The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Personent hodie

For Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and Epiphany

Words: Latin from 12th Century, German from 14th century (several sources give the date of 1360), from Piae Cantiones, 1582.

Music: "Personent Hodie," 14th Century
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML
Meter: 666 66 with Refrain

See: Theodoric Petri, ed., Piae Cantiones Ecclesiasticć Et Scholasticae Et Scholasticae Vetervm Episcoporum (Gyphisuualdić: Augustinum Ferberum, 1582), and Christmas Songs in Woodward's Pić Cantiones (1910)

Source: Rev. George R. Woodward, ed., Pić Cantiones. A Collection of Church & School Song. (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press for the Plainsong & Medieval Music Society, 1910), #5, p. 7.

1. Personent hodie voces puerulć
Laudantes iucundė qui nobis est natus,
Summo Deo datus, & de vir-vir-vir,
& de vir-vir, & de virgineo ventre procreatus.

2. In mundo nascitur, pannis inuoluitur,
Prćsepi ponitur stabulo brutorum,
Rector supernorum,1 perdidit spolia princeps infernorum.

3. Magi tres venerunt, paruulum inquirunt,
Stellulam sequendo, ipsum adorando,2
Aurum, thus, & myrrham ei offerendo.

4. Omnes clericuli, pariter pueri,
Cantent vt angeli, aduenisti mundo,
Laudes tibi fundo. Ideo gloria in excelsis Deo.

Editor's Footnote:

1. In line 3 of verse 2, the word “supernorum” was, in Woodward, “supernorū”, a common technique in medieval writing indicating that there is another letter. It is assumed that anyone in that time would know what the omitted letter is, but as this is not a current technique, I have included the full spelling of the word.  Return

2. In other versions of this hymn, this line is “Bethlehem adeunt, stellulam sequendo, ” and the beginning of the next line is “ipsum adorando.”  Return

Theodoric Petri, ed., Pić Cantiones Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae Veterum Episcoporum. (Gyphisuualdić: Augustinum Ferberum, 1582)

Sheet Music and Notes from Rev. George R. Woodward, ed., Pić Cantiones. A Collection of Church & School Song,  chiefly Ancient Swedish, originally Published in A. D. 1582 by Theodoric Petri of Nyland. (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press for the Plainsong & Medieval Music Society, 1910), Carol #5, p. 7, Notes pp. 209-210.

pc-007.jpg (56815 bytes)  pc-209.jpg (68930 bytes) pc-210.jpg (80628 bytes)

See: The Christmas Songs in Woodward's Pić Cantiones (1910)

Translations include

Notes by Rev. George R. Woodward concerning Carol #V. Personent Hodie (pp. 209-211):

The Text is reprinted in Klemming, II, p. 40, and thence it was drafted into Dreves, Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, XLVb, No. 167, p. 135 [with the note “Piae Cantiones 1582 fol. B 4 a. (Klemming II, 40 sq. als , 'Hymnus'.)”]. Apparently the parody of an older Cantia of four stanzas, in honour of St. Nicolas, the words and tunes of which are printed below, beginning Intonent hodie voces ecclesiae.

The verses and text of the above sheet music graphic:

1. Intonent hodie | voces ecclesie, | dies leticie | resulsit in mundo, | ergo letabundo | corde iubilemus | et ore incundo.

2. Sanctus hic inclitus | Domino subditus | in cunis positus | vbera vitabat | Corpus macerabat | Et ter in sabbato | puer ieiunabat.

3. Parenti misero | submerso puero | mari pestifero | dedit quod petiuit | preces exaudiuit | sub mersum puerum | patris custodiuit.

4. Tribus virginibus | victu carentibus | ... | reddidit honorem | subtraxit errorem | reddens virginibus | virgineum florem.

The Words of the above are taken from 'Anal. Hymnica,' XXI, No. 128, p. 86. The Tune of XX (of the same work), No. xxii, Anhang, p. 255. The Words and Tune alike are copied by Dreves from the 'Mosburg Gradual' (Cod. Univ. Monacen. 157) of the year 1360.

In Rhezelius' 'Nĺgre Psalmer' (1619), p. 51, translated into Swedish, it appears as Gladheligh siunge wij, set to our PIĆ CANT1ONES melody.

In 1854, in his 'Carols for Easter-tide,' No. xxi, Neale published his Let the song be begun, like so many of his verses, composed especially for some one or other of these PIĆ CANTIONES airs. [Ed. Not on this website, as it relates to Easter, not Christmas.] See also 'The Cowley Carol Book' (1902), No. 56.

The Melody is in the Dorian mode, and is remarkable for its spirited rhythm. Through an error on the part of one of Augustin Ferber's compositors, at the beginning of the music on page 7 of this volume, there is a syllable wanting. Vir should be repeated thrice, not twice, on the note A. This omission was already suspected, but is now confirmed by Dreve's Intonent hodie, the music of which, in the sixth lines of the third stanza, requires it to be sung thus, 'Submersúm, sum, sum, | submersúm, sum, sum | submersúm puerum | patris custodiuit.' See 'Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, XXI, No. 128, p. 86.

Sheet Music from Woodward, Pić Cantiones (1910), p. 7.


Sheet Music To "Intonet hodie," the Mosburg Gradual, from Dreves, Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, Vol. XX, Number XXII, p. 255.


Text from Dreves,  Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, Vol. XXI, p. 86

Editor's Notes:

This hymn revisits the birth of Jesus and includes a verse which recounts the visit of the wise men. The 1916 Gustav Holst (1874-1934) arrangement is popular in England, especially in the years after World War II. It is highly regarded as a processional. Included in many carol servicesPersonent hodie is frequently associated with the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, which commemorates the young boys slain by King Herod in his vain attempt to kill the baby Jesus. It is usually recommended as a carol for men and boys. See: The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents.

One free translation not included elsewhere on this site is:

Sing aloud on this day!  Children all raise the lay.  Cheerfully we and they hasten to adore thee, sent from highest glory, for us born on this morn of the Virgin Mary.  Now the child newly born, swathing bands him adorn.  Manger bed he will not scorn; ox and ass draw near him.  We as Lord revere him, and the vain powers of hell spoiled of prey now fear him.  From the far Orient, a guiding star wise men sent.  To seek him is their intent, Lord of all creation; we kneel in adoration.  Gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for their oblation.   All now join him to praise; young and old voices raise on this day of all days; angel voices ringing, Christmas tidings bringing.  Join we all “Gloria in excelsis” singing.

Sources of Latin hymns found in Piae Cantiones:

Copies of many of these works are available at the Internet Archive and Google Books.

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