The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hark! A Herald Voice Is Calling

For Advent

Words: En clara vox redarguit, Anonymous, 6th Century Latin
Translation by Rev.
Edward Caswall

Music: "Merton," W. H. Monk, 1823-1889
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
Meter: 87 87

Source: The English Hymnal, p. 7, 1906

1. Hark! a herald voice is calling:
    'Christ is nigh,' it seems to say;
'Cast away the dreams of darkness,
    O ye children of the day!'

2. Startled at the solemn warning,
    Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
    Shines upon the morning skies.

3. Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
    Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
    One and all to be forgiven;

4. So when next he comes with glory,
    Wrapping all the earth in fear,
May he then as our defender
    Of the clouds of heaven appear.

5. Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
    To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
    While unending ages run. Amen.

Notes by Rev. Matthew Britt:

Author: Ambrosian, 5th cent. Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation by Father Caswall, first line altered. First line of Original Text: Vox clara ecce intonat. There are twenty-seven translations, seven of which are from the Original Text. The Annus Sanctus contains three translations. This beautiful hymn breathes the spirit of Advent: it is an excellent summary of the Epistle (Rom. 13, 11-14), and of the Gospel (Luke 21, 25-33) of the first Sunday of Advent. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Lauds on Sundays and week-days during Advent.

1. "Lo, a clear voice exhorts, penetrating everything darksome: Let dreams be banished afar: Jesus shines forth from heaven." Clara vox: These words are probably an allusion to the great preacher of penance, St. John the Baptist, who said of himself: Ego vox clamantis in deserto: dirigite viam Domini, sicut dixit Isaias propheta (John 1, 23: Is. 40, 3). Redarguit: lit., to contradict, refute; to admonish, urge to penance. This stanza might also be rendered: "Behold, a clear penetrating voice reveals the falsity of darksome things," etc.

2. "Let the slothful soul now rise, no longer remaining prostrate on the ground: a new star now shines forth to take away everything harmful." Sidus novum = Christus. Christ was the star that was to rise out of Jacob (Num. 24, 17), and take away the sins of the world (John 1, 29). Noxium, sinful.

3. "Behold, the Lamb is sent to us, to pay our debt gratuitously: together, let us all with tears pray for pardon." Agnus: In the Scriptures, the lamb is a most common symbol of Our Lord (cf. Is. 53, 7; Jer. 11, 19; John 1, 29).

4. "That, when for the second time He comes resplendent and girdles the world with fear, He may not punish us according to our deserts, but may He then lovingly protect us.'' Fulserit = fulgens advenerit.

Source: Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), Hymn 37, pp. 99-100.


CASWALL, REV. EDWARD, M.A (1814-1878) was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford. Convert, 1847. After his conversion he joined Cardinal Newman at the Oratory, Edgbaston. Father Caswall, despite the great names of Newman, Faber, and others, is pre-eminently "The Poet of the Oratory" (Father Matthew Russell, S.J.). With Dr. Neale, Father Caswall shares the honor of being the most felicitous of the translators of our Latin Hymns. His translations appeared in his Lyra Catholica, in 1848, the year following his reception into the Church. "Caswall's translations of Latin hymns from the Roman Breviary and other sources have a wider circulation in modern hymnals than those of any other translator, Dr. Neale alone excepted. This is owing to his general faithfulness to the originals, and to the purity of his rhythm" (Dict. of Hymnol.). Many of Father Caswall's translations appear in the Annus Sanctus and are characterized by Mr. Shipley as "vigorous, dogmatic hymns." Father Caswall translated the Roman Breviary Text. Despite his undoubted ability as a translator, one can not but regret that so many of his translations are in Common Meter instead of Long Meter. Hymns: 22, 31, 32, 37, 42B, 43, 47, 54, 73, 74, 76, 78, 83, 85, 86, 88, 89, 93, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 117, 119, 124, 125, 126, 127, 132, 134, 137, 147, 148, 152, 153, 162, 165, 167. Source: Britt, pp. 363-364.

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