Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

Veni, veni (5)

1, 2, 3, 4

This week, verse five. Once again, text followed by literal translation and the familiar hymn version. (Text and poetic translation here.) There is a nice contrast between two related words in the second and fourth lines: reclude, referring to the opening of the heavenly kingdom, and claude, referring to the closing of the path to hell. The “key of David” is a reference to Isaiah 22:

15 Thus says the Lord God of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? 17 Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you 18 and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. 24 And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. 25 In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken.”

Veni, Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum.
Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel.

Come, key of David,
open the heavenly realms,
make the way above safe,
and close the roads1 to hell.2
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall be born for you, Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.
Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

  1. Plural (vias) because there are many of them, in contrast to the one (iter, sg.) that leads above?
  2. Taking superum and inferum as adverbial–basically terminal accusatives without ad. I wonder, just, if we might take them both as poetic genitive plurals: “make the way of those above safe and close the way of those below.”

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.