The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Agnoscat omne saeculum

Hymn for the Birth of Christ

Words: Agnoscat omne saeculum by Venantius Fortunatus, 6th Century Latin Poet.

Source: Herm. Adalbert. Daniel, ed., Thesaurus Hymnologicus. Vol. 1 (Halis: Sumptibus Eduardi Anton, 1841) No. 138, p. 159.

1. Arnoscat omne saeculium
Venisse vitae praemium,
Post hostis asperi iugum
Apparuit redemptio.

2. Esaias quae cecinit 5
Completa sunt in virgine,
Annunciavit angelus,
Sanctus replevit spiritns.

3. Maria ventre concipit
Verbi fidelis semine: 10
Quem totus orbis non capit
Portant puellae viscera.

4. Radix Iesse floruit
Et virga fructum edidit:
Foecunda partum protulit 15
Et virgo mater perinanet.

5. Praesepe poni pertulit
Qui lucis auctor exstitit,
Cum patre coelos condidit,
Sub matre pannos induit. 20

6. Legem dedit qui saeculo ,
Cuius decem praecepta sunt,
Dignando factus est homo
Sub legis esse vinculo.

7. Adam vetus quod polluit 25
Adam novus hoc abluit,
Tumens quod ille deiicit
Humillimus hic origit.

8. Iam nata lux est et salus,
Fugata nox et victa mors, 30
Venite gentes, credite
Deum Maria protulit.


The following note is from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), p. 30.

Agnoscat omne saeculum. V. Fortunatus. [Christmas.] This hymn in 8 stanzas dates from the latter part of the 6th cent. Although wanting in the Vatican manuscripts, and some other manuscripts of Fortunatus's works, it was given by Fabricius, in 1564, from a manuscript of the Benedictine Monastery of Morbach, and has been repeated by Thomasius, and others, including various editions of the author's works (Migne's Patrologia, tom. 88, col. 264). The full text is also in a manuscript of the 11th century in the British Museum (Harl. 2961, f. 2266). It is found in very few breviaries. In those of Constanz and York, it is divided into four hymns of two stanzas each with the doxology, and appointed to be sung as follows:—

Prime. "Agnoscat omne saeculum."
Terce. "Maria ventre concipit."
Sext. "Praesepe poni pertulit."
None. "Adam vetus quod polluit."

The authorities for text and various readings are Daniel, i. No. 138; iv. 176; and Hymn. Sarisb., 1851, pp. 13-14. The York Breviary text is also in Card. Newman's Hymni Ecclesić, 1838 and 1865.

Translations in Common Usage.:--

Dr. Neale, following the York Breviary arrangement, gave, in the enlarged ed. of the Hymnal Noted, 1854, a translation of each:—

Prime. "Let Every Age And Nation Own." [Assigned by Neale to "Christmas-First Hour."]
Terce. "The Virgin Mary Hath Conceived." [Assigned by Neale to "Christmas-Third Hour."]
Sext. "He, By Whose Hand The Light Was Made." [Assigned by Neale to "Christmas-Sixth Hour."]
None. "Now The Old Adam's Sinful Stain." [Assigned by Neale to "Christmas-Ninth Hour."]

and the same translations were repeated in all subsequent editions of the Hymnal Noted. From these translations the editors of the Hymnary, 1872, compiled No. 144, "Come, ye nations, thankful own," the metre being changed from the Long Metre [] of the Hymnal Noted to 7's.

Translations not in Common Usage:—

1. Let all the world confess from heaven. ("Agnoscat omne.") Blew, 1852.

2. What the old Adam stained and soiled. ("Adam vetus.") Blew, 1852.

3. Let thankful worlds confess from heaven. Chambers, i. 77, embracing the whole hymn. [J.J.]

Editor's Note:

The reference to Blew is to Rev. William John Blew, Blew (1808-1894), a priest in the Church of England, and scholar. He translated works from Homer, Aeschylus, and Euripides, as well Latin hymns in his 1852 hymnal The Church Hymn and Tune Book (together with Rev. Henry John Gauntlett, 2nd ed. 1855). He was also involved in other editing projects. Many of his translations have come into common use, but many more have been ignored by editors of later hymnals, regrettable because, as Dr. John Julian observed, "His translations are terse, vigorous, musical, and of great merit." A volume published in 1850, "The Church Hymn Book and the Church Tune Book" may have been a prospectus according to an entry at Worldcat. Unfortunately, neither the first edition nor the second edition of The Church Hymn and Tune Book have been scanned and posted onto the World Wide Web, as best as we can determine.

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