Ales diei nuntius
As the bird, whose clarion gay
Author: Prudentius (348-413).
Meter: Iambic dimeter.
Translation by W. J. Courthope. There are twelve translations.
This hymn is a cento from the Hymn at Cock-Crow,
the first of the twelve hymns of the Cathemerinon of
Prudentius. There are twenty-five four-line stanzas in the
Hymn at Cock-Crow. The Ales diei nuntius is composed of
stanzas 1, 2, 21, and 25 of the complete hymn. This hymn
affords a fair, but by no means an extreme, illustration of
the manner in which centos have been taken from the hymns
of Prudentius for Breviary use.
- Ales diei nuntius
Lucem propinquam præcinit:
Nos excitatory mentium
Jam Christus ad vitam vocat.
- Auferte, clamat, lectulos,
Ægro sopore desides:
Castique, recti, ac sobrii
Vigilate, jam sum Proximus.
- Jesum ciamus vocibus,
Flentes, precantes, sobrii:
Dormire cor mundum vetat.
- Tu, Christe, somnum discute:
Tu rumpe noctis vincula:
Tu solve peccatum vetus,
Novumque lumen ingere.
- Deo Patri sit Gloria,
Ejusque soli Filio,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito
Nunc et per omne sæculum.
- As the bird, whose clarion gay
Sounds before the dawn is grey,
Christ, who brings the spirit’s day,
Calls us, close at hand:
- “Wake!” He cries, “and for my sake,
From your eyes dull slumbers shake!
Sober, righteous, chaste, awake!
At the door I stand!”
- Lord, to Thee we lift on high
Fervent prayer and bitter cry:
Hearts aroused to pray and sigh
May not slumber more:
- Break the sleep of Death and Time,
Forged by Adam’s ancient crime;
And the light of Eden’s prime
To the world restore!
- Unto God the Father, Son,
Holy Spirit, Three in One,
One in Three, be glory done,
Now and evermore.
The hymns for Lauds on Tuesday, Wednesday, and
Thursday are from the Cathemerinon. It will be observed
that they are replete with figurative expressions. As darkness
and mists are symbolical of sin and unbelief, so light
is a symbol of truth and of Christ. In studying these three
hymns, attention should be paid to the figurative, rather
than to the literal meaning of their lines. Mr. Courthope’s
spirited translations preserve much of the spirit and beauty
of the originals. In these translations the following stanza
immediately precedes the doxology. It is not a translation
of any part of the Latin text:
Now before Thy throne, while we|
Ask, upon our bended knee,
That this blessing granted be,
And Thy grace implore;
The above note applies equally to hymns 14,16, and 18.
- “The winged herald of the day proclaims the approaching
light; now Christ, the awakener of souls, calls
us to life.” The “winged messenger” is the cock, who in
Christian symbolism is a symbol of early rising and vigilance.
Propinquam, approaching; Lauds was said at daybreak,
or cock-crow, the beginning of the morning watch.
Excitator mentium: Christ by His grace is the awakener of
- “Take up your beds, He cries, ye who are slothful from
idle sleep, and watch ye, chaste, upright, and sober, for I
am at hand.” Ægro sopore: Ye who have become slothful
from idle, excessive, sickness-producing sleep. Sobrii:
Sobrii estote et vigilate (I Peter 5, 8). Vigilate ergo, quia
nescitis qua hora Dominus vester venturus sit (Matt. 24, 42).
- “Weeping, praying, and sober, let us, with our voices,
invoke Jesus: fervent prayer forbids the pure heart to
- “Do Thou, O Christ, dispel sleep, break the bonds of
night, free us from the sins of former days, and infuse new
light in us.”
Copyright Benziger Brothers, 1922. Online Edition Copyright David M. Cheney, 2019.