10 October 2012

Kyrie Stelliferi Conditor orbis

Here is my translation of the trope for the Kyrie “Stelliferi Conditor orbis” (i.e. Kyrie XIII). Thanks to Christopher MacAvoy and Ben Stockermans who provided the music from the tropes published by Gregor & Taube. It is well to note that, while there is apparently no evidence that this trope was sung in the Reformation, similar tropes were maintained in the Lutheran use probably into the 18th century, and certainly received renewed attention in the 19th century by musicians such as Fr. Layriz. Well known among these usually rhymed translations is Kyrie fons bonitatis (now Kyrie II), or Kyrie Gott Vater, that is, Kyrie, God, Father in heaven above; also, the German trope for Kyrie magnae Deus potentiae (O Vater der Barmherzigkeit), which in some cantionales and chorale-books was appointed for Christmastide. On occasion the troped Kyrie paschalis (Kyrie Gott Schöpfer) is also found, appointed for Eastertide. It is with this tradition in mind that I am pleased to submit the trope of Kyrie Stelliferi Conditor, which is in my estimation one of the most interesting of the simpler Kyries in the Gregorian tradition. Set in the XI mode, it is not as jubilant as Lux et origo or as hopeful like Magnae Deus potentiae, but has a solemn character, which no doubt recommended it for feasts of the third class (i.e., Memorials), to which category it was eventually relegated. Yet due to its simplicity and haunting beauty, it is a good candidate for congregations interested in expanding their mass repertoire.

The text, or at very least, the title, appears to be inspired by a passage from Boethius beginning with the same words, of which an interesting translation by Geoffrey Chaucer is available. Here the mighty Maker of the wheel that beareth the stars is invoked by his suppliant creatures, that, He whose power is so manifest in the staggering vault of space with its countless stars and constellations, might have mercy on his lowly people. In view of this apparent majesty, He is rightly appealed to; in view of His visible, omnipotent creative power, He is rightly sought for provision. In Christ, Himself God, who ascended far above even these glorious external creatures, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, the supplications of the faithful are found to have a tangible object and sensible ear. Was He not incarnate, and did He not take flesh like ours, and did He not shed His blood and thereby atone for all mankind? And will He not therefore also be ready and willing to hear our prayer when we pray Have mercy? This is the culmination of the third set of tropes, in the place normally understood as relating to the Holy Spirit. Here, appropriately, is not some kind of description of the Spirit Himself, but an encapsulation of the work of the Spirit, the message that the Spirit speaks, viz., the Gospel of Christ. Here finally are comprehended the Word by which the Spirit calls, and the gifts of Christ, the Sacraments, by which the Spirit gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the Church on earth and keeps her in the one true faith—the faith by which the faithful implore the Father for mercy on behalf of Christ, and are sure to be heard, for mercy in this life and in the one to come.

The music below has been slightly altered to normalize the syllables in each line. The arrangement provides for each troped verse to be followed by a Kyrie eleison or Christe eleison, so that there are nine troped verses and nine untroped verses. The final three troped Kyries utilize a more extended melody, whereas of the untroped Kyrie, only the final one the fuller or doubled melody, as would be the case also if sung without the troped verses.

a. Maker of the star-bearing heavens, /
Grant us Thy mercy, eleison. Kyrie…
b. Thee we worship, and quiet never /
Mouth, heart, and spirit, eleison. Kyrie…
c. All that was, is, and ever shall be /
Thou comprehendest, eleison. Kyrie…

a. Receive with favor Thy people’s prayèrs; /
This we beseech Thee, eleison. Christe…
b. Thou at the Father’s right hand art seated, /
Our whole life ruling, eleison. Christe…
c. Wherefore, beholding Thy mighty powèr, /
Christ, we beseech Thee, eleison. Christe…

a. Grace-bestowing Offspring of the Virgin, /
Deign to hear the pray’rs which we, Thy suppliants, /
Unceasing send Thee  / eleison. Kyrie…
b. Thou who by Thy holy blood restorest /
Man which perished by the fair temptation /
Of fruit forbidden, eleison. Kyrie…
c. Thou who feed’st the flock with heavn’ly wonders, /
Quick’ning all in Thee that seek refreshment /
Forgive Thy faithful, eleison. Kyrie…

Translation © 2012 Matthew Carver.

a. Stelliferi
conditor orbis,
digneris nostri
eleison: Kyrie eleison.
b. Profitemur
te ore, corde
eleison; Kyrie eleison.
c. Praeteritum,
quodvis futurum
esse qui cernis,
eleison; Kyrie eleison.

a. Servorum preces
exaudi clemens;
quaesumus, nostri
eleison; Christe eleison.
b. Patris ad dextram
residens, cuncta
gubernans, nostri
eleison; Christe eleison.
c. Qui ratione
potenti semper,
rogamus, Christe,
eleison; Christe eleison.

a. Almificae virginis edite,
supplicantum precibus intende
jugibus tibi, eleison.
b. Qui instauras hominem vetiti
pereuntem dulcedine pomi
cruore sacro, eleison.
c. Qui cuncta refovendo donis
propriis gregem pascentia vescis,
plebis devotae eleison.

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