Hymnus Matutinus is a concert suite in five movements for a cappella choir:
Nox, et lux
Dulce Canunt Melos
Christe, redde lumen
Aurelius Prudentius (348-C.415)
Nox et Lux (Darkness and Light) - The dark of night contrasts the light of dawn which symbolizes the coming of Christ.
Inde est (Thence it is) - From this hour of quiet Christ comes from Hell; the glories of the world are transient and vain. Awaken. Here is truth.
Dulce Canunt melos (Sweetly singing songs) - This expresses an outpouring of joy at the coming of spring and summer. The poem is full of exuberance, and the music is quite breathless with changing meters, making it sound a bit out of control and also with a bit of subtle laughter, building up and overflowing in breathless glee. Eventually the energy wanes and the basses end this frolic with a solo upward flourish. It all starts over again and eventually sounds as if the singers simply walk away.
Venerat Occiduis (Come from the confines) - Here we have more exuberance with less giddiness yet swaying from being lost in the delights of the wine cup. As the piece proceeds, I bring it back to the center of reality with a repeating of the word “ibat” (“step”) and juxtapose “Christus fidelibus” over it (“Christ in faithfulness”).
Christe, redde lumen (Christ give back your light) - This is a prayer to Christ the Captain, maker of the light, to deliver His people from the chaos of darkness.
Texts and translations:
1. Nox, et lux
Nox, et tenebrae, et nubila
confusa mundi et turbida,
lux intrat, albescit polus,
Christus venit, discedite!
Caligo terrae scinditur
percussa solis spiculo,
rebusque iam color redit
vultu nitentis sideris.
Night and light
O night, darkness and earthly clouds,
thrown into earthly confusion, be gone!
Light enters, the sky grows white and Christ comes.
The darkness of earth,
struck by a shaft of sunlight, is torn apart.
Color now returns to things
from the glance of the shining sun.
2. Inde est
Inde est, quod omnes credimus,
Illo quietis tempore,
Quo gallus exsultans canit,
Christum redisse ex inferis.
Sunt nempe falsa et frivola,
Quae mundiali gloria,
Ceu dormientes, egimus:
Vigilemus hic est veritas.
Thence it is
Christ, as we all believe,
returned from hell
at that hour of quiet
when the crock crows joyfully.
False and worthless
is the acclaim of the world, which we pursue.
Let us be watchful
(for) here is Truth.
3. Dulce Canunt Melos
Illic purpureis tecta rosariis
omnis fragrat humas, calthaque pinguia,
et molles violas, et tenues crocos
fundit fonticulis uda fugacibus.
Felices animae prata per herbida
concentu parili suave sonantibus
hymnorum modulis dulce canunt melos
calcant et pedibus lilia candidis.
They sing a sweet song
There, all the land covered with roses
is sweet and, wet from running streams,
pours forth full marigolds,
soft violets and slender crocuses.
Happy souls, their white feet lily-shod,
sing a sweet melody
as they go through grassy meadows,
singing hymns in pleasant harmonies.
4. Venerat Occiduis
Venerat occiduis mundi de finibus hostis
Luxuria, extinctae iamdudum prodiga famae,
delibuta comas, oculis vaga, languida voce,
lapsanti per vina et balsama gressu,
ebria calcatis ad bellum floribus ibat.
Luxury had come from the West
Extravagant with her fame long dead,
the enemy Luxury had come from the western boundaries of the world –
hair let down, eyes wild, speech slurred
and lost to her fancies.....
with unsteady step through vine and balsam-tree,
she, drunk, trampling the flowers on her way to war.
5. Christe, redde lumen
Inventor rutili, dux bone, luminis,
qui certis vicibus tempora dividis,
merso sole, chaos ingruit horridum
lumen redde tuis, Christe, fidelibus.
Christ, give back the light
O good leader, maker of the golden light,
who divides the days into definite shapes,
(when) the sun sets savage chaos comes on.
O Christ, give light back to your faithful people.