A Poor Brother's Hymnal
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
  Earth Has Many A Noble City
“Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One Who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2


Edward Caswall (1814-1878)
Words: Au­re­li­us Pru­den­ti­us (348-413) (O so­la mag­nar­um ur­bi­um); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Ed­ward Cas­wall, Ly­ra Ca­thol­i­ca, 1849.
Music: Stutt­gart, in Psalm­o­dia Sac­ra, by Christ­ian F. Witt (Go­tha, Ger­ma­ny: 1715); adapt­ed by Hen­ry J. Gaunt­lett (1805-1876) (MI­DI, score).

If you have ac­cess to a pic­ture of Au­re­li­us Pru­den­ti­us or Christ­ian Witt that we could put on­line, please click here.

Earth has many a noble city;
Bethlehem, thou dost all excel;
Out of thee the Lord from Heaven
Came to rule His Israel.

Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told His birth,
To the world its God announcing
Seen in fleshly form on earth.

Eastern sages at His cradle
Make oblations rich and rare;
See them give, in deep devotion,
Gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Sacred gifts of mystic meaning:
Incense doth their God disclose,
Gold the King of kings proclaimeth,
Myrrh His sepulcher foreshows.

Jesu, whom the Gentiles worshipped
At Thy glad Epiphany,
Unto Thee, with God the Father
And the Spirit, glory be.

This hymn is composed of four verses from the Hymn for the Epiphany from Prudentius' (384-413) Cathemerinon, which is 52 stanzas long. In 1568, four short hymns were assembled from selected stanzas from Prudentius' hymn and introduced into the Breviary by Pope Pius V. This hymn is one of them and is used in the Roman Breviary at Lauds on Epiphany.
O SOLA magnarum urbium
maior Bethlehem, cui contigit
ducem salutis caelitus
incorporatum gignere.
BETHLEHEM! of noblest cities
none can once with thee compare;
thou alone the Lord from heaven
didst for us Incarnate bear.
Haec stella, quae solis rotam
vincit decore ac lumine,
venisse terris nuntiat
cum carne terrestri Deum.
Fairer than the sun at morning
was the star that told His birth;
to the lands their God announcing,
hid beneath a form of earth.
Videre postquam illum Magi,
eoa promunt munera:
stratique votis offerunt
thus, myrrham, et aurum regium.
By its lambent beauty guided,
see the eastern kings appear;
see them bend, their gifts to offer-
gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.
Regem Deumque annuntiant
thesaurus, et fragrans odor
thuris Sabaei, ac myrrheus
pulvis sepulchrum praedocet.
Solem things of mystic meaning!-
Incense doth the God disclose;
Gold a royal Child proclaimeth;
Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.
Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui apparuisti gentibus,
cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula.
Holy Jesu, in Thy brightness
to the Gentile world displayed,
with the Father and the Spirit,
endless praise to Thee be paid.

From the Roman Breviary. Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878).

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