The Hymns of Prudentius
by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
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Membra morbis ulcerosa, viscerum putredines mando, ut abluantur, inquit; fit ratum, quod iusserat, turgidam cutem repurgant vulnerum piamina.

Tu perennibus tenebris iam sepulta lumina inlinis limo salubri, sacri et oris nectare, 35 mox apertis hac medela lux reducta est orbibus.

Increpas ventum furentem, quod procellis tristibus vertat aequor fundo ab imo, vexet et vagam ratem: ille iussis obsecundat, mitis unda sternitur.

Extimum vestis sacratae furtim mulier attigit, 40 protinus salus secuta est, ora pallor deserit, sistitur rivus, cruore qui fluebat perpeti.

Exitu dulcis iuventae raptum ephebum viderat, orba quem mater supremis funerabat fletibus: surge, dixit: ille surgit, matri et adstans redditur. 45

Sole iam quarto carentem, iam sepulcro absconditum Lazarum iubet vigere reddito spiramine: fetidum iecur reductus rursus intrat halitus.

Ambulat per stagna ponti, summa calcat fluctuum, mobilis liquor profundi pendulam praestat viam, 50 nec fatiscit unda sanctis pressa sub vestigiis.

Suetus antro bustuali sub catenis frendere, mentis inpos efferatis percitus furoribus prosilit ruitque supplex, Christum adesse ut senserat.

Pulsa pestis lubricorum milleformis daemonum 55 conripit gregis suilli sordida spurcamina, seque nigris mergit undis et pecus lymphaticum.

Quinque panibus peresis et gemellis piscibus adfatim refecta iam sunt adcubantum milia, fertque qualus ter quaternus ferculorum fragmina. 60

Tu cibus panisque noster, tu perennis suavitas; nescit esurire in aevum, qui tuam sumit dapem, nec lacunam ventris inplet, sed fovet vitalia.

Clausus aurium meatus et sonorum nescius purgat ad praecepta Christi crassa quaeque obstacula, 65 vocibus capax fruendis ac susurris pervius.

Omnis aegritudo cedit, languor omnis pellitur, lingua fatur, quam veterna vinxerant silentia, gestat et suum per urbem laetus aeger lectulum.

Quin et ipsum, ne salutis inferi expertes forent, 70 tartarum benignus intrat, fracta cedit ianua, vectibus cadit revulsis cardo indissolubilis.

Illa prompta ad inruentes, ad revertentes tenax, obice extrorsum repulso porta reddit mortuos: lege versa et limen atrum iam recalcandum patet. 75

Sed Deus dum luce fulva mortis antra inluminat, dum stupentibus tenebris candidum praestat diem, tristia squalentis aethrae palluerunt sidera.

Sol refugit et lugubri sordidus ferrugine igneum reliquit axem seque maerens abdidit: 80 fertur horruisse mundus noctis aeternae chaos.

Solve vocem mens sonoram, solve linguam mobilem, dic tropaeum passionis, dic triumphalem crucem, pange vexillum, notatis quod refulget frontibus.

O novum caede stupenda vulneris miraculum! 85 hinc cruoris fluxit unda, lympha parte ex altera: lympha nempe dat lavacrum, tum corona ex sanguine est.

Vidit anguis inmolatam corporis sacri hostiam, vidit et fellis perusti mox venenum perdidit, saucius dolore multo colla fractus sibilat. 90

Quid tibi, profane serpens, profuit, rebus novis plasma primum perculisse versipelli hortamine? diluit culpam recepto forma mortalis Deo.

Ad brevem se mortis usum dux salutis dedidit, mortuos olim sepultos ut redire insuesceret, 95 dissolutis pristinorum vinculis peccaminum.

Tunc patres sanctique multi conditorem praevium iam revertentem secuti tertio demum die carnis indumenta sumunt, eque bustis prodeunt.

Cerneres coire membra de favillis aridis, 100 frigidum venis resumptis pulverem tepescere, ossa, nervos, ac medullas glutino cutis tegi.

Post, ut occasum resolvit vitae et hominem reddidit, arduum tribunal victor adscendit Patris, inclitam caelo reportans passionis gloriam. 105

Macte index mortuorum, macte rex viventium, dexter in parentis arce qui cluis virtutibus omnium venturus inde iustus ultor criminum.

Te senes et te iuventus, parvulorum te chorus, turba matrum virginumque simplices puellulae, 110 voce concordes pudicis perstrepant concentibus.

Fluminum lapsus et undae, littorum crepidines, imber, aestus, nix, pruina, silva, et aura, nox, dies, omnibus te concelebrent seculorum seculis.


Let me chant in sacred numbers, as I strike each sounding string, Chant in sweet, melodious anthems, glorious deeds of Christ our King; He, my Muse, shall be thy story; with His praise my lyre shall ring.

When the king in priestly raiment sang the Christ that was to be, Voice and lute and clashing cymbal joined in joyous harmony, While the Spirit, heaven-descended, touched his lips to prophecy.

Sing we now the works sure proven, wrought of God in mystic wise; Heaven is witness; earth confesses how she saw with wondering eyes God Himself with mortals mingling, man to teach in human guise.

Of the Father's heart begotten, ere the world from chaos rose, He is Alpha; from that Fountain all that is and hath been flows; He is Omega, of all things yet to come the mystic Close.

By His word was all created; He commands and lo! 'tis done; Earth and sky and boundless ocean, universe of three in one, All that sees the moon's soft radiance, all that breathes beneath the sun.

He assumed this mortal body, frail and feeble, doomed to die, That the race from dust created might not perish utterly, Which the dreadful Law had sentenced in the depths of Hell to lie.

O how blest that wondrous birthday, when the Maid the curse retrieved, Brought to birth mankind's salvation, by the Holy Ghost conceived; And the sacred Babe, Redeemer of the world, her arms received.

Sing, ye heights of heaven, His praises; angels and archangels, sing! Wheresoe'er ye be, ye faithful, let your joyous anthems ring, Every tongue His name confessing, countless voices answering.

This is He whom seer and sibyl sang in ages long gone by; This is He of old revealed in the page of prophecy; Lo! He comes, the promised Saviour; let the world His praises cry!

In the urns the clear, cold water turns to juice of noblest vine, And the servant, drawing from them, starts to see the generous wine, While the host, its savour tasting, wonders at the draught divine.

To the leper worn and wasted, white with many a loathsome sore, "Be thou cleansed," He said; "I bid it!" swift 'tis done, His words restore; To the priest the gift he offers, clean and healthful as of yore.

On the eyes long sealed in darkness, buried in unbroken night, Thou didst spread Thy lips' sweet nectar, mixed with clay: then came the sight, As Thy gracious touch all-healing brought to those dark orbs the light.

Thou didst chide the raging tempest, when the waves with foaming crest Leaped about the fragile vessel, buffeted and sore distressed; Wind and wave, their fury stilling, sank to calm at Thy behest.

Once a woman's timid fingers touched Thy garment's lowest braid, And the pallor left her visage, healing power the touch conveyed, For the years of pain were ended and the flow of blood was stayed.

Thou didst see men bear to burial one struck down in youth's glad tide, While a widowed mother followed, wailing for her boy that died; "Rise!" Thou saidst, and led him gently to his weeping mother's side.

Lazarus, who lay in darkness till three nights had passed away, At Thy voice awoke to soundness, rising to the light of day, As the breath his frame re-entered touched already with decay.

See, He walks upon the waters, treads the billow's rolling crest; O'er the shifting depths of ocean firm and sure His footsteps rest, And the wave parts not asunder where those holy feet are pressed.

And the madman, chained and tortured by dark powers, from whom all fly, As the tombs, that were his dwelling, echo to his savage cry, Rushes forth and falls adoring, when he sees that Christ is nigh.

Then the legion of foul spirits, driven from their human prey, Seize the noisome swine, that feeding high upon the hillside stray, And the herd, in sudden frenzy, plunges in the waters grey.

"Gather in twelve woven baskets all the fragments that remain:" He hath fed the weary thousands, resting o'er the grassy plain, And His power hath stayed their hunger with five loaves and fishes twain.

Thine, O Christ, is endless sweetness; Thou art our celestial Bread: Nevermore he knoweth hunger, who upon Thy grace hath fed, Grace whereby no mortal body but the soul is nourished.

They that knew not speech nor language, closed to every sound their ears, To the Master's call responding break the barriers of years; Now the deaf holds joyous converse and the lightest whisper hears.

Sickness at His word departed, pain and pallid languor fled, Many a tongue, long chained in silence, words of praise and blessing said; And the palsied man rejoicing through the city bore his bed.

Yea, that they might know salvation who in Hades' prison were pent, In His mercy condescending through Hell's gloomy gates He went; Bolt and massy hinge were shattered, adamantine portals rent.

For the door that all receiveth, but releaseth nevermore, Opens now and, slowly turning, doth the ghosts to light restore, Who, the eternal laws suspended, tread again its dusky floor.

But, while God with golden glory floods the murky realms of night, And upon the startled shadows dawns a day serene and bright, In the darkened vault of heaven stars forlorn refuse their light.

For the sun in garb of mourning veiled his radiant orb and passed From his flaming path in sorrow, hiding till mankind aghast Deemed that o'er a world of chaos Night's eternal pall was cast.

Now, my soul, in liquid measures let the sounding numbers flow; Sing the trophy of His passion, sing the Cross triumphant now; Sing the ensign of Christ's glory, marked on every faithful brow.

Ah! how wondrous was the fountain flowing from His pierced side, Whence the blood and water mingled in a strange and sacred tide,— Water, sign of mystic cleansing; blood, the martyr's crown of pride.

In that hour the ancient Serpent saw the holy Victim slain, Saw, and shed his hate envenomed, all his malice spent in vain; See! the hissing neck is broken as he writhes in sullen pain.

Aye, what boots it, cursed Serpent, that the man God made from clay, Victim of thy baleful cunning, by thy lies was led astray? God hath ta'en a mortal body and hath washed the guilt away.

Christ, our Captain, for a season deigned to dwell in Death's domain, That the dead, long time imprisoned, might return to life again, Breaking by His great example ancient sins' enthralling chain.

Thus, upon the third glad morning, patriarchs and saints of yore, As the risen Lord ascended, followed Him who went before, From forgotten graves proceeding, habited in flesh once more.

Limb to limb unites and rises from the ashes dry and cold, And the life-blood courses warmly through the frames long turned to mould, Skin and flesh, anew created, muscle, bone and nerve enfold.

Then, mankind to life restoring, Death downtrodden 'neath His feet, Lo! the Victor mounts triumphant to the Father's judgment-seat, Bringing back to heaven the glory by His passion made complete.

Hail! Thou Judge of souls departed: hail! of all the living King! On the Father's right hand throned, through His courts Thy praises ring, Till at last for all offences righteous judgment Thou shalt bring.

Now let old and young uniting chant to Thee harmonious lays, Maid and matron hymn Thy glory, infant lips their anthem raise, Boys and girls together singing with pure heart their song of praise.

Let the storm and summer sunshine, gliding stream and sounding shore, Sea and forest, frost and zephyr, day and night their Lord adore; Let creation join to laud Thee through the ages evermore.


Deus ignee fons animarum, duo qui socians elementa vivum simul ac moribundum hominem Pater effigiasti:

Tua sunt, tua rector utraque, 5 tibi copula iungitur horum, tibi, dum vegetata cohaerent, et spiritus et caro servit.

Rescissa sed ista seorsum solvunt hominera perimuntque, 10 humus excipit arida corpus, animae rapit aura liquorem.

Quia cuncta creata necesse est labefacta senescere tandem, conpactaque dissociari, 15 et dissona texta retexi.

Hanc tu, Deus optime, mortem famulis abolere paratus iter inviolabile monstras, quo perdita membra resurgant: 20

Ut, dum generosa caducis ceu carcere clausa ligantur, pars illa potentior extet, quae germen ab aethere traxit.

Si terrea forte voluntas 25 luteum sapit et grave captat, animus quoque pondere victus sequitur sua membra deorsum.

At si generis memor ignis contagia pigra recuset, 30 vehit hospita viscera secum, pariterque reportat ad astra.

Nam quod requiescere corpus vacuum sine mente videmus, spatium breve restat, ut alti 35 repetat conlegia sensus.

Venient cito secula, cum iam socius calor ossa revisat animataque sanguine vivo habitacula pristina gestet. 40

Quae pigra cadavera pridem tumulis putrefacta iacebant, volucres rapientur in auras animas comitata priores.

Hinc maxima cura sepulcris 45 inpenditur: hinc resolutos honor ultimus accipit artus et funeris ambitus ornat.

Candore nitentia claro praetendere lintea mos est, 50 adspersaque myrrha Sabaeo corpus medicamine servat.

Quidnam sibi saxa cavata, quid pulchra volunt monumenta, nisi quod res creditur illis 55 non mortua, sed data somno?

Hoc provida Christicolarum pietas studet, utpote credens fore protinus omnia viva, quae nunc gelidus sopor urget. 60

Qui iacta cadavera passim miserans tegit aggere terrae, opus exhibet ille benignum Christo pius omnipotenti:

Quin lex eadem monet omnes 65 gemitum dare sorte sub una, cognataque funera nobis aliena in morte dolere.

Sancti sator ille Tobiae sacer ac venerabilis heros, 70 dapibus iam rite paratis ius praetulit exequiarum.

Iam stantibus ille ministris cyathos et fercula liquit, studioque accinctus humandi 75 fleto dedit ossa sepulcro.

Veniunt mox praemia caelo pretiumque rependitur ingens: nam lumina nescia solis Deus inlita felle serenat. 80

Iam tunc docuit Pater orbis, quam sit rationis egenis mordax et amara medela, cum lux animum nova vexat.

Docuit quoque non prius ullum 85 caelestia cernere regna, quam nocte et vulnere tristi toleraverit aspera mundi.

Mors ipsa beatior inde est, quod per cruciamina leti 90 via panditur ardua iustis et ad astra doloribus itur.

Sic corpora mortificata redeunt melioribus annis, nec post obitum recalescens 95 conpago fatiscere novit.

Haec, quae modo pallida tabo color albidus inficit ora, tunc flore venustior omni sanguis cute tinget amoena. 100

Iam nulla deinde senectus frontis decus invida carpet, macies neque sicca lacertos suco tenuabit adeso.

Morbus quoque pestifer, artus 105 qui nunc populatur anhelos, sua tunc tormenta resudans luet inter vincula mille.

Hunc eminus aere ab alto victrix caro iamque perennis 110 cernet sine fine gementem quos moverat ipse dolores.

Quid turba superstes inepta clangens ululamina miscet, cur tam bene condita iura 115 luctu dolor arguit amens?

Iam maesta quiesce querela, lacrimas suspendite matres, nullus sua pignora plangat, mors haec reparatio vitae est. 120

Sic semina sicca virescunt iam mortua iamque sepulta, quae reddita caespite ab imo veteres meditantur aristas.

Nunc suscipe terra fovendum, 125 gremioque hunc concipe molli: hominis tibi membra sequestro generosa et fragmina credo.

Animae fuit haec domus olim factoris ab ore creatae, 130 fervens habitavit in istis sapientia principe Christo.

Tu depositum tege corpus, non inmemor illa requiret sua munera fictor et auctor 135 propriique aenigmata vultus.

Veniant modo tempora iusta, cum spem Deus inpleat omnem; reddas patefacta necesse est, qualem tibi trado figuram. 140

Non, si cariosa vetustas dissolverit ossa favillis, fueritque cinisculus arens minimi mensura pugilli.

Nec, si vaga flamina et aurae 145 vacuum per inane volantes tulerint cum pulvere nervos, hominem periisse licebit.

Sed dum resolubile corpus revocas, Deus, atque reformas, 150 quanam regione iubebis animam requiescere puram?

Gremio senis addita sancti recubabit, ut est Eleazar, quem floribus undique septum 155 Dives procul adspicit ardens.

Sequimur tua dicta redemptor, quibus atra morte triumphans tua per vestigia mandas socium crucis ire latronem. 160

Patet ecce fidelibus ampli via lucida iam paradisi, licet et nemus illud adire, homini quod ademerat anguis.

Illic precor, optime ductor, 165 famulam tibi praecipe mentem genitali in sede sacrari, quam liquerat exul et errans.

Nos tecta fovebimus ossa violis et fronde frequenti, 170 titulumque et frigida saxa liquido spargemus odore.


Fountain of life, supernal Fire, Who didst unite in wondrous wise The soul that lives, the clay that dies, And mad'st them Man: eternal Sire,

Both elements Thy will obey, Thine is the bond that joins the twain, And, while united they remain, Spirit and body own Thy sway.

Yet they must one day disunite, Sunder in death this mortal frame; Dust to the dust from whence it came, The spirit to its heavenward flight.

For all created things must wane, And age must break the bond at last; The diverse web that Life held fast Death's fingers shall unweave again.

Yet, gracious God, Thou dost devise The death of Death for all Thine own; The path of safety Thou hast shown Whereby the doomed limbs may rise:

So that, while fragile bonds of earth Man's noblest essence still enfold, That part may yet the sceptre hold Which from pure aether hath its birth.

For if the earthy will hold sway, By gross desires and aims possessed, The soul, too, by the weight oppressed, Follows the body's downward way.

But if she scorn the guilt that mars— Still mindful of her fiery sphere— She bears the flesh, her comrade here, Back to her home beyond the stars.

The lifeless body we restore To earth, must slumber free from pain A little while, that it may gain The spirit's fellowship once more.

The years will pass with rapid pace Till through these limbs the life shall flow, And the long-parted spirit go To seek her olden dwelling-place.

Then shall the body, that hath lain And turned to dust in slow decay, On airy wings be borne away And join its ancient soul again.

Therefore our tenderest care we spend Upon the grave: and mourners go With solemn dirge and footstep slow— Love's last sad tribute to a friend.

With fair white linen we enfold The dear dead limbs, and richest store Of Eastern unguents duly pour Upon the body still and cold.

Why hew the rocky tomb so deep, Why raise the monument so fair, Save that the form we cherish there Is no dead thing, but laid to sleep?

This is the faithful ministry Of Christian men, who hold it true That all shall one day live anew Who now in icy slumber lie.

And he whose pitying hand shall lay Some friendless outcast 'neath the sod, E'en to the almighty Son of God Doth that benignant service pay.

For this same law doth bid us mourn Man's common fate, when strangers die, And pay the tribute of a sigh, As when our kin to rest are borne.

Of holy Tobit ye have read, (Grave father of a pious son), Who, though the feast was set, would run To do his duty by the dead.

Though waiting servants stood around, From meat and drink he turned away And girt himself in haste to lay The bones with weeping in the ground.

Soon Heaven his righteous zeal repays With rich reward; the eyes long blind In bitter gall strange virtue find And open to the sun's clear rays.

Thus hath our Heavenly Father shown How sharp and bitter is the smart When sudden on the purblind heart The Daystar's healing light is thrown.

He taught us, too, that none may gaze Upon the heavenly demesne Ere that in darkness and in pain His feet have trod the world's rough ways.

So unto death itself is given Strange bliss, when mortal agony Opens the way that leads on high And pain is but the path to Heaven.

Thus to a far serener day Our body from the grave returns; Eternal life within it burns That knows nor languor nor decay.

These faces now so pinched and pale, That marks of lingering sickness show, Then fairer than the rose shall glow And bloom with youth that ne'er shall fail.

Ne'er shall crabbed age their beauty dim With wrinkled brow and tresses grey, Nor arid leanness eat away The vigour of the rounded limb.

Racked with his own destroying pains Shall fell Disease, who now attacks Our aching frames, his force relax Fast fettered in a thousand chains:

While from its far celestial throne The immortal body, victor now, Shall watch its old tormentor bow And in eternal tortures groan.

Why do the clamorous mourners wail In bootless sorrow murmuring? And why doth grief unreasoning God's righteous ordinance assail?

Hushed be your voices, ye that mourn; Ye weeping mothers, dry the tear; Let none lament for children dear, For man through Death to Life is born.

So do dry seeds grow green again, Now dead and buried in the earth, And rising to a second birth Clothe as of old the verdant plain.

Take now, O earth, the load we bear, And cherish in thy gentle breast This mortal frame we lay to rest, The poor remains that were so fair.

For they were once the soul's abode, That by God's breath created came; And in them, like a living flame, Christ's precious gift of wisdom glowed.

Guard thou the body we have laid Within thy care, till He demand The creature fashioned by His hand And after His own image made.

The appointed time soon may we see When God shall all our hopes fulfil, And thou must render to His will Unchanged the charge we give to thee.

For though consumed by mould and rust Man's body slowly fades away, And years of lingering decay Leave but a handful of dry dust;

Though wandering winds, that idly fly, Should his disparted ashes bear Through all the wide expanse of air, Man may not perish utterly.

Yet till Thou dost build up again This mortal structure by Thy hand, In what far world wilt Thou command The soul to rest, now free from stain?

In Abraham's bosom it shall dwell 'Mid verdant bowers, as Lazarus lies Whom Dives sees with longing eyes From out the far-off fires of hell.

We trust the words our Saviour said When, victor o'er grim Death, he cried To him who suffered at His side "In Mine own footsteps shalt thou tread."

See, open to the faithful soul, The shining paths of Paradise; Now may they to that garden rise Which from mankind the Serpent stole.

Guide him, we pray, to that blest bourn, Who served Thee truly here below; May he the bliss of Eden know, Who strayed in banishment forlorn.

But we will honour our dear dead With violets and garlands strown, And o'er the cold and graven stone Shall fragrant odours still be shed.


Quid est, quod artum circulum sol iam recurrens deserit? Christusne terris nascitur, qui lucis auget tramitem?

Heu quam fugacem gratiam 5 festina volvebat dies, quam pene subductam facem sensim recisa extinxerat!

Caelum nitescat laetius, gratetur et gaudens humus, 10 scandit gradatim denuo iubar priores lineas.

Emerge dulcis pusio, quem mater edit castitas, parens et expers coniugis, 15 mediator et duplex genus.

Ex ore quamlibet Patris sis ortus et verbo editus, tamen paterno in pectore sophia callebas prius. 20

Quae prompta caelum condidit, caelum diemque et cetera, virtute verbi effecta sunt haec cuncta: nam verbum Deus.

Sed ordinatis seculis, 25 rerumque digesto statu fundator ipse et artifex permansit in Patris sinu,

donec rotata annalium transvolverentur milia, 30 atque ipse peccantem diu dignatus orbera viseret.

Nam caeca vis mortalium venerans inanes nenias vel aera vel saxa algida, 35 vel ligna credebat Deum.

Haec dum sequuntur, perfidi praedonis in ius venerant, et mancipatam fumido vitam barathro inmerserant: 40

Stragem sed istam non tulit Christus cadentum gentium inpune ne forsan sui Patris periret fabrica.

Mortale corpus induit, 45 ut excitato corpore mortis catenam frangeret hominemque portaret Patri.

Hic ille natalis dies, quo te creator arduus 50 spiravit et limo indidit sermone carnem glutinans.

Sentisne, virgo nobilis, matura per fastidia pudoris intactum decus 55 honore partus crescere?

O quanta rerum gaudia alvus pudica continet, ex qua novellum seculum procedit et lux aurea! 60

Vagitus ille exordium vernantis orbis prodidit, nam tunc renatus sordidum mundus veternum depulit.

Sparsisse tellurem reor 65 rus omne densis floribus, ipsasque arenas syrtium fragrasse nardo et nectare.

Te cuncta nascentem puer sensere dura et barbara, 70 victusque saxorum rigor obduxit herbam cotibus.

Iam mella de scopulis fluunt, iam stillat ilex arido sudans amomum stipite, 75 iam sunt myricis balsama.

O sancta praesepis tui, aeterne rex, cunabula, populisque per seclum sacra mutis et ipsis credita. 80

Adorat haec brutum pecus indocta turba scilicet, adorat excors natio, vis cuius in pastu sita est.

Sed cum fideli spiritu 85 concurrat ad praesepia pagana gens et quadrupes, sapiatque quod brutum fuit:

Negat patrum prosapia perosa praesentem Deum: 90 credas venenis ebriam furiisve lymphatam rapi.

Quid prona per scelus ruis? agnosce, si quidquam tibi mentis resedit integrae, 95 ducem tuorum principum.

Hunc, quem latebra et obstetrix, et virgo feta, et cunulae et inbecilla infantia regem dederunt gentibus, 100

peccator intueberis celsum coruscis nubibus, deiectus ipse et inritus plangens reatum fletibus:

Cum vasta signum bucina 105 terris cremandis miserit, et scissus axis cardinem mundi ruentis solverit:

Insignis ipse et praeminens meritis rependet congrua, 110 his lucis usum perpetis, illis gehennam et tartarum.

Iudaea tunc fulmen crucis experta, qui sit, senties, quem te furoris praesule 115 mors hausit et mox reddidit.


Why doth the sun re-orient take A wider range, his limits break? Lo! Christ is born, and o'er earth's night Shineth from more to more the light!

Too swiftly did the radiant day Her brief course run and pass away: She scarce her kindly torch had fired Ere slowly fading it expired.

Now let the sky more brightly beam, The earth take up the joyous theme: The orb a broadening pathway gains And with its erstwhile splendour reigns.

Sweet babe, of chastity the flower, A virgin's blest mysterious dower! Rise in Thy twofold nature's might: Rise, God and man to reunite!

Though by the Father's will above Thou wert begot, the Son of Love, Yet in His bosom Thou didst dwell, Of Wisdom the eternal Well;

Wisdom, whereby the heavens were made And light's foundations first were laid: Creative Word! all flows from Thee! The Word is God eternally.

For though with process of the suns The ordered whole harmonious runs, Still the Artificer Divine Leaves not the Father's inmost shrine.

The rolling wheels of Time had passed O'er their millennial journey vast, Before in judgment clad He came Unto the world long steeped in shame.

The purblind souls of mortals crass Had trusted gods of stone and brass, To things of nought their worship paid And senseless blocks of wood obeyed.

And thus employed, they fell below The sway of man's perfidious foe: Plunged in the smoky sheer abyss They sank bereft of their true bliss.

But that sore plight of ruined man Christ's pity could not lightly scan: Nor let God's building nobly wrought Ingloriously be brought to nought.

He wrapped Him in our fleshly guise, That from the tomb He might arise, And man released from death's grim snare Home to His Father's bosom bear.

This is the day of Thy dear birth, The bridal of the heaven and earth, When the Creator breathed on Thee The breath of pure humanity.

Ah! glorious Maid, dost thou not guess What guerdon thy chaste soul shall bless, How by thy ripening pangs is bought An honour greater than all thought?

O what a load of joy untold Thy womb inviolate doth hold! Of thee a golden age is born, The brightness of the earth's new morn!

Hearken! doth not the infant's wail The universal springtide hail? For now the world re-born lays by Its gloomy, frost-bound apathy.

Methinks in all her rustic bowers The earth is spread with clustering flowers: Odours of nard and nectar sweet E'en o'er the sands of Syrtes fleet.

All places rough and deserts wild Have felt from far Thy coming, Child: Rocks to Thy gentle empire bow And verdure clothes the mountain brow.

Sweet honey from the boulder leaps: The sere and leafless oak-bough weeps A strange rich attar: tamarisks too Of balsam pure distil the dew.

Blessed for ever, cradle dear, The lowly stall, the cavern drear! Men to this shrine, Eternal King, With dumb brutes adoration bring.

The ox and ass in homage low Obedient to their Maker bow: Bows too the unlearn'd heartless crowd Whose minds the sensual feast doth cloud.

Though, by the faithful Spirit impelled, Shepherds and brutes, unreasoning held, Yea, folk that did in darkness dwell Discern their God in His poor cell:

Yet children of the sacred race Blindly abhor the Incarnate grace: By philtres you might deem them lulled Or by some bacchic phrenzy dulled.

Why headlong thus to ruin stride? If aught of soundness in you bide, Behold in Him the Lord divine Of all your patriarchal line.

Mark you the dim-lit cave, the Maid, The humble nurse, the cradle laid, The helpless infancy forlorn: Yet thus the Gentiles' King was born!

Ah sinner, thou shalt one day see This Child in dreadful majesty, See Him in glorious clouds descend, While thou thy guilty heart shalt rend.

Vain all thy tears, when loud shall sound The trump, when flames shall scorch the ground, When from its hinge the cloven world Is loosed, in horrid tumult hurled.

Then throned on high, the Judge of all Shall mortals to their reckoning call: To these shall grant the prize of light, To those Gehenna's gloomy night.

Then, Israel, shalt thou learn at length The Cross hath, as the lightning, strength: Doomed by thy wrath, He now is Lord, Whom Death once grasped but soon restored.


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

Haec stella, quae solis rotam 5 vincit decore ac lumine, venisse terris nuntiat cum carne terrestri Deum.

Non illa servit noctibus secuta lunam menstruam, 10 sed sola caelum possidens cursum dierum temperat.

Arctoa quamvis sidera in se retortis motibus obire nolint, attamen 15 plerumque sub nimbis latent.

Hoc sidus aeternum manet, haec stella nunquam mergitur, nec nubis occursu abdita obumbrat obductam facem. 20

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

En Persici ex orbis sinu, 25 sol unde sumit ianuam, cernunt periti interpretes regale vexillum Magi.

Quod ut refulsit, ceteri cessere signorum globi, 30 nec pulcher est ausus suam conferre formam Lucifer.

Quis iste tantus, inquiunt, regnator astris inperans, quem sic tremunt caelestia, 35 cui lux et aethra inserviunt.

Inlustre quiddam cernimus, quod nesciat finem pati, sublime, celsum, interminum, antiquius caelo et chao. 40

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

Aequanda nam stellis sua 45 cognovit olim germina primus sator credentium, nati inmolator unici.

Iam flos subit Davidicus radice Iesse editus, 50 sceptrique per virgam virens rerum cacumen occupat.

Exin sequuntur perciti fixis in altum vultibus, qua stella sulcum traxerat 55 claramque signabat viam.

Sed verticem pueri supra signum pependit inminens, pronaque submissum face caput sacratum prodidit. 60

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

Agnosce clara insignia 65 virtutis ac regni tui, puer o, cui trinam Pater praedestinavit indolem.

Regem Deumque adnuntiant thesaurus et fragrans odor 70 turis Sabaei, ac myrrheus pulvis sepulcrum praedocet.

Hoc est sepulcrum, quo Deus, dum corpus extingui sinit atque id sepultum suscitat, 75 mortis refregit carcerem.

O sola magnarum urbium maior Bethlem, cui contigit ducem salutis caelitus incorporatum gignere. 80

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

Hunc et prophetis testibus 85 isdemque signatoribus, testator et sator iubet adire regnum et cernere:

Regnum, quod ambit omnia diva et marina et terrea 90 a solis ortu ad exitum et tartara et caelum supra.

Audit tyrannus anxius adesse regum principem, qui nomen Israel regat 95 teneatque David regiam.

Exclamat amens nuntio, successor instat, pellimur; satelles i, ferrum rape, perfunde cunas sanguine. 100

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

Suspecta per Bethlem mihi 105 puerperarum est omnium fraus, ne qua furtim subtrahat prolem virilis indolis.

Transfigit ergo carnifex mucrone destricto furens 110 effusa nuper corpora, animasque rimatur novas.

Locum minutis artubus vix interemptor invenit, quo plaga descendat patens 115 iuguloque maior pugio est.

O barbarum spectaculum! inlisa cervix cautibus spargit cerebrum lacteum oculosque per vulnus vomit. 120

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

Salvete flores martyrum, 125 quos lucis ipso in limine Christi insecutor sustulit, ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Christi victima, grex inmolatorum tener, 130 aram ante ipsam simplices palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas, quid crimen Herodem iuvat? unus tot inter funera 135 inpune Christus tollitur.

Inter coaevi sanguinis fluenta solus integer ferrum, quod orbabat nurus, partus fefellit virginis. 140

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

Cautum et statutum ius erat, 145 quo non liceret matribus, cum pondus alvi absolverent, puerile pignus tollere.

Mens obstetricis sedulae pie in tyrannum contumax 150 ad spem potentis gloriae furata servat parvulum:

Quem mox sacerdotem sibi adsumpsit orbis conditor, per quem notatam saxeis 155 legem tabellis traderet.

Licetne Christum noscere tanti per exemplum viri? dux ille caeso Aegyptio absolvit Israel iugo. 160

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

Hic expiatam fluctibus 165 plebem marino in transitu repurgat undis dulcibus, lucis columnam praeferens:

Hic praeliante exercitu, pansis in altum brachiis, 170 sublimis Amalech premit, crucis quod instar tunc fuit.

Hic nempe Iesus verior, qui longa post dispendia victor suis tribulibus 175 promissa solvit iugera.

Qui ter quaternas denique refluentis amnis alveo fundavit et fixit petras, apostolorum stemmata. 180

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

Hic rex priorum iudicum, 185 rexere qui Iacob genus, dominaeque rex ecclesiae, templi et novelli et pristini.

Hunc posteri Efrem colunt, hunc sancta Manasse domus 190 omnesque suspiciunt tribus bis sena fratrum semina.

Quin et propago degener ritum secuta inconditum, quaecumque dirum fervidis 195 Baal caminis coxerat,

fumosa avorum numina saxum, metallum, stipitem, rasum, dolatum, sectile, in Christi honorem deserit. 200

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

Laudate vestrum principem 205 omnes beati, ac perditi, vivi, inbecilli ac mortui: iam nemo posthac mortuus.


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 jagged 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.


Inmolat Deo Patri pius, fidelis, innocens, pudicus dona conscientiae, quibus beata mens abundat intus: alter et pecuniam 5 recidit, unde victitent egeni. Nos citos iambicos sacramus et rotatiles trochaeos, sanctitatis indigi nec ad levamen pauperum potentes; 10 adprobat tamen Deus pedestre carmen, et benignus audit. Multa divitis domo sita est per omnes angulos supellex. Fulget aureus scyphus, 15 nec aere defit expolita pelvis: est et olla fictilis, gravisque et ampla argentea est parabsis. Sunt eburna quaepiam, nonnulla quercu sunt cavata et ulmo: 20 omne vas fit utile, quod est ad usum congruens herilem, Instruunt enim domum ut empta magno, sic parata ligno. Me paterno in atrio 25 ut obsoletum vasculum caducis Christus aptat usibus, sinitque parte in anguli manere. Munus ecce fictile inimus intra regiam salutis; 30 attamen vel infimam Deo obsequelam praestitisse prodest. Quidquid illud accidit, iuvabit ore personasse Christum.


The pure and faithful saint, whose heart is whole, To God the Father makes his sacrifice From out the treasures of a stainless soul, Glad gifts of innocence, beyond all price: Another with free hand bestows his gold, Whereby his needy neighbour may be fed. No wealth of holiness my heart doth hold, No store have I to buy my brothers bread: So here I humbly dedicate to Thee The rolling trochee and iambus swift; Thou wilt approve my simple minstrelsy, Thine ear will listen to Thy servant's gift. The rich man's halls are nobly furnished; Therein no nook or corner empty seems; Here stands the brazen laver burnished, And there the golden goblet brightly gleams; Hard by some crock of clumsy earthen ware, Massive and ample lies a silver plate; And rough-hewn cups of oak or elm are there With vases carved of ivory delicate. Yet every vessel in its place is good, So be it for the Master's service meet; The priceless salver and the bowl of wood Alike He needs to make His home complete. Therefore within His Father's spacious hall Christ fits me for the service of a day, Mean though I be, a vessel poor and small,— And in some lowly corner lets me stay. Lo in the palace of the King of Kings I play the earthen pitcher's humble part; Yet to have done Him meanest service brings A thrill of rapture to my thankful heart: Whate'er the end, this thought will joy afford, My lips have sung the praises of my Lord.

This edition of the Cathemerinon of Prudentius has been prepared for the Temple Classics by Rev. R. MARTIN POPE, M.A. (St John's College, Cambridge, translator of the "Letters of John Hus"), who has done the translation of the Praefatio and Hymns i., ii., iii., viii., xi., xii., with notes thereon and the note on Prudentius. For the rendering of Hymns iv., v., vi., vii., ix., x., and the Epilogus with notes thereon, Mr R.F. DAVIS, M.A. (St John's College, Cambridge), is responsible. The text, with some minor alterations in orthography and punctuation, is that of Dressel (Lipsiae, 1860). The frontispiece is due to the kind suggestion of Dr SANDYS, Public Orator of Cambridge University, to whom the thanks of the translators are hereby presented.


AURELIUS PRUDENTIUS CLEMENS (to give his full title) was born, probably at Saragossa (Caesaraugusta), in Spain, in the year of our Lord 348. The fourth century exercised a profound influence alike on the destiny of the Roman Empire and of the Christian Church. After a long discipline, strangely alternating between fiery persecution and contemptuous toleration, the Church entered upon a new era, when in 323 Constantine, the first Christian emperor, became master of the Roman world. Two years later the Council of Nicaea met to utter its verdict on the Arian controversy and to establish the terms of the orthodox symbol. A generation later Julian took up the reins of empire and commenced his quixotic and fruitless attempt to revive the glories of Paganism. Athanasius died in 373: but fourteen years later Augustine, his successor in the championship of the faith, was baptized, and in 395, at the death of Theodosius, when the Empire was divided between Honorius and Arcadius, he became Bishop of Hippo, and was marked out by his saintliness and learning as the leader of the Western Church, which he shaped by his splendid ideal of the Civitas Dei into unity and stability, when the secular empire was falling into decay.

We know little more of the life of Prudentius than he himself has disclosed. The Preface, which stands as an introduction to his poems, is a miniature autobiography of great interest. M. Boissier in his Fin du Paganisme calls it melancolique: though it is rather the retrospect of a serious and awakened, but not morbid, conscience. Prudentius views his past years in the light of that new spiritual truth to which he has opened his soul. We gather that he received a liberal education and was called to the bar. We need not misunderstand the allusion to the deceitfulness of the barrister life, seeing that the ordinary arts of rhetoric stand condemned by his recently adopted ethical standard. He held two important judicial posts and was promoted to a high position, probably in the civil service and not outside the limits of his native province, the provincia Tarraconensis.

He speaks of himself as having reached the age of fifty-seven, which brings us down to 405, and as intending to consecrate his remaining years to the poetic treatment of religious subjects. When and how he became a Christian we do not know, and it were vain to guess, although the suggestion that he may have owed his conversion to the influence of some Christian family of his acquaintance is at least interesting. It is unlikely that he took up poetry for the first time in his old age. His mastery of all kinds of metre—heroic and lyric—prove the practised hand. The probability is that in the years of repose after a busy career his desire to redeem an unspiritual past suggested for the exercise of his natural gifts a field hitherto unoccupied by any of the writers of his age. Why not consecrate his powers to the task of interesting the literary circles of the Empire in the evangel of Christ? Why not present the truths of Christianity in a poetic guise, wrought into forms of beauty and set forth in the classical metres of Roman literature? This became the passion of his life, and however we may view the results of his toil, the spirit in which he went to work, as described in the touching Epilogue, cannot but evoke our profound admiration. He is but a vessel of earth, but whatever the issue may be, it will be a lasting joy to have sounded forth the praise of Christ in song.

This then is how Prudentius becomes the first poet of the Christian Church, or, as Bentley called him, "the Virgil and Horace of the Christians." Doubtless there were other influences at work to determine the sphere to which he was naturally attract. Ambrose, who was Bishop of Milan when Prudentius was twenty-six years of age, had written the first Latin hymns to be sung in church. Augustine in a familiar passage of the Confessions (ix. 7.) describes how "the custom arose of singing hymns and psalms, after the use of the Eastern provinces, to save the people from being utterly worn out by their long and sorrowful vigils." "From that day to this," he adds, "it has been retained and, many might say, all Thy flocks throughout the rest of the world now follow our example." To Ambrose and Augustine the Church of Christ is for ever indebted: to the latter for a devotional treatise which is the most familiar of all the writings of the fourth century: to the former for the hymns of praise which he composed and the practice of singing which he thus inaugurated in the worship of the Western Church. But the Church owes something also to Prudentius, a much more gifted poet than Ambrose. The collection of hymns known as the Cathemerinon or Hymns for the day is as little adapted for ecclesiastical worship as Keble's Christian Year, although excerpts from these poems have passed into the hymnology of the Church, just as portions of Keble's work have passed into most hymn books. For example, seven of these excerpts in the form of hymns are to be found in the Roman Breviary, and thus for centuries the lyrics of Prudentius have been sung in the daily services of the Church.

Seeing that Prudentius must address himself to most English readers through the imperfect medium of a translation, it may be well to remind those who make their first acquaintance with him that a historical imagination is an indispensable condition of interest and sympathy. If Prudentius has a habit of leaving the main issue and making lengthy and tedious detours into the picturesque parables and miraculous incidents of the Old Testament, there is method in his digressiveness. He knows that one of the charms of Paganism lies in its rich and variegated mythology. Yet Christianity also can point to an even nobler inheritance of the supernatural and the wonderful in the mysterious evolutions of its history. Hence the stories of the early patriarchs, of the Israelites and Moses, of Daniel and Jonah, are imported by the poet as pictorial illustrations of his theme. If occasionally the details border on the grotesque, he certainly reveals a striking knowledge of the Old Testament.

The New Testament is also adequately represented. In one poem (ix.) the miracles of Christ in His earthly ministry and His descent into Hades are narrated with considerable spirit and eloquence. Besides being a student of the Bible, Prudentius is a theologian. His theology is that of the Nicene Creed. The Fall of man, the personality of the Tempter, the mystery of the Trinity and of the Incarnation, the Virgin-birth, the Death and Resurrection of Christ, the pains of the lost and the bliss of the saints, the resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting—these are the themes of his pen, the themes too of the theology of his age. If the poet's treatment of these truths occasionally appears antiquated and crude to modern ideas, it is at least dignified and intelligent. His mind has absorbed the Christian religion and the Christian theology, and he not unfrequently rises to noble heights in the interpretation of their mysteries. His didactic poems, the Hamartigenia or the Origin of Evil and the Apotheosis, a treatise on the Person of Christ, prove him to be a theologian of no mean calibre. He is also an allegorist, as is proved by the Psychomachia or the Battle of the Soul, a kind of Holy War which was very popular in the Middle Ages. He is a martyrologist: as witness the Peristephanon, a series of poems on Christian, principally Spanish, martyrs. Moreover, he is an undoubted patriot, and in the Contra Symmachum, which he wrote on the famous affair of the Altar of Victory, he proves that, while a Christian, he is also civis Romanus, loyal to the Empire and the powers that be. He is a skilful versifier, and in this connection the quatrains of the Dittochaeon, verses on themes of the Old and New Testaments, may be mentioned in order to complete the list of his works. His mastery of his very varied metres—hexameter, iambic, trochaic and sapphic—is undoubted: everywhere we note the influence of Virgil and Horace, even when these poets are not recalled by echoes of their diction which are constantly greeting the reader of his poems.

Reference has already been made to the influence of Ambrose of Milan upon the thought and style of Prudentius. But there is a second and even more powerful influence that deserves at least briefly to be noted—namely, the Christian art of the Catacombs. Apart from such definite statements as e.g. are found in Peristephanon xi., it is obvious that Prudentius had a first-hand knowledge of Rome and particularly of the Catacombs. Everywhere in his poems we find evidences of the deep impression made upon his imagination by the paintings and sculptures of subterranean Rome. The now familiar representations which decorate the remains of the Catacombs suggested to him many of the allusions, the picturesque vignettes and glowing descriptions to be found in his poetry. Thus, the story of Jonah—a common theme typifying the Resurrection—the story of Daniel with its obvious consolations for an age of martyrs, the Good Shepherd and the denial of Peter may be mentioned among the numerous subjects which were reproduced in early Christian art and transferred by the poet to his verse. The symbolism of the Cock, the Dove, and the Lamb borne on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd is a perpetually recurring feature in the lyrics and martyr-hymns of Prudentius, who thus becomes one of our most valuable authorities on the Christian art of the fourth century.

The poems, of which a new English rendering is presented in this volume, are acknowledged by most critics to illustrate some of his best qualities, his brightness and dignity, his touches of nature-painting and his capacity for sustained and well-wrought narrative. As we study these lyrics of the early Church, we feel anew the mighty change that Christianity wrought in Roman life by its doctrine of immortality, and we note the curious fascination which the circumstances of the Nativity and especially the Adoration of the Magi had for the Western world. Prudentius had a great vogue in the Middle Ages, and the modern renewal of interest in mediaevalism invests with fresh dignity a poet whose works at the Revival of learning provoked the admiration of Erasmus[1] and the researches of numerous scholars and editors. But it is undoubtedly to the student of ecclesiastical history and dogma and to the lovers of Christian art and antiquities that Prudentius most truly appeals. He claims our interest, not merely because he reflects the Christian environment of his days, but because his poetry represents an attempt to preach Christ to a world still fascinated by Paganism, while conscious that the old order was changing and yielding place to new.

[1] Prudentium, unum inter Christianos vere facundum poetam.




The word Cathemerinon is taken from the Greek and is the genitive of chathemerina "daily things": the whole title Liber Cathemerinon is equivalent to "Book of daily hymns," and may be rendered "Hymns for the Christian's day."


In one or two of the MSS. this introductory poem is stated to be a preface of the Cathemerinon only: but the great majority of the codices support the view which is undoubtedly suggested by internal evidence, that the poem is a general introduction to the whole of Prudentius' works. It is inserted together with the Epilogus in this volume, because of the intrinsic interest of both poems.


8 The reference is to the toga virilis, the ordinary white-coloured garb of a Roman citizen who at his sixteenth year laid aside the purple-edged toga praetexta, which was worn during the days of boyhood.

16 ff. The cities referred to are unknown: but it is probable that they were two municipia in Northern Spain, and that the office held by Prudentius was that of duumvir or prefect. Provision was made by the twenty-fourth clause of the law of Salpensa (a town in the provincia Baetica of Spain) by which the emperor could be elected first magistrate of a municipium, and could thereupon appoint a prefect to take his place. This would explain the language of the text as to the semi-imperial nature of the post. The phrase militiae gradus need only be taken to indicate advancement in the civil service. But the words have been interpreted in accordance with the more familiar and definite meaning of militia, and understood to refer to a purely military post. Dressel thinks that Prudentius was a miles Palatinus, that is, a member of the best-paid and most highly-privileged imperial troops, who furnished officers for some of the most lucrative posts in the provinces. Though in the translation the usual meaning has been given to militia, it must be regarded as uncertain in the absence of more definite information regarding the office held by Prudentius.

24 The consulship of Salia (or Salias) belongs to the year 348, the date of the birth of Prudentius. An inscription (quoted by Migne from Muratorius, Nov. Thes. Inscrip., i. 379) has been found in the monastery of St. Paul's outside the city bearing the words



1 Of this poem lines 1-8, 81-84, 97-100, were included in the Roman Breviary as a hymn to be sung at Lauds, on Tuesday.

2 The allusions to the cock in this and the following poem (ii. 37-55) were doubtless inspired by the lines of Ambrose in his morning hymn beginning Aeterne rerum conditor. Cf. ll. 5-8 and 16-24:

"praeco diei iam sonat noctis profundae pervigil, nocturna lux viantibus a nocte noctem segregans.

* * * * *

surgamus ergo strenue: gallus iacentes excitat, et somnolentos increpat: gallus negantes arguit.

gallo canente spes redit, aegris salus refunditur, mucro latronis conditur, lapsis fides revertitur."


"Dawn's herald now begins to cry, Lone watcher of the nightly sky: Light of the dark to pilgrims dear, Speeding successive midnights drear.

* * * * *

Brisk from our couch let us arise! Hark to the cock's arousing cries! He chides the sluggard's slumbrous ease, And shames his unconvincing pleas.

At cock-crow Hope revives again, Health banishes the stress of pain, Sheathed is the nightly robber's sword, And Faith to fallen hearts restored."

See also Ambrose, Hexaem., v. 24, for an eloquent passage in the same strain. The cock was the familiar Christian symbol of early rising or vigilance, and numerous representations of it are found in the Catacombs. Cf. the painting from the Catacomb of St. Priscilla reproduced in Bottari's folio of 1754, where the Good Shepherd is depicted as feeding the lambs, with a crowing cock on His right and left hand. It is also a symbol of the Resurrection, our Lord being supposed to have risen from the grave at the early cockcrowing: see l. 65 et seq. In l. 16 the first bird-notes are interpreted by the poet as a summons to the general judgment. Cf. Mark xiii. 35: "Ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning." This passage serves as a kind of text for Prudentius' first two hymns, and perhaps explains why he has one for cockcrowing and another for morning.

26 A common idea in all literatures. Cf. Virg., Aen., vi. 278 (taken from Homer), tum consanguineus Leti Sopor, and Tennyson's "Sleep, Death's twin-brother" (In Memoriam, 68).

44 Cf. Augustine, Serm. 103: "These evil spirits seek to seduce the soul: but when the sun has arisen, they take to flight."

59 The denial of Peter forms a subject of Christian casuistry in patristic literature, and this passage recalls the famous classical parallel in Euripides (Hipp. 612), "the tongue hath sworn: yet unsworn is the heart." Cf. Augustine, cont. mendacium: "In that denial he held fast the truth in his heart, while with his lips he uttered falsehood." For a striking representation of Peter and the cock, on a sarcophagus discovered in the Catacombs and now deposited in the Vatican library, see Maitland's Church in the Catacombs, p. 347. The closing words of the passage in Ambrose's Hexaemeron, already referred to under l. 2, may here be quoted: "As the cock peals forth his notes, the robber leaves his plots: Lucifer himself awakes and lights up the sky: the distressful sailor lays aside his gloom, and all the storms and tempests that have risen in fury under the winds of the evening begin to die down: the soul of the saint leaps to prayer and renews the study of the written word: and finally, the very Rock of the Church is cleansed of the stain he had contracted by his denials before the cock crew."

81 ff. The best commentary on these words is to be found in the following passage from the second epistle of Basil to Gregory Nazianzen: "What can be more blessed than to imitate on earth the angelic host by giving oneself at the peep of dawn to prayer and by turning at sunrise to work with hymns and songs: yea, all the day through to make prayer the accompaniment of our toils and to season them with praise as with salt? For the solace of hymns changes the soul's sadness into mirth."


1 This poem furnishes two hymns to the Roman Breviary, one to be sung on Wednesday at Lauds, and consisting of ll. 1-8, 48-53 (omitting l. 50), 57, 59, 60, 67 (tu vera lux caelestium) and 68: the other for Thursday at Lauds, consisting of ll. 25 (lux ecce surgit aurea), 93-108.

17 Cf. Ambrose, ii. 8, de Cain et Abel: "The thief shuns the day as the witness of his crime: the adulterer is abashed by the dawn as the accomplice of his adultery."

51 The practice of praying on bended knees is frequently referred to in early Christian writers. Cf. Clem., 1 Ad. Cor. cc. xlviii.: "Let us fall down before the Lord," and Shepherd of Hermas, vis. 1. i.: "After I had crossed that river I came unto the banks and there knelt down and began to pray." Dressel quotes from Juvencus (iv. 648), a Spanish poet and Christian contemporary of Prudentius, genibus nixi regem dominumque salutant, "on bended knees they make obeisance unto their King and Lord."

63 The Jordan is a poetical figure for baptism, suggested doubtless by the baptism of our Lord in that river. Cf. vii. 73-75.

67 Cf. Milton, Paradise Regained, i. 293: "So spake our Morning Star, then in his rise." The figure is suggested by Rev. xxii. 16: "I am ... the bright, the morning star."

105 The conception of God as speculator may be paralleled by a passage in the epistle of Polycarp ad Philipp. iv., where God is described as the Arch-critic (panta momoschopeitai) and subsequently (vii.) as ton pantepopten theon, "the All-witnessing God." The last verse contains a distinct echo of the closing words of the fourth chapter of Polycarp: "None of the reasonings or thoughts, nor any of the hidden things of the heart escape His notice."


2 Word-begot. The original verbigena, on the analogy of such words (cf. terrigena, Martigena, etc.), can only mean "begotten of the Word." It is evident, therefore, the "Word" in this connection is not the Johannine Logos or Second Person in the Trinity. Prudentius cannot be guilty of the error which he expressly condemns (Apoth. 249) as perquam ridiculum and regard the Logos as begetting Himself. Consequently, both in this passage and in xi. 18 (verbo editus) the "Word" must be taken as approximating rather to the Alexandrian conception of the Logos as the Divine Reason. In this way Christ is expressly described as the offspring of the Intellectus Dei, the immanent Intelligence of the Deity. If this conception is considered to be beyond Prudentius, we can only suppose that both here and in xi. 18, his language is theologically loose. Some excuse may be offered for this on the ground that the Latin language is ill-adapted for expressing metaphysical truths. The late Bishop Westcott remarked on the inadequacy of the Latin original of "the Word was made flesh" (verbum caro factum est), both substantive and verb falling short of the richness of their Greek equivalents. (Vid. also note on iv. 15.)

11 Cf. Ambrose, Hymn vii.:—

"Christusque nobis sit cibus Potusque noster sit fides; Laeti bibamus sobriam Ebrietatem Spiritus."


"May Christ be now the Bread we eat, Be simple Faith our potion sweet: Let our intoxication be The Spirit's calm sobriety."

The idea is familiar to readers of Herbert and Herrick, though it is elaborated by them with quaint conceits somewhat foreign to the Latin poet. Cf. Herbert, The Banquet:—

"O what sweetnesse from the bowl Fills my soul!

* * * * *

Is some starre (fled from the sphere) Melted there, As we sugar melt in wine?

* * * * *

Doubtless neither starre nor flower Hath the power Such a sweetnesse to impart: Only God, Who gives perfumes, Flesh assumes, And with it perfumed my heart."

Also Herrick, A Thanksgiving to God:—

"Lord, I confess too, when I dine, The pulse is thine.

* * * * *

'Tis thou that crown'st my glittering hearth With guiltless mirth, And giv'st me wassail bowls to drink, Spiced to the brink."

28 The original dactylico refers to the metre of the Latin of this poem. For a rendering of ll. 1-65 in the metre of the original see Glover, Life and Letters in the Fourth Century, pp. 267-269.

58 This and the following lines should satisfy the most ardent vegetarian who seeks to uphold his abstinence from animal food by the customs of the early Church. In Christian circles, however, the abstinence was practised on personal and spiritual grounds, e.g., Jerome (de Regul. Monach., xi.) says, "The eating of flesh is the seed-plot of lust" (seminarium libidinis): so also Augustine (de moribus Ecc. Cath., i. 33), who supports what doubtless was the view of Prudentius, namely that the avoidance of animal flesh was a safe-guard but not a binding Christian duty.

75 Unwed. Prudentius thus adopts the view of the ancient world on the question of the generation of bees. Cf. Virgil, Geo. iv. 198, and Pliny, Nat. Hist., xi. 16. Dryden's translation of Virgil (l.c.) is as follows:—

"But (what's more strange) their modest appetites, Averse from Venus, fly the nuptial rights; No lust enervates their heroic mind, Nor wastes their strength on wanton womankind, But in their mouths reside their genial powers, They gather children from the leaves and flowers."

86 Cf. Ps. liv. 18, 19 (Vulg.): Vespere et mane et meridie narrabo et annuntiabo et exaudiet vocem meam. "In the evening and morning and at noonday will I pray, and that instantly and he shall hear my voice" (P. B. Version).

127 This is, strictly speaking, an error: it is the woman's seed which is to bruise the serpent's head. The error was perpetuated in the Latin Church by the Vulgate of Gen. iii. 15, ipsa conteret caput tuum, where ipsa refers to the woman (= she herself).

157 The epithet "white-robed" refers to the newly-baptized converts who received the white robe as a symbol of their new nature. Cf. Perist. i. 67: Christus illic candidatis praesidet cohortibus, and Ambrose (de Mysteriis, vii.): "Thou didst receive (that is, after baptism) white garments as a sign that thou hast doffed the covering of thy sins and put on the chaste raiment (velamina) of innocence, whereof the prophet spake (Ps. li. 7), 'Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow'" (Vulg.).

199 Phlegethon (rendered "Hell"), one of the rivers of the Virgilian Hades, is used to express the abode of the lost. Cf. Milton, P. L., ii. 580:—

"... fierce Phlegethon, Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage."

The subject of the descensus ad inferos was evidently a favourite one with Prudentius and his contemporaries. It has been suggested that apart from the scriptural basis of this conception Prudentius was influenced by the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus, which embodies two books, the Acts of Pilate and the Descent into Hell. The latter is assigned by several critics to 400 or thereabouts, and gives a graphic account of Christ's doings in Hades. Synesius deals with the subject in one of his hymns (ix.), and Mrs Browning's translation (see the essay on The Greek Christian Poets) of a passage in that poem may be quoted:—

"Down Thou earnest, low as earth, Bound to those of mortal birth; Down Thou earnest, low as hell, Where Shepherd-Death did tend and keep A thousand nations like to sheep, While weak with age old Hades fell Shivering through his dark to view Thee.

* * * * *

So, redeeming from their pain Chains of disembodied ones, Thou didst lead whom thou didst gather Upward in ascent again, With a great hymn to the Father, Upward to the pure white thrones!"

For a modern treatment of the theme see Christ in Hades, by Stephen Phillips.

202 The words suggest the Catacombs, and perhaps refer to the custom of placing in the tomb a small cup or vase containing spices, of which myrrh (a symbol of death, according to Gregory of Nyssa, cf. xii. 71) was most usually employed. Or the allusion may be to the practice of embalming. (See note on x. 51.) The body was placed not only in an actual sarcophagus or stone coffin, as expressly mentioned in the text, but in hollow places cut out of rock or earth (loculus). The sarcophagus method seems to have been the earlier, but was superseded by that of the loculus, except in the case of the very wealthy.

205 The concluding line is beautifully illustrated by the epitaph on the martyr Alexander, found over one of the graves in the cemetery of Callixtus in the Catacombs:—


"Alexander is not dead, but lives above the stars and his body rests in this tomb."


15 Prudentius here, as again in v. 160, emphasises his belief in the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son. The "filioque" clause was not actually added to the Nicene Creed till the Council of Toledo (589 A.D.), but the doctrine was expressly maintained by Augustine, and occurs in a Confession of Faith of an earlier Synod of Toledo (447 A.D.?), and in the words of Leo I. (Ep. ad Turib., c. 1), "de utroque processit." The addition was not embodied into the Creed as used at Rome as late as the beginning of the ninth century. (Vid. Harnack, Hist. of Dogma, iv. 132.) Prudentius probably followed, as regards the Trinity, the doctrine generally held by the Spanish Church of his day; in many points it is difficult (cf. note on iii. 2), but appears to be derived partly from Tertullian and partly from Marcellus.

59 The identification of the Habakkuk of this legend (vid. the Apocryphal "Bel and the Dragon") with the O. T. prophet is erroneous. This version of the story of Daniel is sometimes represented in the frescoes of the Catacombs, where the subject is a very favourite one, as is natural in an age when the cry "Christiani ad leones" so often rang through the streets of Rome.


1 There has been much doubt as to the title and scope of this hymn. Some early editors (e.g., Fabricius and Arevalus) adopt the title "ad incensum cerei Paschalis," or "de novo lumine Paschalis Sabbati," and confine its object to the ceremonial of Easter Eve, which is specially alluded to in ll. 125 et seq. Others, following the best MSS., give the simpler title used in this text, and regard it as a hymn for daily use. This view is supported by the weight of evidence: the position of the hymn among the first six (none of which are for special days), and the fact that the Benediction of the Paschal Candle was not in use, at any rate in Rome, in the pontificate of Zacharias (ob. 752 A.D.) point in this direction. In the Spanish Church particularly the very ancient custom of praying at the hour when the evening lamps were lighted had developed into the regular office of the lucernarium, as distinct from Vespers. The Mozarabic Breviary (seventh century) contains the prayers and responses for this service, and the Rule of St. Isidore runs: "In the evening offices, first the lucernarium, then two psalms, one responsory and lauds, a hymn and prayer are to be said." St. Basil also writes: "It seemed good to our fathers not to receive in silence the gift of the evening light, but to give thanks as soon as it appeared." It is probable, therefore, that Prudentius intended the hymn for daily use, and that after speaking of God as the source of light, and His manifestations in the form of fire to Moses and the Israelites, his thoughts pass naturally, though somewhat abruptly, to the special festival—Easter Eve—on which the sanctuaries were most brilliantly illuminated. The question is fully discussed by Brockhaus (A. Prudentius Clemens in seiner Bedeutung fuer die Kirche seiner Zeit), and Roesler (Der catholische Dichter A. Prudentius). Part of this hymn is used in the Mozarabic Breviary for the First Sunday after Epiphany, at Vespers, being stanzas 1, 7, 35, 38-41.

7 The words incussu silicis are perhaps reminiscent of the Spanish ceremonial of Easter Eve, when the bishop struck the flint, lighting from it first a candle, then a lamp, from which the deacons lighted their candles; these were blessed by the bishop, and the procession from the processus into the church followed.

21 Cf. Vaughan, The Lampe:—

"Then thou dost weepe Still as thou burn'st, and the warm droppings creepe To measure out thy length."

119 The folium here is probably the ancient malobathrum, generally identified as the Indian cinnamon. The Arab traders who brought this valuable product into the Western markets, surrounded its origin with much mystery.

125 The following stanzas, in which Prudentius elaborates the beautiful fancy that the sufferings of lost spirits are alleviated at Eastertide, have incurred the severe censure of some of the earlier editors. Fabricius calls it "a Spanish fabrication," while others, as Cardinal Bellarmine, declare that the author is speaking "poetically and not dogmatically." That such a belief, however, was actually held by some section of the ancient Church is evident from the words of St. Augustine (Encheiridion, c. 112): Paenas damnatorum certis temporum intervallis existiment, si hoc eis placet, aliquatenus mitigari, dummodo intelligatur in eis manere ira Dei, hoc est ipsa damnatio. "Let men believe, if it so please them, that at certain intervals the pains of the damned are somewhat alleviated, provided that it be understood that the wrath of God, that is damnation itself, abides upon them."

140 It is somewhat startling to find Prudentius speaking of the Holy Eucharist in terms which would recall to his contemporary readers Virgilian phraseology and the honeyed cake (liba) used in pagan sacrifice. It must be remembered, however, that in the early days of the Church paganism and Christianity flourished side by side for a considerable period; and we find various pagan practices allowed to continue, where they were innocent. Thus the bride-cake and the bridal-veil are of heathen origin; the mirth of the Saturnalia survives, in a modified form, in some of the rejoicings of Christmas; and the flowers, which had filled the pagan temples during the Floralia, were employed to adorn God's House at the Easter festival.

141 The brilliant illumination of churches on Easter Eve is very ancient. According to Eusebius, Constantine "turned the mystical vigil into the light of day by means of lamps suspended in every part, setting up also great waxen tapers, as large as columns, throughout the city." Gregory of Nyssa also speaks of "the cloud of fire mingling with the rays of the rising sun, and making the eve and the festival one continuous day without interval of darkness."

153 Cf. Paradise Lost, iii. 51:—

"So much the rather thou, Celestial Light, Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers Irradiate."


The last seven stanzas of this hymn are used in the Moz. Brev. at Compline on Passion Sunday, and daily until Maundy Thursday.

56 Cf. Job. vii. 14: "Then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions."

95 In the translation of this stanza the explanation of Nebrissensis is adopted, an early editor of Prudentius (1512) and one of the leaders of the Renaissance in Spain. He considers that "the few of the impious who are condemned to eternal death" are the incurable sinners, immedicabiles. Others attempt to reconcile these words with the general belief of the early Church by maintaining that non pii is not equivalent to impii, but rather refers to the class that is neither decidedly good nor definitely bad, and that the mercy of God is extended to the majority of these. A third view is that the poet is speaking relatively, and means that few are condemned in proportion to the number that deserve condemnation. In whatever way the words are explained, it is interesting to find an advocate of "the larger hope" in the fourth century.

105 Cf. Rev. xvii. 8: "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go into perdition."

109 Cf. 2 Thess. ii. 4: "The son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."

127 The phrase rorem subisse sacrum would suggest baptism by sprinkling, except that Prudentius uses the word loosely elsewhere. Immersion was undoubtedly the general practice of the early Church, "clinical" baptism being allowed only in cases of necessity.

128 The anointing with oil showed that the catechumen was enrolled among the spiritual priesthood, and with the unction was joined the sign of the Cross on the forehead.


1 This entire hymn is used in the Moz. Brev., divided into fifteen portions for use during Lent.

27 The word sacerdos here, as in ix. 4, is used in the sense of "prophet"; but in both passages there is some idea of the exercise of priestly functions. Elijah may be called "priest" from his having offered sacrifice on Mount Carmel, and David from his wearing the priestly ephod as he danced before the Ark.

69 The old editors discuss these lines with much gravity, and mostly come to the conclusion that "locusts" were "a kind of bird, of the length of a finger, with quick, short flight"; while the "wild honey" was not actual honey at all, but "the tender leaves of certain trees, which, when crushed by the fingers, had the pleasant savour of honey."

76 A gloss on one of the Vat. MSS. adds: "This is not authorised; for John merely baptized with water, and not in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; therefore his baptism was of no avail, save that it prepared the way for Christ to baptize." Many of the Fathers, however, while expressly affirming that John's baptism differed from that of Christ, allowed that the stains of sin were washed away by the former. St. Chrysostom draws this distinction: "There was in John's baptism pardon, but not without repentance; remission of sins, but only attained by grief."

100 The story of Jonah, as a type of the Resurrection, is one of the most frequent subjects of the frescoes of the Catacombs. In one very ancient picture, a man in a small boat is depicted in the act of placing the prophet in the very jaws of the whale.

115 Two stanzas are omitted in the text, which depict the sufferings of Jonah with a wealth of detail not in accordance with modern taste. For the sake of giving a complete text, we append them here:—

"Transmissa raptim praeda cassos dentium eludit ictus incruentam transvolans inpune linguam, ne retentam mordicus offam molares dissecarent uvidi, os omne transit et palatum praeterit.

Ternis dierum ac noctium processibus mansit ferino devoratus gutture, errabat illic per latebras viscerum, ventris recessus circumibat tortiles anhelus extis intus aestuantibus."

194 Prudentius appears to have believed that the mystery of the Incarnation was concealed from Satan, and that the Temptation was an endeavour to ascertain whether Jesus was the Son of God or no. Cf. Milton, Par. Reg. i.:—

"Who this is we must learn, for Man he seems In all his lineaments, though in his face The glimpses of his Father's glory shine."


9 The day of twelve hours appears to have been adopted by the Romans about B.C. 291. Ambrose (de virginibus, iii. 4), commenting on Ps. cxix. and the words "Seven times a day do I praise thee," declares that prayers are to be offered up with thanksgiving when we rise from sleep, when we go forth, when we prepare to take food, when we have taken it, at the hour of incense, and lastly, when we retire to rest. He probably alludes to private prayer. The stanza here indicates that the second hour after midday has arrived, when the fasting ended and the midday meal was taken.

14 The word festum, as in vii. 4, indicates a special fast day. Until the sixth century, fasting was simply a penitential discipline and was not used as a particular mode of penance. In the fourth century it was a fairly common practice as a preparation for Holy Communion. Fasting before Baptism was a much earlier practice. The stated fasts of the Western Church were (1) annual, that is, ante-paschal or Lent; (2) monthly, or the fasts of the four seasons in the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th months; (3) weekly, on Wednesday and Friday. There was also the fast of the Rogations and the Vigils or Eves of holy days. It is doubtful whether all these were in vogue as early as Prudentius.

33 This passage on the Shepherd reminds us of one of the most common pictorial representations of the Catacombs. Christian art owed something to paganism in this matter; ancient sculptures represent the god Pan with a goat thrown across his shoulders and a Pan's pipe in his hand; while the poets Calpurnius and Tibullus both refer to the custom of carrying a stray or neglected lamb on the shoulders of the shepherd. Going further back, the figure is common in the O. T. to express God's care over His people. Our Lord therefore used for His own purpose and transfigured with new meaning a familiar figure. The gradual transition from paganism to Christianity is curiously illustrated by the fact that in several of the Catacomb bas-reliefs and paintings the Good Shepherd holds in His outstretched hand a Pan's pipe. See Maitland's Church in the Catacombs, p. 315, for a woodcut of the Good Shepherd with a lamb over His shoulders, two sheep at His feet, a palm tree (or poplar) on either side, and a Pan's pipe in His right hand; and also the frontispiece for a reproduction from the Cemetery of St. Peter and St. Marcellinus.


1 This hymn, which first introduced into sacred song the trochaic metre familiar in Greek Tragedy and the Latin adaptations of it, supplies the Moz. Brev. with some stanzas for use during Holy Week. The lines selected are 22-24, 1-21.

11 The use of the symbol O, (pronounced here as a single syllable), appears to indicate that the names Omega and Omikron came into use at a later date than Prudentius' time. In Rev. i. 8, the best MSS. read ego eimi to alpha kai to o.

33 The words vulnerum piamina are generally supposed to refer to the "gifts which Moses commanded" to be offered by those healed of leprosy (Lev. xiv. 2). If so, Prudentius' language may imply that the cure was not actually complete until the offering of these gifts, and is at variance with St. Matthew, viii. 43, "and forthwith his leprosy was cleansed." Probably, however, his idea is rather that the gifts to the priest formally marked the leper as a clean man.

71 Cf. note on iii. 199.


1 Parts of this hymn are used in the Moz. Brev. in the Office of the Dead, being ll. 1-16, 45-48, 57-68, 157-168.

The burial rites of the primitive Church were simple, and marked by an absence of the ostentatious expression of grief which the pagan peoples displayed. The general practice of cremation was rejected, partly owing to the new belief in the resurrection of the body, and partly from a desire to imitate the burial of the Lord. At Rome, during the first three centuries, the dead were laid in the Catacombs, in which Prudentius took conspicuous interest (see Translator's Note), but after 338 A.D. this practice became less frequent, and was completely abandoned after 410 A.D. Elsewhere, from the earliest times, the Christians purchased special enclosures (areae), which were often attacked and rifled by angry mobs in the days of persecution. The body was frequently embalmed (cf. ll. 51, 52), swathed in white linen (l. 49), and placed in a coffin; vigils and hymns continued for three or four days, but hired mourners were forbidden (l. 113), and instead of the dirges of the heathens, chants expressive of triumphant faith were sung as the body was carried to the grave, where a simple service was held, and evergreens and flowers were strewn about the tomb (ll. 169, 170). The earliest inscriptions are often roughly scratched on plaster, and consist merely of a name and age, or simple words like—


but later (cf. l. 171), they were engraved on small marble slabs.

25 In both thought and language this stanza, as vii. 16 et seq., is evidently reminiscent of Horace (Sat. 2, ii. 77): Quin corpus onustum, etc.

"The Body, too, with Yesterday's excess Burthened and tired, shall the pure Soul depress, Weigh down this Portion of celestial Birth, This Breath of God, and fix it to the Earth." (Francis).

51 Boldetti, in his work on the Catacombs (lib. i. cap. 59), says that on many occasions, when he was present at the opening of a grave, the assembled company were conscious of a spicy odour diffusing itself from the tomb. Cf. Tertullian (Apol. 42): "The Arabs and Sabaeans knew well that we consume more of their precious merchandise for our dead than do the heathen for their gods."

57 Prudentius' firm faith in the resurrection of the body is also nobly expressed in the Apotheosis (ll. 1063 et seq.):—

"Nosco meum in Christo corpus resurgere; quid me Desperare iubes? veniam, quibus ille revenit Calcata de morte viis: quod credimus hoc est.

* * * * *

Pellite corde metum, mea membra, et credite vosmet Cum Christo reditura Deo; nam vos gerit ille Et secum revocat: morbos ridete minaces: Inflictos casus contemnite; tetra sepulcra Despuite; exsurgens quo Christus provocat, ite."


"I know in Christ my body shall arise; Why bid me, then, despair? for I shall go By that same path whereby my Lord returned, Death trodden 'neath His feet: this is my creed. Banish, my limbs, all terror; and believe That ye with Christ our God shall yet return; He beareth you and with Himself recalls. Laugh at the threats of sickness; scorn the blows Of fate; despise the horrors of the tomb; And fare ye where the risen Christ doth call."

61 The poet expresses as a duty owed to Christ Himself the heathen obligation of casting three handfuls of earth upon a body discovered dead.

69 For the incident referred to in these lines, see the Apocryphal book of Tobias, cc. ii. and xi. Tobit, a pious Israelite captive in Nineveh, was reduced to beggary as the result of his zeal in burying those of his countrymen who had been killed and exposed by royal command. He also lost his sight, which was eventually restored by the application of the gall of a fish which attacked his son Tobias, and was killed by him. The "fish" of the legend is probably the crocodile, whose gall was credited with medicinal properties by various Greek and Latin writers. Cf. Pliny, N. H. xxviii. 8: "They say that nothing avails more against cataract than to anoint the eyes with its gall mixed with honey."

113 Cf. Cyprian (De Mortal. 20): "We must not lament our brethren whom the Lord's summons has freed from the world, for we know that they are not lost, but gone before. We may not wear the black robes of mourning while they have put on the white raiment of joy. Nor may we grieve for those as lost whom we know to be living with God."

171 Cf. Perist. vii.:—

"Nos pio fletu, date, perluamus Marmorum sulcos."

The early Christian epitaphs, of which many thousands exist, are instinct with a faith which is in striking contrast to the unrelieved gloom or sullen resignation of paganism. We may compare with the common


"Hail and farewell"

or inscriptions like


"To a very sweet babe, whom the angry gods gave to unending sleep."

the Christian


"Here slumbers in the sleep of peace the sweet and innocent Severianus, whose spirit is received in the light of the Lord"



"Laurentius was born into eternity in his twentieth year. He sleeps in peace."

See also note on iii. 205.


1 Virgil's Fourth Eclogue known as the "Pollio" has undoubtedly influenced the thought and style of this poem: the more noticeable parallels will be pointed out as they occur. In Milton's ode On the Morning of Christ's Nativity there are several passages which recall Prudentius' treatment of the theme in this and the succeeding hymn; but curiously enough, the Puritan poet in alluding to the season of the Nativity takes an opposite line of thought, and regards the diminished sunshine of winter as a veiling of an inferior flame before the light of "a greater Sun." Prudentius proclaims the increase of the sun's light, which begins after the winter solstice, as symbolic of the ever-widening influence of the True Light. The idea is given in a terse form by St. Peter Chrysologus, Serm. 159: Crescere dies coepit, quia verus dies illuxit. "The day begins to lengthen out, inasmuch as the true Day hath shone forth."

18 For the somewhat obscure phrase verbo editus, see note on iii. 2.

20 For "Sophia" or the Divine Creative Wisdom, see Prov. iii. 19, 20, and especially viii. 27-31, where the language "has been of signal importance in the history of thought, helping, as it does, to make a bridge between Eastern and Greek ideas, and to prepare the way for the Incarnation" (Davison, Wisdom-Literature of the O. T., pp. 5, 6). In Alexandrian theology the conception of God's transcendence gave rise to the doctrine of an intermediate power or logos, by which creation was effected. In the Prologue of the fourth Gospel the idea was set forth in its purely Christian form. See 1, 3, where the Logos or the pre-incarnate Christ is described as the maker of all things—an idea which is also illustrated by the language of St. Paul in such passages as Col. i. 6.

59 Cf. for the conception of a golden age, Virg., Ecl., iv. 5 et seq.: Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo, etc.

65 Reminiscences of ancient prophecy appear to be embodied in this and following lines. Cf. Joel iii. 18: "And it shall come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drop down sweet wine and the hills shall flow with milk." Amos ix. 13: "The mountains shall drop sweet wine and all the hills shall melt." But cf. especially Virg., Ecl., iv. 18-30: At tibi prima, puer, nullo munuscula cultu, etc.

"Unbidden earth shall wreathing ivy bring, And fragrant herbs (the promises of spring) As her first off'rings to her infant king.

* * * * *

Unlaboured harvest shall the fields adorn, And clustered grapes shall blush on every thorn; The knotted oaks shall showers of honey weep, And through the matted grass the liquid gold shall creep." (Dryden's Trans.)

81 The legend of the ox and ass adoring our Lord arose from an allegorical interpretation of Isa. i. 3: "The ox knoweth his owner, the ass his master's crib." Origen (Homilies on St. Luke xiii.) is the first to allegorise on the passage in Isaiah, where the word for "crib" in the Greek translation of the O. T. is identical with St. Luke's word for "manger" (phatne). After referring to the circumstances of the Nativity, Origen proceeds to say: "That was what the prophet foretold, saying, 'The ox knoweth,' etc. The Ox is a clean animal: the Ass an unclean one. The Ass knew his master's crib (praesepe domini sui): not the people of Israel, but the unclean animal out of pagan nations knew its master's crib. 'But Israel hath not known me: and my people hath not understood.' Let us understand this and press forward to the crib, recognise the Master and be made worthy of his knowledge." The thought that the Ox = the Jews and the Ass = Pagans, reappears in Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose and Jerome. See an interesting article by Mr. Austin West (Ox and Ass Legend of the Nativity. Cont. Review, Dec. 1903), who notes the further impetus given to the legend by the Latin rendering of Habb. iii. 2 (LXX.) which in the Vetus Itala version appears as "in medio duorum animalium in notesceris," "in the midst of two animals shalt thou be known" (R.V., in the midst of the years make it known). The legend does not appear in apocryphal Christian literature earlier than in the Pseudo-Matthew Gospel, which belongs to the later fifth century. It is interesting to note that with St. Francis and the Franciscans the ox and the ass are merely animals: the allegorical interpretation of Origen had vanished from Christendom: and in its place we find St. Francis (see Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventura, "Temple Classics" edition, p. 111) making a presepio at Greccio, to which a living ox and ass are brought, in order that a visible representation of the manger-scene might kindle the devotion of the Brethren and the assembled townsfolk. This act of St. Francis inaugurated the custom, still observed in the Roman Church, of representing by means of waxen images the whole of the Nativity manger-scene, Mother and Child together with the adoring animals.


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