20 April 2015

Quam laeta perfert nuntia

Here is my translation of the hymn “Quam laeta perfert nuntia” by Paulus Eber (†1569). The original title is “Hymnus de Maria dei genitrice visitante Elisabet, ex historia Lucae 1” [Hymn of Mary, Mother of God, visiting Elisabeth, from the account of Luke 1]. It is generally provided as an office hymn ad placitum on the feast of the Visitation of Mary (July 2). The mode-iv melody appointed in Lutheran books is given here according to Hermann Bonnus; its cousin is visited in Frere (#5) and Stäblein (#13).

WHAT gladsome tidings Mary bears
As from familiar shores she fares
Of Galilee, to lands less near,
Her cousin to attend and cheer!

2. With what great joy Elisabeth
Embraces Mary, as by faith
She tells the Spirit’s inward sighs:
The promised Prince in Mary lies!

3. To God the Father He will bind
And reconcile His lost mankind,
Who, by the grievous fall of old
Forsook their Maker’s gracious fold.

4. He whom the sires of Christendom
Long ages past implored to come,
Is here to John by faith revealed
While in his mother’s womb concealed.

5. Him whom the elder man, now mute,
May not with pious tongue salute,
He lauds with heart, and doth declare
By gesture that his God is there.

6. Behold in humble cottage bowed
The infant Church’s faithful crowd,
That first proclaims as true indeed
God’s Word and promise of the Seed.

7. Whilst Herod seeks by murd’rous train
To gird and fortify his reign,
And Caiaphas commits to death
The godly teachers of the faith—

8. So now the Church is sore beset
By tribulation’s strangling net,
And by the wretched dragon torn
With slaughters, heresies, and scorn.

9. Be with Thy Church, O Christ, we pray;
To her in want Thy strength convey,
Steadfast defenders grant her e’er,
That she Thy praises may declare.

Translation © 2015 Matthew Carver.


1. Quam laeta perfert nuntia
Dum Galilaeis finibus
Relictis cognatam suam
Procul Maria visitat. [?]

2. Quanto Mariam gaudio
Elisabeth complectitur
Quam scit movente Spiritu
Gestare promissum Ducem. [?]

3. Qui conciliaturus Deo
Patri sit humanum genus
Lapsu quod olim se gravi
A Conditore averterat.

4. Quem flagitaverant Patres
Multis venire saeculis
Hunc matris inclusus suae
Alvo Johannes excipit

5. Ex praedicare quem pia
Lingua nequit mutus senex
Hunc mente adorat indicans
Gestu Dei praesentiam.

6. Hanc parva continet casa
Ecclesiae turbam novae
Quae prima declarat ratum
Verbum Dei de Semine.

7. Dum tentat Herodes suum
Firmare regnum caedibus
Et helluatur Pontifex [some MSS: …Caiphas]
Piosque doctores necat.

8. Perinde nunc Ecclesiam
Arctae tenent angustiae
Quam turbat aut erroribus
Aut caedibus dirus draco.

9. Hanc tu carentem robore
Firmisque defensoribus
Tuere Christe quaesumus
Laudes tuas ut praedicet. Amen.


Walter said...

A great translation.
Notable historically is the context of the fledgling Evangelical church alluded to in verse 8, 'perinde nunc ...' But Biblically, it surely alludes to Revelation 12 where the red dragon was just waiting for the Birth of the Messiah. Here however it is relevant to how the Church is chased by the evil one just waiting to devour her faithful teaching of the Gospel.
Anyway, Heber's Latin is beautiful.

I have Ellinger's slightly altered version in his Hymnorum Ecclesiasticorum (Book 3). Where you put the exclamation marks in the English translation, Ellinger uses question marks which you place in square brackets. Google Books has digitized it.

Once again, THANKS for all these recent translations of Lutheran heritage Latin hymns !

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Thanks again, Walter! I am torn on Ellinger's book. So much good, so many hymns not seen elsewhere in Lutheran literature, and yet so much altered for the sake of meter, that was not, as far as I can tell, widely accepted. It took a pope in the 17th c. to "fix" the meters on some of the most venerable hymns, and these were changed back more recently.

My bilingual Latin-English Lutheran Hymnal will include the hymns shared by the chant compendia, but will favor Bonnus and Lossius where forms differ.

You make a good observation regarding the exclamation marks or points. From my experience reading over 1,000 pages of 16-17th c. German, I have come to the conclusion that the question mark in such cases indicates the same rhetorical function that our exclamation mark/point does now.

Walter said...

Thanks Matt! A short response re Ellinger: I thought it 'was just me' as I neurotically compared his Latin with 'originals', whether Lutheran hymns or 'traditional' originals and kept wondering why in tarnation did he make these usually useless changes. Now I know it's not 'just me' who felt this.