The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Sapiencia of the Ffader

The Great Advent Antiphons

Original Source: Manuscript Harley 45 at the British Museum
Middle English Translation of the Great O Antiphons from the Sarum Rite
Translator Unknown
Early 15th Century

Source for this text: Everard Green, F.S.A., "On the words 'O Sapientia' in the Kalendar," from Archaelogia, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, Vol. 49. (London: Nichols and Sons for the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1885) pp. 219-242.
"F.S.A." stands for "Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries."

See: Notes on The 'O' Antiphons & Veni, Emmanuel

Editor's Note: In Green (and many others), the thorn character is represented by the y letter. However, modern fonts contain the correct letter, , and I will be using that letter on this page. The thorn represents th. Thus s represents this and e represents the.

To be seen properly, please install the Cardo font, Designed by David J. Perry, Rye, New York, US.
Downloading site: Fonts for scholars.

O Sapiencia of e ffader surmountyng all thyng,
Procedyng from his mowth his hestis to fulfill.
Alpha and Oo, both end & begynnyng,
ffrom end so to end dost atteyn and tyll,
Disposyng ich werk swetly at his wyll.
We the besiche, lord, wt humble reūence,
Come u and teche us e ways of prudence.

O Adonaye chieff duke of Israell,
Which them conduced from thrall captivite,
Apperyng to Moyses madist hym of counsell,
In e mount of Syna ther shewyng thy maieste,
Tokyst hym thy law & a bushe fire fla
We lowly besich the lord omnypotent,
Come and redeme in thy powre most extente.

O Radix Jesse most Soūerayne and excellent,
Stondyng in godly signe of eūy nacion.
Tofore whome all kyngys r mowthys shalle stent,
Beynge ryghte mywet and styll as any stone,
Shall knele in t psence & mak depcacione.
Them to dilyū & us all in a throwe,
Sprakly blyssyd lorde be nott ther in slowe.

O Clavis David of whom Isaias told.
Hote septe me key to eche look welle mett
Of Israell I meane of Jacob I howsholde,
Thowe opynyst lokes whych no wyght can shett,
And closist ageyn t cannott be unshett.
Lowse us i soners, bounden in wrechidnesse,
Off synne shadowed wt mortall derknesse.

O Oriens splendor of O eūlastynge lyght,
Whos bemys transcende the cōmyn clerenesse,
Of sonne or mone for we of very ryght,
The clepe e bryght sonne of trowth ryght wysness,
With iustice and mercy eche wrong to redresse.
To e we clepe wt alle owre hert & brethe,
To lyght us t sytt in e derknesse of dethe.

O Rex Gencium whom alle people disire
To honō and love wt herty affeccione,
The corner stone t craftly browȝth nyre,
The both testamentis makyng em one,
O old & newe madest lawfully vnyon,
Save lord mankynd, thy most noble creture,
Made of vile erthe to resemble i fayre figure.

O Emanuel owre soūayne lord & kyng,
In whom we crystene mene trust ī especiall.
Geve to Thy suggetis grace by good lykyng,
Wele to ꝑforeme i ꝑceptis legalle,
And save us thy servauntis from myscheff all,
Thus we pray owre graciouse Savyowre,
Owr lord owre godd owre lovyng redemptore.

O Virgo Virginum all pereles ī vertu,
Wymmen of ienl
muse on s mater,
How n a maydyn art the moder of Jhū,
Natheles if ony of them s secretly enire,
Swet lady then shortly make to em s answere,
The hye myght of God s mystery first begane.
Ȝe dameseles of jer
why wonder Ȝe so thane.


The first verse was reproduced by Maskell, Monumenta Ritualia . Vol III of III (1882), p. 7, note.

Mr. Green introduced these translations with this:

At the end of Harleian MS. 45 is what the Catalogue calls "a Godly Ballade in Latin and English"; but is really is the Latin text of the eight great O's of the Sarum Breviary, with a metrical translation of each in English. (Vide folios 648, 169). At the last page of this book, which is called "A Myrror to see God and himself: Vertue and Synne: for Lewds Men and Wymmen," are the words....."

The complete set of eight verses is said to have been reproduced by Carleton Brown, ed., Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century (Oxford, 1952), pp. 90-2. A Clerk At Oxford reproduced the lyrics found in Brown on Tuesday, 16 December 2014; see: The O Antiphons in Middle English: 'To e we clepe with alle owre hert and brethe.' Those lyrics differ slightly from the lyrics given in Green, the source for this page. I've been unable to see folios 168 and 169 of Harley 45.

This page was rendered in one of three fonts that fulfill the Third Standard recommended by the Medieval Unicode Font Initiative (MUFI). The three fonts are:

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