Puer natus in Bethlehem
For Christmas and Epiphany.
Words and Music:
14th Century Latin Hymn.
See: Puer natus in Bethlehem - from Pić Cantiones, with notes and links to translations.
Source: Richard Chenevix Trench, Sacred Latin Poetry. Third Edition, Revised and Improved. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), pp. 99-100.
VIII. DE NATIVITATE DOMINI.
Puer natus in Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Jerusalem.
Hic jacet in prćsepio,
Qui regnat sine termino.
Cognovit bos et asinus
Quod puer erat Dominus.
Reges de Saba veniunt,
Aurum, tus, myrrham offerunt.
Intrantes domum invicem
Novum salutant Principem.
De matre natus Virgine
Sine virili semine ;
Sine serpentis vulnere
De nostro venit sanguine;
In carne nobis similis,
Peccato sed dissimilis ;
Ut redderet nos homines
Deo et sibi similes.
In hoc natali gaudio
11. Laudetur sancta Trinitas,
Deo dicamus gratias.
Note from Trench:
VIII. David Gregor Corner, Promptuarium Devotionis (Viennae, 1672), p. 278; Hermann Adalbert Daniel, Theasaurus Hymnologicus. Vol. I. p. 334. — This hymn, of a beautiful simplicity, and absorbing without an effort so much theology in its poetry, continued long a great favourite in the Lutheran Churches of Germany ; surviving among them till wellnigh the present day.
Verse 3, Line 1. bos et asinus] Two passages in the O. T. supplied the groundwork to that wide-spread legend which painters have so often made their own, and to which here the poet alludes, viz. that the ox and the ass recognized and worshipped that Lord whom the Jews ignored and rejected. The first, Isai. i. 3 : Cognovit bos possessorem suum, et asinus prćsepe domini sui : Israel autem me non cognovit, et populus meus non intellexit (Vulgate)1 ; in which was seen a prophetic reference to the manger at Bethlehem ; and no less at Hab. iii. 2, where the Septuagint has strangely enough, έν μέσψ δύο ζώων γνωσδήση2 : and the old Italic : In medio duorum animalium innotesceris.3 The bos and asinus were further mystically applied to the Jew and Gentile, who severally, in the persons of the shepherds and the wise men, were worshippers at the cradle of the new-born King.
Verse 3, Line 2. There is some merit in the following lines from the Musce Anglicana:, vol. i. p. 115. Christian alcaics,4 which are not wholly profane, are so rare, that on this score they are worth quoting :
Doloris expers, Mater amabilem
Enixa prolem gramineo in toro
Deponit immortale pignus,
Arma timens pecorumque vultus.
Ast ille cunas fortiter occupat,
Fassusque numen, et jubare aureo
Perfusus, absterret paventes
Quadrupedes animosus infans.
Verse 4. Reges] The old Church legend — the Roman Church makes it almost a matter of faith — that the wise men from the East were kings, rests on Isai. lx. 3 5; Ps. lxxii. 10, 15. 6 To this last passage also we owe Saba,7 as the interpretation of the άνατολαί2 of Matt. ii. 1.8
"O Lord, I have heard thy report, and was afraid:
I considered thy works, and was amazed:
thou shalt be known between the two living creatures,
thou shalt be acknowledged when the years draw nigh;
thou shalt be manifested when the time is come;
when my soul is troubled, thou wilt in wrath remember mercy."
Habakkuk 3:2. (Emphasis added).
The Brenton Translation of the Septuagint (XX) from Bible Hub, http://biblehub.com/sep/habakkuk/3.htm. This translation was by Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, London, in 1844.
By way of comparison, this is a translation from the Masoretic Text from the NIV (used with permission):
LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
4. Alcaic is a verse form consisting of a strophe of four lines each with four feet, from the 7th Century BC Greek poet Alcaeus. Definition from Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster.com, and the Free Dictionary. All sites accessed July 25, 2015.
7. "Saba" is the Biblical name of "Sheba," an ancient kingdom in southwestern Arabia noted for its extensive trade, especially in spices and gems. Source: Saba at Dictionary.com, accessed July 25, 2015.
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