Hymn For The Epiphany (Hymnus Epiphaniae)

A poem by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

Newly Translated Into English Verse By R. Martin Pope is below this original.

Hymnus Epiphaniae


Quicumque Christum quaeritis,
oculos in altum tollite,
illic licebit visere
signum perennis gloriae.

Haec stella, quae solis rotam
vincit decore ac lumine,
venisse terris nuntiat
cum carne terrestri Deum.

Non illa servit noctibus
secuta lunam menstruam,
sed sola caelum possidens
cursum dierum temperat.

Arctoa quamvis sidera
in se retortis motibus
obire nolint, attamen
plerumque sub nimbis latent.

Hoc sidus aeternum manet,
haec stella nunquam mergitur,
nec nubis occursu abdita
obumbrat obductam facem.

Tristis cometa intercidat,
et si quod astrum Sirio
fervet vapore, iam Dei
sub luce destructum cadat.

En Persici ex orbis sinu,
sol unde sumit ianuam,
cernunt periti interpretes
regale vexillum Magi.

Quod ut refulsit, ceteri
cessere signorum globi,
nec pulcher est ausus suam
conferre formam Lucifer.

Quis iste tantus, inquiunt,
regnator astris inperans,
quem sic tremunt caelestia,
cui lux et aethra inserviunt.

Inlustre quiddam cernimus,
quod nesciat finem pati,
sublime, celsum, interminum,
antiquius caelo et chao.

Hic ille rex est gentium
populique rex Iudaici,
promissus Abrahae patri
eiusque in aevum semini.

Aequanda nam stellis sua
cognovit olim germina
primus sator credentium,
nati inmolator unici.

Iam flos subit Davidicus
radice Iesse editus,
sceptrique per virgam virens
rerum cacumen occupat.

Exin sequuntur perciti
fixis in altum vultibus,
qua stella sulcum traxerat
claramque signabat viam.

Sed verticem pueri supra
signum pependit inminens,
pronaque submissum face
caput sacratum prodidit.

Videre quod postquam Magi,
eoa promunt munera,
stratique votis offerunt
tus, myrrham, et aurum regium.

Agnosce clara insignia
virtutis ac regni tui,
puer o, cui trinam Pater
praedestinavit indolem.

Regem Deumque adnuntiant
thesaurus et fragrans odor
turis Sabaei, ac myrrheus
pulvis sepulcrum praedocet.

Hoc est sepulcrum, quo Deus,
dum corpus extingui sinit
atque id sepultum suscitat,
mortis refregit carcerem.

O sola magnarum urbium
maior Bethlem, cui contigit
ducem salutis caelitus
incorporatum gignere.

Altrice te summo Patri
haeres creatur unicus,
homo ex tonantis spiritu
idemque sub membris Deus.

Hunc et prophetis testibus
isdemque signatoribus,
testator et sator iubet
adire regnum et cernere:

Regnum, quod ambit omnia
diva et marina et terrea
a solis ortu ad exitum
et tartara et caelum supra.

Audit tyrannus anxius
adesse regum principem,
qui nomen Israel regat
teneatque David regiam.

Exclamat amens nuntio,
successor instat, pellimur;
satelles i, ferrum rape,
perfunde cunas sanguine.

Mas omnis infans occidat,
scrutare nutricum sinus,
interque materna ubera
ensem cruentet pusio.

Suspecta per Bethlem mihi
puerperarum est omnium
fraus, ne qua furtim subtrahat
prolem virilis indolis.

Transfigit ergo carnifex
mucrone destricto furens
effusa nuper corpora,
animasque rimatur novas.

Locum minutis artubus
vix interemptor invenit,
quo plaga descendat patens
iuguloque maior pugio est.

O barbarum spectaculum!
inlisa cervix cautibus
spargit cerebrum lacteum
oculosque per vulnus vomit.

Aut in profundum palpitans
mersatur infans gurgitem,
cui subter artis faucibus
singultat unda et halitus.

Salvete flores martyrum,
quos lucis ipso in limine
Christi insecutor sustulit,
ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Christi victima,
grex inmolatorum tener,
aram ante ipsam simplices
palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas,
quid crimen Herodem iuvat?
unus tot inter funera
inpune Christus tollitur.

Inter coaevi sanguinis
fluenta solus integer
ferrum, quod orbabat nurus,
partus fefellit virginis.

Sic stulta Pharaonis mali
edicta quondam fugerat
Christi figuram praeferens
Moyses, receptor civium.

Cautum et statutum ius erat,
quo non liceret matribus,
cum pondus alvi absolverent,
puerile pignus tollere.

Mens obstetricis sedulae
pie in tyrannum contumax
ad spem potentis gloriae
furata servat parvulum:

Quem mox sacerdotem sibi
adsumpsit orbis conditor,
per quem notatam saxeis
legem tabellis traderet.

Licetne Christum noscere
tanti per exemplum viri?
dux ille caeso Aegyptio
absolvit Israel iugo.

At nos subactos iugiter
erroris inperio gravi
dux noster hoste saucio
mortis tenebris liberat.

Hic expiatam fluctibus
plebem marino in transitu
repurgat undis dulcibus,
lucis columnam praeferens:

Hic praeliante exercitu,
pansis in altum brachiis,
sublimis Amalech premit,
crucis quod instar tunc fuit.

Hic nempe Iesus verior,
qui longa post dispendia
victor suis tribulibus
promissa solvit iugera.

Qui ter quaternas denique
refluentis amnis alveo
fundavit et fixit petras,
apostolorum stemmata.

Iure ergo se Iudae ducem
vidisse testantur Magi,
cum facta priscorum ducum
Christi figuram finxerint.

Hic rex priorum iudicum,
rexere qui Iacob genus,
dominaeque rex ecclesiae,
templi et novelli et pristini.

Hunc posteri Efrem colunt,
hunc sancta Manasse domus
omnesque suspiciunt tribus
bis sena fratrum semina.

Quin et propago degener
ritum secuta inconditum,
quaecumque dirum fervidis
Baal caminis coxerat,

fumosa avorum numina
saxum, metallum, stipitem,
rasum, dolatum, sectile,
in Christi honorem deserit.

Gaudete quidquid gentium est,
Iudaea, Roma, et Graecia,
Aegypte, Thrax, Persa, Scytha,
rex unus omnes possidet.

Laudate vestrum principem
omnes beati, ac perditi,
vivi, inbecilli ac mortui:
iam nemo posthac mortuus.




Hymn For The Epiphany


Lift up your eyes, whoe'er ye be
That fare the new-born Christ to see:
For yonder is the shining sign
Of grace perennial and divine.

What means this star, whose piercing rays
Outshine the sun's resplendent blaze?
'Tis token sure that God is come
In mortal flesh to make His home.

No courtier of the realms of night
Nor monthly moon's bright acolyte,
This star directs the course of day,
Sole sovereign of the heavenly way.

Although the Bears their track retrace,
Nor wholly their clear beams efface,
Yet ofttimes 'neath the dun cloud's haze
They hide themselves from mortal gaze.

But yon Star's glory hath no end,
Nor to the depths can it descend:
It ne'er is whelmed by envious cloud
That seeks its beauty to enshroud.

Now let the baleful comet die,
The brood of blazing Sirius fly:
God's orb shall quench their sultry heats
And drive them from their haughty seats.

Lo! from the regions of the morn
Wherein the radiant sun is born,
The Persian sages see on high
God's ensign shining in the sky.

Soon as its rising beams prevail
The starry hosts in order pale:
E'en Lucifer durst not upraise
The silvery splendours of his face.

Who is this sovereign (they enquire)
That lords it o'er the ethereal choir?
'Fore whom the heavens bow down afraid,
Of all the worlds of light obeyed?

Sure 'tis the sign most reverend
Of Being that doth know no end:
Of One in state sublime arrayed
Ere sky and chaos yet were made.

This is the King of Israel,
Of all in Gentile lands that dwell:
The King to Abram and his seed
Throughout all ages erst decreed.

To him 'twas given his progeny
As stars innumerous to see:
First of believers! moved to slay
His only son, so God to obey.

Behold the Flower of David shine,
Of Jesse's root the Branch benign:
The sceptre spread with blossoms rare
Wields o'er the world its lordship fair.

Roused by the portent of the sky
The sages fix their gaze on high,
And speed them 'neath the furrowed way
Marked by the star's effulgent ray.

At length its flaming steps it stayed
Poised over where the Child was laid:
Straightway with downcast mien it shed
Its splendours on the sacred Head.

Whereat the travellers outpour
Of Eastern gifts their treasure-store,
Myrrh and sweet-smelling frankincense,
Gold meet for regal opulence.

Behold herein the triple sign
Of Thy pure being, King divine:
Seeing the Father willed in Thee
To plant a threefold majesty.

The gift of gold thee King proclaims:
Thee God the fragrant incense names:
The myrrh declares that Death shall thrust
Within the tomb Thy body's dust.

Ah! that dark sepulchre, whose fold
God's body quenched in death doth hold:
Yet shall He from that durance wake
And Death's strong prison-fetters break.

O Bethlehem! no longer thou
The least of cities: all shall vow
That thou art greatest on the earth:
For thou man's King didst bring to birth.

Yea thou didst on thy bosom bear
The All-loving Father's only heir:
Man of the Thunderer's Spirit made
And God in human flesh arrayed.

The prophets witnessed to the bond
Which sealed to Him the realm profound:
The Father's Kingdom He received
And the vast legacy perceived.

All things are His in sea and sky,
In hell beneath, in heaven on high:
From East to setting sun, in fee
He holds the earth's immensity.

Distraught, the tyrant base doth hear
That now the King of Kings draws near
To reign in David's seat of state
And Israel's empire dominate.

"Betrayed are we," he maddened cries,
"Our throne's usurper doth arise:
Go, soldiers, go with sword in hand
And slay all babes within my land.

"Spare no male child: each nurse's robe
Your scrutinizing steel must probe:
Spare not the suckling infant, though
O'er mother's breast its life-blood flow.

"On Bethlehem our suspicion falls,
On every hearth within its walls:
Lest mothers with love's tender zeal
Some manly scion may conceal."

With daggers drawn the infuriate crew
Upon their murderous errand flew:
Each latest offspring of the womb
To bloody death they foully doom.

Ah tiny limbs! 'twas hard to know
How best to strike the fatal blow:
Too wide the sword-blades are to smite
Those throats so silken-fragile, slight.

O horrid sight! the tender bones
Are dashed against the jaggèd stones:
Sightless and mangled there they lie,
Poor babes! untimely doomed to die.

Perchance the still deep river laves
Their bodies thrust into the waves:
The current with their sighing sighs,
Sobs with their latest, broken cries.

Ye flowers of martyrdom, all hail!
Of rising morn pure blossoms frail!
By Jesu's foe were ye downcast,
Like budding roses by the blast.

Lambs of the flock too early slain,
Ye first fruits of Christ's bitter pain!
Close to His very altar, gay
With palms and crowns, ye now do play.

Of what avail is deed so vile?
Doth Herod gain by murderous guile?
Of all to death so foully done
Escapes triumphant Christ alone.

Amidst that tide of infant gore
Alone He wins the sheltering shore:
The virgin's Child survives the stroke,
When every mother's heart was broke.

Thus Moses 'scaped the mad decree
Of evil Pharaoh and set free
The flock of God, prefiguring so
Christ spared from fate's malignant blow.

Vain too the king's hostility
Who framed the pitiless decree
That Israel's mothers should not rear
To manhood's strength their offspring dear.

Quickened by love, a woman's mind
Found means to thwart that law unkind,
And, falsely true, the child concealed
Destined to be his people's Shield.

On him it was that God did place
The august priesthood's holy grace,
The law on stony tablets writ
Did to his trembling hands commit.

And may we not with prophet's eye
In such a hero Christ descry?
The proud Egyptian's might he broke
And freed his kinsmen from the yoke.

So we by Error's might hemmed round
Were by our Captain's strength unbound:
His foe He wounded in the fight
And saved us from Death's horrid night.

Cheering by sign of flame their feet,
Moses renewed with waters sweet
His folk, albeit purified
From stain, what time they crossed the tide.

And he, remote on peaceful height,
Amalek's banded hosts did smite:
He prayed with arms stretched out above,
Foreshadowing the Cross of Love.

Yet truer Jesus surely he,
Who after many a victory
And labours long the tribes' renown
With promised heritage did crown;

Who when the waters rose on high
And now the Jordan's bed was dry,
Set up twelve stones of memory,
Types of apostles yet to be.

Rightly the Wise Men said, I ween,
That they Judaea's King had seen,
Since noble deeds of other days
Prophetic chant the Saviour's praise.

Of those old rulers He is King
Who did to Jacob judgment bring,
King of the Mother Church divine,
God's ancient and God's present Shrine.

Of Ephraim's sons He is adored:
Manasseh's sacred house as Lord
Reveres Him: to His might the seed
Of brethren twelve their fealty plead.

Nay, each degenerate race hath fled
Its shameful rites and orgies dread:
Grim Baal in glowing furnace cast
Sinks to the earth, forsook at last.

Idols smoke-blackened, wooden-hewn,
Of brass and stone, in dust are strewn:
The chiselled deities downtrod:
For all confess in Christ their God.

Rejoice all peoples, Jewry, Rome,
Fair Hellas, Thrace, Aegyptus' home:
Persians and Scythian land forlorn,
Rejoice: the world's great King is born!

Behold your Chief! His praise forth tell:
Ye sick, ye hale, all heaven and hell:
Ay, you whose vital spark hath sped:
For lo! in Him e'en Death is dead.

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