Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
A Hymn to the Virgin

To one that is so fare and bright
     Velut maris stella
Brighter than the day is light,
     Parens et puella:
I cry to thee to turn to me:
Lady, pray thy Son for me,
     Tam pia,
That I may come to thee.

In sorrow, counsel thou art best,
     Felix fecundata:
For all the weary thou art rest,
     Mater honorata:
Beseech him in thy mildest mood,
Who for us did shed his blood
     In cruce
That we may come to him
     In luce

All this world was forlorn
     Eva peccatrice,
Till our Savior Lord was born
     De te genetrice.
With thy Ave sin went away
Dark night went and in came day
The well of healing sprang from thee

Lady, flower of everything
     Rosa sine spina
Thou bore Jesu, heaven's King
     Gratia divina:
Of all I say thou bore the prize,
Lady, Queen of paradise
Maiden mild, mother
     Es Effecta.
This little hymn, c. 1300, is macaronic, partly in Latin and partly in English, like many of the carols of the medieval English Church. The English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) composed a beautiful piece based on this particular hymn at the age of 17. It is one of my favorites. Britten's composition is written for two choirs, a large one singing the English verses, and a smaller one for the Latin.

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