The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Brief Life Is Here Our Portion

Words: Excerpted from Hora Novissima, Bernard of Cluny, 1145
Translated by John Mason Neale, MediŠval Hymns and Sequences, 1851

Music: St. Alphege: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML
Werde munter: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML
Oslo: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML
Devonshire: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML

Meter: 76 76

1. Brief life is here our portion;
    Brief sorrow, short lived care;
The life that knows no ending,
    The tearless life, is there.

2. There grief is turned to pleasure;
    Such pleasure as below
No human voice can utter,
    No human heart can know.

3. The morning shall awaken,
    The shadows flee away, 1
And each truehearted servant
    Shall shine as doth the day.

4. There God, 2 our King and Portion,
    In fullness of his grace,
Shall we behold for ever,
    And worship face to face.

5. O one, O only mansion,
    O Paradise of joy,
Where tears are ever banished,
    And smiles have no alloy;

6. The Lamb is all thy splendor,
    The Crucified thy praise;
His laud and benediction
    Thy ransomed people raise.

7. O sweet and blessed country,
    The home of God's elect!
O sweet and blessed country,
    That eager hearts expect!

8. Jesus, in mercy bring us,
    To that dear land of rest;
Who art, with God the Father,
    And Spirit, ever blest.


1. Or: The shadows shall decay, Return

2. Or: Yes, God, Return

Sheet Music "St. Alphege" by Henry J. Gauntlett, 1853, from Henry Sloane Coffin and Ambrose White Vernon, eds., Hymns of the Kingdom of God. New York: The A. S. Barnes Company, 1910, #193.

The version from Coffin and Vernon contain the following additional verses:

2. And now we fight the battle,
    But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting
    And passionless renown.

3. And now we watch and struggle,
    And now we live in hope,
And Zion in her anguish
    With Babylon must cope.

5. Then all the halls of Zion
    For aye shall be complete,
And in the land of beauty,
    All things of beauty meet.


John Mason Neale's Hora Novissima, a translation of an excerpt from St. Bernard's De Contemptu Mundi (ca. 1145), was the source of at least four modern hymns including "Jerusalem The Golden," "The World Is Very Evil," "Brief Life is Here Our Portion," and "For Thee, O Dear, Dear Country."

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