Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday Middle English Advent Carol Blogging

When you say "Advent carol" most people think first of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and then can't recall anything else. There are others, but they're pretty obscure. Here’s one of my obscure favorites, a souvenir of the part of my youth spent among the Episcopalians. Its source is an early 13th century manuscript relating the story of the Annunciation, and it’s sung to the tune Angelus ad Virginem. Although as a Unitarian I’m not buying the supernatural Christology, I love the haunting dance-like melody and the disarming portrayal of humility and hope.

Gabriel, fram heven-king
sent to þe maide swete,
broute hir blisfúl tiding
and fair he gan hir grete:
"Heil be þu, ful of grace ari3t!
For Godes son, þis heven-li3t,
for mannes love
wil man bicome
and take
fles of þee, maide bri3t,
mankén free for to make
of sen and devles mi3t.

Mildëlich him gan andswere
þe milde maide þanne:
"Wichëwise sold ich bere
child withute manne?"
Þangel hir seid, "Ne dred tee nout:
Þurw þoligast sal been iwrout
þis ilch þing
warof tiding
ich bringe:
al mánken wurth ibout
þurw þine sweet childínge
and ut of pine ibrout."

Wan þe maiden understood
and þangels wordes herde,
mildëlich with milde mood
to þangel hie andswerde:
"Ure lords þewe maid iwis
ich am, þat heer aboven is.
Anentis me
fulfurthed be
þi sawe
þat ich, sith his wil is,
maid, withute lawe,
of moðer have þe blis."

Þangel went awei mid þan
al ut of hire si3te;
hire womb arise gan
þurw þoligastes mi3te.
In hir wes Crist bilok anon,
sooth God, sooth man in fles and bon,
and of hir fles
ibore wes
at time.
Warþurw us kam good won;
he bout us ut of pine
and let him for us slon.

Maiden-moðer makëles,
of milce ful ibunde,
bid for us him þat tee ches,
at wam þu grace funde,
þat he forgive us sen and wrake
and clene of evri gelt us make
and heven-blis
wan ur time is
to sterve,
us give, for þine sake,
him so heer for to serve
þat he us to him take.

Here it is again, rendered in modern English:

Gabriel, from heaven’s King
Sent to the maiden sweet,
Brought her this blissful tiding
And warmly gave her greet:
“Hail to thee, full of grace aright!
For God’s Son, this heavenly light,
For love of man
Will man become
And take
Flesh of thee, maiden bright,
Mankind free to make
Of sin and devil’s might.”

The mild maiden softly gave
Answer to him then:
“However should I bear
A child without a man?”
The angel told her: “Dread thee naught;
Through the Holy Ghost shall be wrought
This very thing
Of which tiding
I bring;
All mankind shall be bought
Through thy sweet birthing
And out of pain be brought.”

When the maiden understood
And the angel’s words had heard,
Tenderly, with gentle mood,
The angel she answered:
“Our Lord’s servant girl I know
I am, who is above us here.
As for me,
Full furthered be
Thy words:
That I, since it His will is,
A maiden, outside [natural] law,
Should have a mother’s bliss.”

With that the angel went away
All out of her sight.
Her womb began to rise
Through the Holy Ghost’s might.
Into her was Christ placed anon,
True God, true man in flesh and bone,
And of her flesh
A-borne he was
In time,
Through which came God to us to dwell;
He bought us out of pain,
And let himself for us be slain.

Maiden mother matchless,
Of mercy full abounding:
Pray for us to him that chose thee,
To him who in thee grace found,
That he forgive our sin and wreck;
And clean of every guilt us make;
And heaven’s bliss,
When our time it is
To die,
Give us, for thy sake:
So to serve him here
That he us to him take.


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