Preface: Hymns For The Christian's Day

A poem by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius


Per quinquennia iam decem,
ni fallor, fuimus: septimus insuper
annum cardo rotat, dum fruimur sole volubili.
Instat terminus et diem
vicinum senio iam Deus adplicat.
Quid nos utile tanti spatio temporis egimus?
Aetas prima crepantibus
flevit sub ferulis: mox docuit toga
infectum vitiis falsa loqui, non sine crimine.
Tum lasciva protervitas,
et luxus petulans (heu pudet ac piget)
foedavit iuvenem nequitiae sordibus ac luto.
Exin iurgia turbidos
armarunt animos et male pertinax
vincendi studium subiacuit casibus asperis.
Bis legum moderamine
frenos nobilium reximus urbium,
ius civile bonis reddidimus, terruimus reos.
Tandem militiae gradu
evectum pietas principis extulit
adsumptum propius stare iubens ordine proximo.
Haec dum vita volans agit,
inrepsit subito canities seni
oblitum veteris me Saliae consulis arguens:
ex quo prima dies mihi
quam multas hiemes volverit et rosas
pratis post glaciem reddiderit, nix capitis probat.
Numquid talia proderunt
carnis post obitum vel bona vel mala,
cum iam, quidquid id est, quod fueram, mors aboleverit?
Dicendum mihi; Quisquis es,
mundum, quem coluit, mens tua perdidit:
non sunt illa Dei, quae studuit, cuius habeberis.
Atqui fine sub ultimo
peccatrix anima stultitiam exuat:
saltem voce Deum concelebret, si meritis nequit:
hymnis continuet dies,
nec nox ulla vacet, quin Dominum canat:
pugnet contra hereses, catholicam discutiat fidem,
conculcet sacra gentium,
labem, Roma, tuis inferat idolis,
carmen martyribus devoveat, laudet apostolos.
Haec dum scribo vel eloquor,
vinclis o utinam corporis emicem
liber, quo tulerit lingua sono mobilis ultimo.

Preface: Hymns For The Christian's Day

Newly Translated Into English Verse By R. Martin Pope.

Full fifty years my span of life hath run,
Unless I err, and seven revolving years
Have further sped while I the sun enjoy.
Yet now the end draws nigh, and by God's will
Old age's bound is reached: how have I spent
And with what fruit so wide a tract of days?
I wept in boyhood 'neath the sounding rod:
Youth's toga donned, the rhetorician's arts
I plied and with deceitful pleadings sinned:
Anon a wanton life and dalliance gross
(Alas! the recollection stings to shame!)
Fouled and polluted manhood's opening bloom:
And then the forum's strife my restless wits
Enthralled, and the keen lust of victory
Drove me to many a bitterness and fall.
Twice held I in fair cities of renown
The reins of office, and administered
To good men justice and to guilty doom.
At length the Emperor's will beneficent
Exalted me to military power
And to the rank that borders on the throne.
The years are speeding onward, and gray hairs
Of old have mantled o'er my brows
And Salia's consulship from memory dies.
What frost-bound winters since that natal year
Have fled, what vernal suns reclothed
The meads with roses,--this white crown declares.
Yet what avail the prizes or the blows
Of fortune, when the body's spark is quenched
And death annuls whatever state I held?
This sentence I must hear: "Whate'er thou art,
Thy mind hath lost the world it loved: not God's
The things thou soughtest, Whose thou now shalt be."
Yet now, ere hence I pass, my sinning soul
Shall doff its folly and shall praise my Lord
If not by deeds, at least with humble lips.
Let each day link itself with grateful hymns
And every night re-echo songs of God:
Yea, be it mine to fight all heresies,
Unfold the meanings of the Catholic faith,
Trample on Gentile rites, thy gods, O Rome,
Dethrone, the Martyrs laud, th' Apostles sing.
O while such themes my pen and tongue employ,
May death strike off these fetters of the flesh
And bear me whither my last breath shall rise!

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