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Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin


Related threads:
(DTStudy) DTStudy: Flower Carol (3)
(origins) Origins: Good King Wenceslas (20)
Piae Cantiones, 1582 Songbook (9)
About the Good King Wenceslas!!!!!READ (22)
Tune Req: Identify tune in Oxford Book of Carols (21)

Joe_F 22 Dec 03 - 06:54 PM
GUEST 22 Dec 03 - 10:40 PM
Joe Offer 23 Dec 03 - 02:39 AM
Joe Offer 23 Dec 03 - 03:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Dec 03 - 05:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Dec 03 - 05:06 PM
Joe Offer 23 Dec 03 - 07:57 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Dec 03 - 09:17 PM
Joe Offer 24 Dec 03 - 02:35 AM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Dec 03 - 05:56 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Dec 03 - 01:59 PM
Joe Offer 24 Dec 03 - 02:19 PM
Dani 24 Dec 03 - 04:06 PM
Joe_F 24 Dec 03 - 05:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Dec 03 - 05:29 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM
The Fooles Troupe 24 Dec 03 - 09:05 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 25 Dec 03 - 04:50 PM
Haruo 27 Dec 03 - 11:03 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Joe_F
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 06:54 PM

As is well known (see, e.g., the fine print in _Rise Up Singing_ s.v. "The Flower Carol"), the familiar tune of "Good King Wenceslas" traditionally belonged to a *spring* carol, _Tempus Adest Floridum_, whose English translation seems also to be traditional. The Christmas words were written by a 19th-century clergyman named John M. Neale. Turnabout is fair play, and some years ago I found that the first stanza of _Wenceslas_ existed in a Latin translation, which I thought charming. I never expected to see the rest of it, but a Google search on the first line brought it up right away in its entirety, and I thought it would make a good Christmas present to the Mudcat:

(Translated by Stephen A. Hurlbut)

Sanctus Wenceslaus rex
Stephani ad festum,
agrum vidit nivibus
gelidis congestum.
Vidit pauperem sibi
ligna colligentem,
qui sub luna splendida
sensit se frigentem.

"Huc, O puer, siste huc,
dicens, si cognoris,
quis sit, ubi habitet
pauper iste foris?"
"Ere, procul habitat,
subter illum montem,
silvae iuxta limitem,
ad Agnetis fontem."

"Affer carnem, vinum fer,
lignum afferamus,
ut nos illi pauperi
cenam praebeamus."
Rex et puer prodibant
animo aequali,
vento flante acriter
tempore brumali.

"Ere, nox fit atrior,
ventus vi augetur;
plus non possum, nescio cur,
valde cor terretur."
"Puer mi, vestigia tu
sequere libenter;
hiems saeva laedet te
minus violenter."

Puer regem sequitur,
unde nix discessit;
fervor glaebis inerat,
ubi sanctus pressit.
Hoc scitote, divites,
Christum qui amatis,
Vos beate eritis,
si quem vos beatis.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 10:40 PM

Good God, man, isn't it hard enough to sing in ENGLISH?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 02:39 AM

See this thread on hymn/carol tunes for more information. I copied the lyrics for "Tempus adest Floridum" from
-Joe Offer-


Tempus adest floridum, surgent namque flores
Vernales in omnibus, imitantur mores
Hoc quod frigus laeserat, reparant calores
Cernimus hoc fieri, per multos labores.

Sunt prata plena floribus, iucunda aspectu
Ubi iuvat cernere, herbas cum delectu
Gramina et plantae hyeme quiescunt
Vernali in tempore virent et accrescunt.

Haec vobis pulchre monstrant Deum creatorem
Quem quoque nos credimus omnium factorem
O tempus ergo hilare, quo laetari libet
Renovato nam mundo, nos novari decet.

Terra ornatur floribus et multo decore
Nos honestis moribus et vero amore
Gaudeamus igitur tempore iucundo
Laudemusque Dominum pectoris ex fundo.

Words: 13th Century; first appeared in the Swedish Piae Cantiones, 1582

I suppose I ought to work up my own translation, but I'm lazy. I found a partial translation here:

Now it's the time of flowers,
which rise from the earth.
Spring is everywhere, also in our spirits.
What the frost has damaged, will be repaired by the warmth.
Everything blossoms with much labor.

The warm winds are scented,
there are ripples on the blue waters,
the larks are singing in joy,
the sky is clear up above.
The flowers, destroyed by the fall, are reborn in new buds,
the pains of winter are forgotten,
all chains are released.

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Subject: ADD: Flower Carol
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 03:16 PM

Here's a better translation. As far as I can tell, the translator is not identified.
-Joe Offer-


  1. Spring has now unwrapped the flowers,
    Day is fast reviving,
    Life in all her growing powers
    Towards the light is striving:
    Gone the iron touch of cold,
    Winter time and frost time,
    Seedlings, working through the mould,
    Now make up for lost time.

  2. Herb and plant that, winter long,
    Slumbered at their leisure,
    Now bestirring, green and strong,
    Find in growth their pleasure:
    All the world with beauty fills,
    Gold the green enhancing;
    Flowers make glee among the hills,
    And set the meadows dancing.

  3. Through each wonder of fair days
    God himself expresses;
    Beauty follows all his ways,
    As the world he blesses:
    So, as he renews the earth,
    Artist without rival,
    In his grace of glad new birth
    We must seek revival.

  4. Earth puts on her dress of glee;
    Flowers and grasses hide her;
    We go forth in charity—
    Brothers all beside her;
    For, as man this glory sees
    In the awakening season,
    Reason learns the heart's decrees,
    And hearts are led by reason

  5. Praise the Maker, all ye saints;
    He with glory girt you,
    He who skies and meadows paints
    Fashioned all your virtue;
    Praise him, seers, heroes, kings,
    Heralds of perfection;
    Brothers, praise him, for he brings
    All to resurrection!

    This is a free translation, with a doxology, of the words proper to "Tempus Adest Floridum," (from Piae Cantiones, 1582) the spring carol which Neale turned into a Christmas carol by writing his rendering of the legend of "Good King Wenceslas."

Source: The Oxford Book of Carols, 1928, 1964

Most of this has been posted elsewhere, but here is the entire text of the Oxford Book of Carols commentary on "Good King Wenceslas":
    This rather confused narrative owes its popularity to the delightful tune, which is that of a Spring carol. 'Tempus adest floridum', No. 99. Unfortunately Neale in 1853 substituted for the Spring carol this 'Good King Wenceslas', one of his less happy pieces, which E. Duncan goes so far as to call 'doggerel', and Bullen condemns as 'poor and commonplace to the last degree'. The time has not yet come for a comprehensive book to discard it; but we reprint the tune in its proper setting ('Spring has now unwrapped the flowers'), not without hope that, with the present wealth of carols for Christmas, 'Good King Wenceslas' may gradually pass into disuse, and the tune be restored to spring-time. Neale did the same kind of thing to another Spring carol, In vernali tempore' (No. 98; cf. No. 102); but this was not popularized by Bramley & Stainer. Rather strongly worded, isn't it?

    OK, now look at the commentary from The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols (1993):
      Wenceslas is the German form of Vaclav. Vaclav the Good reigned in Bohemia from 922 to 929, later becoming the Czech patron saint. Neale's carol is not based on any known incident in the saint's life: it is probably no more than a pious illustration of the virtue of charity—
      Stephen's Day (Boxing Day, 26 December) is a traditional day for giving to the poor. The tune is that of a spring song from Piae Cantiones (1582).

    Certainly milder, but also not excessively complimentary.

    Some of the verses of "Flower Carol" appear in Quaker and Unitarian hymnals, and (as stated above) it's in the Rise Up Singing songbook. As for myself, I prefer "Good King Wenceslas." But then, I also like to eat at McDonald's.

    -Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 05:04 PM

That's a good Christmas Present, Joe.

The "Tempus adest floridum" lyric set me thinking about Carmina Buarana, by Carl Orff - and the magical Google came up with this site with the Latin lyrics of all the songs in that.

Latin's a great language for singing in, Dani. Just try it with King Wenceslas there and you'll see what I mean.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 05:06 PM

And that site's got English transaltions of Carmina Burana as well.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 07:57 PM

Is the exact same text used in Carmina Burana, Kevin? I don't see it at the site you linked to, but maybe I'm missing something.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 09:17 PM

Click on the numbers at the front of the titles on the index, or scroll down the page. Should work.

Here's the URL, in case the blue clicky's a problem:

So far as I can see it's the same text used on the records I've got.

Incidentally, for anyone who likes Carmina Burana, this is the book to get hold of, to fill in the background - Helen Waddell - The Wandering Scholars

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 02:35 AM

Oh, OK, Kevin - I thought you were saying "Tempus Adest Floridum" was one of the texts from Carmina Burana. Both texts are medieval Latin, but I don't believe "Tempus" is part of "Carmina." However, this site (click) would make you think it is.
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Confession Of Golias
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 05:56 AM

I think the ambiguity arises from the fact that "Carmina Burana" can mean two things - the collection of texts in the Codex Buranus, which is the sense used in that fascinating site, and the selection from these used by Carl Orff.

This set me thinking about the "Archpoet", whom Helen Waddell found and made so fascinating in her book, and I found this site about him, part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. Including this translation of his mock conession:

Boiling in my spirit's veins
With fierce indignation,
From my bitterness of soul
Springs self-revelation:
Framed am I of flimsy stuff,
Fit for levitation,
Like a thin leaf which the wind
Scatters from its station.

While it is the wise man's part
With deliberation
On a rock to base his heart's
Permanent foundation,
With a running river I
Find my just equation,
Which beneath the self-same sky
Hath no habitation.

Carried am I like a ship
Left without a sailor,
Like a bird that through the air
Flies where tempests hale her;
Chains and fetters hold me not,
Naught avails a jailer;
Still I find my fellows out
Toper, gamester, railer.

To my mind all gravity
Is a grave subjection;
Sweeter far than honey are
Jokes and free affection.
All that Venus bids me do,
Do I with erection,
For she ne'er in heart of man
Dwelt with dull dejection.

Down the broad road do I run,
As the way of youth is;
Snare myself in sin, and ne'er
Think where faith and truth is;
Eager far for pleasure more
Than soul's health, the sooth is,
For this flesh of mine I care,
Seek not ruth where ruth is.

Prelate, most discreet of priests,
Grant me absolution!
Dear's the death whereof I die,
Sweet my dissolution;
For my heart is wounded br
Beauty's soft suffusion;
All the girls I come not nigh,
Mine are in illusion.

'Tis most arduous to make
Nature's self surrender;
Seeing girls, to blush and be
Purity's defender!
We young men our longings ne'er
Shall to stern law render,
Or preserve our fancies from
Bodies smooth and tender.

Who, when into fire he falls,
Keeps himself from burning?
Who within Pavia's walls
Fame of chaste is earning?
Venus with her finger calls
Youths at every turning,
Snares them with her eyes, and thralls
With her amorous yearning.

If you brought Hippolitus
To Pavia Sunday,
He'd not be Hippolitus
On the following Monday;
Venus there keeps holiday
Every day as one day;
'Mid these towers in no tower dwells
Venus Verecunda. [a modest Venus]

In the second place I own
To the vice of gaming:
Cold indeed outside I seem,
Yet my soul is flaming:
But when once the dice-box hath
Stripped me to mv shaming,
Make I songs and verses fit
For the world's acclaiming.

In the third place, 1 will speak
Of the tavern's pleasure;
For I never found nor find
There the least displeasure;
Nor shall find it till I greet
Angels without measure,
Singing requiems for the souls
In eternal leisure.

In the public-house to die
Is my resolution;
Let wine to my lips be nigh
At life's dissolution:
That will make the angels cry,
With glad elocution,
"Grant this toper, God on high,
Grace and absolution!"

With the cup the soul lights up,
Inspirations flicker;
Nectar lifts the soul on high
With its heavenly ichor:
To my lips a sounder taste
Hath the tavern's liquor
Than the wine a village clerk
Waters for the vicar.

Nature gives to every man
Some gift serviceable;
Write I never could nor can
Hungry at the table;
Fasting, any stripling to
Vanquish me is able;
Hunger, thirst, I liken to
Death that ends the fable.

Nature gives to every man
Gifts as she is willing;
I compose my verses when
Good wine I am swilling,
Wine the best for jolly guest
Jolly hosts are filling;
From such wine rare fancies fine
Flow like dews distilling.

Such my verse is wont to be
As the wine I swallow;
No ripe thoughts enliven me
While my stomach's hollow;
Hungry wits on hungry lips
Like a shadow follow,
But when once I'm in my cups,
I can beat Apollo.

Never to my spirit yet
Flew poetic vision
Until first my belly bad
Plentiful provision;
Let but Bacchus in the brain
Take a strong position,
Then comes Phoebus flowing in
With a fine precision.

There are poets, worthy men,
Shrink from public places,
And in lurking-hole or den
Hide their pallid faces;
There they study, sweat, and woo
Pallas and the Graces,
But bring nothing forth to view
Worth the girls' embraces.

Fasting, thirsting, toil the bards,
Swift years flying o'er them;
Shun the strife of open life,
Tumults of the forum;
They, to sing some deathless thing,
Lest the world ignore them,
Die the death, expend their breath,
Drowned in dull decorum.

Lo! mv frailties I've betrayed,
Shown you every token,
Told you what your servitors
Have against me spoken;
But of those men each and all
Leave their sins unspoken,
Though they play, enjoy to-day,
Scorn their pledges broken.

Now within the audience-room
Of this blessed prelate,
Sent to hunt out vice, and from
Hearts of men expel it;
Let him rise, nor spare the bard,
Cast at him a pellet:
He whose heart knows not crime's smart,
Show mv sin and tell it!

I have uttered openly
All I knew that shamed me,
And have spued the poison forth
That so long defamed me;
Of my old ways I repent,
New life hath reclaimed me;
God beholds the heart-'twas man
Viewed the face and blamed me.

Goodness now hath won my love,
I am wroth with vices;
Made a new man in my mind,
Lo, my soul arises!
Like a babe new milk I drink-
Milk for me suffices,
Lest my heart should longer be
Filled with vain devices.

Thou Elect of fair Cologne, [ie Rainald of Dassel]
Listen to my pleading!
Spurn not thou the penitent;
See, his heart is bleeding!
Give me penance! what is due
For my faults exceeding
I will bear with willing cheer,
All thy precepts heeding.

Lo, the lion, king of beasts,
Spares the meek and lowly;
Toward submissive creatures he
Tames his anger wholly.
Do the like, ye powers of earth,
Temporal and holy!
Bitterness is more than's right
When 'tis bitter solely.

trans. by John Addington Symonds, Wine, Women, and Song, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1884)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 01:59 PM

A good source for information about Orff's "Carmina Burana" is the book "Carmina Burana, Cantiones Profanee," by Judith Lynn Sebesta. She includes not only the texts and translations but an extensive glossary or vocabulary interpaged with the texts which is most helpful with the Medieval Latin (with its departures from classical Latin).
The vocabulary includes the medieval German in the text as well.
In addition to the free translation by Sebesta, a new translation by Jeffrey M. Duban is included.

On cd, Carmina Burana on EMI- Plasson, Orch. Cap. de Toulouse, with Natalie Dessay, Thomas Hampson and Gerard Lesne, offers a booklet with Orff's complete text and a French translation. This may have been issued with English translation; I have not looked for it.

Catulli Carmina, Trionfo di Afrodite, Orff, also on EMI, is based on the poems of the Roman Catellus (full English translation in booklet).   

Getting back to Wenceslas, why has no one at Mudcat completed Walt Kelly's (POGO) version about the king on his feets uneven? A chance for immortality!

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 02:19 PM

Click here for Pogo thread

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Dani
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 04:06 PM

Hey! I love to sing in Latin. Adeste Fidelis is the ONLY way I like to sing THAT song! But couldn't figure out how to get around the first like of Wenceslaus. Even in English it's sometimes hard to cram the words into the tune.

TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM looks good though...

As usual, the Mudcat digs up and then solves a mystery!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Joe_F
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 05:27 PM

Dani: Sanc-tus Wen-ces-la-us Rex -- 7 syllables, just what you need (cf. Good King Wen-ces-las looked out).

As to the comment in the Oxford Book of Carols, whoever wrote it is entitled to his opinion, but I think he overdoes his expression of it & may reasonably be suspected of wishing to spoil other people's fun. Its popularity with *me*, at any rate, is not due solely to the tune.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 05:29 PM

Easy enough - you just pronounce "laus" as la-us ie (lah-us).

"Sanctus Wencesla-us rex"

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM

Put together a group, part using "church" Latin with its pronunciation approaching Italian (approx. A-new-us Dei- the Italian gn-) and part using the reformed academic usually taught to scientists and many classicists (Ogg-noose Dei) and you get the singers looking at each other.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 09:05 PM

I was actually present at an SCA event, where the guy who made the best costumes left a candle in his tent and lost the lot. The "King" lent him his cloak to sleep in for the night. Of course, someone wrote a "parody"...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 04:50 PM

Should we make a practice of adding Latin lyrics to the DT ? "Oppugnavit Iosue Iericho/corruerunt tum muri" would be a good addition, if the copyright ever expires.....

Query: if the words first appeared in the Piae Cantiones, what is the basis for dating them to the 13th century ?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Good King Wenceslas' in Latin
From: Haruo
Date: 27 Dec 03 - 11:03 PM

Thank you so much, Joe! Tibi multas magnasque gratias ago!


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