The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

With Terror Doth The Tyrant Hear

For The Holy Innocents
See: The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents
The Feast day of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, is December 28

Words: Audit tyrannus anxius, Cathemerinon ("The Hymns of Prudentius"), Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-405)

1. With terror doth the tyrant hear
the King of kings hath come to dwell
where David's court shall widely rear
A sceptered reign o'er Israel.

2. Then cries out, raging at the word:
"He comes to stand where we have stood:
Hence, soldier, and with ruthless sword
deluge the cradles deep with blood!"

3. What profiteth a crime so dread?
What hope shall Herod's bosom sway?
Alone amidst the thronging dead,
The Christ is safely born away!

4. All glory for this blessed morn
To God the Father ever be;
All praise to Thee, 0 Virgin-born,
All praise, O Holy Ghost, to Thee.


This is one of four Epiphany hymns derived from Prudentius' (384-413) XII Hymnus Epiphaniae - Quicumque Christum quaeritis (Hymn For The Epiphany), which is 52 stanzas long. Two of these hymns, Audit tyrannus anxius and Salvete, Flores Martyrum (All Hail Ye Infant Martyr Flowers), were assigned for the feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec 28).

The following is the R. Martin Pope translation of the stanzas of Audit tyrannus anxius, and its Latin equivalent:

Distraught, the tyrant base doth hear
That now the King of Kings draws near
To reign in David's seat of state
And Israel's empire dominate.

"Betrayed are we," he maddened cries,
"Our throne's usurper doth arise:
Go, soldiers, go with sword in hand
And slay all babes within my land.

Of what avail is deed so vile?
Doth Herod gain by murderous guile?
Of all to death so foully done
Escapes triumphant Christ alone.

Hymnus Epiphaniae is from the longer Cathemerinon (The Hymns of Prudentius, translated by R. Martin Pope, 1905). The feast day of the Holy Innocents is December 28; see: The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents.

Notes from Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), pp. 106-107.

Author: Prudentius (348-413). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation [of With Terror Doth The Tyrant Hear] by Monsignor Henry. There are eleven translations. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Matins 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.

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

1. "The anxious tyrant hears that the King of kings is come, who would rule the people of Israel and possess the royal throne of David." Tyrannus anxius: Audiens autem Herodes rex, turbatus est, et omnis Jerosolyma cum illo (Matt. 2, 3). Regum Princeps: Jesus Christ—the prince of the kings of the earth (Apoc. 1, 5). Nomen Israel = populus Israel. Regiam (sc. sedem). Et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus (Luke 1, 32).

2. "Rendered frantic by the message, he cries out: 'A successor is at hand, we are driven away: go, executioner, take the sword, drench the cradles with blood !'" Satelles, sing, for pl., attendants, bodyguard, soldiers. For the Scriptural account of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, see Matt. 2, 16-18. See also the articles on Holy Innocents and Herod, in the Cath. Encycl.

3. "But what availeth so great an outrage? What profiteth Herod this crime? Among so many slain, Christ alone is safely borne away." Unus = solus. Funera, lit., funerals; corpses, also death, esp. a violent death.

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