The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Salvete, Flores Martyrum

Hymnus 46.

For Innocent's Day, Matins.

From the Paris Breviary, 1736

See The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents

Source: Rev. John Chandler, The Hymns of the Primitive Church (London: John W. Parker, 1837), pp. 174-175.

Salvete, flores Martyrum,
    In lucis ipso lumine
Quos ssevus ensis messuit,
    Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Cbristi victima,
    Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
    Palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas ?
    Quid crimen Herodem juvat?
Unus tot inter funera
    Impune Christus tollitur.

Inter coaevi sanguinis
    Fluenta solus integer,
Ferrum quod orbabat nurus
    Partus fefellit virginis.

Qui natus es de Virgine
    Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Cum Patre, cumque Spiritu,
    In sempiterna secula.

English Translation:

Notes From Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), pp. 108-109.

Author: Prudentius (348-413). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation [of All Hail, Ye Little Martyr Flowers] by Athelstan Riley. There are about twenty five translations. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Lauds on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

This hymn is a cento from the twelfth and last poem in the Cathemerinon of Prudentius, and in its full form it contains 208 lines. First line of complete hymn: Quicumque Christum quaeritis. Four beautiful centos from this hymn were included in the Breviary by Pius V (1568). One of these centos begins with the first line of the complete hymn. The following are the four centos, their composition, and their liturgical use:

1. Quic˙mque Christum quŠritis (1-4; 37-44; 85-88). Transfiguration.

2. O sola magnarum urbium (77-80; 5-8; 61-64; 69-72). Epiphany.

3. Audit tyrannus anxius (93-100; 133-136). Holy Innocents.

4. Salvete, Flores Martyrum (125-132). Holy Innocents.

There is an article in the Cath. Encyl., treating of all four hymns, under the general heading: Quicumque Christum quceritis.

1. "Hail, flowers of the martyrs, whom on the very threshold of life, the persecutor of Christ snatched away even as the whirlwind, the budding roses." Lucis, lit., light; fig., life; or in a mystical sense, Christ.

2. "As the first sacrifice for Christ, a tender flock of victims, with sweet simplicity, ye play with your palms and crowns at the very altar side." Aram sub ipsam: The Original Text has ante for sub. Vidi subtus altare animas interfectorum propter verbum Dei (Apoc. 6, 9). This stanza has been greatly admired. It presents a picture of great beauty. The hymn Flowers Of Martyrdom, All Hail! is Father Caswall's translation of this hymn, of which Monsignor Henry says: "Not to speak of the beauty and fidelity of the rendering, the trochaic rhythm vividly conveys the sense of the suddenness of the onslaught, the ruthlessness and swiftness of the destruction." (Cath. Encycl. Vol. XII, p. 607).

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