The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Angelus Ad Virginem

For The Annunciation

Words: Anonymous 13th or 14th Century Latin
A Partial Translation

MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
Meter: 77 77 88 11 6 7 6

1. Angelus ad virginem
    Subintrans in conclave.
Virginis formidinum
    Demulcens inquit "Ave."
Ave regina virginum,
Coeliteraeque dominum
    Et paries
    Salutem hominum.
    Tu porta coeli facta
    Medella criminum.

2. Quomodo conciperem,
    quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem,
    quae firma mente vovi?
'Spiritus sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
    Ne timaes,
    sed gaudeas,
    quod castimonia
    Manebit in te pura
    Dei potentia.'

3. Ad haec virgo nobilis
    Respondens inquit ei;
Ancilla sum humilis
    Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Tanta secreti conscio,
    Et cupiens
    factum quod audio,
    Parata sum parere
    Dei consilio.

4. Angelus disparuit
    Etstatim puellaris
Uterus intumuit
    Vi partus salutaris.
Qui, circumdatus utero
Novem mensium numero,
    Hinc Exiit
    Et iniit
    Affigens humero
    Crucem, qua dedit ictum
    Hosti mortifero.

5. Eia Mater Domini,
    Quae pacem reddidisti
Angelis et homini,
    Cum Christum genuisti;
Tuem exora filium
Ut se nobis propitium
    Et deleat
    Praestans auxilium
    Vita frui beta
    Post hoc exsilium.

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #200, pp. 55-56.

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Sheet Music from Sir Richard Runciman Terry, A Medieval Carol Book: The Melodies Chiefly from MMS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), Carol #34, pp. 63-64.

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Translations and adaptations include, but are not limited to:

The arrangement by Michel Rondeau is available at IMSLP: Angelus Ad Virginem.

See also The Magnificat.

The cheerfully sounding song about the Annunciation, Angelus ad Virginem or, in its English form, Gabriel, From Heven King Was To The Maide Sende, was a popular Medieval carol that is still popular today. The text of this song is a poetic version of Hail Mary, full of dramatic tension and theological profundity.

It appeared in an Dublin Troper (c. 1361, a music book for use at Mass; Univ. Libr., Cambridge, Add. 710.; it is only available in microfilm at this time) and was found in a Sequentiale (Vellum manuscript, 13th or 14th century), possibly connected with the Church of Addle, Yorks.  This lyric also appears in the works of John Audelay, in a group of four Marian poems. Audelay may have been a priest; he spent the last years of his life at Haghmond, an Augustinian abbey, and wrote for the monks there. Audeley's poems and carols from MS Douce 302 were published in 2009; see: Salutations from Poems and Carols (under copyright, and therefore not reproduced here). The Salutation begins:

The angel to the vergyn said,
       Entreng into here boure, ...

Concerning his works, see this Wikipedia article: John Audelay.

It is said to have originally consisted of 27 stanzas, with each following stanza beginning with the consecutive letter of the alphabet.

Chaucer mentions it in his Miller's Tale, where poor scholar Nicholas sang it in Latin to the accompaniment of his psaltery:

And over all there lay a psaltery
Whereon he made an evening's melody,
Playing so sweetly that the chamber rang;
And Angelus ad virginem he sang;
And after that he warbled the King's Note:
Often in good voice was his merry throat.

Both the Oxford Book of Carols and, especially, the New Oxford Book of Carols contain musical settings  and additional historical notes.

In addition to the translations provided, there is the translation by John Macleod Campbell Crum, 1932, which is reproduced as #547 in Hymn Ancient & Modern, Revised. It is still under copyright.

Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

This carol is mentioned by Chaucer in his late 14th century Miller's Tale, when he describes how the poor scholar Nicholas of Oxford, kept by his lonely bed a sautry,

'On which he made a nightes melodye
So sweetly, that all the chambre rong,
And Angelus ad virginem he song.'

The carol was probably Franciscan in original and brought to Britain by French friars in the 13th century. There is a 14th Irish source for the Latin version and, from the same period, a middle-English version which begins:

Gabriel fram Heven-King / Sent to the Maide sweete,
Broute hir blisful tiding / And fair he gan hir greete:
'Heil be thu, ful of grace aright! / For Godes Son, this Heven Light,
For mannes love / Will man bicome /And take / Fles of thee,
Maide bright, / Manken free for to make / Of sen and devles might.'

The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols' translation of the first stanza of the latin version is:

'The angel, coming secretly to the Virgin calming the Virgin's fear, said: 'hail! Hail, Queen of Virgins! You shall conceive the Lord of Heaven and Earth and give birth, remaining a virgin, to the Salvation of mankind; you, made the Gateway of Heaven, the cure for sin'.


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