The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hora Novissima

"It is the last hour, the time of adversity, let us watch!"

Words: Bernard of Cluny, a 12th century Benedictine Monk
An excerpt from De Contemptu Mundi, circa 1145

Translation by Rev. John Mason Neale
Source: Mediæval Hymns and Sequences, Third Edition. London: Joseph Masters, 1867.

Note From Rev. Neale:

In the xil. century, the Abbey of Cluny, under its celebrated bead, Peter the Venerable,— (he held that dignity from 1122 to 1156,)—was at the very height of monastic reputation. Its glorious church, the most magnificent in France, the fulness and exactness of its ritual, and the multitude of its brethren, raised it to a pitch of fame which, perhaps, no other house ever attained.

At that time, one of its children was Bernard, born at Morlaix, in Bretagne; but of English parents. He occupied a portion of his leisure by the composition of a poem, De Contemptu Mundi, in about three thousand lines. The greater part is a bitter satire on the fearful corruptions of the age.

But, as a contrast to the misery and pollution of earth, the poem opens with a description of the peace and glory of heaven, of such rare beauty, as not easily to be matched by any mediæval composition on the same subject. Dean Trench, in his “Sacred Latin Poetry,” gave a very beautiful cento of ninety-five lines from the work. Yet, it is a mere patchwork— much being transposed as well as cancelled; so that the editor’s own admission that he has adopted “some prudent omissions,” would scarcely give a fair idea of the liberties which have in reality been taken with it.

From that cento I translated the larger part, in the first edition of the present book, following the arrangement of Dean Trench, not of Bernard. The great popularity which my translation, however inferior to the original, attained, is evinced by the very numerous hymns compiled from it, which have found their way into modern collections; so that, in some shape or other, the Cluniac’s verses have become, as it were, naturalized among us. This led me to think that a fuller extract from the Latin, and a further translation into English, might not be unacceptable to the lovers of sacred poetry.

It was published separately, and, by the kind leave of the publisher, is now reprinted here.

I have here deviated from my ordinary rule of adopting the measure of the original :—because our language, if it could be tortured to any distant resemblance of its rhythm, would utterly fail to give any idea of the majestic sweetness which invests it In Latin. Its difficulty in that language is such that Bernard, in a preface, expresses his belief that nothing but the special inspiration of the Spirit of GOD could have enabled him to employ it through so long a poem. It is a dactylic hexameter, divided into three parts, between which a cæsura is inadmissible. The hexameter has a tailed rhyme, and feminine leonine rhyme between the two first clauses, thus:

Tunc nova gloria || pectora sobria || clarificabit:
Solvit enigmata || veraque sabbata || continuabit.
Patria luminis, || inscia turbinis, || inscia litis
Cive replebitur, || amplificabitur || Israelitis.

It would be most unthankful, did I not express my gratitude to God, for the favour He has given some of the centos made from the poem: but especially “Jerusalem the Golden.” It has found a place in some twenty hymnals; and for the last two years it has hardly been possible to read any newspaper which gives prominence to ecclesiastical news, without seeing its employment chronicled at some dedication or other festival. It is also a great favourite with dissenters, and has obtained admission in Roman Catholic services. “And I say this,” to quote Bernard’s own preface, “in no wise arrogantly, but with all humility, and therefore boldly.” But more thankful still am I that the Cluniac’s verses should have soothed the dying hours of many of God’s servants: the most striking instance of which I know is related in the memoir published by Mr. Brownlow under the title, A little child shall lead them; where he says that the child of whom be writes, when suffering agonies which the medical attendants declared to be almost unparalleled, would lie without a murmur or motion while the whole 400 lines were read to him.

I may add that of the various alterations, which, in different hymnals these verses have received, those in the Sarum hymnbook appear to me far the worst.

I have so often been asked to what Tune the words of Bernard may be sung, that I may here mention that of Mr. Ewing, the earliest written, the best known, and with children the most popular ;—that of my friend, the Rev. H. L. Jenner, perhaps the most ecclesiastical ;—and that of another friend, Mr. Edmund Sedding, which, to my mind, best expresses the meaning of the words.

Editor's Note: The following poem is almost without stanzas, and would thus afford the reader of eleven unbroken pages of text. I have therefore retained the page headings and numbers throughout the poem, ceasing that practice when we get to "Jerusalem The Golden." I do not read, write or speak Latin, and regrettably cannot assist in the translation of any such words or phrases that will be encountered in this poem or its notes. This entire text was scanned with Optical Character Recognition software, which although it does a very good job, does not do so perfectly (somewhat like my own typing of text, as the observant visitors will have, no doubt, observed). I have attempted to correct all obvious errors and misspellings of the OCR, and ask that the reader  me with any corrections.

HORA NOVISSIMA. 71

The world is very evil; 1
The times are waxing late:
Be sober and keep vigil;
The Judge is at the gate;
The Judge That comes in mercy,
The Judge That comes with might,
To terminate the evil,
To diadem the right.
When the just and gentle Monarch
Shall summon from the tomb,
Let man, the guilty, tremble,
For Man, the God, shall doom.
Arise, arise, good Christian,
Let right to wrong succeed;
Let penitential sorrow
To heavenly gladness lead;
To the light that hath no evening,
That knows nor moon nor sun,
The light so new and golden,
The light that is but one.
And when the Sole-Begotten
Shall render up once more
The Kingdom to the Father
Whose own it was before,—
Then glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
An endless Sabbath-day.

72 MEDIAEVAL HYMNS.

Then, then from his oppressors
The Hebrew shall go free,
And celebrate in triumph
The year of Jubilee;
And the sunlit Land that reeks not
Of tempest nor of fight,
Shall fold within its bosom
Each happy Israelite:
The Home of fadeless splendour,
Of flowers that fear no thorn,
Where they shall dwell as children,
Who here as exiles mourn.
Midst power that knows no limit,
And wisdom free from bound,
The Beatific Vision
Shall glad the Saints around:
The peace of all the faithful,
The calm of all the blest,
Inviolate, unvaried,
Divinest, sweetest, best.
Yes, peace! for war is needless,—
Yes, calm! for storm is past,—
And goal from finished labour,
And anchorage at last.
That peace—but who may claim it?
The guileless in their way,
Who keep the ranks of battle,
Who mean the thing they say:

HORA NOVISSIMA 73

The peace that is for heaven,
And shall be for the earth:
The palace that re-echoes
With festal song and mirth;
The garden, breathing spices,
The paradise on high;
Grace beautified to glory,
Unceasing minstrelsy.
There nothing can be feeble,
There none can ever mourn,
There nothing is divided,
There nothing can be torn:
‘Tis fury, ill, and scandal,
‘Tis peaceless peace below;
Peace, endless, strifeless, ageless,
The halls of Syon know.
O happy, holy portion,
Refection for the blest:
True vision of true beauty,
Sweet cure of all distrest!
Strive, man, to win that glory;
Toil, man, to gain that light;
Send hope before to grasp it,
Till hope be lost in sight:
Till Jesus gives the portion
Those blessed souls to fill,
The insatiate, yet satiate,
The full, yet craving still.

74 MEDIAEVAL HYMNS.

That fulness and that craving
Alike are free from pain,
Where thou, midst heavenly citizens,
A home like theirs shalt gain.
Here is the warlike trumpet:
There life set free from sin;
When to the last Great Supper
The faithful shall come in:
When the heavenly net is laden
With fishes many and great;
So glorious in its fulness,
Yet so inviolate:
And perfect from unperfected,
And fall’n from them that stand,
And the sheep-flock from the goat-herd
Shall part on either hand:
And these shall pass to torment,
And those shall triumph then;
The new peculiar nation,
Blest number of blest men.
Jerusalem demands them:
They paid the price on earth,
And now shall reap the harvest
In blissfulness and mirth:
The glorious holy people,
Who evermore relied
Upon their Chief and Father,
The King, the Crucified:

HORA NOVISSIMA. 75

The sacred ransomed number
Now bright with endless sheen,
Who made the Cross their watchword
Of Jesus Nazarene:
Who, fed with heavenly nectar,
Where soul-like odours play,
Draw out the endless leisure
Of that long vernal day:
And through the sacred lilies,
And flowers on every side,
The happy dear-bought people
Go wandering far and wide.
Their breasts are filled with gladness,
Their mouths are tun’d to praise,
What time, now safe for ever,
On former sins they gaze:
The fouler was the error,
The sadder was the fall,
The ampler are the praises
Of Him Who pardoned all.
Their one and only anthem,
The fulness of His love,
Who gives, instead of torment,
Eternal joys above:
Instead of torment, glory;
Instead of death, that life
Wherewith your happy Country,
True Israelites! is rife.

76 MEDIAEVAL HYMNS.

Brief life is here our portion;
Brief sorrow, short-liv’d care;
The life that knows no ending,
The tearless life, is there.
O happy retribution!
Short toil, eternal rest;
For mortals and for sinners
A mansion with the blest!
That we should look, poor wand’rers,
To have our Home on high!
That worms should seek for dwellings
Beyond the starry sky!
To all one happy guerdon
Of one celestial grace;
For all, for all, who mourn their fall,
Is one eternal place:
And martyrdom hath roses
Upon that heavenly ground:
And white and virgin lilies
For virgin-souls abound.
There grief is turned to pleasure;
Such pleasure, as below
No human voice can utter,
No human heart can know:
And after fleshly scandal,
And after this world’s night,
And after storm and whirlwind,
Is calm, and joy, and light.

HORA NOVISSIMA. 77

And now we fight the battle,
But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting
And passionless renown:
And now we watch and struggle,
And now we live in hope,
And Syon, in her anguish,
With Babylon must cope:
But He Whom now we trust in
Shall then be seen and known,
And they that know and see Him
Shall have Him for their own.
The miserable pleasures
Of the body shall decay:
The bland and flattering struggles
Of the flesh shall pass away:
And none shall there be jealous;
And none shall there contend:
Fraud, clamour, guile—what say I ?
All ill, all ill shall end!
And there is David’s Fountain,
And life in fullest glow,
And there the light is golden,
And milk and honey flow:
The light that hath no evening,
The health that hath no sore,
The life that hath no ending,
But lasteth evermore.

78 MEDIEAVAL HYMNS.

There Jesus shall embrace us,
There Jesus be embraced,—
That spirit’s food and sunshine
Whence earthly love is chas’d.
Amidst the happy chorus,
A place, however low,
Shall show Him us, and showing,
Shall satiate evermo.
By hope we struggle onward,
While here we must be fed,
By milk, as tender infants,
But there by Living Bread.
The night was full of terror,
The morn is bright with gladness:
The Cross becomes our harbour,
And we triumph after sadness:
And Jesus to his true ones
Brings trophies fair to see:
And Jesus shall be loved, and
Beheld in Galilee:
Beheld, when morn shall waken,
And shadows shall decay,
And each true-hearted servant
Shall shine as doth the day:
And every ear shall hear it :—
Behold thy King’s array:
Behold thy God in beauty,
The Law hath pass’d away!

HORA NOVISSIMA. 79

Yes! God my King and Portion,
In fulness of His grace,
We then shall see for ever,
And worship face to face.
Then Jacob into Israel,
From earthlier self estranged,
And Leah into Rahel
For ever shall be changed 2
Then all the halls of Syon
For aye shall be complete,
And, in the Land of Beauty,
All things of beauty meet.
For thee, O dear dear Country!
Mine eyes their vigils keep;
For very love, beholding
Thy happy name, they weep:
The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,
And love, and life, and rest.
O come, O onely Mansion!
O Paradise of Joy!
Where tears are ever banished,
And smiles have no alloy;
Beside thy living waters
All plants are, great and small,
The cedar of the forest,
The hyssop of the wall:

80 MEDIEAVAL HYMNS.

With jaspers glow thy bulwarks; 3
Thy streets with emeralds blaze;
The sardius and the topaz
Unite in thee their rays:
Thine ageless walls are bonded
With amethyst unpriced:
Thy Saints build up its fabric,
And the corner-stone is Christ.
The Cross is all thy splendour,
The Crucified thy praise:
His laud and benediction
Thy ransomed people raise:
Jesus, the Gem of Beauty,
True God and Man, they sing:
The never-failing Garden,
The ever-golden Ring:
The Door, the Pledge, the Husband,
The Guardian of His Court:
The Day-star of Salvation,
The Porter and the Port.
Thou hast no shore, fair ocean!
Thou hast no time, bright day!
Dear fountain of refreshment
To pilgrims far away!
Upon the Rock of Ages
They raise thy holy tower:
Thine is the victor’s laurel,
And thine the golden dower:

HORA NOVISSIMA. 81

Thou feel’st in mystic rapture
O Bride that know’st no guile,
The Prince’s sweetest kisses,
The Prince’s loveliest smile:
Unfading lilies, bracelets
Of living pearl thine own:
The Lamb is ever near thee,
The Bridegroom thine alone:
The Crown is He to guerdon,
The Buckler to protect,
And He Himself the Mansion,
And He the Architect.
The only art thou needest,
Thanksgiving for thy lot:
The only joy thou seekest,
The Life where Death is not:
And all thine endless leisure
In sweetest accents sings,
The ill that was thy merit,—
The wealth that is thy King’s!

JERUSALEM THE GOLDEN,
WITH MILK AND HONEY BLEST,
BENEATH THY CONTEMPLATION
SINK HEART AND VOICE OPPRESSED:
I KNOW NOT, O I KNOW NOT,
WHAT SOCIAL JOYS ARE THERE!
WHAT RADIANCY OF GLORY,
WHAT LIGHT BEYOND COMPARE!

And when I fain would sing them
My spirit fails and faints,
And vainly would it image
The assembly of the Saints.

THEY STAND, THOSE HALLS OF SYON,
CONJUBILANT WITH SONG,
AND BRIGHT WITH MANY AN ANGEL,
AND ALL THE MARTYR THRONG:
THE PRINCE IS EVER IN THEM;
THE DAYLIGHT IS SERENE:
THE PASTURES OF THE BLESSED
ARE DECKED IN GLORIOUS SHEEN.

THERE IS THE THRONE OF DAVID,—
AND THERE, FROM CARE RELEASED,
THE SONG OF THEM THAT TRIUMPH,
THE SHOUT OF THEM THAT FEAST;
AND THEY WHO, WITH THEIR LEADER,
HAVE CONQUERED IN THE FIGHT,
FOR EVER AND FOR EVER
ARE CLAD IN ROBES OF WHITE!

O holy, placid harp-notes
Of that eternal hymn!
O sacred, sweet refection,
And peace of Seraphim!
O thirst, for ever ardent,
Yet evermore content!
O true, peculiar vision -
Of God cunctipotent! DEFINATION
Ye know the many mansions
For many a glorious name,
And divers retributions
That divers merits claim:
For midst the constellations
That deck our earthly sky,
This star than that is brighter,—
And so it is on high.

Jerusalem the glorious!
The glory of the Elect!
O dear and future vision
That eager hearts expect:
Even now by faith I see thee:
Even here thy walls discern:
To thee my thoughts are kindled,
And strive and pant and yearn:
Jerusalem the onely,
That look’st from heaven below,
In thee is all my glory;
In so is all my woe!
And though my body may not,
My spirit seeks thee fain,
Till flesh and earth return me
To earth and flesh again.
O none can tell thy bulwarks,
How gloriously they rise:
O none can tell thy capitals
Of beautiful device:
Thy loveliness oppresses
All human thought and heart:
And none, O peace, O Syon,
Can sing thee as thou art.
New mansion of new people,
Whom God’S own love and light
Promote, increase, make holy,
Identify, unite.
Thou City of the Angels!
Thou City of the Lord!
Whose everlasting music
Is the glorious decachord. ! 4
And there the band of Prophets
United praise ascribes,
And there the twelvefold chorus
Of Israel’s ransomed tribes:
The lily-beds of virgins,
The roses’ martyr-glow,
The cohort of the Fathers
Who kept the faith below.
And there the Sole-Begotten
Is Lord in regal state;
He, Judah’s mystic Lion,
He, Lamb Immaculate.
O fields that know no sorrow!
O state that fears no strife!
O princely bow’rs! O land of flow’rs!
O realm and home of Life!

Jerusalem, exulting
On that securest shore,
I hope thee, wish thee, sing thee,
And love thee evermore!
I ask not for my merit:
I seek not to deny
My merit is destruction,
A child of wrath am I:
But yet with Faith I venture
And Hope upon my way;
For those perennial guerdons
I labour night and day.
The Best and Dearest Father
Who made me and who saved,
Bore with me in defilement,
And from defilement laved:
When in His strength I struggle,
For very joy I leap,
When in my sin I totter,
I weep, or try to weep:
And grace, sweet grace celestial,
Shall all its love display,
And David’s Royal Fountain
Purge every sin away.

O mine, my golden Syon!
O lovelier far than gold!
With laurel-girt battalions,
And safe victorious fold:
O sweet and blessed Country,
Shall I ever see thy face ?
O sweet and blessed Country,
Shall I ever win thy grace ?
I have the hope within me
To comfort and to bless!
Shall I ever win the prize itself ?
O tell me, tell me, yes!

Exult, O dust and ashes,
The Lord shall be thy part:
His only, His for ever,
Thou shalt be, and thou art!
Exult, O dust and ashes!
The Lord shall be thy part:
His only, His for ever,
Thou shalt be, and thou art!


Notes From Neale:

1. I have no hesitation in saying that I look on these verses of Bernard as the most lovely, in the same way that the Dies Iræ is the most sublime, and the Stabat Mater the most pathetic, of medieval poems. They are even superior to that glorious hymn on the same subject, the De Gloria et gaudiis Paradisi of S. Peter Damiani. For the sake of comparison I quote some of the most striking stanzas of the latter, availing myself of the admirable translation of Mr. Wackerbarth:

There nor waxing moon nor waning,
Sun nor stars in courses bright:
For the LAMB to that glad city
Shines an everlasting light:
There the daylight beams for ever,
All unknown are time arid night.

For the Saints, in beauty beaming,
Shine in light and glory pure:
Crowned in triumph’s flushing honours
Joy in unison secure:
And in safety tell their battles
And their foes’ discomfiture.

Freed from every stain of evil,
All their carnal wars are done:
For the flesh made spiritual
And the soul agree in one:
Peace unbroken spreads enjoyment,
Sin and scandal are unknown.

Here they live In endless being:
Passingness has passed away
Here they bloom, they thrive, they flourish,
For decayed is all decay:
Lasting energy bath swallowed
Darkling death’s malignant sway.

Though each one’s respective merit
Hath its varying Palm assigned,
Love takes all as his possession,
Where his power bath all combined:
So that all that each possesses
All partake in unconfined.

Christ, Thy soldier’s palm of honour,
Unto this Thy City free
Lead me, when my warfare’s girdle
I shall cast away from me:
A partaker in Thy bounty
With Thy Blessed ones to be.

Grant me ‘rigour, while I labour
In the ceaseless battle pressed,
That Thou inay’st, the conflict over,
Grant me everlasting, rest:
And I may at length inherit
Thee my portion ever blest.

With the above it is worth while to compare some of the concluding stanzas of the Christ’s Triumph after Death of Giles Fletcher, who clearly had S. Peter Damiani’s poem in his mind.

Here may the band that now in triumph shines,
And that, before they were invested thus,
In earthly bodies carried heavenly minds,
Pitch round about, in order glorious,

Their sunny tents, and houses luminous,
All their eternal day in songs employing,
Joying their end, without end of their joying,
While their Almighty Prince destruction is destroying.

No sorrow now hangs clouding on their brow,
No bloodless malady impales their face,
No age drops on their hair his silver snow,
No nakedness their bodies doth embase,
No poverty themselves and theirs disgrace;
No fear of death the joy of life devours,
No unchaste sleep their precious time deflowers,
No loss, no grief, no change, wait on their winged hours.

But now their naked bodies scorn the cold,
And from their eyes joy looks, and laughs at pain:
The infant wonders how he came so old,
The old man how he came so young again:
Where all are rich, and yet no gold they owe;
And all are kings, and yet no subjects know;
All full, and yet no time on food they do bestow.

For things that pass are passed.

Manifestly the Nam transire transiit of S. Peter :—as the wonder of the infant and the old man is simply a development of the Non minuti, non deformes of Hildebert. But in the stanza that follows Fletcher has the advantage over Bernard, Hildebert, and Damiani by his sublime allusion to the Beatific Vision.

In midst of this City Celestial,
Where the Eternal Temple should have rose,
Lightened the Idea Beatitlcal:
End and beginning of each thing that grows,

Whose self no end, nor yet beginning knows:
That hath no eyes to see nor ears to hear,
Yet sees and hears, and is all eye, all ear,
That nowhere is contained, and yet is everywhere.

With respect to the poem of Bernard, Mr. Trench says very well, after referring to the ode of Casimir’s, Urit me Patriæ decor, that both “turn upon the same theme, the heavenly homesickness: but with all the classical beauty of the Ode, and it is great, who does net feel that the poor Cluniac monk’s is the more real and deeper utterance? that, despite the strange form which he has chosen, he is the greater poet?” —The Ode, however, is well worthy of translation, and here is an. attempt:

It kindles all my soul,
My Country’s loveliness Those starry choirs
That watch around the pole,
And the rnoon's tender light, and heavenly fires
Through golden hails that roll.
O chorus of the night! O planets, sworn
The music of the spheres
To follow ! Lovely watchers, that think scorn
To rest, till day appears!
Me, for celestial homes of glory born,
Why here, oh why so long
Do ye behold an exile from on high?
Here, O ye shining throng,
With lilies spread the mound where I shall lie:
Here let me drop my chain,
And dust to dust returning, cast away
The trammels that remain:
The rest of me shall spring to endless day !

There are two other passages in modern Latin poets which are well worthy perusal, on a similar subject: though the principal part of their beauty lying rather in expression than in thought, I have not considered it worth while to translate them. I allude to the fourteenth Elegy of the Third Book of the Suspiriti animæ amantis of Herman Hugo; and to the tenth Elegy of the First Book of Jacobus Zevecotius, which is entitled, An Aspiration to the Celestial Country. Return

2. Leah and Rachel are allegorized in three different ways by medieval poets. 1. Of the active and contemplative life; and thence also by an easy transition to the toil we endure on earth,—and the Eternal Contemplation of GOD’S glory in Heaven, as here. So, again, in a fine but rugged prose in the Nuremberg Missal for S. Jerome’s Day.

Then, when all carnal strife hath ceased,
And we from warfare are released,
O grant us, in that Heavenly Feast;
o see Thee as Thou art:
To Leah give, the battle won,
Her Rachel’s dearer heart:
To Martha. when the strife is done,
Her Mary’s better part.

The parallel symbol of Martha and Mary is, however, in this sense, far more common; and is even found in Epitaphs, as in that to Gundreda de Warren, daughter of William the Conqueror.

A Martha to the houseless poor, a Mary In her love,
And though her Martha’s part be gone, her Mary’s lives above.

Bernard, in the passage we are considering, has a double propriety in the changes of which he speaks. Israel, according to S. Augustine’s rendering, means, he that beholds God. Rachel, according to the un warrantable mediæval explanation, that beholds the Beginning: i.e., Christ. Thus the change spoken of is from earth to the Beatific Vision; and has a reference also to the New Name and White Stone of the Apocalypse.—The second allegory of Leah and Rachel expounds them of the Synagogue and the Church :— to this we shall have occasion to allude in a poem of Adam of S. Victor.—The third makes them to represent earthly affliction patiently endured, succeeded by joy. So a contemporary poem on the Martyrdom of S. Thomas:

Post Agar ludibrium, Saræ natus datur:
Post Lyam, ad libitum Jacob uxoratur. Return

3. It is not without a deep mystical meaning that these stones are selected by the poet: as the reader will see by referring to pp. 62-66. [Notes following the poem Cives Cœlestis Patriæ, which is coming soon.] Return

4. Decachord. With reference to the mystical explanation, which, seeing in the number ten a type of perfection, understands the “instrument of ten strings” of the perfect harmony of heaven. Return


Editor's Note:

Cuncipotent: [L. cunctipotens; cunctus all + potens powerful.]. All-powerful; omnipotent. [R] «God cunctipotent.» Neale (Trans. Rhythm of St. Bernard). Source: Answers.com., citing Webster's 1913 (http://www.answers.com/topic/cunctipotent). Calvin.edu noted that it is "an ill-sounding synonym for omnipotent, with the same meaning." Return


Concerning St. Bernard, the following excerpt is found in Volume 3 of The Ridpath Library of Universal Literature:

Bernard of Cluny was born at Morlaix, in France, of English parents, very early in the twelfth century. He entered the Abbey of Cluny some time between 1122 and 1156, and there, so far as is known, he spent his after-life, and there he probably died. Cluny was then at the zenith of its wealth and fame. Its buildings, especially its church, unequalled by any other in France; its elaborate ritualistic service; its numerous community, gave it a position and an influence such as no other monastery ever reached. Amid these splendid and luxurious surroundings Bernard composed that wondrous satire against vice and folly which has supplied some of the most widely known and admired of modern hymns. This poem, De Contemptu Mundi, in which he eddies round and round his subject, recurring again and again to that which he seems to have already exhausted and dismissed, remains to us as an imperishable monument of an author of whom we know but little except his name. It consists of about 3,000 lines in a most difficult metre, as will best be seen by the following example:

"Tunc nova gloria, pectora sobria, clarificabit;
Solvit enigmata, veraque sabbata, continuabit;
Patri luminis, inscia turbinis, inscia litis
Cive replebitur, amphificabitur Israelitis."

Bernard himself attributed the accomplishment of the difficult task of writing a poem of such length in a metre of this description to the direct inspiration of the Spirit of God. A number of well-known modern hymns, including Jerusalem, The Golden; Brief Life is Here Our Portion; The World Is Very Evil; and For Thee, O Dear, Dear Country,  are translations of parts of this famous poem.

Source: John Clark Ridpath, ed., The Ridpath Library of Universal Literature, Vol. 3. New York: The Globe Publishing Company, 1898.

"De Contemptu Mundi" is translated as "on contempt for the world." It was written about 1445. Hora Novissima is often referred to as "Rhythm of the Celestial Country."

Bernard's poem was also the inspiration for Horatio William Parker's "Hora Novissima" ("In the last hour"). The oratorio was produced May 3, 1893, by the Church Choral Society of New York at the Church of the Holy Trinity. Professor Parker's mother, Mrs. Isabella G. Parker, selected the lines for the work from "De Contemptu Mundi" and made an English paraphrase of them. The Latin text, however, is usually sung, the translation being intended rather as an elucidation. Source: The Music Encyclopedia, "Hora Novissima" (http://www.tribalsmile.com/music/article_382.shtml. Site accessed April 21, 2007.).

For more information concerning the author, see Wikipedia, Bernard of Cluny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_of_Cluny ; accessed April 21, 2007). The full Latin poem can be seen at Vicifons, De Contemptu Mundi (http://la.wikisource.org/wiki/De_contemptu_mundi ; accessed April 21, 2007).

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