The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hymnus VIII Kalendas Ianuarias

Words: Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (384-413), Cathemerinon

Translation: Why Doth The Sun Re-orient Take, R. Martin Pope

Source: The Hymns of Prudentius, Project Gutenberg (2005)

Editor's Note:

Quid est, quod artum circulum (HYMNUS VIII. KALENDAS IANUARIAS, Hymns for the Christian's Day) is the opening line of the eleventh and next-to-last poem in the "Cathemerinon" of Prudentius (384-413) . This twelfth poem or hymn contains 29 iambic dimeter strophes, and an irregular selection from its 116 lines. The following text from the Project Gutenberg file with translation by R. Martin Pope. The twelfth and last poem in "Cathemerion" is the better known Hymn for the Epiphany (XII Hymnus Epiphaniae - Quicumque Christum quaeritis), from which four hymns were created for the Roman Breviary.

 XI. HYMNUS VIII. KALENDAS IANUARIAS

    Quid est, quod artum circulum
  sol iam recurrens deserit?
  Christusne terris nascitur,
  qui lucis auget tramitem?

    Heu quam fugacem gratiam       5
  festina volvebat dies,
  quam pene subductam facem
  sensim recisa extinxerat!

    Caelum nitescat laetius,
  gratetur et gaudens humus,      10
  scandit gradatim denuo
  iubar priores lineas.

    Emerge dulcis pusio,
  quem mater edit castitas,
  parens et expers coniugis,      15
  mediator et duplex genus.

    Ex ore quamlibet Patris
  sis ortus et verbo editus,
  tamen paterno in pectore
  sophia callebas prius.          20

    Quae prompta caelum condidit,
  caelum diemque et cetera,
  virtute verbi effecta sunt
  haec cuncta: nam verbum Deus.

    Sed ordinatis seculis,        25
  rerumque digesto statu
  fundator ipse et artifex
  permansit in Patris sinu,

    donec rotata annalium
  transvolverentur milia,         30
  atque ipse peccantem diu
  dignatus orbera viseret.

    Nam caeca vis mortalium
  venerans inanes nenias
  vel aera vel saxa algida,       35
  vel ligna credebat Deum.

    Haec dum sequuntur, perfidi
  praedonis in ius venerant,
  et mancipatam fumido
  vitam barathro inmerserant:     40

    Stragem sed istam non tulit
  Christus cadentum gentium
  inpune ne forsan sui
  Patris periret fabrica.

    Mortale corpus induit,        45
  ut excitato corpore
  mortis catenam frangeret
  hominemque portaret Patri.

    Hic ille natalis dies,
  quo te creator arduus           50
  spiravit et limo indidit
  sermone carnem glutinans.

    Sentisne, virgo nobilis,
  matura per fastidia
  pudoris intactum decus          55
  honore partus crescere?

    O quanta rerum gaudia
  alvus pudica continet,
  ex qua novellum seculum
  procedit et lux aurea!          60

    Vagitus ille exordium
  vernantis orbis prodidit,
  nam tunc renatus sordidum
  mundus veternum depulit.

    Sparsisse tellurem reor       65
  rus omne densis floribus,
  ipsasque arenas syrtium
  fragrasse nardo et nectare.

    Te cuncta nascentem puer
  sensere dura et barbara,        70
  victusque saxorum rigor
  obduxit herbam cotibus.

    Iam mella de scopulis fluunt,
  iam stillat ilex arido
  sudans amomum stipite,          75
  iam sunt myricis balsama.

    O sancta praesepis tui,
  aeterne rex, cunabula,
  populisque per seclum sacra
  mutis et ipsis credita.         80

    Adorat haec brutum pecus
  indocta turba scilicet,
  adorat excors natio,
  vis cuius in pastu sita est.

    Sed cum fideli spiritu        85
  concurrat ad praesepia
  pagana gens et quadrupes,
  sapiatque quod brutum fuit:

    Negat patrum prosapia
  perosa praesentem Deum:         90
  credas venenis ebriam
  furiisve lymphatam rapi.

    Quid prona per scelus ruis?
  agnosce, si quidquam tibi
  mentis resedit integrae,        95
  ducem tuorum principum.

    Hunc, quem latebra et obstetrix,
  et virgo feta, et cunulae
  et inbecilla infantia
  regem dederunt gentibus,       100

    peccator intueberis
  celsum coruscis nubibus,
  deiectus ipse et inritus
  plangens reatum fletibus:

    Cum vasta signum bucina      105
  terris cremandis miserit,
  et scissus axis cardinem
  mundi ruentis solverit:

    Insignis ipse et praeminens
  meritis rependet congrua,      110
  his lucis usum perpetis,
  illis gehennam et tartarum.

    Iudaea tunc fulmen crucis
  experta, qui sit, senties,
  quem te furoris praesule       115
  mors hausit et mox reddidit.

Editor's Note:

The Twelve Hymns of Cathemerinon, and their first lines are:

I. HYMNUS AD GALLI CANTUM | HYMN AT COCK-CROW 
	(Ales diei nuntius | Awake! the shining day is born!)
II. HYMNUS MATUTINUS | MORNING HYMN 
	(Nox et tenebrae et nubila | Ye clouds and darkness, hosts of night)
III. HYMNUS ANTE CIBUM | HYMN BEFORE MEAT 
	(O crucifer bone, lucisator | Blest Cross-bearer, Source of good)
IV. HYMNUS POST CIBUM | HYMN AFTER MEAT 
	(Pastis visceribus ciboque sumpto | Refreshed we rise, and for this bread that feeds)
V. HYMNUS AD INCENSUM LUCERNAE | HYMN FOR THE LIGHTING OF THE LAMPS 
	(Inventor rutili, dux bone, luminis | Blest Lord, Creator of the glowing light)
VI. HYMNUS ANTE SOMNUM | HYMN BEFORE SLEEP 
	(Ades Pater supreme | Draw near, Almighty Father)
VII. HYMNUS IEIUNANTIUM | HYMN FOR THOSE WHO FAST 
	(O Nazarene, lux Bethlem, verbum Patris | O Jesus, Light of Bethlehem)
VIII. HYMNUS POST IEIUNIUM | HYMN AFTER FASTING 
	(Christe servorum regimen tuorum | O Christ, of all Thy servants Guide)
IX. HYMNUS OMNIS HORAE | HYMN FOR ALL HOURS 
	(Da puer plectrum, choreis ut canam fidelibus | Let me chant in sacred numbers, as I strike each sounding string)
X. HYMNUS AD EXEQUIAS DEFUNCTI | HYMN FOR THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD 
	(Deus ignee fons animarum | Fountain of life, supernal Fire)
XI. HYMNUS VIII. KALENDAS IANUARIAS | HYMN FOR CHRISTMAS-DAY 
	(Quid est, quod artum circulum | Why doth the sun re-orient take)
XII. HYMNUS EPIPHANIAE | HYMN FOR THE EPIPHANY 
	(Quicumque Christum quaeritis | Lift up your eyes, whoe'er ye be)

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