6 January 2022

Help needed with Hymn

Here is the text of a hymn, part of which is still used at the Epiphany in Milan.

Illuminans altissimus Micantium astrorum globos, Pax, Vita, Lumen, Veritas, Iesu fave precantibus.

Seu mystico baptismate Fluenta Iordanis retro Conversa quondam tertio Praesentem sacraris diem;

Seu stella partum Virginis Caelo micans signaveris Et hac adoratum die Praesepe magos duxeris. 

Vel hydriis plenis aqua Vini saporem infuderis, Hausit minister conscius Quod ipse non impleverat.

Aquas colorari videns, Inebriare flumina, Mutata elementa stupe[n]t Transire in usus alteros.

Sic quinque milibus virum Dum quinque panes dividis, Edentium sub dentibus In ore crescebat cibus,

Multiplicabatur magis Dispendio panis suo, Quis haev videns mirabitur Iuges meatus fontium.

Inter manus frangentium Panis rigatur profluus, Intacta quae non fregerant Fragmenta subrepunt viris.

I am genuinely unsure about what is going on in some places. I wonder if, like ex.gr Ad Cenam Agni it dates from a disintegrating era in Roman grammar. Does the second stanza contain that construction beloved of the dimmer members of the Lower Sixth, an Accusative Absolute? Is adoratum a supine of purpose following a verb of motion? etc.etc.. Here is the crudest of crude and crudely literal translations, in the hope that it will enable you to see where I have gone wrong. I think I have in the final stanza!

Jesu, very high above, illuminating the spheres of the shining stars: Peace, Life, Light, Truth; be favourable to those who beseech.

Whether you shall have sanctified the present day with mystic baptism, the streams of the Jordan of old turned backwards three times,

Or, as a star shining from heaven, you shall have marked the birth-giving of the Virgin and on this day led the Magi to worship the manger,

Or poured the taste of wine into jars full of water, the steward decanted knowing that he himself had not filled them,

Seeing the waters being coloured, the flows becoming inebriated, he wonders at the changed elements transitioning into other uses.

Thus, while you divide five loaves for five thousands of men, the food was increasing in the mouth under the teeth of the eaters,

The loaf was being multiplied more by its own distribution; who, seeing these things, will wonder at the never-failing flows of fountains.

Between the hands of those breaking the flowing bread is chanelled; untouched fragments which they had not broken creep secretly into the men.

I can't help liking it. The idea of water becoming inebriated ... the jingle edentium sub dentibus ... the notion that the multiplying loaves resembled flowing water ...

I like the topos of the Jordan turning back for the third time; I like the idea of bringing in the Feeding of the Five Thousand to complement the Intoxication of the Wedding Guests ... I think it is in a sermon of S Augustine; and Prospero Lambertini, later Pope Benedict XIV, brings his erudition to bear on the subject in his de Festis.

There's more to Epiphany than meets the eye!



Frugifex said...

Dear Father:

I think these verbs (in caps) are past tense (conjunctivus temporis praeteriti perfecti):

Seu praesentem SACRA(ve)RIS diem
Et hac adoratum magos DUXERIS

And I think "adoratum" is a gerundivus expressing a purpose.

However, as Fr. Suitbertus Siedl O.C.D. used to say: "grammatica est minima pars linguae" and as S. Jerome wrote: "Si cui non videtur linguae gratiam in interpretatione mutari, Homerum ad verbum exprimat in Latinum. Plus aliquid dicam: eumdem sua in lingua prosae verbis interpretetur: videbis ordinem ridiculum, et Poetam eloquentissimum vix loquentem."

Carol said...

I have never come across this hymn before but, since you kindly ask, I will make bold to offer a few crumbs in the hope that they may be of some help.

It seems to me that Fluenta conversa operates as an Accusative Absolute, as the participle has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. It makes sense, however, if we think of it as a post + accusative construction with the word “post” omitted, but assumed.

I have hardly ever seen an example of this construction before. I think it must be rarely used in classical Latin, and is absent from most Latin grammars for use in schools and colleges – at least those I have consulted. So I was pleased to see it here, if indeed I am correct in identifying it as such.

One of the things I like about the Roman Missal is that it has its own distinctive style of Latin and does not slavishly follow the usages of the Classical writers.

It seems it is a supine of purpose: to worship the manger.
If it were a question of saying that the Magi were led to the place of the manger, one would have expected adduxeris for the verb.

As for the final stanza, I’m sure that your translation is better than the doggerel rendition I found in a Protestant journal, The British Magazine, 1841:

"The hallow’d feast still lingers,
And as they still consume,
Still fresh beneath their fingers
The untouch’d fragments come –
The fragments come and stay!"

It sounds rather like a verse from Rupert Bear!

Sue Sims said...

Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit: Richard Crashaw

frjustin said...

Unde rubor vestris et non sua lymphis: idem