Singable Translation: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite”

It is dangerous to give a filker any lyrics whatsoever. All our folky and nerdy impulses come to the fore.

Sechnall (aka Secundinus), remembered by legend as a nephew of St. Patrick, wrote the oldest known hymn in Irish literature. (It’s an alphabetical praise of St. Patrick in Latin, which sorta suggests Patrick was probably dead by then.) He also wrote a communion hymn which allegedly made the angels sing in Sechnall’s monastery church, and which was preserved in the Bangor Antiphonary.

There are a couple of good translations of this online. The most distinguished one is a hymn translation by John Mason Neale, “Draw Nigh and Take the Body of the Lord”. Steven Janco has a new setting of this, apparently, using an “alt.” version of the Neale translation. (There’s a sample online, which I can’t find at the moment. So I can’t opine on the music, since I don’t have time to work this stuff out, but our choir’s done Janco stuff that I like.)

The problem is that a good song translation often isn’t very exact. Here’s a more literal translation.

Of course, what came to my mind? The fact that you can sing it to the tune of “Adeste Fideles”:

Sancti, venite, corpus Christi sumite,
Sanctum bibentes, quo redempti sanguine.
Salvati Christi, corpore et sanguine.

Sancti, venite, sumite,
Sancti, venite, sumite,
Sancti, venite, sumite,
Corpus Christi!

Etc. It would take a lot of munging about, but it could be done. You could also do a much shorter version to the same tune in English, with even more munging about:

“O Come, Holy People”
Lyrics: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite” by St. Seachnall, 4th c.
Translation by Maureen O’Brien, 10/25/07
Music: ttto “Adeste Fideles”

O come, holy people, come and take Christ’s Body.
O holy, o drinkers saved by His holy Blood.
Praise Him who healed us; sing God’s praise together.

O come, receive His Body,
O come, receive His Body,
O come, receive His Body,
Christ the Lord!

By Christ’s Blood and Cross, He / saved the world and saved us.
He sacrificed Himself for the / whole universe.
Both Priest and Victim, as the Law foreshadowed.

The Lightgiver pours out — spark’ling, overflowing —
His Grace on His holy ones, and life evermore.
Come with a pure mind; take up your Caretaker.

He is Bread of Heaven, endless Living Water.
His Sacrament rips us from the cruel jaws of Hell.
Guide, Guard, and Ruler, Keeper of Salvation.

He came to live with us, comes to live within us,
He will come again to judge us all in the end.
Chri-ist the Lo-ord, Alpha and Omega!

Obviously, this is not a super-exact translation, but it’s not just making stuff up, either. I don’t suspect it would be all that great for real life use, though, because everybody already likes “O Come All Ye Faithful” exactly the way it is — kept especially for Christmas use. So I’m not sure when or if people might like to sing this sort of thing, but it was fun to translate.


Filed under Translations

6 responses to “Singable Translation: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite”

  1. Steven Cornett

    Well, I just tried it, and if you sing two of the directly translated English verses into one musical verse, it fits nicely into Lamboulette, the tune often used with “Panis Angelicus.”

  2. Maureen

    Ack! I didn’t realize that I have this song on one of my chant albums!!! It’s on the National Public Radio compilation, Gloria in Excelsis Deo. However, it’s described as a “Celtic hymn for Holy Thursday” and nothing else — no Bangor, no saints, nothing.

    But I can learn the actual tune! The very cool tune! The tune which scans!

  3. Maureen

    Okay, it doesn’t scan well… time to mung about some more!

  4. Maureen

    Here’s the state of the munge. It’s very much a work in progress.

    Come, all ye holy,
    Come and take Christ’s body.
    Drink of the holy
    Blood that has redeemed you.

    Saved and made healthy
    By Christ’s Blood and Body,
    For what’s restored us
    Let us tell the praise of God.

    By this sacrament
    Of the Blood and Body,
    All are pulled out well
    From the cruel jaws of Hell.

    Christ, God’s only Son,
    Giver of salvation,
    By His Blood and Cross,
    Saved the world and saved us.

    For the universe, Christ
    Himself sacrificed.
    Acting both as priest
    Who makes off’ring, and the beast.

    Grain-sprinkled victims
    By the Law were ordered —
    So the Divine Mystery
    Was sketched out in history.

    Lightgiver, Savior,
    He pours overflowing
    Grace in great abundance,
    Glowing on His holy ones.

    Come all with pure hearts,
    Come forward to take Him,
    Evermore partaker
    Of salvation’s caretaker.

    Lord, of all the holy
    Guide and Guard and Ruler,
    Giving life eternal
    To believers evermore.

    He is Bread of Heaven
    And He feeds the hungry —
    Spring of Living Water,
    And He quenches all our thirst.

    Alpha and Omega,
    He is Christ the Lord,
    The same one who’ll come again
    At the end to judge all men.

  5. holywanabe

    Man, what a buger! Our priest wants only hymns in the missalette. This song was included, but no recording or proper translation provided. Many versions seem to exist. I’ve decided to sing to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

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