The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Of The Father's Love Begotten

For Advent, For Christmas

Version 1

Words: Corde Natus Ex Parentis, Cathemerinon ("The Hymns of Prudentius"), Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-405)

Translated to English by John Mason Neale, 1854,
and Sir Henry Williams Baker, 1859

Music: "Divinum Mysterium," Sanctus trope, 11th Century
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Meter: 87 87 877

Source: Hymns Ancient And Modern (London: William Clowes and Sons Limited, 1906), #46

"God was manifest in the flesh."

1. Of the Father's Love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore 1

2. * At His word the worlds were framed;
He commanded ; it was done :
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one ;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

3. * He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam's children,
Doomed by Law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

4. O that Birth for ever blessed,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred Face,
Evermore and evermore !

5. This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord ;
Whom the voices of the Prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long-expected:
Let creation praise its Lord :
Evermore and evermore!

6. O ye heights of heaven adore Him!
Angel-hosts His praises sing!
All dominions bow before Him,
And extol our God and King ;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

*7. Righteous Judge of souls departed !
Righteous King of them that live !
On the Father's throne exalted
None in might with Thee may strive:
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy Face shalt drive,
Evermore and evermore!

8. Thee let old men, Thee let young men,
Thee let boys in chorus sing ;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens
With glad voices answering;
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its praises bring,
Evermore and evermore!

9. Christ ! to Thee, with God the Father
And, Holy Ghost, to Thee!
Hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be,
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore ! Amen.

* These verses may be omitted, if the hymn be thought too long.

Alternate Verses:

5. This is he whom seers and sages
    Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the writings of the prophets
    Promised in their faithful word;
Now he shines the long expected:
    Let creation praise its Lord,
        Evermore and evermore.

6. Hail, thou judge of souls departed!
    Hail, thou King of them that live!
On the Father's throne exalted
    None in might with thee may strive;
Who at last in judgment coming
    Sinners from thy face shalt drive,
        Evermore and evermore.

7. Now let old and young men's voices
    Join with boys thy name to sing,
Matrons, virgins, little maidens
    In glad chorus answering;
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
    And the heart its praises bring,
        Evermore and evermore.

Sheet Music from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol 638
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

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Sheet Music from J. H. Hopkins, ed., Great Hymns of the Church Compiled by the Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young (New York: James Pott & Company, 1887), #72, pp. 112-3.

Edgar Pettman, ed., "The Westminster Carol Book" (London: Houghton & Co., 1899), Hymn No. IX, p. 13.

Sheet Music from John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, eds., Hymnal Noted. Part II. (London: Novello, Ewer and Co., 1856), #66, pp. 132-133.

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Sheet Music from Thomas Helmore, ed., Accompanying Harmonies to the Hymnal Noted. Part II. (London: Novello, Ewer and Co., 1858), pp. 214-215.

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Sheet Music from Rev. G. R. Woodward, ed., Piæ Cantiones (London: Plainsong & Medieval Music Society, 1910), #XX, "Divinium Mysterium," p. 29.

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Sheet Music from Rev. G. R. Woodward, ed., Songs of Syon. 3rd Edition, Revised and Enlarged. (London: Schott & Co., 1910), #22, p. 24. Described as "York Melody (Trochaic,," Mode iij.

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Sheet Music from Arthur Henry Brown, ed., The Altar Hymnal (London: Griffith, Farrar, Okeden & Welsh, 1885), p. 36.

"Corde Natus" - Two Versions

Sheet Music from Charles Robinson, and Edward Judson, eds., The New Laudes Domini (New York: The Century Company, 1892), #345 & #345, p. 141.

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#345 is three verses of "Of The Father's Love Begotten," including 2. "At his word the worlds were framed," and 3. "He is found in human fashion."

#346 is three verses beginning with the verse "He is here, whom seers in old time," plus 2. "Praise him, O ye heaven of heavens" and 3. Thee let age, and thee let manhood."

Also found in The Book of Common Praise (Oxford: University Press, 1909, #76, pp. 92-93.

Also found in A Selection of Carols, Pieces, and Anthems, Suitable for Christmas. (London: W. Kent and Co.; Penzance: F. Rodda, ca. 1872), p. 44, with three verses, representing verses 1, 5, & 9 above. Text Only.

Translations of the Latin lyrics include:

Editor's Note.

This is likely the most popular version of the Latin Hymn Corde natus. The first translation was that of John Mason Neale in Hymnal Noted, Part II (1856) in six stanzas. Baker modified and extended that translation in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. A third major translation was that by Roby Davis published in the 1906 English Hymnal.

The Latin text was an excerpt from the 9th Hymn in Prudentius' Cathemerinon, a series of 12 hymns celebrating the Hours and the seasons of the Church. The 9th Hymn is "Hymnus Omnis Horae", that is "Hymn For All Hours" (R. Martin Pope, trans.). The first line of this hymn is "Da puer plectrum, choreis ut canam fidelibus", translated by R. Martin Pope as "Let me chant in sacred numbers, as I strike each sounding string." The first eight verses above correspond to verses 4-9, 36, and 37 of this hymn. The 9th verse is a doxology. The translation used is from the Project Gutenberg EBook of "The Hymns of Prudentius."

Notes from the Hymnuts

Corde natus
One of the great Christmas texts in the tradition, this was written by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. Prudentius, one of the last writers of the Roman empire was also one of the first Christian poets. Born in northern Spain in 348, and trained as a lawyer, he rose through the ranks of the empire, finishing his work as an official in the court of the Emperor Theodosius. At the age of 57, weary of civic life and retired to write poetry. His poetry — especially Cathemerinon — became some of the most treasured sources of hymnody through the Middle Ages. That collection of 12 long poems, one for each hour of the day, easily became the foundation of several of the greatest office hymns of the church. This hymn comes from Prudentius' poem for the 9th hour, beginning "Da puer plectrum."

It was translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1851 for his collection of hymns called Hymnal Noted. It became a popular hymn in the signal hymnal of its day, Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Divinum Mysterium

This plainsong melody was first used for this text in Neale's Hymnal Noted. Neale's note in that collection indicates that the tune may have come from Wolfenbütel, Germany, in the 12th century. Most information available suggests that it comes from the Piae Cantiones Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae, first published in Finland in 1582 by Theodoricis Petri who apparently wanted to preserve the medieval songs and carols being sung in Sweden. This book, when discovered by the Victorians, because the source of many of the melodies in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Larry Marietta's Music Notes, Sunday Morning Services at FCCB (First Congregational Church of Berkeley),  December 7, 1997

The original Latin text for "Of the Father's Love Begotten" was "Corde natus ex Parentis", written by the prolific and prominent author of early sacred Latin poetry, Aurlius Clemens Predentius, (348-c.413). In 1854 the Latin text was translated by John Mason Neale as "Of the Father Sole Begotten", and later revised by Henry Williams Baker for inclusion in Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861. John Mason Neale used the plainsong melody DIVINUM MYSTERIUM (Divine Mystery) as the setting for this text in The Hymnal Noted, 1851, captioned as a "Melody from a manuscript at Wolfenbutel of the XIIIth century." Scholars now believe the tune source to be Piae Cantiones Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae, 1582.

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