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23 January 2010


The Swan Sequence:

Clangam, filii
Ploratione una

Alitis cygni,
Qui transfretavit aequora.
O quam amare
Lamentabatur, arida

Se dereliquisse
Et petisse alta
Ajens: "Infelix sum
Heu mihi, quid agam

Pennis soluta
Lucida non potero
Hic in stilla.
Undis quatior,
Hinc inde nunc allidor

Angor inter arta
Gurgitum cacumina.
Gemens alatizo
Intuens mortifera,
Non conscendens supera.
Cernens copiosa
Piscium legumina,
Non queo in denso
Gurgitum assumere
Alimenta optima.

Ortus, occasus,
Plagae poli,
Lucida sidera.
Nubes occiduas."
Dum haec cogitarem tacita,
Venit rutila
adminicula aurora.
Oppitulata afflamine
Coepit virium
Recuperare fortia.

Jam agebatur
Inter alta
Et consueta nubium
Ac jucundata,
Nimis facta,
Penetrabatur marium

Dulcimode cantitans
Volitavit ad amoena
Concurrite omnia
Alitum et conclamate

Regi magno
Sit gloria.

Englished by Kate Brown and Isobel Preece:

O children, I shall sing 
A lamentation

Of a winged swan
Which crossed the great waters.
O how bitterly
It lamented, 

Having relinquished
The dry flowery land
And sought the high
Crying: "Unhappy
Small bird that I am,
Alas, what may I do
In my misery?

I cannot now
Rest on my wings
All brightness dissolves
In the rain.
I am shaken by the waves,
Buffet me hither and thither
An exile.

I am narrowly enclosed within
The canyons of the great waves.
Crying, my wings beat,
Considering death,
Not mounting above it.
I see abundant
Good food for the fishes,
But I may not, in the deep
Whirlpools, gather
This delicate food.

O East, O West,
O the regions of the poles,
Give to me 
The brightness of the stars;
Demand of
That they flee and be forgotten, 
These destroying clouds."
While the bird fell silent, thinking on these things
Came the first blush of
Rescuing dawn.
A whispering breeze assisted,
The bird received strength
And recovered more strongly.

Now it was carried
Among the high
Familiar crowd 
Of stars.
And joyous
Beyond measure,
It passed through the 
Streams of the seas.

Singing very sweetly
It flew to to the pleasant
Dry land.
Join together, all
Winged creatures, and sing together
All of you:

To the mighty King
Be glory.

22 January 2010


His life, according to the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Martyris egregii,
Triumphos Vincentii
Celebret Ecclesia!
Qui certanti praefuit,
Vires, arma praebuit,
Regi laus et gloria!

Hic, aetate viridis,
Datiani praesidis
Currit ad praetoria;
Verbum verbo redditur,
De fide conseritur
Grandis controversia.

"Nil," ait Vincentius,
"Fide nostra verius:
"Ego sum Christicola:
"Deum verum astruo:
"Deos, praeses, respuo,
"Non deos, sed idola.

"Te minantem rideo,
"Te parcentem doleo 2
"Saevitorque lania."
Praeses, ira tumidus,
Tanquam fera rabidus,
Intendit supplicia.

Torquet in equuleo
Sublimatum ferreo
Poena sub diutina;
Rapit ab equuleo
Stridens igne flammeo
Candens ferri machina.

Raptus a patibulo,
Clauditur ergastulo
Testae super fragmina:
Testatum asperitas
Florum fit suavitas;
Coelo datur anima.

Bestiis exponitur;
Vident, stupent: figitur
Alitis custodia.
Mari nautoe dederant:  
Perdito tripudiant,
Sed jam tenet littora.

Sic ubique victor est,
Coelo, terra potens est:
Gaudeat Ecclesia!
Dies est victoriae,
Dies est laetitiae,
Nobis dans solemnia.

Tuo, martyr, sanguine,
Culpas nostras ablue,
Reddens prima gaudia.
Ut, mundati sordibus.
Cum electis omnibus
Laetemur in gloria! Amen. 
Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

Let the whole Church celebrate,
Triumphs of a martyr great!
Vincent's victories to-day!
To the King, who, whilst he fought,
Help, strength, armour, to him brought, 
Praise and glory let us pay!

He, while still but young in years,
At the judgment-seat appears
Of the prefect Datian:
Word for word he gives again;
A grand controversy then,
Touching points of faith, began.

"There is nothing," Vincent saith,
"Truer than our holy faith:
"Christ I worship, Christ alone: 
"Sire! the true God I declare,
"And reject those gods, which are
"No true gods, but wood and stone.

"I despise thine every threat,
"And thy mercy should regret;
"Therefore, torturer! rend and tear!"
Then the prefect, big with wrath,
Fierce as wild beast in the path,
Cruel tortures doth prepare.

He, upon the iron horse
Lifting him without remorse,
Racks him with long-lasting pain,
Till an iron heated frame.
Hissing with devouring flame,
Tears him from the rack again.

From its crossbars taken down,
Into prison is he thrown
On some potsherds' broken ends:
Whose sharp points to him appear
Sweetness with sweet flowers to share,
Till his soul to heaven ascends.

Forth to wild beasts is he cast;
They behold; they stand aghast;
By a bird is he watched o'er:
Sailors plunged him in the deep;
At his loss for joy they leap,
But his corpse now reaches shore.

Thus, victorious every way,
Heaven and earth his power obey:
Let the Church rejoice and sing!
'Tis a day of victory,
'Tis a day of jubilee,
Which this feast to us doth bring.

Martyr! in thy blood, we pray.
Wash thou all our sins away,
And primaeval joys restore;
That, thus cleansed from sin's alloy,
We may in thy glory joy
With all saints for evermore! Amen.

17 January 2010


15 January 2010


The Wilton Diptych was commissioned by King Richard II near the end of the 14th century. Its left panel depicts the kneeling king and three saints: Edmund, Edward and John the Baptist. Its right panel has Our Lady and the Christ Child, surrounded by blue-robed angels who wear Richard's livery badge of a white hart.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists...

We turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Mere freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.

However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth Century's moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.
[Harvard University ~ 8 June 1978]

2 January 2010


The first piece of polyphonic music known to have been composed in the Americas was used for Christmastide processions in the Franciscan mission town St. Peter of Antahualla. It was written in the Quechan tongue and included in the Ritual Formulario e Institución de Curas compiled in 1631 by the Franciscan priest Juan Pérez Bocanegra:

Hanacpachap cussicuinin
Huaran cacta muchascaiqui
Yupairurupucoc mallqui.
Runacunap suyacuinin
Callpan nacpa quemi cuinin

Uyarihuai muchascaita
Diospa rampan diospa maman.
Yurac tocto hamancaiman
Yupascalla collpascaita.
Huahuarquiman suyuscaita

English translation:

O tree bearing thrice-blessed fruit,
Joy of heaven, a thousand times
Shall we praise thee.
O hope of humankind,
Help of the weak,
Hear our prayer!

Attend to our pleas,
O column of ivory, Mother of God!
Beautiful iris, yellow and white,
Receive this song we offer thee.
Come to our help,
Show us the Fruit of thy womb!

18 December 2009


Dom Prosper Gueranger:
This feast, which is now kept not only throughout the whole of Spain but in many other parts of the Catholic world, owes its origin to the bishops of the tenth Council of Toledo, in 656. These prelates thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on the twenty-fifth of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of our Lord, so that it is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason; they therefore decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas, a solemn feast with an octave, in honour of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of our Lord's Nativity. In course of time, however, the Church of Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practice of the Church of Rome, and of those of the whole world, which solemnize the twenty-fifth of March as the day of our Lady's Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God. But such had been, for ages, the devotion of the people for the feast of the eighteenth of December, that it was considered requisite to maintain some vestige of it. They discontinued, therefore, to celebrate the Annunciation on this day; but the faithful were requested to consider, with devotion, what must have been the sentiments of the holy Mother of God during the days immediately preceding her giving Him birth. A new feast was instituted, under the name of the Expectation of the blessed Virgin's delivery.

This feast, which sometimes goes under the name of
Our Lady of O, or the feast of O, on account of the [antiphon] which begins O Virgo virginum [and because on that day the clerics in the choir after Vespers used to utter a loud and protracted O, to express the longing of the universe for the coming of the Redeemer], is kept with great devotion in Spain. A High Mass is sung at a very early hour each morning during the octave, at which all who are with child, whether rich or poor, consider it a duty to assist, that they may thus honour our Lady's Maternity, and beg her blessing upon themselves...

Most just indeed it is, O holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire thou hadst to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in thy chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also thine; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and, on earth, peace to men of good-will. Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy thy desires and ours. Make us redouble our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by thy powerful prayers for us, that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia noc primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

O Virgin of virgins! how shall this be? for never was there one like thee, nor will there ever be. Ye daughters of Jerusalem, why look ye wondering at me? What ye behold, is a divine mystery.
[The Liturgical Year]

7 December 2009


25 November 2009


Tailpiece to A.W.N. Pugin's Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume.

22 November 2009


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