Never Say Never — “On Eagle’s Wings” in Latin

Probably Holy Whapping has already done this, but it’s good fun for me.

So, by popular demand of the comboxes of The New Liturgical Movement:


Pinnas Sicut Aquilae
To the tune of: “On Eagles’ Wings” by Michael Joncas and the Bible

Latin Lyrics: Maureen S. O’Brien and the Vulgate

VERSE 1 (Psalm 90/91):

Qui habitat in abscondito,
in umbraculo Domini,
Qui habitat in umbraculo
Domini commorabitur,
dicens Domino “spes mea —
Deus meus, confidam.”

CH: (Psalm 40/41, Isaiah 46:4, Matthew 13:43)

(Et) adsumet pinnas sicut
aquilae et faciet
te fulgere sicut sol;
portabat te in pugillo, pugillo.

VERSE 2 (Psalm 90/91)

(Li)berabat de laqueo venantium,
de morte insi
Veritas eius, scutum.
Sub alis eius, sperabis.


VERSE 3 (Psalm 90/91):

(A) timore nocturno, non timebis;
a sagitta volante.
A latere tuo cadent
(mille), non adpropinquabit.


VERSE 4: (Psalm 90/91)

Quia angelis suis mandabit de
(te in) omnibus viis tuis —
in manibus
portabunt te, ne
offendat pes tuus ad lapidem.


Pretty much straight from the Vulgate, albeit with some chopping; but Latin is pretty easy to rhyme and rearrange. I’m afraid I paid no attention whatsoever to the quantities, though.

Now, in the original song, you’ll notice that it’s not “my God in whom I trust”, as in the psalm, but “My Rock in whom I trust”. I’m pretty sure that this is entirely for valid songwriting reasons (nice hard sound, “rock”). But if you find it easier, feel free to sing “Petrus meus, confidam.” It would even be strangely fitting, after last week!

I do not apologize for changing other bits to hew closer to the psalm, like “And famine will bring you no fear”. Also. the Vulgate does say that God’s truth will be our shield and protection, not His faithfulness. (Just so you know that I’m not making this stuff up.)

I do apologize for not solving all the English version’s scansion problems. Variable numbers of syllables put to the same piece of music are fine in a folksong learned orally, but they are a royal pain in a hymnal.

UPDATE: Slightly revised to deal with some of the problems noted above. Besides the obvious edit in the first verse, I also added “te” to the chorus in a couple places. (Which actually comes in handy to smooth out the scansion, as well as adding more purty internal rhyme.) I like the first line of the chorus better without a “te”, but you can put one in between “et” and “adsumet” if that’s what you really want. You can also change “dicens” to “dicet” (present or future), if it’s really bothering you, as one of the Vulgate translations does say it that way.

Sorry for the deficiencies of the audiofile; but it’s just for proof of concept, and it was recorded at 7 AM.


Filed under Church, Humor, Translations

10 responses to “Never Say Never — “On Eagle’s Wings” in Latin

  1. Lucia Rosa

    How did you do the translating? Were you trying to be literal? It’s a little messy with regard to tenses, cases, and persons; e.g. the first verse seems to be a sentence fragment, with no finite verb.
    The one who lives in hiding/in the shadow of the Lord/saying to the Lord “O my hope”–O my God, I will trust.
    “Dicat” for “dicens” might fix this. I don’t know the original song, so I’m not sure exactly what the parentheses are for; are they elided syllables or something? I had heard terrible things about this song, but this text seems great; was the music the problem?

  2. Maureen

    “On Eagles’ Wings” is in essence an adaptation of Psalm 90/91, filled in with phrases from elsewhere in the Psalms, Isaiah, etc.

    So I took Joncas at his intent and adapted Psalm 90/91 to the music — trying not to leave out any important phrases, but rearranging them to fit my desired scansion as Latin poetry does do. (No point having declensions if you don’t make them do any work.)

    I also assumed that, wherever Joncas changed verb tense from the original psalm, he was doing it to make the song less formal and more intelligible. If you’re singing Bible stuff in Latin, though, you may as well stick to the Vulgate’s way of putting it. Rearranging the verses and phrases, and making some of them rhyme — without worrying about the quantities, either — is informal enough to serve as a translation.

    (It also spares me worrying about whether “You who dwell…, say to the Lord” is a command or just a description of what they do, in fact, say.

    (Btw, I have nothing against quantities and proper pronunciation. But like many medieval Latin poets (though not all!), my poetic goal is to make a decent song that fits the music.)

    The other problem is that there are, for some reason, different versions of the Vulgate available on the Internet, without any notes as to which is which and why. This seems to make a big, big difference in how Psalm 90/91 is translated.

    For example… I think this is Jerome’s Vulgate:

    “Qui habitat in abscondito Excelsi
    in umbraculo Domini commorabitur
    dicens Domino spes mea
    et fortitudo mea
    Deus meus confidam in eum”

    And I think this is the later corrected version:

    “qui habitat in adiutorio Altissimi
    in protectione Dei caeli commorabitur
    dicet Domino susceptor meus es tu
    et refugium meum
    Deus meus sperabo in eum”

    I could be entirely wrong about which is which, but I picked one and tried to stick with it!

  3. I kind of like it, anyway… How’s the sinus infection? Lu and I are both down with a lung infection at the moment… yuck…

  4. RC

    I came across some similar work years ago, in which a seminarian claimed to have discovered the “original” Latin texts of “Gloria Lausque” songs: for example, here’s a blog post with one.

    About Latin texts, there’s the Nova Vulgata, and the older Vulgata; and if you find a Mass or office antiphon based on the same Psalm, it could be based on an “Old Latin” scripture text predating St. Jerome.

  5. “Deus maris et caeli”… That’s a good one!

  6. RC

    He also “discovered” texts of “Abba Pater”, “Gloria Lausque Deo”, and “Si Deus Pro Nobis”. (Does anyone still remember the G&P song ‘If God is for us’?)

    Now you’ve got me drafting my own version of “Wings”; here’s a take on verse one:

    Habitante sub umbra Domini,
    vitae tempus in eo manens,
    Dic ei: “Virtus mea,
    refugium et spes”

  7. Jason, who blogs with me on Christus Vincit – the BLOG! once did the Latin to (for a good laugh) “Hail, Mary, Gentle Woman”, a tune which I loathe with a passion. I, in turn, had transformed Landry’s hideous melody to a chant form.

    I lost the “Clemens Mulier” part in a fire in 2003, but still have the “Ave Maria” part on the blog somewhere.


  8. We know God only hears prayers in Latin but which version or translation? Surely He has authorized the legitimate one.

  9. “We know God only hears prayers in Latin”?

    Who is this “we”, kemosabe?

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