Translation: Ecce Fulget Clarissima (Medieval Hymn to St. Patrick)

I was going to do some more Aurelius stuff, but my Canty CD of a medieval office for St. Patrick came yesterday. So suddenly, it’s March 17th in July! (It’s also been recorded on Schola Gregoriana Maynooth’s album Saints and Scholars.)

“Ecce fulget clarissima” is a fairly widespread hymn in medieval lit books, but I had never heard the melody before. It’s an interesting one. Push it one way and it sounds like a medieval dance tune; push it the other way and it’s an Irish ballad tune or slow air. A lot of medieval chant hymns are like this — a bit catchier than other sorts of chant, and probably composed more for popular use rather than as a strictly monastery product.

Canty’s literal translation seems to be based on the Wright and Stokes one in The Writings of St. Patrick, which is fine. But I had a few different ideas about it, most notably that “baptismate” is not to be translated in this case as Baptism, but as Flood. The water motif in the poem seems strongly tied to St. Patrick’s famous kidnapping and enslavement by Irish raiders; whereas his Baptism is not famous at all. I also saw some Biblical references, so I wasn’t shy about pointing them out. You’ll also notice a couple places where I merged two verses into one, in the translation. There’s no point spinning out a song that’s this long already.

Ecce fulget clarissima
Patricii solemnitas,
in qua carne deposita
felix transcendit sidera.

Behold, the brightest solemnity:
St. Patrick’s Day shines brilliantly.
Happy, he left his flesh today,
And past the stars he slipped away.

Hic felici prosapia
ortus est in Britannia
perceptoque baptismate
studet ad alta tendere.

Born to a happy family,
Risen from Britain by the sea,
Swept off by slavers on the flood,
He strove to reach the heights in snow and mud.

Qui mox a pueritia
divina plenus gratia
vitam cepit diligere
dignitatis angelice.

Soon as he passed from boyhood’s days,
He was full of divine grace,
Taking a life up that he came to love —
Worthy of angels up above.

Sed futurorum prescius,
clemens et rectus Dominus
hunc direxit apostolum
Hybernie ad populum.

But the Lord, knowing what would be,
The Ruler who guides mercif’lly,
Brought this apostle by His Hand
Back to the people of Ireland.

Erat namque hec insula
bonis terre fructifera,
sed cultore ydolatra
mergebatur ad infima.

Oh, for that island was full of good ground,
Ready to bear fruit when seed had been found.
But it was drowned deep in idolatry;
That turned it to the worst ground that could be.

Ad hanc doctor egregius
adveniens Patricius
predicabat gentilibus,
quod tenebat operibus.

Confluebat gentilitas
ad ejus sacra monita
et respuens diabolum
colebat regem omnium.

Patrick came out to the peoples to teach
And practice all of the good works he would preach.
To hear holy prophecy, clans came flowing,
To spit out the Devil and take God as King.

Gaudebatque se liberam
remeare ad patriam,
qua serpentis astutia
olim expulsa fuerat.

And he rejoiced to see Ireland free,
As he went home to the Father’s country.
The old serpent’s cunning and subtlety
He’d driven out of Ireland already.

Qua propter, dilectissimi,
huius in laude presulis
psallamus Christo cordibus
alternantes et vocibus.

Ut illius suffragio
liberati a vitio
perfruamur in gloria
uisione angelica.

So, most beloved, in this prelate’s praise,
Let’s sing to Christ — heart and voice in turn raise.
So, when from vice by his prayers we’re set free,
The angelic vision we’ll know in glory.

Laus sit patri in filio
cum spiritu paraclito,
qui suo dono gratie
misertus est hybernie.
Amen.

Praise to the Father and to the Son
And to the Spirit, the Three in One.
His gift of grace from His Own Hand
Has shown His mercy to Ireland.
Amen.

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