Hymn For The Lighting Of The Lamps (Hymnus Ad Incensum Lucernae)

A poem by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

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

Hymnus Ad Incensum Lucernae


Inventor rutili, dux bone, luminis,
qui certis vicibus tempora dividis,
merso sole chaos ingruit horridum,
lucem redde tuis Christe fidelibus.

Quamvis innumero sidere regiam
lunarique polum lampade pinxeris,
incussu silicis lumina nos tamen
monstras saxigeno semine quaerere:

Ne nesciret homo spem sibi luminis
in Christi solido corpore conditam,
qui dici stabilem se voluit petram,
nostris igniculis unde genus venit.

Pinguis quos olei rore madentibus
lychnis aut facibus pascimus aridis:
quin et fila favis scirpea floreis
presso melle prius conlita fingimus.

Vivax flamma viget, seu cava testula
sucum linteolo suggerit ebrio,
seu pinus piceam fert alimoniam,
seu ceram teretem stuppa calens bibit.

Nectar de liquido vertice fervidum
guttatim lacrimis stillat olentibus,
ambustum quoniam vis facit ignea
imbrem de madido flere cacumine.

Splendent ergo tuis muneribus, Pater,
flammis mobilibus scilicet atria,
absentemque diem lux agit aemula,
quam nox cum lacero victa fugit peplo.

Sed quis non rapidi luminis arduam
manantemque Deo cernat originem?
Moyses nempe Deum spinifera in rubo
vidit conspicuo lumine flammeum.

Felix, qui meruit sentibus in sacris
caelestis solii visere principem,
iussus nexa pedum vincula solvere,
ne sanctum involucris pollueret locum.

Hunc ignem populus sanguinis incliti
maiorum meritis tutus et inpotens,
suetus sub dominis vivere barbaris,
iam liber sequitur longa per avia:

qua gressum tulerant castraque caerulae
noctis per medium concita moverant,
plebem pervigilem fulgure praevio
ducebat radius sole micantior.

Sed rex Niliaci littoris invido
fervens felle iubet praevalidam manum
in bellum rapidis ire cohortibus
ferratasque acies clangere classicum.

Sumunt arma viri seque minacibus
accingunt gladiis, triste canit tuba:
hic fidit iaculis, ille volantia
praefigit calamis spicula Gnosiis.

Densetur cuneis turba pedestribus,
currus pars et equos et volucres rotas
conscendunt celeres signaque bellica
praetendunt tumidis clara draconibus.

Hic iam servitii nescia pristini
gens Pelusiacis usta vaporibus
tandem purpurei gurgitis hospita
rubris littoribus fessa resederat.

Hostis dirus adest cum duce perfido,
infert et validis praelia viribus:
Moyses porro suos in mare praecipit
constans intrepidis tendere gressibus:

praebent rupta locum stagna viantibus
riparum in faciem pervia, sistitur
circumstans vitreis unda liquoribus,
dum plebs sub bifido permeat aequore.

Pubes quin etiam decolor asperis
inritata odiis rege sub inpio
Hebraeum sitiens fundere sanguinem
audet se pelago credere concavo:

ibant praecipiti turbine percita
fluctus per medios agmina regia,
sed confusa dehinc unda revolvitur
in semet revolans gurgite confluo.

Currus tunc et equos telaque naufraga
ipsos et proceres et vaga corpora
nigrorum videas nare satellitum,
arcis iustitium triste tyrannicae.

Quae tandem poterit lingua retexere
laudes Christe tuas? qui domitam Pharon
plagis multimodis cedere praesuli
cogis iustitiae vindice dextera.

Qui pontum rapidis aestibus invium
persultare vetas, ut refluo in salo
securus pateat te duce transitus,
et mox unda rapax devoret inpios.

Cui ieiuna eremi saxa loquacibus
exundant scatebris, et latices novos
fundit scissa silex, quae sitientibus
dat potum populis axe sub igneo.

Instar fellis aqua tristifico in lacu
fit ligni venia mel velut Atticum:
lignum est, quo sapiunt aspera dulcius;
uam praefixa cruci spes hominum viget.

Inplet castra cibus tunc quoque ninguidus,
inlabens gelida grandine densius:
his mensas epulis, hac dape construunt,
quam dat sidereo Christus ab aethere.

Nec non imbrifero ventus anhelitu
crassa nube leves invehit alites,
quae conflata in humum, cum semel agmina
fluxerunt, reduci non revolant fuga.

Haec olim patribus praemia contulit
insignis pietas numinis unici,
cuius subsidio nos quoque vescimur
pascentes dapibus pectora mysticis.

Fessos ille vocat per freta seculi
discissis populum turbinibus regens
iactatasque animas mille laboribus
iustorum in patriam scandere praecipit.

Illic purpureis tecta rosariis
omnis fragrat humus calthaque pinguia
et molles violas et tenues crocos
fundit fonticulis uda fugacibus.

Illic et gracili balsama surculo
desudata fluunt, raraque cinnama
spirant et folium, fonte quod abdito
praelambens fluvius portat in exitum.

Felices animae prata per herbida
concentu parili suave sonantibus
hymnorum modulis dulce canunt melos,
calcant et pedibus lilia candidis.

Sunt et spiritibus saepe nocentibus
paenarum celebres sub Styge feriae
illa nocte, sacer qua rediit Deus
stagnis ad superos ex Acheronticis.

Non sicut tenebras de face fulgida
surgens oceano Lucifer inbuit,
sed terris Domini de cruce tristibus
maior sole novum restituens diem.

Marcent suppliciis tartara mitibus,
exultatque sui carceris otio
functorum populus liber ab ignibus,
nec fervent solito flumina sulphure.

Nos festis trahimus per pia gaudia
noctem conciliis votaque prospera
certatim vigili congerimus prece
extructoque agimus liba sacrario.

Pendent mobilibus lumina funibus,
quae suffixa micant per laquearia,
et de languidulis fota natatibus
lucem perspicuo flamma iacit vitro.

Credas stelligeram desuper aream
ornatam geminis stare trionibus,
et qua bosporeum temo regit iugum,
passim purpureos spargier hesperos.

O res digna, Pater, quam tibi roscidae
noctis principio grex tuus offerat,
lucem, qua tribuis nil pretiosius,
lucem, qua reliqua praemia cernimus.

Tu lux vera oculis, lux quoque sensibus,
intus tu speculum, tu speculum foris,
lumen, quod famulans offero, suscipe,
tinctum pacifici chrismatis unguine.

Per Christum genitum, summe Pater, tuum,
in quo visibilis stat tibi gloria,
qui noster Dominus, qui tuus unicus
spirat de patrio corde paraclitum.

Per quem splendor, honos, laus, sapientia,
maiestas, bonitas, et pietas tua
regnum continuat numine triplici
texens perpetuis secula seculis.




Hymn For The Lighting Of The Lamps


Blest Lord, Creator of the glowing light,
At Whose behest the hours successive move,
The sun has set: black darkness broods above:
Christ! light Thy faithful through the coming night.

Thy courts are lit with stars unnumberèd,
And in the cloudless vault the pale moon rides;
Yet Thou dost bid us seek the fire that hides
Till swift we strike it from its flinty bed.

So man may learn that in Christ's body came
The hidden hope of light to mortals given:
He is the Rock--'tis His own word--that riven
Sends forth to all our race the eternal flame.

From lamps that brim with rich and fragrant oil,
Or torches dry this heaven-sent fire we feed;
Or make us rushlights from the flowering reed
And wax, whereon the bees have spent their toil.

Bright glows the light, whether the resin thick
Of pine-brand flares, or waxen tapers burn
With melting radiance, or the hollow urn
Yields its stored sweetness to the thirsty wick.

Beneath the might of fire, in slow decay
The scented tears of glowing nectar fall;
Lower and lower droops the candle tall
And ever dwindling weeps itself away.

So by Thy gifts, great Father, hearth and hall
Are all ablaze with points of twinkling light
That vie with daylight spent; and vanquished Night
Rends, as she flies away, her sable pall.

Who knoweth not that from high Heaven first came
Our light, from God Himself the rushing fire?
For Moses erst, amid the prickly brier,
Saw God made manifest in lambent flame.

Ah, happy he! deemed worthy face to face
To see heaven's Lord within that sacred brake;
Bidden the sandals from his feet to take,
Nor with his shoon defile that holy place.

The mighty children of the chosen name,
Saved by the merits of their sires, and free
After long years of savage tyranny,
Through the drear desert followed still that flame.

Striking their camp beneath the silent night
Where'er they went, to lead their darkling way,
The cloud of glory lent its guiding ray
And shone more splendid than the noonday light.

But, mad with jealous fury, Egypt's king
Calls his great host to battle for their lord:
Swiftly the cohorts gather at his word,
And down the mail-clad lines the clarions ring.

Girding their trusty swords the warriors go
To fill the ranks; hoarse bugles rend the air;
These seize their massy javelins, these prepare
The death-winged arrow and the Cretan bow.

The footmen throng in close battalions pressed;
The chariots thunder; to the saddle spring
The riders of the Nile, as forth they fling
Egypt's proud banner with the serpent crest.

And now, forgetful of the bondage past,
Thy children, tortured by the desert heat,
Drag to the Red Sea's brink their weary feet,
And on its sandy margin rest at last.

See! with their forsworn king the savage foe
Draws nigh: the threatening squadrons nearer ride;
But ever onward urged the intrepid guide
And through the waves bade Israel fearless go.

Before that steadfast march the billows fall,
Then raise on either hand their crystal mass,
While through the sundered deep Thy people pass
And ocean guards them with a liquid wall.

But, mad with baffled rage, the dusky horde
Of Egypt, by their impious despot led,
Athirst the hated Hebrews' blood to shed
Pursued, all reckless of the o'er-arching flood.

Swift as the wind the royal squadrons ride,
But swifter yet the crystal barriers break,
The waves exultantly their bounds forsake
And roll together in a roaring tide.

'Mid steeds and chariots and drifting mail
The drownèd lords of Egypt found a grave
With all their swart retainers 'neath the wave;
And in their haughty courts the mourners wail.

What tongue, O Christ, Thy glories can unfold?
Thine was the arm, outstretched in wrath, that made
The stricken land of Pharaoh, sore afraid,
Bow down before Thy minister of old.

Thy pathless deep did at the voice restrain
Its surging billows, till with Thee for guide
Thy host passed scathless, and the refluent tide
Swept down the wicked to the engulfing main.

At Thy command the desert, parched and dry,
Breaks into laughing rills, and water clear
Wells from the smitten rock Thy flock to cheer
And quench their thirst beneath that brazen sky.

Then Marah's bitterness grew passing sweet,
Touched by the mystic tree; so by the grace
Of Thine own Tree, O Christ, our sinful race
Regains its lost hopes at Thy piercèd feet.

Faster than icy hail the manna falls,
Like snow down drifting from a wintry sky;
The feast is set: they heap the tables high
With that rich food from Thy celestial halls.

Fresh blow the breezes from the distant shore
And bear a fluttering cloud that hides the light,
Till the frail pinions, faltering in their flight,
Sink in the wilderness to rise no more.

How great the love of God's own Son, that shed
Such wondrous bounty on His chosen race!
And still to us He proffers in His grace
The mystic Feast, wherewith our souls are fed.

Through the world's raging sea He bids us come,
And 'twixt the sundered billows guides our path,
Till, spent and wearied with the ocean's wrath,
He calls His storm-tossed saints to Heaven and home.

There in His paradise red roses blow,
With golden daffodils and lilies pale
And gentle violets, and down the vale
The murmuring rivulets for ever flow.

Sweet balsams, welling from the slender tree,
And precious spices fill the fragrant air,
And, hiding by the stream, that blossom rare
Whose leaves the river hurries to the sea.

There the blest souls with one accord unite
To hymn in dulcet song their Saviour's praise,
And as the chanting quire their voices raise
They tread with shining feet the lilies bright.

Yea, e'en the spirits of the lost, that dwell
Where the black stream of sullen Acheron flows,
Rest on that holy night when Christ arose,
And for a while 'tis holiday in Hell.

No sun from ocean rising drives away
Their darkness, with his flaming shafts far-hurled,
But from the cross of Christ o'er that wan world
There streams the radiance of a new-born day.

The sulphurous floods with lessened fury glow,
The aching limbs find respite from their pain,
While, in glad freedom from the galling chain,
The tortured ghosts a short-lived solace know.

In holy gladness let this night be sped,
As here we gather, Lord, to watch and pray;
To Thee with one consent our vows we pay
And on Thy altar set the sacred Bread.

From pendent chains the lamps of crystal blaze;
By fragrant oil sustained the clear flame glows
With strength undimmed, and through the darkness throws
High o'er the fretted roof a golden haze,

As 'twere Heaven's starry floor our wondering eye
Beheld, wherein the Bears their light display,
Where Phosphor heralds the approach of day
And Hesper's radiance floods the evening sky.

Meet is the gift we offer here to Thee,
Father of all, as falls the dewy night;
Thine own most precious gift we bring--the light
Whereby mankind Thy other bounties see.

Thou art the Light indeed; on our dull eyes
And on our inmost souls Thy rays are poured;
To Thee we light our lamps: receive them, Lord,
Filled with the oil of peace and sacrifice.

O hear us, Father, through Thine only Son,
Our Lord and Saviour, by Whose love bequeathed
The Paraclete upon our hearts has breathed,
With Him and Thee through endless ages one.

Through Christ Thy Kingdom shall for ever be,
Thy grace, might, wisdom, glory ever shine,
As in the Triune majesty benign
He reigns for all eternity with Thee.

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