Fun with Translation: Distiches on Baptism by Pope St. Leo the Great

On St. Venantius’ Day, Fr. Z posted some distiches (couplets) written by Pope St. Leo the Great, in the man’s pre-papal days. Fr. Z then challenged his readers to translate them.

My Latin isn’t good, so I leaned on the translations provided. Inevitably, this meant I messed up. Here’s a revised version of my translation.

From seed the Holy Spirit’s sown,
A nation springs to be His Own –
Bound for the Heavens. God’s Breath sighed
On waters, and they fructified.
Our Mother Church, still virgin, there
Children conceived by Him does bear.
All you reborn within this spring,
Hope for the Reign of Heaven’s King!

The happy life is not for those
Born only once. The spring arose
To wash the world and wet what’s dried
With water from Christ’s wounded side.
O sinner who’d be purified,
Plunge underneath the sacred tide!

It takes the old man, makes him new.
If you’d be innocent, then do
Be washed in this bath from your sin
And from your father’s deep within!

Those reborn know no parting wall –
Font, faith, and Spirit same for all –
So in their union, they’re made one,
And none need fear their sins, no, none
Despite their count or kind. Don’t faint!
Who’s born in this flood is a saint!

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3 Comments

Filed under Church, History, Translations

3 responses to “Fun with Translation: Distiches on Baptism by Pope St. Leo the Great

  1. Lucia Rosa

    Very nice!

  2. I love it! Brava, Maureen! What’s the original?

  3. GENS SACRANDA POLIS HIC SEMINE NASCITUR ALMO
    QUAM FECUNDATIS SPIRITUS EDIT AQUIS.
    VIRGINEO FETU GENITRIX ECCLESIA NATOS
    QUOS SPIRANTE DEO CONCIPIT AMNE PARIT.
    CAELORUM REGNUM SPERATE HOC FONTE RENATI:
    NON RECIPIT FELIX VITA SEMEL GENITOS.
    FONS HIC EST VITAE QUI TOTUM DILUIT ORBEM,
    SUMENS DE CHRISTI VULNERE PRINCIPIUM.
    MERGERE PECCATOR SACRO PURGANDE FLUENTO,
    QUEM VETEREM ACCIPIET, PROFERET UNDA NOVUM.
    INSONS ESSE VOLENS ISTO MUNDARE LAVACRO,
    SEU PATRIO PREMERIS CRIMINE SEU PROPRIO.
    NULLA RENASCENTUM EST DISTANTIA QUOS FACIT UNUM
    UNUS FONS, UNUS SPIRITUS, UNA FIDES.
    NEC NUMERUS QUEMQUAM SCELERUM NEC FORMA SUORUM
    TERREAT HOC NATUS FLUMINE SANCTUS ERIT.

    As seen in Fr. Z’s post….

    Sorry about the previous accidental link to Fr. Z’s commentbox instead of the actual post. I’ve fixed it.

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