britt A solis ortus cardine

47. O sola magnarum urbium, p. 115

Bethlehem of Noblest Cities, by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

Note: Crudelis herodes deum was number 46.


A solis ortus cardine

Notes from Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), pp. 102-104.

Author: Sedulius, 5th cent. Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation [of From Lands that See The Sun Arise] by J. M. Neale. There are eighteen translations, two of which are in the Annus Sanctus. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Lauds on Christmas Day. This is a part (from A to G) of an alphabetical hymn, the stanzas of which begin with successive letters of the alphabet. This hymn and No. 46, Crudelis Herodes Deum, are parts of the same hymn. Together they give in verse a devout description of the life of Christ.

1. "From the beginning of the rising of the sun, to the uttermost bounds of the earth, let us sing Christ, the Lord, born of the Virgin Mary." Cardine, lit., a hinge, also in astron. a pole: cardo mundi, cardo coeli. A solis ortu usque ad occasum laudabile nomen Domini (Ps. 112, 3).

2. "The Blessed Creator of the world assumed a servile body, that by flesh, He might liberate flesh, lest He lose those whom He had created." Servile corpus: formam servi accipiens (Phil. 2, 7). Ut carne carnem liberans: That by His incarnation He might liberate mankind from the power of the devil.

3. "A heavenly grace enters the bosom of the chaste Mother: the womb of a virgin bears secrets, which she had not thought of." Gratia, in the sense of the "Author of grace." Secreta: the incarnate Son of God. Non noverat: Mary had no foreknowledge of the mystery that was to be wrought in her womb.

4. "The mansion of her modest bosom suddenly becomes the temple of God: unsullied, knowing not man, she conceived in her womb a Son." Nesciens virum, (cf. Luke 1, 34-41).

5. "The Mother brought forth Him whom Gabriel had predicted, whom the Baptist, exulting had perceived, though still enclosed in the womb of his mother." Puerpera, from puer and parere. Baptista gestiens: Et factum est, ut audivit salutationem Mariæ Elisabeth, exultavit infans in utero ejus: et repleta est Spiritu sancto Elisabeth (Luke 1, 41). The first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel is very beautiful. It contains two sublime canticles, the Magnificat (verses 46-55), and the Benedictus (verses 68-79).

6. "He deigned to lie on hay, nor did He disdain the crib: and He, by whose providence not even a bird suffers hunger, is fed with a little milk." Præsepe, is, manger, crib; this word occurs in several forms; see Glossary.

7. "The choir of Saints rejoices, the Angels hymn their God, and the Shepherd, the Creator of all, became known to the shepherds." For the Scriptural references in this stanza, read Luke 2,13-18.


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A solis ortûs cardine, Source: John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1892, 1907), pp. 4-5.


A solis ortûs cardine. Ad usque. Coelius Sedulius. [Christmas.] This hymn, which opens with the same first stanza as the next annotated herein, with the exception of Et for “Ad” in line 2, may be distinguished therefrom by the second stanza, which reads:—

“Beatus auctor saeculi
Servile corpus induit,
Ut carne carnem liberans
Ne perderet quos condidit.”

It is a poem, dating from the first half of the fifth century, in 23 stanzas of 4 lines, entitled Paean Alphabeticus de Christo (“A triumphal song concerning Christ, arranged according to the letters of the alphabet.”) The subject is a devout description of the Life of Christ in verse. The full text is found in an eighth century manuscript in the British Museum (MSS. Reg. 2 A. xx. f. 50), and is also given in the numerous editions of Sedulius’ Works (that of Faustus Arevalus, Rome, 1794, especially); in the works of Thomasius from Vatican manuscripts of the 8th and 9th centurys; in Wackernagel, volume 1, number 48, and others. For ecclesiastical purposes it has been broken up into two hymns, the first known as A solis ortûs cardine, and the second, Hostis Herodes impie, with the Roman Breviary form of the same, Crudelis Herodes, Deum. Following the order of this arrangement, the details are:—

i. A solis ortus cardine. The text of this portion of the poem comprises 28 lines of the original (stanzas a to g, inclusive), and may be found in Hermann Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus, volume 1, number 119, the old text and revised Roman Breviary version being given in parallel columns, followed by various readings, etc. It is given in the Roman Breviary, (text in Cardinal Newman’s Hymni Ecclesiae, 1838) as the hymn at Lauds on Christmas Day; on the 30th of December, the only day in the Octave not occupied by a Festival; on the Octave itself; the Feast of the Circumcision; and on the Vigil of the Epiphany. The doxologies in the Roman and Sarum Uses are no part of the original hymn.

This hymn is met with in most old Breviaries. Also in two manuscripts of the 11th century in the British Museum (Harley 2961, f. 226; and Julius A. vi. f. 39b), etc. In the Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church, 1851, page 50, it is printed from a Durham manuscript of the 11th century. In the Hymnarium Sarisburiense, Lond., 1851, pages 15, 16, it is given for Lauds on Christmas Day, with variations from the uses of York, St. Alban’s, Evesham, Worcester, Anglo-Saxon, manuscripts (Surtees Society, 1851), various Collections, etc. York assigns it to Lauds and Vespers on Christmas Day, and Lauds on the Vigil of the Epiphany. So Worcester and Evesham, with an extension to the Feast of the Purification. Its use is thus seen to have been very extensive in England. Hermann Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus, volume 4, 144-5, gives further references of importance. The hymn, with the strophe h in addition, is given for Vespers on the Feast of the Annunciation, Dec. 18 (see Coelestis ales nuntiat), in the Mozarabic Breviary (Migne’s Patrologiae cursus, tom. 86, col. 1291). [W. A. S.]

Of this part of the poem (omitting the Mozarabic form) the following translations have been made:—

Translations in common use:—

1. From the far-blazing gate of morn. By Edward Caswall from the Roman Breviary, first published in his Lyra Catholica, 1849, in 8 stanzas of 4 lines, 49-51, and again in his Hymns & Poems, 1873, page 27. This was given in the Hymnary, 1872, number 126, as:— “From lands that see the sun arise,” the first line being borrowed from Dr. Neale’s Long Meter version as under.

2. From lands that see the sun arise, To earth’s, etc. By John Mason Neale, from the old text, first published in the Hymnal Noted, 1852, in 8 stanzas of 4 lines, and again in later editions of the same, and in other hymnals.

3. From where the sunshine hath its birth. By Richard Frederick Littledale, made from the old text for, and first published in the People’s Hymnal, 1867, number 26, in 8 stanzas of 4 lines, and signed “A. L. P.”

4. From east to west, from shore to shore. By John Ellerton. This is a cento of 5 stanzas, four of which are from this hymn (stanzas 1, 2, 6, 7), and the last is original, written in 1870, and first published in Church Hymns, 1871, number 78. It is the most acceptable form of the hymn for congregational use.

Translations not in common use:—

1. From every part o’er which the sun. Primer, 1706.
2. From the faint dayspring’s, etc. Richard Mant, 1837.
3. From far sunrise at early morn. William John Copeland, 1848.
4. From the first dayspring’s, etc. William John Blew, 1852.
5. From climes which see, etc. John David Chambers, 1857.
6. Now from the rising of the sun. James Cowden Wallace, 1874.
7. From where the rising sun, etc. F. Trappes, 1S65.

Other translations of this hymn have been made into English through the German, thus noted by Mr. Mearns:—

Christum wir sollen loben schon. A full and faithful translation by Martin Luther, first published in Eyn Enchiridion, Erfurt, 1524, and thence in Wackernagel’s Deutsche Kirchenlied, volume 3, page 13, in 8 stanzas of 4 lines. Included in Schircks’ edition of Luther’s Geistliche Lieder, 1854, page 7, and as number 25 in the Unverfälschter Liedersegen, 1851.

Of this the translations in Common Use are:—
(1) Christ, whom the Virgin Mary bore, omitting stanzas 3-5 by C. Kinchen (J. Swertner?), as number 42 in the Moravian Hymn Book, 1789, and continued, altered, in later editions. Included as number 83 in Pratt’s Collection, 1829.
(2) Now praise we Christ, the Holy One, from Richard Massie’s Martin Luther’s Spiritual Songs, 1854, page 9, as number 30 in the Ohio Lutheran Hymnal 1880.

Other translations are:—

(1) “To Christ be now our homage paid,” as number 154 in part 3 of the Moravian Hymn Book, 1748, number 212 in part 1, 1754.
(2) “Soon shall our voices praise,” by Miss Fry, 1845.
(3) “Let now all honor due be done,” by Dr. J. Hunt, 1853, page 34.
(4) “There should to Christ be praises sung,” by Miss Manington, 1864, p. 23.
(5) “Jesus we now must laud and sing,” by Dr. G. Macdonald, in the Sunday Magazine, 1867, p. 151; and thence, altered, in his Exotics, 1876, p. 42. [J. J.]

ii. The second portion of this poem is the Epiphany hymn Hostis Herodes impie, found in many Breviaries, and consisting of lines 29-36, 41-44, and 49-52, or in other words, the strophes commencing with h, i, l, n, s. The text is given in Hermann Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus, volume 1, number 120, together with references to various Breviaries, etc.

In the Hymnarium Sarisburiense, London, 1851, it is given as the Hymn at first and second vespers on the feast of the Epiphany, and daily through the Octave at Matins and Vespers; with various readings from the uses of York (which assigns it to first and second vespers and Lauds on the Epiphany, and daily through the Octave), of Evesham and Worcester (through the Epiphany at Vespers), St. Alban’s (Vespers and Lauds), St. Andrew de Bromholm, Norfolk (Lauds). Hermann Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus, volume 4, 148, 370, cites it as in a Rheinau manuscript of the 9th century, and a Bern manuscript of the 9th century. In the British Museum it is also found in an 11th century manuscript (Jul. A. vi. f. 36) and others; and in the Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church, 1851, page 51, it is printed from a Durham manuscript of the 11th century. The strophe Katerva matrum (the troop of mothers) occurs in a manuscript of the Harleian Library, of the 11th century (2961, f. 229b), as a hymn for the Holy Innocents. In the Mozarabic Breviary, Hostis Herodes impie is the Hymn at Lauds for the Epiphany, the strophes h, i, l, n, q, r, s, t, v, x, y, z of the original being used, with doxology. Strophes k, m, o, p, with two additional, and a doxology, are used in this rite on the Feast of the Holy Innocents at Lauds; or “In Allisione Infantium, sive Sanctorum Innocentium,” “On the dashing to pieces of the Infants, or Holy Innocents.” (See Psalm 137:9, English version; Psalm 136:9, in the Latin; for the idea.) In Migne’s Patrologiae cursus the hymns will be found in col. 184, 185, and 135, 136 of tom. 86 respectively. [W. A. S.]

Translations in common use:—

1. How vain was impious Herod’s dread. By Arthur Tozer Russell, in his Psalms and Hymns, 1851, number 71, and with alterations, into Benjamin Hall Kennedy’s Psalms and Hymns Selected and Arranged in the Order of the Christian Seasons, 1863, Number 226.

2. Why, impious Herod, vainly fear. By John Mason Neale, in the first edition of the Hymnal Noted, 1852, number 17, from whence it passed into later editions of the same, the People’s Hymnal, 1867, the Hymner, 1882, and others. In Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861, it is given in an altered form, as:— “Why doth that impious Herod fear?” but in the enlarged and revised edition, 1875, the opening line is again altered to, “How vain the cruel Herod’s fear.” Another form is that of the Hymnary, 1872, where it reads:— “The star proclaims the King is here.” It was thus altered by the Editors of that collection.

Translations not in common use:—

1. Herod, grim foe, whence this dismay. William John Blew, 1852.
2. Why, Herod, impious tyrant, fear. John David Chambers, 1857.
3. Impious Herod, wherefore tremble. Hamilton Montgomerie Macgill, 1876.

Various translations of this have been made into German. The translations from one of these are thus noted by Mr. Mearns:—

Was fürchtst du Feind Herodes sehr. A full and faithful translation by Martin Luther, written Dec. 12, 1541, and first published in Klug’s Geistliche Lieder, Wittenberg, 1544. Thence in Wackernagel, volume 3, page 25, in 5 stanzas of 4 lines. Included in Schircks’s edition of Luther’s Geistliche Lieder, 1854, page 18, and as number 81 in the Unverfälschter Liedersegen, 1851.

Of this the only translation in common use is, “Why, Herod, unrelenting foe!” in full in Richard Massie’s Martin Luther’s Spiritual Songs, 1854, page 13, and thence in Dr. Bacon, 1884, and, altered, as number 53, in the Ohio Lutheran Hymnal, 1880.

Other translations are:—

(1) “What dost thou fear, oh, enemy?” by Miss Caroline Fry, 1845, page 23.

(2) “Fiend Herod, why those frantic fears,” by John Anderson, 1846, page 11 (edition of 1847, page 36).

(3) “Fiend Herod! why with fears art torn,” by Dr. J. Hunt, 1853, page 38.

(4) “Herod, why dreadest thou a foe,” by Dr. G. Macdonald in the Sunday Magazine, 1867, page 331; and thence, altered, in his Exotics, 1876. [J.J.]

iii. The Roman Breviary form of Hostis Herodes is Crudelis Herodes Deum. The alterations in the text are stanza 1, lines 1-2, and the doxology only. In the Roman Breviary it is appointed for the first and second Vespers of the Feast of the Epiphany. The text is in Hermann Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus, volume 1, number 120; Cardinal Newman’s Hymni Ecclesiaè, 1838-65, and other collections. [W. A. S.]

Translations in common use:—

1. Why, Herod, why the Godhead fear! By Bishop Richard Mant, in his Ancient Hymns, 1837, page 43; and in Chope’s Hymnal, 1864, and others as:— “In vain doth Herod rage and fear.

2. Why, ruthless king, this frantic fear! By William John Copeland, in his Hymns for the Week, 1848, page 70. In 1868 it was given as, “Why doth the wicked Herod fear?” in the Sarum Hymnal, number 66.

3. O cruel Herod! why thus fear? By Edward Caswall. First published in his Lyra Catholica, 1849, page 53, and his Hymns and Poems, 1873, page 30. This is the translation in common use in Roman Catholic collections for Schools and Missions.

4. Why, cruel Herod, why in fear? By Jame Aitken Johnston, in the English Hymnal, 1852, and later editions. This is based upon older translations.

5. Why, cruel Herod, dost thou fear? By Richard Corbet Singleton, made for and first published in his Anglican Hymn Book, 1868, number 58. In the second edition, 1871, number 73, it was altered to, “Why should the cruel Herod fear?”

6. Why doth that cruel Herod fear? This, which is number 120 in the St. John’s Hymnal, Aberdeen, 1865 and 1870, is a cento from Copeland (stanza 2) and Neale, with alterations in the text of each.

Translations not in common use:—

1. Why, Herod, dost thou fear in vain. Primer, 1706.

2. Cruel Herod, wherefore fearest thou? Hope, 1844.

3. Why, Herod, shakes thy soul with fears. F. Trappes, 1865.

4. Why, cruel Herod, dost thou fear. James Cowden Wallace, 1874. [J. J.]


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