Sunday, January 07, 2018

Vespers: Of the Father's Love Begotten

The New Jersey Chamber Singers perform "Of the Father's Love Begotten."

This piece is one of the oldest hymns still being sung. It is a Christmas carol based on the Latin poem "Corde natus" written by the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius in 348 A.D.

Prudentius practiced law with some success, and was twice provincial governor, perhaps in his native country, before the emperor Theodosius I summoned him to court. Towards the end of his life (possibly around 392) Prudentius retired from public life to become an ascetic, fasting until evening and abstaining entirely from animal food; and writing poems, hymns, and controversial works in defence of Catholicism.

The ancient poem was translated and paired with a medieval plainchant melody Divinum mysterium. Divinum mysterium was a "Sanctus trope" - an ancient plainchant melody which over the years had been musically embellished. 

Plainsong is monophonic, consisting of a single, unaccompanied melodic line. Its rhythm is generally freer than the metered rhythm of later Western music. In music, a trope is adding another section, or trope to a plainchant or section of plainchant, thus making it appropriate to a particular occasion.

An early version of this chant appears in manuscript form as early as the 10th century, although without the melodic additions, and "trope" versions with various melodic differences appear in Italian, German, Gallacian, Bohemian and Spanish manuscripts dating from the 13th to 16th centuries.

1. Of the Father's Love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore 1

2. At His word the worlds were framed;
He commanded ; it was done :
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one ;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

3. He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam's children,
Doomed by Law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

4. O that Birth for ever blessed,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred Face,
Evermore and evermore !

5. This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord ;
Whom the voices of the Prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long-expected:
Let creation praise its Lord :
Evermore and evermore!

6. O ye heights of heaven adore Him!
Angel-hosts His praises sing!
All dominions bow before Him,
And extol our God and King ;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

7. Righteous Judge of souls departed !
Righteous King of them that live !
On the Father's throne exalted
None in might with Thee may strive:
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy Face shalt drive,
Evermore and evermore!

8. Thee let old men, Thee let young men,
Thee let boys in chorus sing ;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens
With glad voices answering;
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its praises bring,
Evermore and evermore!

9. Christ ! to Thee, with God the Father
And, Holy Ghost, to Thee!
Hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be,
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore ! Amen.

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