The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Heri mundus exultavit

Hymn to St. Stephan
Feast Day: December 26
See: Hymns to St Stephen

Words: Adam of St. Victor

Source: Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench, ed., Sacred Latin Poetry: Chiefly Lyrical, Selected and Arranged for Use. With Notes and Introduction. Third Edition, Revised and Improved. (London: Kegan Paul and Company, 1874, 1886), #XLVI, pp. 214-218.

1. Heri mundus exultavit, 1
Et exultans celebravit
Christi natalitia:
Heri chorus angelorum
Prosecutus est caelorum 5
Regem cum laetitiâ.

2. Protomartyr et Levita, 7
Clarus fide, clarus vitâ,
Clarus et miraculis,
Sub hâc luce triumphavit, 10
Et triumphans insultavit 11
Stephanus incredulis.

3. Fremunt ergo tanquam ferae, 13
Quia victi defecere
Lucis adversarii: 15
Falsos testes statuunt,
Et linguas exacuunt
Viperarum filii. 18

4. Agonista, nulli çede;
Certâ certus de mercede, 20
Persevera, Stephane:
Insta falsis testibus,
Confuta sermonibus
Synagogam Satanae. 24

5. Testis tuus est in caelis, 25
Testis verax et fidelis, 26
Testis innocentiae.
Nomen habes Coronati, 28
Te tormenta decet pati 29
Pro coronâ gloriae. 30

6. Pro coronâ non marcenti
Prefer brevis vim tormenti,
Te manet victoria.
Tibi fiet mors, natalis,
Tibi poena terminalis 35
Dat vitae primordia.

7. Plenus Sancto Spiritu
Penetrat intuitu
Stephanus caelestia.
Videns Dei gloriam 40
Crescit ad victoriam,
Suspirat ad praemia.

8. En a dextris Dei stantem 43
Jesum, pro te dimicantem,
Stephane, considera. 45
Tibi caelos reserari,
Tibi Christum revelari
Clama voce liberâ.

9. Se commendat Salvatori,
Pro quo dulce ducit mori 50
Sub ipsis lapidibus.
Saulus servat omnium
Vestes lapidantium,
Lapidans in omnibus. 54

10. Ne peccatum statuatur 55 55
His, a quibus lapidatur,
Genu ponit, et precatur,
Condolens insaniae:
In Christo sic obdormivit,
Qui Christo sic obedivit, 60
Et cum Christo semper vivit,
Martyrum primitiae. 62

Editor's Note.

Archbishop Trench, like most authorities, omits lines 63-78. As will be observed below, many authorities believe that these lines may not have been written by Adam of St. Victor. The source of the text was Émile Théodore Léon Gautier, ed., Oeuvres Poétiques D'Aedam de S.-Victor. Premier Edition Complete. (Paris: Julien, Lanier, Cosnard et Ce, 1858), pp. 214-215.

11. Quod sex suscitaverit
Mortuos in Africa,
Augustinus asserit, 65
Fama refert publica.

12. Hujus, Dei gratia,
Revelato corpore,
Mundo datur pluvia
Siccitatis tempore. 70

13. Solo fugat hie odore
Morbos et daemonia,
Laude dignus et honore
Jugique memoria.

14. Martyr, cujus est jocundum 75
Nomen in Ecclesia,
Languescentem fove mundum
Coelesti fragrantia. Amen. 78

Sheet Music to "Heri Mundus Exultavit" by Walter Macfarren from Arthur Henry Brown, ed., The Altar Hymnal (London: Griffith, Farrar, Okeden & Welsh, 1885), #14, page 46.

Sheet Music from Thomas Helmore and Thomas Morley, eds., Music of the Appendix to the Hymnal Noted. (Novello, Ewer & Co., No Date, ca. 1870), Tune #128, p. 138.

Tune_128.jpg (47503 bytes)

Notes by Archbishop Trench:

Hymn XLVI. Clichtoveus, Elucidat. Eccles. p. 158; Rambach, Anthol. Christl. Gesänge, p. 285 ; Daniel, Thes. Hymnol. vol. ii. p. 64; Gautier, Adam de S. Victor, vol. i. p. 212.—There is another fine hymn by Adam of St. Victor on the martyrdom of St. Stephen, Rosa novum dans odorem ; but fine as it is, it is very inferior to this sublime composition. Gautier (vol. i. p. 223) has published it for the first time.

Line 1. Heri] The Church has always loved to bring out the significance of the day on which it commemorates the martyrdom of St. Stephen—namely, that it is the day immediately following the day of Christ's nativity. Thus Durandus (Rational. vii. 42); Augustine, Serm. 314 and often; Bernard, vol. i. p. 794, Bened. ed.; and Fulgentius (Appendix to Augustine, vol. v. 357): Hesterno die celebravimus Natalem quo Rex martyrum natus est in mundo; hodie celebramus natalem quo primicerius martyrum migravit ex mundo. Et ideo natus est Dominus ut moreretur pro servo; ne servus timeret mori pro Domino. Natus est Christus in terris, ut Stephanus nasceretur in caelis: altus ad humilia descendit, ut humiles ad alta adscenderent. Another hymn on St. Stephen (Clichtoveus, p. 20) has these noble lines expressing the same thought:

Tu per Christum hebetatam primus transis rhomphaeam,
Primum granum trituratum Christi ditans aream.

The rhomphoea here is the fiery sword of the Cherubim, which precluded all access to Paradise, but which sword was quenched and blunted in the blood of Christ, so that Stephen could now pass it by, and enter into life.

Line 7. Protomartyr] Called therefore αρχπ μαρτυρων, αθλπτων ϖροιμιον, ϖρωταθλος, αθλητων ακροθινιον in the Greek Church. By a very natural transfer of Jewish terms to Christian things, Levita in the early Church language was = diaconus (Bingham, Antiqq. xi. 20, 2).

Line 11. insultavit] Cf. Acts vii. 51—53.

Line 13. Cf. Acts vii. 54.

Line 18. Cf. Matt. iii. 7.

Line 24. Synagogam Satanae] Cf. Rev. ii. 9.

Line 26. Cf. Rev. iii. 14.

Line 28. Coronati] The nomen et omen which lay in that name Stephen (στεφαρος) for the first winner of the martyr's crown, is a favourite one with the early Church writers. Thus Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. lviii. 3): Stephanus lapidatus est, et quod vocabatur, accepit. Stephanus enim corona dicitur. Cf. Serm. 314, 2. He plays in like manner with the name of the martyr Vincentius, noting that he too was in like manner φερωνυμος (Serm. 274): Vincentium ubique vincentem. So in the legendary life of St. Victor, a voice from heaven is heard at the moment of his death, Vicisti, Victor beate, vicisti; and all this is embodied in a hymn addressed to the former of these martyrs:

O Vincenti! qui vicisti,
Et invictus jam cepisti
Praemia vincentium,
Des invictum robur menti,
Soli Christus nam vincenti
Manna dat absconditum.

Lines 29, 30. Cf. 2 Tim. ii. 5; l Pet. v. 4.

Line 43. stantem] The one occasion on which Christ appears in Scripture as standing at the right hand of God, is that of Stephen's martyrdom (Acts vii. 55, 56). The reason why in all other places he should be spoken of as sitting, and here only as standing, Gregory the Great, whom our poet follows, has no doubt rightly given (Hom. 19, in Fest. Ascens.): Sedere judicantis est, stare vero pugnantis vel adjuvantis. Stephanus stantem vidit, quem adjutorem habuit. See too Arator, long before:

Lumina cordis habens caelos conspexit apertos,
Ne lateat quid Christus agat: pro martyre surgit,
Quem tunc stare videt, confessio nostra sedentem
Cum soleat celebrare magis. Dux prascius armat
Quos ad dona vocat.

Our Collect on St. Stephen's day has not failed to bring this point out — 'O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for Thee.' This is but one example, out of many, of the rich theological allusion, often unmarked by us, which the Collects of the Church contain.

Line 54. Lapidans in omnibus] Augustine (Serm. 315): Quantum saeviebat [Saulus] in illâ caede, vultis audire? Vestimenta lapidantium servabat, ut omnium manibus lapidaret.

Lines 55—62. Cf. Acts vii. 59 (Vulg.): Positis autem genibus, clamavit voce magnâ dicens, Domine, ne statuas illis hoc peccatum. Et cum hoc dixisset, obdormivit in Domino.

Line 62. I cannot forbear quoting two stanzas, the first and fifth, from that other of Adam's hymns on the same martyr, referred to already. I will observe, for the explanation of the first line, that roses were the floral emblems of martyrs, as lilies of virgins, and violets of confessors.

Rosa, novum dans odorem,
Ad ornatum ampliorem
Regiae caelestis,
Ab AEgypto revocatur;
Illum sequi gratulatur,
Cujus erat testis.

Uva, data torculari,
Vult pressuras inculcari,
Ne sit infecunda:
Martyr optat petra teri,
Sciens munus adaugeri
Sanguinis in undâ.

Note from John Julian, ed., Dictionary of Hymnology. Second Revised Edition with New Supplement. (1892, 1907), p. 513.

Heri mundus exultavit. Adam of St. Victor. [St. Stephen.] This sequence is by some considered to be the masterpiece of the poet, and is by Archbishop Trench termed "a sublime composition." The full text, in 78 lines, together with a French translation of the 15th cent., and extended notes, is given by Gautier in his Oeuvres Poetiques d'Adam de S. Victor; Paris, 1858, pp. 211-222. Gautier, in his 2nd ed., 1881, p. 78, quotes it from the Limoges Sequentiary of the 12th or 13th cent. (Bibl. Nat., Pans, No. 1139), a Gradual of the Abbey of St. Victor written before 1239 (Bibl. Nat., Paris, No. 14452, and other MSS.). It is also found in Daniel, ii. p. 64; Kehrein, No. 714; Trench's Sacred Latin Poetry, ed. 1864, p. 212; The Liturgical Poetry of Adam of St. Victor, &c, by D. S. Wrangham, 1881, and others. Daniel thinks lines 63-78 (omitted by Trench) are of doubtful authenticity. The legendary miracles there noted as worked by the relics of St. Stephen are however recorded by St. Augustine in Book xxii. c. 8, of his De Civitate Dei, a work probably well known to the author of this hymn, and the lines are in almost all the MSS. Translated as :—

1. Yesterday, With Exultation. By J. M. Neale, pub. in the 2nd ed. of his Mediaeval Hymns, 1863, in 7 stanzas of 6 lines and 1 stanza of 8 lines. This was repeated in the Appendix to H. A. & M., 1868, with stanza viii. reduced to 6 lines; and in the Appendix to the Hymnal Noted, 1862, and others in its original form.

Editor's Note: Neale's translation was altered in the following two publications:

2. Jesu, Word of God Incarnate. By W. Cooke, made for and first published in the Hymnary, 1872.

Translations not in Common Use:—

1. Yesterday the happy earth. Mrs. Charles, 1858.

2. Mingling with the shouts of earth. H. Kynaston, 1862.

3. Death shall be thy birthday morn. Pt. ii. of No. 2.

4. Yesterday The World, Elated. D. S. Wrangham, 1881. [J. M.]

Editor's Note.

The last translation was of all 78 lines.

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