Jesu dulcis memoria
Jesu, the very thought of Thee
Author: St. Bernard (1091-1153).
Meter: Iambic dimeter.
Translation By Father Caswall.
Liturgical Use: This and the two following centos are used on the
Feast of the Holy Name, which is celebrated on the Sunday
between the Circumcision and the Epiphany, or failing
such a Sunday, on January 2d.
- Jesu dulcis memoria
Dans vera cordis gaudia:
Sed super mel, et omnia,
Ejus dulcis prsesentia.
- Nil canitur suavius,
Nil auditur jucundius,
Nil cogitatur dulcius,
Quam Jesus Dei Filius.
- Jesu spes pœnitentibus,
Quam pius es petentibus!
Quam bonus te quærentibus!
Sed quid invenientibus?
- Nec lingua valet dicere,
Nee littera exprimere:
Expertus potest credere,
Quid sit Jesum diligere.
- Sis Jesu nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus præmium:
Sit nostra in te gloria,
Per cuncta semper sæcula.
- Jesu, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
- Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Saviour of mankind!
- O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
- But what to those who find? Ah! this
Nor tongue nor pen can show:
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but His loved ones know.
- Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize wilt be;
Jesu, be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.
The complete hymn as found in the Benedictine edition
of the Opera of St. Bernard contains forty-eight stanzas.
There are six translations of the complete hymn. Many
centos from the hymn, including the three given here for
Vespers, Matins, and Lauds, have been translated more
frequently. There are two translations of these three
centos in Mr. Shipley’s Annus Sanctus.
The Jesu dulcis memoria is a hymn of surpassing sweetness,
and it has been universally accorded a place among
the greatest hymns of the Church. According to Mr.
James Mearns, the assistant editor of Julian’s Dictionary
of Hymnology, this hymn is “The finest and most characteristic
specimen of St. Bernard’s ‘subjective loveliness’
and its honied sweetness vindicates his title of ‘Doctor
Melifmus.’” Father Caswall’s much admired translation
preserves much of the “honied sweetness” of the original.
The ascription of this hymn to St. Bernard has been
called in question. The authorship of the hymn is one of
those vexed questions that will probably never be settled.
Research reveals nothing definite on the subject. Father
Blume, S.J., in the article on Hymnody in the Cath. Encycl.
pronounces against its ascription to St. Bernard. On the
other hand, Mr. James Mearns says: “This hymn has been
generally (and there seems little reason to doubt correctly)
ascribed to St. Bernard.” (Dict. of Hymnol.) There is an
article on this hymn in the Index Vol. of the Cath. Encycl.
- “Jesus! how sweet is the very thought! giving true
joys of heart; but surpassing honey and all sweetness is
His sweet presence.” Supply est in lines 1 and 4. The
Holy Name has Jesu in all the cases except the nom. and
- “Nothing more sweet can be sung, nothing more
pleasant can be heard, nothing more lovely can be thought
of, than Jesus, the Son of God.”
- “O Jesus, the hope of penitents, how kind art Thou
to those who pray! How good to those who seek Thee!
But what to those who find!” This question is answered
in the following stanza.
- “No tongue can tell, nor can written word express it:
only one who knows from experience can say what it means
to love Jesus.”
- “Mayest Thou, O Jesus, be our joy, as Thou wilt be
our reward: in Thee be our glory forever.”
Copyright Benziger Brothers, 1922. Online Edition Copyright David M. Cheney, 2019.