“Inventor Rutili” is the first three verses of Prudentius’ “Hymn for the Lighting of the Lamps”. In the Sarum Rite, two cantors would trade off lines of it, and then the whole choir did something I didn’t understand. (What does “answer the verses” mean?)
It has a lovely chant tune, which the current translations don’t fit very well. Being stupid about going to bed on time, I have allowed myself to be drawn into writing a new translation. Filler phrases that are not in the original poem will appear in italics. You can listen to my rendition of the original Latin lyrics here and my mp3 of my translation here. (Although I’ve fiddled a bit with the translation since I posted the mp3 of it. Sorry.)
Translated by Maureen S. O’Brien, 1/17/08
Inventor of red-gold light, o honest guide through night,
You give each season time; each waits its turn in line.
The sun’s plunged into the black; Chaos charges to attack.
For your faithful in the night. O Christ, bring back the light.
In Your court, King divine, countless the stars that shine.
You decorate the sky; lamp-like, the Moon up high.
Still You teach us to hit flint on steel to look for it —
One tiny spark alone, born from the heart of stone.
You did this to make us see our hope of light must be
In the solidity of Christ’s Body.
Rightly Our Lord we call Rock, strong against ev’ry shock.
All our tiny tongues of flame spark from Him. Praise His Name.
Btw, you might want to see a comparison of other translations in Bryn Mawr Classical Review.