O Sapiencia of the Ffader
The Great Advent Antiphons
Original Source: Manuscript Harley 45 at the
Middle English Translation of the Great O Antiphons from the Sarum Rite
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)
"F.S.A." stands for "Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries."
Editor's Note: In Green (and many others), the “thorn” character is represented by the “y” letter. However, modern fonts contain the correct letter, þ, and I will be using that letter on this page. The thorn represents “th.” Thus þs represents “this” and þe 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 þe ffader surmountyng
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 þu and teche us þe ways of prudence.
O Adonaye chieff duke of Israell,
Which them conduced from thrall captivite,
Apperyng to Moyses madist hym of counsell,
In þe mount of Syna ther shewyng thy maieste,
Tokyst hym thy law & a bushe fire flae.
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 þr mowthys shalle stent,
Beynge ryghte mywet and styll as any stone,
Shall knele in þt 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 þt cannott be unshett.
Lowse us þi ꝑsoners, 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 þe bryght sonne of trowth ryght wysness,
With iustice and mercy eche wrong to redresse.
To þe we clepe wt alle owre hert & brethe,
To lyght us þt sytt in þe derknesse of dethe.
O Rex Gencium whom alle people disire
To honō and love wt herty affeccione,
The corner stone þt craftly browȝth nyre,
The both testamentis makyng þem one,
O old & newe madest lawfully vnyon,
Save lord mankynd, thy most noble creture,
Made of vile erthe to resemble þi 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 þi 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 þs mater,
How þn a maydyn art the moder of Jhū,
Natheles if ony of them þs secretly enire,
Swet lady then shortly make to þem þs answere,
The hye myght of God þs 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 þe 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.
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