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Audit tyrannus anxius

With terror doth the tyrant hear

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. Audit tyrannus anxius
    Adesse regum Principem,
    Qui nomen Israel regat,
    Teneatque David regiam.
  2. Exclamat amens nuntio:
    Successor instat, pellimur:
    Satelles, i, ferrum rape:
    Perfunde cunas sanguine.
  3. Quid proficit tantum nefas?
    Quid crimen Herodem juvat?
    Unus tot inter funera
    Impune Christus tollitur.
  4. Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
    Qui natus es de Virgine,
    Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu
    In sempiterna sæcula.
  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 borne away!
  4. All glory for this blessed morn
    To God the Father ever be;
    All praise to Thee, O Virgin-born,
    All praise, O Holy Ghost, to Thee.
Author: Prudentius (348-413). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation 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 Cathemermon of Prudentius, and in its full form it contains 208 lines. First line of complete hymn: Quicumque Christum quæritis. 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. Quicumque Christum quæritis (11. 1-4; 37-44; 85-88). Transfiguration.
  2. O sola magnarum urbium (11. 77-80; 5-8; 61-64; 69-72). Epiphany.
  3. Audit tyrannus anxius (11. 93-100; 133-136). Holy Innocents.
  4. Salvete flores martyrum (11. 125-132). Holy Innocents.
There is an article in the Cath. Encyl., treating of all four hymns, under the general heading: Quicumque Christum quæritis.
  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 amxius: 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.