Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Veni, Veni (7)

At long last, the last verse of Veni, Veni Emmanuel.

The hymn (in the order of verses adopted here) ends with Christ’s status as king of the nations and redeemer of the world, an office he exercises by saving his people from their sin. The poetic English translation of H.S. Coffin1 seems to combine these two ideas by fusing them into the image of the “Desire of the Nations.” This is a phrase that is found in some translations of Haggai 2:7 (or 8). For example, the Geneva Bible of 1599 (“And I will move all nations, and [d]the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this House with glory, saith the Lord of hosts”), with a footnote that reads: “Meaning, Christ whom all ought to look for and desire: or by desire he may signify all precious things, as riches, and such like.” Neale obviously takes it in the former sense (presumably going back to the Vulgate?: et veniet desideratus cunctis gentibus), though more recent translations of the verse adopt the latter. For instance, the ESV: “And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.”

In any case, here is the verse with a literal translation, followed by Coffin’s poetic rendering (though, if it is intended to be a translation of this verse, it must be considered exceedingly free; it would not, I think, even count as a paraphrase, so distant is it from the text it is rendering):2

Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salves tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios.

Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

Come, come, King of the nations,

come, Redeemer of all,

to save your servants

who are conscious of their sin.

Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall be born for you, Israel!

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.

  1. He seems to have been responsible for this verse and the “Wisdom” verse rather than Neale, though the whole hymn is usually, I think, attributed to him. The first published Latin version of these two verses is 1878, after Neale had made his translations.
  2. Text and translation here, though I have slightly modified the Latin text.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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