The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Quem terra, pontus, aethera

For The Annunciation

Words: Attributed to Venantius Fortunatus (530-609), Bishop of Poitiers
Dr. Julian asserts that this is a false attribution.

English Translations:
Him Whom the Skies, the Earth, the Sea (Bishop Mant)

The God Whom Earth, And Sea, And Sky (Rev. Neale)

Quem terra, pontus, aethera 1
colunt, adorant, praedicant,
trinam regentem machinam
claustrum Mariae baiulat.

Cui Luna, Sol, et omnia
deserviunt per tempora,
perfusa caeli gratia,
gestant Puellae viscera.

Beata Mater, munere,
cuius supernus Artifex,
mundum pugillo continens,
ventris sub arca clausus est.

Beata caeli nuntio,
fecunda Sancto Spiritu,
desideratus Gentibus,
cuius per alvum fusus est.

Iesu, Tibi sit gloria,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Sheet Music from Sheet Music from Joseph Mohr, S.J., ed., Cantiones Sacrae: A Collection of Hymns and Devotional Chants. (Ratisbon, New York & Cincinnati: Frederik Pustet, 1878), #111, p. 263.

quem_terra-111-Mohr-263.jpg (83335 bytes)

Sheet Music from Rev. John Mason Neale and Rev. Thomas Helmore, eds., Hymnal Noted, Part I. (London: Novello & Co., 1852), Part II (London: Novello & Co., 1856), #93, pp. 183-184.

93-183.jpg (170895 bytes) 93-184.jpg (327838 bytes)

Sheet Music from Thomas Helmore, Accompanying Harmonies to the Hymnal Noted. Part I (London: Novello, Ewer and Co., and Masters and Son, 1852), Part II (London: Novello and Co., Joseph Masters and J. T. Hayes, 1858), #93.

93-1.jpg (382660 bytes) 93-2.jpg (627679 bytes)

Notes:

1 sidera. This change was made by Pope Urban VIII in 1632 to the Roman Breviary.

This hymn was composed by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609), Bishop of Poitiers, and has been an important part of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary since the early Middle Ages. Today it is used in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary daily as a hymn for the Office of the Readings and also as the hymn for Friday Lauds. In the Liturgy of the Hours it is found in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the hymn for the Office of the Readings.

From the Liturgia Horarum [Liturgy of the Hours]. This is the standard form of the hymn as it is used liturgically. However, there is another verse to the hymn which falls between the second and third verses above. It is as follows:

Mirantur ergo saecula,
quod angelus fert semina,
quod aure virgo concipit
et corde credens parturit.

There is a second part of the hymn which is used as a hymn in its own right, O Gloriosa Domina.

Note:

This much longer version was found in A. S. Walpole, Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge at the University Press, 1922), Hymn 39, pp. 198-200.

Quem terra, pontus, aethera 
colunt, adorant, praedicant,
trinam regentem machinam
claustrum Mariae baiulat.

cui luna, sol et omnia
deseruiunt per tempora,
perfusa caeli gratia,
gestant puellae viscera.

mirentur ergo saecula,
Quod angelus fert semina,
quod aure uirgo concipit
et corde credens parturit.

beata mater munere,
cuius supernus artifex,
mundum pugillo continens,
uentris sub arca clausus est.

benedicta caeli nuntio,
fecunda sancto Spiritu,
desideratus gentibus
cuius per aluum fusus est.

o gloriosa femina,
excelsa super sidera!
qui te creauit prouide,
lactas sacrato ubere.

quod Eua tristis abstulit,
tu reddis almo germine;
intrent ut astra flebiles,
caeli fenestra facta es.

tu regis alti ianua
et porta lucis fulgida:
uitam datam per uirginem,
gentes redemptae plaudite.

 Changes made by Pope Urban VIII in 1632 to the Roman Breviary:

1 O gloriosa virginum/ sublimis inter sidera;/ qui te creavit, parvulum/ lactente nutris ubere.
2 Quod Heva tristis abstulit,/ tu reddis almo germine;/ intrent ut astra flebiles,/ coeli recludis cardines.
3 Tu Regis alti ianua,/ et aula lucis fulgida:/ vitam datam per Virginem,/ gentes redemptae, plaudite.
4 Iesu, tibi sit gloria,/ qui natus es de Virgine,/ cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,/ in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

This hymn was composed by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609), Bishop of Poitiers, and has been an important part of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary since the early Middle Ages. Today it is used in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary daily as a hymn for the Office of the Readings and also as the hymn for Friday Lauds. In the Liturgy of the Hours it is found in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the hymn for the Office of the Readings.

From the Liturgia Horarum [Liturgy of the Hours]. This is the standard form of the hymn as it is used liturgically. However, there is another verse to the hymn which falls between the second and third verses above. It is as follows: Mirantur ergo saecula,/ quod angelus fert semina,/ quod aure virgo concipit/ et corde credens parturit. There is a second part of the hymn which is used as a hymn in its own right, O Gloriosa Domina. The translation is by J. M. Neale (1818-1866) except for the last two lines. His original lines were: "All glory, as is ever meet / to Father and to Paraclete".

Both hymns are popular Marian hymns used in the Liturgy, Quem terra, pontus, aethera being used for the Office of the Readings and O gloriosa virginum being used for Lauds in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The hymn was a favorite of St. Anthony of Padua. Tradition has it that it was sung by St. Anthony's mother when he was an infant. It was such a favorite of St. Anthony, that it was constantly on his lips during his life and he sang it at his death.

Note from John Julian, ed., Dictionary of Hymnology (1894), pp. 944-945.

Quem terra, pontus, aethera [sidera]. [Purification of the B. V. M.] This has been frequently ascribed to V. H. C. Fortunatus, and is included by F. Leo in his ed. of Fortunatus's Opera Poetica, Berlin, 1881, p. 385, but among the hymns falsely attributed to him. It is found in four MSS. of the 11th cent., in the British Museum (Jul. A. vi. f. 38 b ; Vesp. D. xii. f. 61b; Harl. 2961 f. 231; Add. 30848 f. 55 b); and in the Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church, 1851, p. 74, is printed from an 11th cent. MS. at Durham (B. iii. 32 f. 22). It is also in the St. Gall MS., No. 387, of the 11th cent. Mone, No. 419, cites it as in a MS. of the 9th cent, at Admont.

The second portion, "O gloriosa femina, Excelsa super sidera," is often given as a separate hymn, sometimes beginning "O Gloriosa Domina," as in a 12th cent. MS. in the British Museum (Harl. 2928 f. 120 b); in Mone, No. 420, and in G. M. Dreves's Hymnarius Moissiacensis, 1888, p. 38, from a 10th cent. MS. In the Roman Breviary, 1632, the first part begins Quem terra, pontus, sidera, and the second part O gloriosa virginum.

The original, and the Roman Breviary texts, will be found in Daniel, i., No. 144, with readings at ii. p. 382, iv. p. 135, from a Munich MS. of the 9th or 10th cent., a Rheinau MS. of the 10th cent., &c. The hymn, in whole or in part, has been used in various Breviaries (Sarum, York, Aberdeen, Roman, &c.) for almost all the Festivals of the B. V. M., including the Conception, Nativity, Annunciation, Visitation, and the Assumption. [J. M.]

The full original form of this hymn has not been translated. We have the following forms in English.

i. Quem terra, pontus, aethera. This, the oldest form of the text, in the Sarum and other Breviaries in 4 stanzas and a doxology, has been translated thus:

The God Whom Earth, And Sea, And Sky, &c. J. M. Neale, in the Hymnal Noted, 1854 ; H. A. & M., 1861 and 1875; the People's Hymnal, 1867; the Hymnary, 1872, and others, and sometimes with alterations. It is more extensively used than any other translation of this hymn.

Other translations are :

1. The gouvernoure of the tryple engyn. Sarum Prymer, Paris, 1538.

2. Whome earth, and sea, and eke the skyes. Primer, 1604.

3. He whome the earth, the sea, and skie. Primer, 1615.

4. Lo, He Whom Earth, and Sea, and Sky. J. D. Chambers, 1852.

5. Whom earth, and sea, and air. W. J. Blew, 1852 and 1855.

6. The God whom earth and sea and sky Revere, adore, &c. J. D. Chambers, 1866.

ii. Quem terra, pontus, sidera. The only difference between this Roman Breviary text and the above is in the first line. The translations are :

1. Him Whom the Skies, the Earth, the Sea. By Bishop Mant, in his Ancient Hymns, 1837, p. 48. It is given in several collections, including the English Hymnal, 1852, and as "Whom earth, and sea, and sky," in the 1861 ed. of the same.

2. The Lord, Whom earth, and sea, and sky. By E. Caswall, in his Lyra Catholica, 1849, p. 199; and his Hymns & Poems, 1873, p. 106. In a few collections.

Other trs. are :

1. He Whom the Land, the Sea, the Sky. Primer, 1685.

2. The Sov'raign God Whose hands sustain. Primer, 1706.

3. Whom earth, and sea, and stars, and light. W. J. Copeland, 1848.

4. Whom earth, and seas, and heaven's high frame. E. Campbell, 1850.

5. Him we sing, Whose wondrous story. H. N. Oxenham, 1854.

6. The earth, the sky, the mighty ocean. J. Wallace, 1874.

iii. O gloriosa femina. This, which is composed of 3 st. and a doxology, is tr. as :

1. O glorious Virgin, ever blest. By F. R. Littledale, pub. in the People's Hymnal, 1867, with the signature "F. R."

2. O glorious Lady, throned on high. In the Antiphoner and Grail, 1880, and the Hymner, 1882.

Other translations are :

1. Glorious Lady, stellyfyed. Sarum Prymer, Paris, 1538.

2. O Lady set in glorie great. Primer, 1604.

3. O glorious Lady, Queene of might. Primer, 1615.

4. How glorious, Lady! is thy fame. J. D. Chambers, 1866.

iv. O gloriosa virginum. This text differs from the above in several instances. It is translated as:

O Queen of all the virgin choir. By E. Caswall, in his Lyra Catholica, 1849, p. 200 ; and his Hymns & Poems, 1873, p. 106. In the 1863 ed. of the Appendix to the Hymnal Noted, it is altered to "Most glorious of the virgin choirs."

Other translations are :

1. O Glorious Virgin, thron'd on high. Primer, 1685.

2. O Mary ! whilst thy Maker blest. Primer, 1706.

3. Eternal glory of the skies. Bishop Mant, 1837.

4. O Mary, how great is thy glory. J. Wallace, 1874.

V. O gloriosa domina, De cujus virgo genere. This is a recast of the third form above, adapted to St. Anne. It is given by G. M. Dreves in his Liturgische Hymnen, 1888, p. 79, from a MS. Antiphonary of the 16th cent. This text is translated by E. Caswall in his Masque of Mary, 1858, p. 327, and his Hymns and Poems, 1873, p. 189, as "O Lady, high in glory, Whose daughter ever blest" [J.J.]

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.


Related Hymns and Carols