Blest Cross-bearer, Source of good,
Gracious child of maidenhood,
Bosomed in the Fatherhood,
When earth, sea and stars were not.
With Thy cloudless, healing gaze
Shine upon me from above:
Let Thine all-enlightening rays
Bless this meal and quicken praise,
Praise unto Thy name of Love.
Lord, without Thee nought is sweet,
Nought my life can satisfy,
If Thy favour make not meet
What I drink and what I eat;
Let faith all things sanctify!
O'er this bread God's grace be poured,
Christ's sweet fragrance fill the bowl!
Rule my converse, Triune Lord,
Sober thought and sportive word,
All my acts and all my soul.
Spoils of rose-trees are not spent,
Nor rich unguents on my board:
But ambrosial sweets are sent,
Of faith's nectar redolent,
From the bosom of my Lord.
Scorn, my Muse, light ivy-leaves
Wherewith custom wreathed thy brow:
Love a mystic crown conceives
And a rhythmic garland weaves:
Bind on thee God's praises now.
What more worthy gift can I,
Child of light and aether, bring
Than for boons the Maker high
From His bounty doth supply
Lovingly my thanks to sing?
He hath set 'neath our command
All that ever rose to be,
All that sky and sea and land
Breed in air, in glebe and sand,
Made my slaves, His own made me.
Fowler's craft with gin and net
Feathered tribes of heaven ensnares:
Osier twigs with lime o'erset
That their airy flight may let
His relentless guile prepares.
Lo! with woven mesh the seine
Swimming shoals draws from the wave:
Nor do fish the bait disdain
Till they feel the barb's swift pain,
Captives of the food they crave.
Native wealth that knows no fail,
Golden wheat springs from the field:
Tendrils lush o'er vineyards trail,
Nursed of Peace the olives pale
Berries green unbidden yield.
Christ's grace fills His people's need
With these mercies ever fresh:
Far from us be that foul greed,
Gluttony that loves to feed
On slain oxen's bloodstained flesh.
Leave to the barbarian brood
Banquet of the slaughtered beast:
Ours the homely, garden food,
Greenstuff manifold and good
And the lentils' harmless feast.
Foaming milkpails bubble o'er
With the udders' snowy stream,
Which in thickening churns we pour
Or in wicker baskets store,
As the cheese is pressed from cream.
Honey's nectar for our use
From the new-made comb is shed:
Which the skilful bee imbues
With thyme's scent and airy dews,
Plying lonely toils unwed.
Orchard-groves now mellowed o'er
Bounteously their fruitage shed:
See! like rain on forest floor
Shaken trees their riches pour,
High-heaped apples, ripe and red.
What great trumpet voice or lyre
Famed of yore could fitly praise
Gifts of the Almighty Sire,
Blessings that His own require,
Richly lavished through their days?
When morn breaks upon our sight,
Hymns, O Lord, to Thee shall ring:
Thee, when streams the midday light,
Thee, when shadows of the night
Bid us sup, our voices sing.
For my body's vital heat,
For my heart-blood's pulsing vein,
For my tongue and speech complete
Unto Thee, Most High, 'tis meet
That I raise my grateful strain.
'Twas, O Holy One, Thy care
Wrought us from the plastic clay,
Made us Thine own image bear,
And for our perfection fair
Did Thy Breath to man convey.
On the twain Thou didst bestow
Leafy bowers in pleasaunce fair:
Where spring's scents for aye did blow,
And four stately streams did flow
O'er meads pied with blossoms rare.
"All this realm ye now shall sway:"
(Saidst Thou) "use it at your will,
Yet 'tis death your hands to lay
On the Tree, whose verdant sway
Doth the midmost garden fill."
Then the Serpent's guileful hate
Would not innocency spare:
Bade the maiden urge her mate
With the fruit his lips to sate,
Nor 'scaped she the self-same snare.
Each their nakedness perceives
When the feast they once partook:
Smit with shame their conscience grieves:
Wove they coverings of leaves
Shielding from lascivious look.
Far they both in terror fled
Thrust from dwelling of the pure:
She who erst had dwelt unwed
Subject to her spouse was led,
Bidden Hymen's bonds endure.
On the Serpent, too, His seal
God hath set, Who guile abhorred,
Doomed in triple neck to feel
Impress of the woman's heel,
Fearing her, who feared her lord.
Thus sin in our parents sown
Brought forth ruin for the race;
Good and evil having grown
From that primal root alone,
Nought but death could guilt efface.
But the Second Man behold
Come to re-create our kin:
Not formed after common mould
But our God (O Love untold!)
Made in flesh that knows not sin.
Word of God incarnated,
By His awful power conceived,
Whom a maiden yet unwed,
Innocent of marriage-bed,
In her virgin womb received.
Now we see the Serpent lewd
'Neath the woman's heel downtrod:
Whence there sprang the deadly feud,
Strife for ages unsubdued,
'Twixt mankind and foe of God.
Yet God's mother, Maid adored,
Robbed sin's poison of its bane,
And the Snake, his green coils lowered,
Writhing on the sod, outpoured
Harmless now his venom's stain.
What fierce brute that doth not flee
Lambs of Christ, white-robed and clean?
'Midst the flock from fear set free,
Slinks the drear wolf sullenly,
Checked his maw and tamed his mien.
Wondrous change! restrained by love
Lions the mild lamb obey:
Eagles wild, before the dove
Fluttering from the stars above,
Speed o'er cloudy winds away.
Thou, O Christ, my Dove dost reign
Where the vulture gnaws no more:
Thou dost, snow-white Lamb, enchain
Tigers fierce, and wolves restrain
Gaping at the sheepfold's door.
God of Love, Thy servants we
Pray Thee now to grant our prayer
That our feast may frugal be,
Nor that we dishonour Thee
By coarse surfeit of rich fare.
May we taste no bitter gall
In our cup, nor handle we
Aught of death or harm at all,
Nor intemperately fall
Into gross debauchery.
Be the powers of Hell content
With their primal fraud, whereby
Death into this world was sent,
And that, for sin's chastisement,
God's own creatures once should die.
But in us God's Breath of fire
Cannot lose its vital force:
Never can its might expire,
Flowing from the Eternal Sire,
Who of Reason's strength is source.
Nay, from out death's chilling tomb
Mortal atoms shall arise:
Man from earth's vast, hidden womb
Other, yet the same, shall bloom,
Dust re-made in glorious guise.
'Tis my faith--and faith not vain--
Bodies live e'en as the soul:
Since I hold in memory plain
God as man uprose again,
Loosed from Hell, to His true goal.
Whence from Him the hope I reap
That these limbs the same shall rise,
Which enwrapped in balmy sleep
Christ the Risen safe shall keep
Till He call me to the skies.
|First Line:||Blest Cross-bearer, Source of good|
|Title:||Hymn Before Meat|
|Latin Title:||O crucifer bone, lucisator|
|Author:||Aurelius Clemens Prudentius|