02 May 2013

Festum nunc celebre / Christo Gott dem Herren

Here is my translation of the old Ascension hymn for evening, Festum nunc celebre (Rhabanus Maurus Magnentius, d. 856), formerly sung throughout German-speaking lands, and retained by Lutherans in their earlier hymnals in the original Latin as well as German. The melody is the proper, as given inter alia in Lossius 1553. I include below my translation the Latin along with the German rendering by Paul Speratus. Among others who provided a translation to this enduring hymn was Valentin Triller, a well accomplished hymnwriter in his own right, also provided a translation. That will be examined after this.

Note in particular the interesting meter, composed of three Asclepiads followed by a Glyconic. I have attempted to preserve this accentually rather than metrically. Each stanza consists of three staves thus: x x / u u /   / u u / u / ; the final line thus: x x / u u / u / . The Latin has no evident rhyme scheme, and Speratus' translation, which is relatively early, has rhyme but no regular scheme. I have chosen the scheme ABABCCC.

NOW THE feast-day renowned, / Plenteous in joy, doth move / Swelling hearts to resound, / Mouths their anthems to prove;— / When o’er summits unknown / Up to the peerless throne / Passed our Advocate Christ alone.
2.  Shouting round Him reply / Through the unclouded rays / Saints unnumbered on high, / Blending their songs of praise / From the least to the most / With all the angel host, / Of the Victor’s acclaim to boast.
3.  He who, scaling the height, / Captive the captor led, / Countless spoils of the fight / Over the earth-born spread,— / Yea, who comes again, / Zealous to judge all men, / Now goes tenderly to His reign.
4.  We beseech Thee, O Lord, / Maker of great renown, / Watch Thy servants and guard, / Be Thou our Shield and Crown, / Lest the foe in his wrath / Draw us from heaven’s path / Or else drown us in depths of death.
5.  When with fire on the cloud / Thou Thy return shalt make, / Hidden things to unshroud, / Vengeance on sins to take, / Judge us then not as due; / Lord, for Thy grace we sue: / Our petition in mercy view.
6.  Hear, Good Father, our sigh, / With Thy beloved Son / Reigning ever on high, / And with the Spirit One; / Glorious God, unto Thee, / Trinity, ever be / Laud and praise for eternity. Amen.
Translation © 2013 Matthew Carver.

LATIN — Rabanus Maurus [Alt. Magdeburg 1613]
1. Festum nunc celebre magnaque gaudia
compellunt animos carmina promere,
cum Christus solium scandit ad arduum
caelorum pius arbiter.

2. Conscendit jubilans, laetus ad aethera,
Sanctorum populus praedicat inclitum,
Concinit pariter Angelicus chorus   [Plaudentes celebrant…]
Victoris boni gloriam.   [Victoris quoque…]

3. Qui scandens superos, vincula vinxerat,
Donans terrigenis munera plurima
Districtus rediet arbiter omnium,
Qui mitis modo transiit.

4. Oramus Domine, Conditor inclite,
Devotos famulos respice, protege:
Ne nos livor edax dæmonis obruat,
Demergat vel inferos

5. Ut cum flammivoma nube reverteris,
Occulta hominum pandere judicans:   [Ut judex hominum crimina vindices]
Ne des supplicia horrida noxiis:   [Ne nos suppliciis obrue tristibus,]
Sed justis bona præmia    [Sed complectere gratia.]

6. Præsta hoc Genitor optime, maxime   [Praestes…]
Hoc tu Nate Dei: et bone Spiritus,   […gnate Dei Tu bone…]
Regnans perpetuo fulgida Trinitas
Per cuncta pie sæcula. Amen.  [Aeternum venerabilis.]

1. Christo Gott dem Herren
sing wir von Herzen-Grund,
den die Wolken aufnahm
sichtiglich zu der Stund,

als er aufsteig zu seim
und unserm Vater Gott,

der alle Ding zu richten hat.

2. Damit hat er die Erd
und all Himmel erfreut,

das durch ihn zum Vater
kommen mag, wer ihm gläubt;

sonst niemand steig hinauf,
dan der herab gesand,

und den durch ihn zeucht Gottes Hand.

3. Er hat die Gefängnis
gefangen genommen

als er steig zum Vater,
von dann wird er kommen,

zu richten nach seim Wort
all lebendig und tot,

wie er uns selbst bezeuget hat.

4. O Herr, wir bitten dich,
den Schöpfer aller Ding,

den Glauben in uns mehr
der die Frücht der Lieb bring,

das wir nachsteigen dir;
ohn dein Hilf sinken wir;

das Werk deiner Händ schreit zu dir,

5. Daß dein herrlich Zukunft
erschreck uns Armen nicht,

wann du mit dein Selgen
sitzen wirst das Gericht,

da vor deim Angesicht
alles wird offenbar,

was hie der Menschen Danken war.

6. Gib Gott, heilger Vater,
mit Christo, deinem Sohn,

das wir durch deinen Geist
mit unsers Herzen-Wonn

zu Dir aufsteigen stet
im Geist und der Wahrheit,

des lob wir dich in Ewigkeit. Amen.


Walter said...

Hey Matt ! I appreciate this translation of yours ! My little study of this hymn's Latin sources shows huge variations in all books, including a variant 'incipit': Festum Quod Colimus.
Your verse 4, last line, I would change to "Or else we drown in depths of death" because your words seem to command God to drown us if He doesn't watch us in heaven's path... or am I just confused?

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Hi Walter. Yes, my two sources differed from each other, so I tried to navigate a safe course, but no doubt failed to some extent. stanza 4 last line is all connected to "Lest the foe…" so "lest the foe (1) make us stray, or (lest the foe) (2) drown us…" The accent scheme does not allow for 'Or else we drown…" since the fourth syllable needs to be unaccented. Does "Or seduce us to (or, Or submerge us in) depths of death" sound OK?

Walter said...

Hey Matt, I just saw your comment 5 days late...sorry... Thanks for the great explanation !