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Æterne rerum conditor

Maker of all, eternal King

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. Æterne rerum conditor,
    Noctem diemque qui regis,
    Et temporum das tempora,
    Ut alleves fastidium.
  2. Nocturna lux viantibus
    A nocte noctem segregans,
    Præco diei jam sonat,
    Jubarque solis evocat.
  3. Hoc excitatus lucifer
    Solvit polum caligine:
    Hoc omnis erronum cohors
    Viam nocendi deserit.
  4. Hoc nauta vires colligit,
    Pontique mitescunt freta:
    Hoc, ipsa petra Ecclesiæ,
    Canente, culpam diluit.
  5. Surgamus ergo strenue:
    Gallus jacentes excitat,
    Et somnolentos increpat,
    Gallus negantes arguit.
  6. GalIo canente spes redit,
    Æigris salus refunditur,
    Mucro latronis conditur,
    Lapsis fides revertitur.
  7. Jesu labantes respice,
    Et nos videndo corrige:
    Si respicis, labes cadunt,
    Fletuque culpa solvitur.
  8. Til lux refulge sensibus,
    Mentisque somnum discute:
    Te nostra vox primum sonet,
    Et vota solvamus tibi. away:
  9. Deo Patri sit gloria,
    Ejusque soli Filio,
    Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
    Nunc, et per omne sæculum.
  1. Maker of all, eternal King
    Who day and night about dost bring:
    Who weary mortals to relieve,
    Dost in their times the seasons give:
  2. Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,
    And calls the sun’s awak’ning ray—
    The wand’ring pilgrim’s guiding light,
    That marks the watches night by night.
  3. Roused at the note, the morning star
    Heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:
    Night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,
    But from their dark ways hie them home.
  4. The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,
    The foaming billows rage no more:
    Lo! E’en the very Church’s Rock
    Melts at the crowing of the cock.
  5. O let us then like men arise;
    The cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,
    Bestirs who still in sleep would lie,
    And shames who would their Lord deny.
  6. New hope his clarion-note awakes,
    Sickness the feeble frame forsakes,
    The robber sheathes his lawless sword,
    Faith to the fallen is restored.
  7. Look on us, Jesu, when we fall,
    And with Thy look our souls recall:
    If Thou but look, our sins are gone,
    And with due tears our pardon won.
  8. Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,
    Our souls’ dull slumber drive away:
    Thy Name be first on every tongue,
    To Thee our earliest praises sung.
  9. All laud to God the Father be,
    All praise, Eternal Son, to Thee,
    All glory, as is ever meet,
    To God the holy Paraclete.
Author: St. Ambrose (340-397). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation by W. J. Copeland as altered in The Hymner. There are eighteen translations. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Lauds on Sunday from the Octave of the Epiphany until the first Sunday of Lent, and from the Sunday nearest the Calends of October until Advent. The Æterne rerum Conditor, though written on so simple a subject as cock-crowing, is one of the most beautiful hymns in the Breviary. It would be a mistake, however, to infer from the simplicity of the theme, that it presents either few or slight difficulties to the translator. The eminent hymnologist, L’abbe/ Pimont, in his Les Hymnes du Bre/viaire Romain, deemed it necessary to give a prose translation of but this one hymn. It is one of the five Breviary hymns that Trench includes in his Sacred Latin Poetry.
  1. “Eternal Maker of the world, who rulest both the night and day, and givest a variety of seasons to relieve monotony!” Temporum, times, seasons; tempora, changes, variety. Fastidium, lit., a loathing, aversion; here, monotony, wearisomeness, humdrum.
  2. “A nocturnal light to wayfarers, separating watch from watch, the herald of the day sends forth his cry and calls forth the rays of the sun.” Lux: variously rendered —light, star, moon, light of a lamp, etc. The meaning seems to be that the crowing of the cock serves for the nocturnal traveler as a lamp, a kindly guide to the habitations of men. A node noctem: nox is here used in the sense of watch—a fourth part of the night. The cock by his crowing, at midnight and at dawn, separates the watches of the night. This use of nox for vigilia is not uncommon.

    In stanzas 3 and 4, the pronoun hoc occurs four times. In each instance it may be considered as an ablative absolute— supplying canente from the last line of the fourth stanza; or it may be translated as an ablative of instrument—By him (the cock).

  3. “While he sings, the awakened morning star disenthralls the heavens of darkness; all the bands of nightprowlers abandon their deeds of violence.” Lucifer, lit., the light-bringer, the morning star. Erronum, from erro, onis, a vagabond, vagrant. Viam, way, path, life, deeds.
  4. “While he sings, the sailor gathers new strength, the raging of the sea subsides: while he sings, the very Rock of the Church washes away his sin.” Petra Ecclesæ, St. Peter. Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam (Matt. 16, 18). Culpam diluit: Prius quam gallus cantet, ter me negabis. Et egressus foras, flevit amare (Matt. 26, 75).
  5. “Let us, therefore, rise with alacrity; the cock awakens the sleepers, chides the drowsy, and rebukes the unwilling.” Note the climax,—jacentes, somnolentos, negantes,—the sleepers, the drowsy, the unwilling; also in the verbs,— excitat, increpat, arguit,—awakens, chides, rebukes. “Cockcrowing,” says Trench, “had for the early Christians a mystical significance. It said, ‘The night is far spent, and the day is at hand.’ And thus the cock became, in the Middle Ages, the standing emblem of the preachers of God’s word. The old heathen notion that the lion could not bear the sight of the cock, easily adapted itself to this new symbolism. Satan, the roaring lion (I Peter 5, 8) fled away terrified, at the faithful preaching of God's word. Nor did it pass unnoticed, that this bird, clapping its wings upon its sides, first rouses itself, before it seeks to rouse others” (Sacred Latin Poetry, p. 244). There is a similar passage in the Regula Pastoralis Curæ, III, 40, of St. Gregory the Great.
  6. “At the crowing of the cock, hope returns; health is restored to the sick; the sword of the robber is sheathed; confidence returns to the fallen.” Ægris salus: “Man’s temperature is lowest and his pulse rate feeblest in the early morning hours usually between three and five. During the night the pulse rate probably drops at least ten beats . . . . and the temperature drops nearly two degrees from its daily climax.”—James J. Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., in America, Oct. 7,1916, p. 613.
  7. “O Jesus, look with compassion upon the wavering, and correct us with Thy look (as Thou didst correct Peter): if Thou dost but look, our sins vanish, and our guilt is washed away by our tears.” Labantes, from labare, to waver, to be unstable.
  8. “O Light, shine Thou into our hearts, dispel the lethargy of the soul; may our voice first praise Thee, and to Thee may we pay our vows.” Vota solver, to keep one’s promises; to fulfill one’s vows.