Hymn For All Hours
The Ninth of Twelve Hymns of Liber Cathemerinon
By Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413)
Source: The Hymns of Prudentius, R. Martin Pope, Trans. (London: J. M. Dent, 1905).
Let me chant in sacred numbers, as I strike each sounding string,
Chant in sweet, melodious anthems, glorious deeds of Christ our King;
He, my Muse, shall be thy story; with His praise my lyre shall ring.
When the king in priestly raiment sang the Christ that was to be,
Voice and lute and clashing cymbal joined in joyous harmony,
While the Spirit, heaven-descended, touched his lips to prophecy.
Sing we now the works sure proven, wrought of God in mystic wise;
Heaven is witness; earth confesses how she saw with wondering eyes
God Himself with mortals mingling, man to teach in human guise.
Of the Father's heart begotten, ere the world from chaos rose,
He is Alpha; from that Fountain all that is and hath been flows;
He is Omega, of all things yet to come the mystic Close.
By His word was all created; He commands and lo! 'tis done;
Earth and sky and boundless ocean, universe of three in one,
All that sees the moon's soft radiance, all that breathes beneath the sun.
He assumed this mortal body, frail and feeble, doomed to die,
That the race from dust created might not perish utterly,
Which the dreadful Law had sentenced in the depths of Hell to lie.
O how blest that wondrous birthday, when the Maid the curse retrieved,
Brought to birth mankind's salvation, by the Holy Ghost conceived;
And the sacred Babe, Redeemer of the world, her arms received.
Sing, ye heights of heaven, His praises; angels and archangels, sing!
Wheresoe'er ye be, ye faithful, let your joyous anthems ring,
Every tongue His name confessing, countless voices answering.
This is He whom seer and sibyl sang in ages long gone by;
This is He of old revealèd in the page of prophecy;
Lo! He comes, the promised Saviour; let the world His praises cry!
In the urns the clear, cold water turns to juice of noblest vine,
And the servant, drawing from them, starts to see the generous wine,
While the host, its savour tasting, wonders at the draught divine.
To the leper worn and wasted, white with many a loathsome sore,
"Be thou cleansed," He said; "I bid it!" swift 'tis done, His words restore;
To the priest the gift he offers, clean and healthful as of yore.
On the eyes long sealed in darkness, buried in unbroken night,
Thou didst spread Thy lips' sweet nectar, mixed with clay: then came the sight,
As Thy gracious touch all-healing brought to those dark orbs the light.
Thou didst chide the raging tempest, when the waves with foaming crest
Leaped about the fragile vessel, buffeted and sore distressed;
Wind and wave, their fury stilling, sank to calm at Thy behest.
Once a woman's timid fingers touched Thy garment's lowest braid,
And the pallor left her visage, healing power the touch conveyed,
For the years of pain were ended and the flow of blood was stayed.
Thou didst see men bear to burial one struck down in youth's glad tide,
While a widowed mother followed, wailing for her boy that died;
"Rise!" Thou saidst, and led him gently to his weeping mother's side.
Lazarus, who lay in darkness till three nights had passed away,
At Thy voice awoke to soundness, rising to the light of day,
As the breath his frame re-entered touched already with decay.
See, He walks upon the waters, treads the billow's rolling crest;
O'er the shifting depths of ocean firm and sure His footsteps rest,
And the wave parts not asunder where those holy feet are pressed.
And the madman, chained and tortured by dark powers, from whom all fly,
As the tombs, that were his dwelling, echo to his savage cry,
Rushes forth and falls adoring, when he sees that Christ is nigh.
Then the legion of foul spirits, driven from their human prey,
Seize the noisome swine, that feeding high upon the hillside stray,
And the herd, in sudden frenzy, plunges in the waters grey.
"Gather in twelve woven baskets all the fragments that remain:"
He hath fed the weary thousands, resting o'er the grassy plain,
And His power hath stayed their hunger with five loaves and fishes twain.
Thine, O Christ, is endless sweetness; Thou art our celestial Bread:
Nevermore he knoweth hunger, who upon Thy grace hath fed,
Grace whereby no mortal body but the soul is nourishèd.
They that knew not speech nor language, closed to every sound their ears,
To the Master's call responding break the barriers of years;
Now the deaf holds joyous converse and the lightest whisper hears.
Sickness at His word departed, pain and pallid languor fled,
Many a tongue, long chained in silence, words of praise and blessing said;
And the palsied man rejoicing through the city bore his bed.
Yea, that they might know salvation who in Hades' prison were pent,
In His mercy condescending through Hell's gloomy gates He went;
Bolt and massy hinge were shattered, adamantine portals rent.
For the door that all receiveth, but releaseth nevermore,
Opens now and, slowly turning, doth the ghosts to light restore,
Who, the eternal laws suspended, tread again its dusky floor.
But, while God with golden glory floods the murky realms of night,
And upon the startled shadows dawns a day serene and bright,
In the darkened vault of heaven stars forlorn refuse their light.
For the sun in garb of mourning veiled his radiant orb and passed
From his flaming path in sorrow, hiding till mankind aghast
Deemed that o'er a world of chaos Night's eternal pall was cast.
Now, my soul, in liquid measures let the sounding numbers flow;
Sing the trophy of His passion, sing the Cross triumphant now;
Sing the ensign of Christ's glory, marked on every faithful brow.
Ah! how wondrous was the fountain flowing from His piercèd side,
Whence the blood and water mingled in a strange and sacred tide,--
Water, sign of mystic cleansing; blood, the martyr's crown of pride.
In that hour the ancient Serpent saw the holy Victim slain,
Saw, and shed his hate envenomed, all his malice spent in vain;
See! the hissing neck is broken as he writhes in sullen pain.
Aye, what boots it, cursèd Serpent, that the man God made from clay,
Victim of thy baleful cunning, by thy lies was led astray?
God hath ta'en a mortal body and hath washed the guilt away.
Christ, our Captain, for a season deigned to dwell in Death's domain,
That the dead, long time imprisoned, might return to life again,
Breaking by His great example ancient sins' enthralling chain.
Thus, upon the third glad morning, patriarchs and saints of yore,
As the risen Lord ascended, followed Him who went before,
From forgotten graves proceeding, habited in flesh once more.
Limb to limb unites and rises from the ashes dry and cold,
And the life-blood courses warmly through the frames long turned to mould,
Skin and flesh, anew created, muscle, bone and nerve enfold.
Then, mankind to life restoring, Death downtrodden 'neath His feet,
Lo! the Victor mounts triumphant to the Father's judgment-seat,
Bringing back to heaven the glory by His passion made complete.
Hail! Thou Judge of souls departed: hail! of all the living King!
On the Father's right hand thronèd, through His courts Thy praises ring,
Till at last for all offences righteous judgment Thou shalt bring.
Now let old and young uniting chant to Thee harmonious lays,
Maid and matron hymn Thy glory, infant lips their anthem raise,
Boys and girls together singing with pure heart their song of praise.
Let the storm and summer sunshine, gliding stream and sounding shore,
Sea and forest, frost and zephyr, day and night their Lord adore;
Let creation join to laud Thee through the ages evermore.
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