The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Salvete, Flores Martyrum

Hymnus 46.

For Innocent's Day, Matins.

From the Paris Breviary, 1736

See The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents

Source: Rev. John Chandler, The Hymns of the Primitive Church (London: John W. Parker, 1837), pp. 174-175.

Salvete, flores Martyrum,
    In lucis ipso lumine
Quos ssevus ensis messuit,
    Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Cbristi victima,
    Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
    Palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas ?
    Quid crimen Herodem juvat?
Unus tot inter funera
    Impune Christus tollitur.

Inter coaevi sanguinis
    Fluenta solus integer,
Ferrum quod orbabat nurus
    Partus fefellit virginis.

Qui natus es de Virgine
    Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Cum Patre, cumque Spiritu,
    In sempiterna secula.

Sheet Music to Tunes 1 and 2 from Rev. John Mason Neale and Rev. Thomas Helmore, eds., Hymnal Noted, Part I. (London: Novello & Co., 1852), Part II (London: Novello & Co., 1856), #16, p. 43.

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Sheet Music from Thomas Helmore, Accompanying Harmonies to the Hymnal Noted. Part I (London: Novello, Ewer and Co., and Masters and Son, 1852), Part II (London: Novello and Co., Joseph Masters and J. T. Hayes, 1858), #16, Salvete, Flores Martyrum.

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English Translation:

Notes From Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), pp. 108-109.

Author: Prudentius (348-413). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation [of All Hail, Ye Little Martyr Flowers] by Athelstan Riley. There are about twenty five translations. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Lauds on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

This hymn is a cento from the twelfth and last poem in the Cathemerinon of Prudentius, and in its full form it contains 208 lines. First line of complete hymn: Quicumque Christum quaeritis. Four beautiful centos from this hymn were included in the Breviary by Pius V (1568). One of these centos begins with the first line of the complete hymn. The following are the four centos, their composition, and their liturgical use:

1. Quicúmque Christum quæritis (1-4; 37-44; 85-88). Transfiguration.

2. O sola magnarum urbium (77-80; 5-8; 61-64; 69-72). Epiphany.

3. Audit tyrannus anxius (93-100; 133-136). Holy Innocents.

4. Salvete, Flores Martyrum (125-132). Holy Innocents. [this page]

There is an article in the Cath. Encyl., treating of all four hymns, under the general heading: Quicumque Christum quceritis.

1. "Hail, flowers of the martyrs, whom on the very threshold of life, the persecutor of Christ snatched away even as the whirlwind, the budding roses." Lucis, lit., light; fig., life; or in a mystical sense, Christ.

2. "As the first sacrifice for Christ, a tender flock of victims, with sweet simplicity, ye play with your palms and crowns at the very altar side." Aram sub ipsam: The Original Text has ante for sub. Vidi subtus altare animas interfectorum propter verbum Dei (Apoc. 6, 9). This stanza has been greatly admired. It presents a picture of great beauty. The hymn Flowers Of Martyrdom, All Hail! is Father Caswall's translation of this hymn, of which Monsignor Henry says: "Not to speak of the beauty and fidelity of the rendering, the trochaic rhythm vividly conveys the sense of the suddenness of the onslaught, the ruthlessness and swiftness of the destruction." (Cath. Encycl. Vol. XII, p. 607).

The following note is from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), pp. 946-947.

Quicumque Christum quaeritis. Prudentius. [Epiphany.]

This is the 12th and last poem in his Cathemerinon, and in its full form consists of 208 lines. It is found in a MS. of the 5th century in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (8048, f. 39b), and is included in all eds. of his Opera: e.g. Halle, 1703, p. 75 ; and Aurelii Prudentii Clementis V. C. Opera Omnia . . . . (Delphin and Variorum Classics), London, 1824, vol. i. pp. 150-163. Though one of the finest poems of Prudentius, it was comparatively little used in the services of the Church until the revision of the Roman Breviary after the Council of Trent. In the edition of that Breviary published at Borne, 1570, there are the following centos :—

i. Quicúmque Christum quæritis. Transfiguration.

ii. O sola magnarum urbium. Epiphany.

iii. Audit tyrannus anxius. Holy Innocents, at Matins.

iv. Salvete, Flores Martyrum. Holy Innocents, at Lauds. [this page]

These centos are repeated in later editions of the Roman Breviary, and also in Daniel, i., Nos. 107, 108, 112, and iv. p. 121.

The earliest and most beautiful cento is the Salvete flores martyrum, which is found in the St. Gall manuscript, No. 413, of the 11th century, in a 12th century manuscript in the British Museum (Add. 18301, f. 113), &c. [J. M.]

These centos have been translated into English as follows:—

. . .

iv. Salvete flores martyrum. Holy Innocents.

This cento begins with line 125 of the poem. The Roman Breviary text is in Card. Newman's Hymni Ecclesiæ, 1838 and 1865, in 3 stanzas. The Hymni Ecclesiæ has also the Paris Breviary text in 6 stanzas. See also J. Chandler, 1837, No. 46. There are also centos, each beginning with the same stanza. Tr. as:—-

(i.) Roman Breviary text.

1. Hail, Flowrets of Christ's Martyr-Crown. By W. J. Copeland, in his Hymns for the Week, &c, 1848, p. 68. This is in several of the older collections.

2. All Hail Ye Infant Martyr Flowers. By J. M. Neale, in the Hymnal Noted, 1852, No. 16. The Hymnary, 1872, and the Hymner, 1882, have each an additional stanza.

3. All hail, ye martyr blooms so bright. By R.C. Singleton, in his Anglican Hymn Book, 1868. This is a paraphrase only.

Other trs. are :-—

1. All hail to you, ye Martyrs flow'rs. Primer, 1604.

2. Haile you that are the flowers. Primer, 1615.

3. Hail, holy Flow'rs of Martyrs, you. Primer, 1685.

4. Hail martyrs, blossoms early blown. Primer, 1706.

5. All hail, ye flowers of martyrdom. A. J. B. Hope, 1844.

6. Flowers Of Martyrdom, All Hail! E. Caswall, 1849.

7. Hail, Flowerets of the Martyr-train. H. N. Oxenham, 1854.

8. Sweet Martyr flowers, fresh from your early dawn. D. T. Morgan, 1871 and 1880.

(ii.) Paris Breviary text.

1. Little Flowers of Martyrdom. By I. Williams, in the British Magazine, 1835, p. 655; and his Hymns Translated from the Parisian Breviary, 1839, p. 72. In a few collections. In the Parish Hymnal, 1863 and 1875, it begins, "Hail, ye flowers of martyrdom."

2. Hail, Infant Martyrs, New-born Victims, Hail!. By J. Chandler, in his Hymns of the Primitive Church, 1837, p. 52 ; and Schaffs Christ in Song, 1869. In Chandler's Hymns of the Church, mostly Primitive, &c., 1841, No. 28, it is rewritten as "Hail, flowrets of the martyr wreath."

3. Hail, ye firstling martyr flowers. By W. J. Blew, in his Church Hymn and Tune Book, 1852-55, and again in Rice's Sel. from the same, 1870.

4. Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band. By Sir H. W. Baker, in the revised ed. of H. A. & M., 1875. Two stanzas are omitted. [Also: Sweet Flow'rets Of The Martyr Band-Alt.]

Other trs. are :—

1. Ye flowers, ye buds of martyrs, hail. J. R. Beste, 1849.

2. Sweetest flowers of early spring. R. Campbell, 1850.

3. Hail, martyr flowers, in childhood's dawn. J. D. Chambers, 1857.

4. Ye flow'rets of the martyrs, hail. J. W. Hewett, 1859.

5. Hail, garland of martyrs. G. S. Hodges, 1876.

(iii.) Centos.

1. Hail, martyr sweets deflower'd. H. Kynaston, 1862.

2. Hail, ye flowers of martyrs bright. H. M. Macgill, 1876. Dr. H. M. Macgill's tr. of this poem in his Songs of Christian Creed and Life, &c., 1876, is broken up into the following parts:—

1. " Quicumque Christum quaeritis." See above.

2. "En Persici ex orbis sinu." Tr. as: "Lo! far from under Persic skies."

3. " Sed verticem pueri supra." Tr. as: "Behold! the sign has ceased to move."

4. " O sola magnarum urbium." See above.

5. " Audit tyrannus anxius." See above.

6. " Salvete flores Martyrum." See above.

7. " Sic stulta Pharaonis mali." Tr. as : "So Moses Israel's destined guide."

8. " Jure ergo se Judae ducem." Tr. as: "Well had those wise men from afar."

In addition Dr. Kynaston has a cento in the Lyra Messianica, 1864, beginning, "En Persici ex orbis sinu," which he has tr. as "From day-light's portals, burning."

The use which has been and still is made of this fine poem is extensive both in Latin and English. [J. J.]

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