); Hymnus natalitius, vetus et vulgaris (Paar); vetus et insignis (D. G. Corner).

Probably of the twelfth century. Commonly ascribed to Benno, Bishop of Meissen (†1107); but by Koch supposed to be the work of Adam of St. Victor (†1177). According to another authority, the Latin text is of the fourteenth century. Dreves, in his Cantiones Bohemicę ('Anal. Hymnica,' I, p. 42) finds Dies est leticie (i) in a Hohenfurth manuscript of A.D. 1410; (ii) in a 'Kantional von Jistebnicz,' c. 1420; (iii) in a 'Graduale von Jistebnicz,' early fifteenth century; (iv) in another manuscript of the beginning of the sixteenth century, all of them at Prag. For the text, Dreves refers his readers: (i) to Mone, I, No. 47, p. 6, where it is printed, in nine stanzas, from the Trier Hymner (No. 724, at München, of the fifteenth century); and from two other books posterior to Pię Cantiones, which may therefore be dismissed; (ii) to Wackernagel, I, No. 332, pp. 206-7, this being a reprint of Adolf (5542); of Joh. Spangenberg (1544.); Lossius (1553-1579); Joh. Leisentrit (1567) and the 'Tegernsee Book' (1577). See also Daniel, I, p. 330, and IV, p. 254.

Dies est leticie generally consists of eight or nine stanzas, though Lossius (1553) prints only 1, 2, 5, and 4. Like the Hohenfurth manuscript, Pię Cantiones omits a verse after Mundus dum describitur. It runs as follows: 'Christum natum dominum | omnes imploremus | matremque cum filio | pariter laudemus | : est satis mirabilis | et multum laudabilis | verč puer iste | : Ergo solus dominus | solus et altssimus | es tu, lesu Christe.' Unlike the Hohenfurth manuscript, Pię Cantiones omits the following verse: 'Mater, tuum filium | iugiter implora | vt nobis remedium | sit in mortis hora. | Qui luctamur stadio | demonis incendio | camino penali, | sed accepto brauio | letemur cum filio | veste nuptiali.'

Joh. Spangenberg gives an additional verse for Epiphany—for Dies est leticie was sung "auff den heiligen Christag, newe jahrs tag, und auch uff das Fest Epiphanie" – 'Ut stellam conspiciunt | viri sapientes | ab oniente veniunt | secum afferentes | preciosa munera | christo valdč congrua | aurum, thus & myrrham | aurum regi inclyto | thus deo altissimo | myrrham in sepulturam.'

The arrangement of the stanzas varies considerably: but, on the whole, Pię Cantiones clearly follows the order of the Bohemian MSS. and Leisentrit. As might be expected in a carol so widely circulated, there are many varię lections.

For notes and other less important variants, see Daniel, Meister, Wackernagel, Mone, and Julian. Pię Cantiones text is reprinted in Klemming, II, p. 19.

In his 'Kirchen und religiose Lieder,' No. xiv, p. 221, Kehrein prints Ein Kindelein so löbelich from a manuscript of the twelfth century. This has been continuously associated with the melody of Dies est leticie, but is independent of the Latin words.

In later German hymnbooks Dies est leticit appears in the vernacular, as Der tag der ist so freudenreich. In 'Then Sweniska Psalmeboken' (1572) it appears in Swedish as Een iungfru födde itt barn j dagh. To this melody was sung Når Adam i Paradijs and Na må werlder frņgda sich. See Rhezelius (1619), pp. 19 and 26. In Holland it became Tis een dach van vrolichkeit.

The earliest known form of the Tune is to be found in the aforesaid Hohenfurth manuscript at Prag, A.D. 1410. It is given by Dreves in his 'Cantiones Bohemicę' ('Anal. Hymnica,' vol. I), No. xiii, p. 194.

Hohenfurther Hs. 1410.

 

From Dreves, Vol. I, #13, p. 194.

 

For the sake of this deservedly popular Melody many original poems have been written. For instance, Joh. Mauburn († 1503) composed his 'Eia mea anima,' the fourth verse of which is 'Heu! quid iaces stabulo,' ad praesepij visitationem, canendum sub nota: Dies est leticie.' See Daniel, I, No. cccclxxxi, p. 335; R. C. Trench's 'Sacred Latin Poetry' (1864), p. 114; and Dreves 'Analecta Hymnica,' XLVIII, No. 494. To varying forms of this Tune (which are given in Meister, I, No. xxi, pp. 168-174, and in Zahn, IV, Nos. 7869-7872) were sung the following Christmas Carols: Als Jesus geboren war, Als Adam in Paradies, and Weil Maria Schwanger gieng.

 

Karl Severin Meister, ed., Das katholische deutsche Kirchenlied. Erster Band. (Freiburg: Berlagehandlung, 1862) No. xxi, pp. 168-169, 173-174.

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Johannes Zahn, ed., Die Melodien der Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchenlieder. Vierter Band. (Gutersloh: Bertelsmann, 1891), Nos. 7869-7872.

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A translation of Dies est leticie, beginning Royal Day That Chasest Gloom (in three stanzas), was published by Neale in his 'Medieval Hymns' (1851). But a better imitation of the original appeared as No. ix [Royal Day That Chasest Gloom] in his 'Carols for Christmastide' (1853); No. 34 in the 'People's Hymnal' (1867), and No. 18 [Royal Day That Chasest Gloom ] in 'The Cowley Carol Book' (1902).

Originally a seventh and eighth tone Melody, but later on treated as in the Lydian mode with B moll. Harmonized by the following musicians in the following works:

(i) Georg Rhau (1488-1544), in his 'Newe deudsche geistliche Gesenge' (Wittemberg), 1544. See Breitkopf and Haertel's 'Denkmaeler,' Band XXXIV, Nos. vii and viii, ą 4, perhaps by Georg Rhau.

(ii) Johann Walther (1537), No. xxxv; (1544), No. xlvi; (1551), No. 1, ą 5 .

(iii) Leonhart Schröter (c. 1572), ą 4. See R. Eitner's 'Quellen-Lexikon,' IX, p. 75.

(iv) Johann Eccard (c. 1589), ą 4, in Joachim v. Burgk's 'Dreiszig Geistliche Lieder.'

(v) Lucas Osiander (1534-1604), No. 3. Melody in upper part, ą 4 (1586).

(vi) Seth Calvisius (1556-1615), No. ix in his 'Harmonia Cantionum Ecclesiasticarum,' 1598, ą 4. Melody in upper part.

(vii) B. Gesius (1601), p. xi, ą 4.

(viii) Joachim Decker (†1611), No. xxi, p. 96 of Gabriel Husduvius' 'Melodeyen Gesangbuch '(1604), ą 4.

(ix) Gothardus Erythrus, 'Psalmen und Geisthiche Lieder' (1608), No. xxiii.

(x) Michael Prętorius, Helmstadt (1607), Part III, No. v, for two quires of four voices; 'Musę Sionię,' V (1607), No. lxxv (ą 4); No. lxxvi (ą 4); No. lxxvii (ą 3); No. lxxviii (ą 4); No. lxxix (ą 5); 'Musę Sionię,' VI (1609), No. xvi (ą 4); No. xxx (ą 4); No. lv (ą 4).

(xi) Hieronymus Prętorius, 'Cantiones Varię' (Hamburg, 1618 and 1622), No. xxix, folio G, ą 8.

(xii) Andreas Hammerschmidt (1611-1675).

(xiii) Joh. Dilliger (1593-1647) ; 'Musica Votiva' (1622), (cantus į 2, concert į 2, ad organon į 2).

(xiv) J. H. Schein's 'Cantional' (1645), Nos. x and xxvi.

(xv) Joh. Cruger (1649), in his 'Geisil. Kirchen-Melodien,' No. xl; in his 'Praxis Pietatis Melica' (1657), No. 90 (melody and figured bass); in his 'Geisli. Lieder und Psalmen,' No. xiv, arranged for four voices and three instruments; in his 'Prax. Piet. Mel.' (1690), No. 351, a setting by Jacob Hintze (1622-1702).

(xvi) 'Sirenes Symphoniacę' (1678), į 4. See Meister, I, App. II, No. 26.

(xvii) Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) in his 'Orgel Compositionen' (Breitkopf and Haertel, Band II, Pt. II, No. 3).

(xviii) Joh. Pachelbel (1653-1706); Breitkopf, Denkmaeler, Bd. iv, No. 18.

(xix) Joh. Seb. Bach (1685-1750), as No. 158 in '371 Vierstimmige Choral-gesänge'; also in his 'Choral-preludes for the Organ' (Breitkopf, Band VII, No. 10; Band VIII, No. 86); 'Bach Gesellschaft,' No. 41.

(xx) Friedrich Layriz, in his 'Kern des deutschen Kirchengesangs' (1855), No. 26, ą 4.

(xxi) 'Kath. Gesangbuch' (St. Gallen), 1863, No. 14.

(xxii) Neale and Helmore's 'Carols for Christmas-tide' (1853), No. ix.; Royal Day That Chasest Gloom

(xxiii)' Haus-Choralbuch' (Gütersloh), 1887, No. 14.

(xxiv) 'Cowley Carol Book' (1902), "Royal Day That Chasest Doom," No. 18, and 'Songs of Syon' (1910), No. 417 (Prętorius setting, 1609, 'Mus. Sion.,' No. lv).

"Royal Day That Chasest Doom," from Woodward, Cowley Carol Book (1902), No. 18, p.20.

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Besides the above named sources, some form or other of the melody of Dies est leticie is to be found harmonized in nearly every respectable Catholick or Lutheran tune book, too many to be enumerated, down from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

Neale, in his Medieval Hymns, (1851), "Royal Day That Chasest Gloom," p. 132, describes Dies est leticie as 'a German Carol; at least it does not seem to have been used in the offices of the Church. It is perhaps scarcely worth mentioning that Luther believed it inspired.'

Editor's Note:

Sources mentioned by Rev. Woodward in this Note include:

Note that scans of individual pages from Pię Cantiones (in the Adobe PDF format) can be downloaded from Facsimiles Piae Cantiones (http://www.spielleut.de/facs_piae_cantiones.htm; accessed June 15, 2009).

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