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Personent Hodie

Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 22:19:27 +0300
From: Jaakko Mantyjarvi
Subject: Re: Personent Hodie

Dr. Thomas Bookhout wrote:
> We will be performing the 14th century chant "Personent Hodie" for our
> holiday concert this year. The Carols for Choirs book (Oxford) we are
> using has a rhyming, loose translation of the text that will not be
> adequate for our program. Jeffers does not have it. Any time I try to
> use a Latin dictionary to come up with translations I come with really
> odd and creative texts that do not seem very informed! Can anyone lend
> me a hand or direct me to real translation?

If that is the same translation as in the Oxford Book of Carols, I agree
it is a bit tacky. This is as verbatim as I can make it:

Personent hodie voces puerulae
Today the voices of young boys ring out,

laudantes jucundae
praising the joy

qui nobis est natus, summo Deo datus,
that is born unto us, given from the highest God,

et de virgineo ventre procreatus.
and created from the womb of the Virgin.

In mundo nascitur, pannis involvitur,
He was born into the world and wrapped in clothes,

praesepi ponitur
put into a manger

stabulo brutorum, rector super norum.
in a stable of animals, our master.

Perdidit spolia princeps infernorum.
The prince thwarted the intrigues of hell.

[It would be so nice to say "The wiles of the Prince of Darkness were
thwarted", but unfortunately that would have to be "Perdidit spolia
principis infernorum".]

Magi tres venerunt, parvulum inquirunt,
Three wise men came asking after the child,

parvulum inquirunt
asking after the child,

stellulam sequendo, ipsum adorando,
following the star, adoring the same [=the child]

aurum, thus et myrrham ei offerendo.
offering him gold, incense and myrrh.

Omnes clericuli pariter pueri
Let all clerics along with [equal to?] the boys

cantent ut angeli:
sing like the angels:

advenisti mundo, laudes tibi fundo.
thou didst come into the world, praises I lavish to thee.

Ideo gloria in excelsis Deo.
Likewise glory to God in the highest.

I am not an accomplished Latin scholar by any means, so if anyone
disagrees with anything in the above, please say so. BTW, I would not
describe this piece as a 'chant' since it is a song with a clear metre.
It could in fact be described as belonging to the 'popular music' of its

Hope this helps.

Jaakko Mantyjarvi
Helsinki, Finland

Date: Mon, 17 Nov 1997 15:44:55 -0400
From: Jonathan Wiener
Subject: Re: Personent Hodie

Jaakko Mantyjarvi wrote:

> [...] laudantes jucundae

praising joyfully

> [...] rector super norum.

"supernorum" should be one word, "of the supernal beings"