Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Ecce! Canunt Angeli (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)

Ok, this is some serious nerdery, but I translated the famous hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” into Latin for…well, for fun, I guess; and also because it might provide some material for classical and Christian school teachers to use with their students before Christmas–either to read; or to play around with as a template in order to consider what other variations might be possible (I’ve given a couple of suggestions in the notes); or to find mistakes; or to take the opportunity to talk about various poetic devices; or all (or none!) of the above.

It is a translation, but in the ancient poetic sense; which is to say, I took some licenses while trying to keep to the spirit of the original.1

Ecce! Canunt angeli,
“Gloria nato Regi!”2
Pax in terra nunc facta est,3
Nunc Deo homine amicis.4
Gaudete vos gentes omnes,
Surgite summo in triumpho,5
Angelis cum clamate,6
“Christus natus hodie est!”7
Ecce! Canunt angeli,
“Gloria nato Regi!”

Christus est adorandus,
Christus, semper Dominus!
sero tandem idem advenit,8
micans e claustro innuptae.9
Vide Deum tectum carne!
Ave, Verbum incarnatum!10
Homo cum hominibus,11
Jesu, Deus nobiscum!
Ecce! Canunt angeli,
“Gloria nato Regi!”

Ave, Pacis O Princeps!
Ave, Sol Iustitiae!
Lux et vita est omnibus12
nunc e Christo medico–
miti sine gloria,13
nato ne moriamur,14
nato nos ut surgamus,
nato ut nos renascamur!15
Ecce! Canunt angeli,
“Gloria nato Regi!”16

  1. For some reason, footnotes ruin the formatting unless there is a punctuation mark afterwards–hence all the dashes that serve no other purpose.
  2. I am really ambivalent about this, and have at least half a mind to revert to Regi Regum for Wesley’s original “King of Kings.” There is perhaps something to be said, however, for the ambiguity of nato Regi , which could mean both “to the King, having been born” and “to the Son [of God/Man], the King”; both would be appropriate.
  3. With prodelision between facta and est.
  4. I had originally written Deus, homo: amici (“God and man: friends”), but changed it to an ablative absolute with two elisions (Deominamicis), for reasons that are, I hope, clear, and repeated nunc for emphasis.
  5. With elision between summo and in.
  6. With the preposition in postposition to avoid hiatus.
  7. Again, with prodelision between hodie and est.
  8. With elision between tandem and idem and idem and advenit.
  9. With elision between claustro and innuptae.
  10. With hiatus between Verbum and incarnatum. This could be avoided by reading, e.g., Ave, Verbum factum caro, but for whatever reason I like the pause and emphasis given by hiatus here.
  11. With hiatus between cum and hominibus.
  12. With prodelision between vita and est and the verb agreeing with the nearest subject.
  13. The next four line-initial ablatives all agree with Christo.
  14. Obviously, I have personalized Wesley’s original third-person verbs.
  15. With elision between nato and ut.
  16. The English lyrics:

    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King:
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
    Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies;
    With th’angelic host proclaim,
    “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King.”

    Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
    Christ, the everlasting Lord!
    Late in time behold him come,
    Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
    Hail th’incarnate Deity,
    Pleased as man with men to dwell,
    Jesus, our Emmanuel.

    Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
    Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all he brings,
    Ris’n with healing in his wings.
    Mild he lays his glory by,
    Born that man no more may die,
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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

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