Saturday, December 24, 2005

Felix Dies Nativitatis

For some reason I won't be blogging tomorrow, but I want to wish everyone God's blessing for the day and to put up two carols for Christmas edification. (I also hope that these are edifying for those evangelicals who, like John Knox, don't celebrate Christmas.)

In these enlightened days when we no longer have to prove the general primacy of Greek over Latin, and when most evangelical publishing houses seem enamoured with the vernacular we may perhaps indulge in a post-Reformation Latin carol written as recently as about 1742 by John Francis Wade. 1742 was, of course, the year when Bengel brought out his Gnomon Novi Testamenti, which was translated into English by John Wesley, brother of Charles, who wrote 'Hark! The herald angels sing' (1739)—one of my favourite carols (full original-ish text below). Unfortunately, John did not translate it into Latin.

Here I give the longer recension of Wade's carol, only four of whose verses made it into the English version 'O come all ye faithful'.

If you teach this carol to your children then there is a greater likelihood that they will become textual critics.

Adeste, fideles, Laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.

Venite adoremus (ter)

En grege relicto, Humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastores approperant.
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.

Stella duce, magi Christum adorantes
Aurum, tus, et myrrham dant munera.
Iesu infanti corda praebeamus.

Cantet nunc hymnos chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula caelestium:
"Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!"

Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum.

Aeterni Parentis splendorem aeternum,
Velatum sub carne videbimus;
Deum infantem pannis involutem.

Pro nobis egenum et foeno cubantem,
Piis foveamus amplexibus.
Sic nos amantemquis non redamaret?

Ergo qui natus die hodierna
Iesu tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum


According to the following is the original text of 'Hark! The herald angels sing'. Actually, although in the first line the word 'welkin' is somewhat obscure to most moderns, it is arguably no less intelligible than the more recent version, whose punctuation and sense are often misunderstood.

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.


  1. Not to ask the obvious or anything, but...welkin would be bells?

  2. The vault of heaven. Related to German Wolke (f.) 'cloud'.