Saturday, April 7, 2012

Translation of a Lovely Hymn

I love my Angelus Press missal. I love it for its completeness, its handiness, its piety. Its translations, however, generally leave something to be desired.

These generally fall into one of two categories: obsessively pious and archaic or so literal as to be nearly incomprehensible. The translation for "Pange, lingua, gloriosi (lauream certaminis)" falls into the former category.

Now, since I am a Latin teacher and a classicist by trade, I rarely use the translations, but for the rest of the world, I am not content to sit by and watch a perfectly beautiful hymn, talking about blood and noble triumphs and so forth be turned into a Cranmerian disaster. We have enough Cranmerian disasters in the modern Church--I refer to the picnic tables often placed in front of high altars--and I do not like seeing many others.

So, I present you my translation of "Pange, Lingua, Gloriosi." The real one, not the one by St. Thomas.

1. Proclaim, O tongue, the victor of the glorious battle, and declare a noble triumph over the trophy of the Cross, for the Redeemer of the world has conquered by being slain!

2. The Creator, grieving over the fault of our first parent, who rushed into death by a bite of that poisoned fruit, then designed that a tree should take away the penalty of a tree.

3. Order had demanded that this work of our salvation be accomplished by the skill of a traitor, to defeat a traitor's cunning, and that a cure should come from where an enemy had wounded.

4. Therefore, when the appointed time came, the Creator of the world was sent down from the citadel of the Father, born, and proceeded forth, clothed in flesh, from a Virgin's womb.

5. The infant cries, set down in his constructed crib; the Virgin Mother ties up his limbs, wrapping them in swaddling clothes, and binding the hands and feet of God with a tight cord.

6. When he has passed thirty years, fulfilling the time of the body, the Redeemer freely hands himself over to suffering and is lifted up as a sacrificial Lamb on the wood of the Cross.

7. Drinking bitterness, see how he languishes! The thorns, the nails, and the spear pierced his humble body. Water flows out and blood, by which the whole world, earth, sea, and sky are cleansed.

8. Bend your branches, O exalted Tree! Relax your hard fibers and let your natural toughness grow soft! Receive on a soft trunk the limbs of your heavenly King!

9. You alone were worthy to bear the world's Victim, and to prepare a haven, like the Ark, for a shipwrecked race. You were annointed with Holy Blood, which was poured out from the body of the Lamb.

10. Everlasting glory be to the Holy Trinity; like honor to the Father, Son, and Paraclete. Let the universe praise the Name of the One and Three! Amen.

Refrain: Faithful Cross, only worthy tree among all others* which bears sweet wood, sweet nails, and a sweet burden!