Category Archives: Hymns

Hymn 12 – To Saint Blaise

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Sainct Blaise, qui vis aux cieux
Comme un ange precieux,
Si de la terre où nous sommes,
Tu entens la voix des hommes,
Recevant les vœux de tous,
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Ce jourd’huy que nous faisons
A ton autel oraisons
Et processions sacrées
Pour nous, nos bleds et nos prées,
Chantant ton hymne à genous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Chasse loin de nostre chef
Toute peste et tout meschef
Que l’air corrompu nous verse,
Quand la main de Dieu diverse
Respand sur nous son courrous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Garde nos petits troupeaux,
Laines entieres et peaux,
De la ronce dentelée,
De tac et de clavelée,
De morfonture et de tous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Que tousjours accompagnez
Soient de mastins rechignez,
Le jour allant en pasture,
Et la nuict en leur closture,
De peur de la dent des loups :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Si le loup de sang ardent
Prend un mouton en sa dent,
Quand du bois il sort en queste,
Huans tous aprés la beste,
Que soudain il soit recous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Garde qu’en allant aux champs,
Les larrons qui sont meschans,
Ne desrobent fils ne mere ;
Garde-les de la vipere
Et d’aspics au ventre rous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Que ny sorciers ny poison
N’endommagent leur toison
Par parole ou par breuvage ;
Qu’ils passent l’esté sans rage,
Que l’autonne leur soit dous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Garde-nous de trop d’ardeurs
Et d’excessives froideurs ;
Donne-nous la bonne année,
Force bleds, force vinée,
Sans fiévre, rongne, ne clous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Garde nos petits vergers
Et nos jardins potagers,
Nos maisons et nos familles,
Enfans, et femmes, et filles,
Et leur donne bons espous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Garde poulles et poussins
De renards et de larcins ;
Garde sauves nos avettes ;
Qu’ils portent force fleurettes
Tousjours en leurs petits trous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Fay naistre force boutons
Pour engraisser nos moutons,
Et force fueille menue,
Que paist la troupe cornue
De nos chévres et nos boucs :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Chasse la guerre bien loing;
Romps les armes dans le poing
Du soldat qui frappe et tue
Celuy qui tient la charrue,
Mangeant son bien en deux coups :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Que le plaideur grippe-tout,
Par procés qui sont sans bout,
N’enveloppe le bon homme
Qui chiquanant se consomme,
Puis meurt de faim et de pous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Que l’impudent usurier,
Laissant l’interest premier,
N’assemble point sans mesure
Usure dessus usure,
Pour ravir son petit clous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Garde nos petits ruisseaux
De souillure de pourceaux,
Naiz pour engraisser leur pance ;
Pour eux tombe en abondance
Le glan des chesnes secous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Nos genices au printemps
Ne sentent mouches ne tans,
Enflent de laict leurs mammelles ;
Que pleines soient nos faiscelles
De fourmages secs et mous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Nos bouviers sans murmurer
Puissent la peine endurer,
Bien repeus à nostre table;
Soient les bœufs dedans l’estable
Tousjours de fourrages saouls :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Chasse loin les paresseux ;
Donne bon courage à ceux
Qui travaillent, sans blesseure
De congnée, et sans morseure
De chiens enragez et fous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Bref, garde-nous de terreurs,
Et de paniques fureurs,
Et d’illusion estrange,
Et de feu sacré, qui mange
Membres, arteres et pouls :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Donne que ceux qui viendront
Prier ton nom, et rendront
A ton autel leurs offrandes,
Jouissent de leurs demandes,
De tous leurs pechez absous :
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
 
Sainct Blaise, qui vis aux cieux
Comme un ange precieux,
Si de la terre où nous sommes,
Tu entens la voix des hommes,
Recevant les vœux de tous,
Je te prie, escoute-nous.
A HYMN OF FATHERS OF FAMILIES
 
TO SAINT BLAISE
On the chant Te rogamus audi nos
 
Saint Blaise, you who live in the heavens
Like a precious angel
If, from the earth where we are,
You can hear the voice of men,
Receiving the vows of us all
I pray you, hear us.
 
Today as we make
Our prayers at your altar
And sacred processions
For us, our homes and fields,
Singing you a hymn on our knees,
I pray you, hear us.
 
Chase far from our heads
All illness and all evils
That the corrupt air pours on us
When the hand of God stretches
Wide on us in his anger:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep our little flocks,
Their fleeces and skins whole
From barbed nettles
From scabies and sheep-pox
And blue-tongue and everything:
I pray you, hear us.
 
May they be always accompanied
By bad-tempered mastiffs,
By day as they go to pasture,
By night in their fold,
[Kept] from fear of the wolf’s teeth:
I pray you, hear us.
 
If the hot-blooded wolf
Takes a sheep in its teeth
When it leaves the wood to hunt
Calling the pack after the sheep,
May it suddenly retreat:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Watch that, when going to the fields,
Wicked thieves
Steal no lamb or ewe.
Keep them from the viper
And red-bellied serpents:
I pray you, hear us.
 
That no sorcerer or poison
Should damage their fleeces
With spell or potion;
That they may spend the summer free of ills
That the autumn may be kind to them:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep us from too much heat
And from excessive cold
Give us a good year,
Bring on the corn and the vines –
No fever, wasting or boils:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Guard our little orchards
Our little kitchen gardens,
Our homes and families
Our children, wives and daughters,
And give them all good marriages:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep chickens and chicks
From foxes and thieves;
Keep our bees safe
That they may carry many little flowers
Always in their little bags:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Make many buds grow
To fatten up our sheep
And many slender leaves
To feed the horned herd
Of our goats and rams:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep war far from here;
Break the weapons in the hand
Of the soldier who strikes and kills
Those who guide the plough,
Eating up their possessions in a moment:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep the grab-everything litigant
In his endless lawsuits
From swallowing up the good man,
May he consume himself in quibbling
Then die of hunger and lice:
I pray you, hear us.
 
May the impudent loan-shark
Waive his initial fee
And not pile up without limit
Huge interest on top of interest
To build his own stash:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep our little streams
From the filth of pigs
Born to fatten their bellies;
May the acorns of shaken oaks
Fall abundantly for them:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Keep our heifers in spring
From biting of flies and such like;
Swell their udders with milk
That our dishes may be full
Of cheeses, dry and soft:
I pray you, hear us.
 
May our cowmen without murmur
Be able to keep up their work
Well fed at our tables;
May the cattle in the stable
Always be well-fed with fodder:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Chase far from here the lazy,
Give endurance to those
Who work, no wounds
From the axe, and no bites
From rabid or mad dogs:
I pray you, hear us.
 
In short, keep us from fear
And terrifying panic,
And from strange visions
And from the holy fire which consumes
Limbs, veins and blood:
I pray you, hear us.
 
May those who come
To pray in your name and give
At your altar their offerings
Be successful in all their requests
And absolved of all their sins:
I pray you, hear us.
 
Saint Blaise, you who live in the heavens
Like a precious angel
If, from the earth where we are,
You can hear the voice of men,
Receiving all our vows
I pray you, hear us.
 
 
I’ve loved this poem since first getting beyond the opening couple of stanzas a few years ago. Though it starts seriously enough (or appears to), by the time you’ve got to the fourth stanza little doubts appear; and the catalogue of rustic prayers becomes ever more naive and amusing. I love the bees and their ‘little bags’, the prayer against slips of the axe, the invocation against loan-sharks!
 
A note tells us this is “a rustic hymn of good labourers and villagers, who pray to St Blaise on their day off on his feast day, while making their processions, that he will take care of their little families, and give them all that is necessary in their little homes, etc.” It almost achieves the same gentle laughing tone as Ronsard… What I think is so special about the poem is the way Ronsard clearly laughs with, not at, his rustic subjects. He (and we) are superior to them and would not make such daft supplications – but under it all there is the suggestion that we’re not so very different, and if we look at ourselves closely the way we pray for (or, these days, simply express) our own wants and desires is really pretty much the same: practical trivia, rather than eternal values.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Hymn for King Henry III, King of France, for the Victory at Montcontour (Hymn 1:9)

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For those who prefer poetry to music, here’s one of Ronsard’s hymns. Apparently the king liked this one so much he learned it by heart and would recite it regularly to his courtiers – or enjoy hearing others recite it!

Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
   Fier et fort,
Dessous l’aile de sa mere,
Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
   Aux Dragons
Fait guerre sortant de l’aire :
 
Tel qu’un jeune Lyonneau
   Tout nouveau
Quittant caverne et bocage,
Pour premier combat assaut
   D’un cœur haut
Quelque grand Taureau sauvage :
 
Tel aux desens de vos dos,
   Huguenos
Sentistes ce jeune Prince,
Fils de Roy, frere de Roy,
   Dont la Foy
Merite une autre Province.
 
A peine sur son menton
   Un cotton
De soye se laisse espandre ;
Jeune trompant le trompeur,
   S’est sans peur
Monstré digne d’Alexandre.
 
Il a guidant ses guerriers,
   De Lauriers
Orné son front et sa bande :
Et Capitaine parfait,
   Sa main fait
Ce qu’aux autres il commande.
 
Il a tranché le lien
   Gordien
Pour nos bonnes destinées :
Il a coupé le licol
   Qui au col
Nous pendoit des huit années.
 
Il a d’un glaive trenchant
   Au mechant
Coupé la force et l’audace,
Il a des ennemis morts
   Les grans corps
Fait tomber dessus la place.
 
Ils ont esté combatus,
    Abbatus,
Terrassez dessus la poudre,
Comme chesnes esbranchez,
   Trebuchez
Dessous l’esclat d’une foudre.
 
De sang gisent tous couverts
   A l’envers,
Tesmoins de sa main vaillante :
Ilz ont esté foudroyez,
   Poudroyez,
Sur les bors de la Charante.
 
Charante qui prend son nom
   D’Acheron,
A tels esprits sert de guide,
Les passant comme en bateau
   Par son eau
Au rivage Acherontide.
 
Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
   Le repas
Des mastins sans sepulture,
Et sans honneur de tombeaux 
   Les corbeaux
Mangent leur chair pour pasture.
 
Ny le tranchant coutelas,
   Ny le bras,
Ny force à la guerre adextre
Ne sert de rien à la fin
   Au plus Fin,
Quand il se prend à son maistre.
 
Du fort pere vient l’enfant
   Trionfant :
Le cheval ensuit sa race,
Le chien qui de bon sang part,
   Va gaillard
De luy-mesmes à la chasse.
 
Ainsi Pyrrhe Achillien
   Du Troyen
Coupa la guerre ancienne,
Ruant en l’âge où tu es
   Les feux Grecs
Dedans la ville Troyenne.
 
Ainsi Prince valeureux,
   Et heureux,
Tu mets fin à nostre guerre,
Qui depuis huit ans passez
   Oppressez
Nous tenoit les cœurs en serre.
 
Ce que les vieux n’avoyent sceu,
   Tu l’as peu
Parachever en une heure ;
Aussi Prince de bon-heur,
   Tout l’honneur
Sans compagnon t’en demeure.
 
A Dieu grace nous rendons,
   Et fendons
L’air sous l’hynne de victoire,
Poussant gaillars et joyeux
   Jusqu’aux Cieux,
Ton nom tes faits et ta gloire.
 
Et soit au premier resveil
   Du Soleil,
Soit qu’en la mer il s’abaisse,
Tousjours nous chantons Henry
   Favori
De Mars et de la jeunesse.
As a little eagle comes out,
   Bold and strong,
From beneath its mother’s wing
And with long, hooked talons
   Makes war
On dragons, coming from the air;
 
As a young lion,
   New-grown,
Quiting cave and woodland
For its first fight attacks
   With high courage
Some great, savage bull;
 
So, to the cost of your hides,
   Huguenots,
You felt this young Prince:
The son of a King, the brother of a King
   Whose faithfulness
Deserves another demesne.
 
Hardly on his chin
   Had the silken
Fluff begun to sprout;
Young, deceiving the deceiver,
   He fearlessly showed
Himself worthy of Alexander.
 
Guiding his warriors, he has
   With laurels
Adorned his brow and his troop,
And, the perfect captain,
   His hand does
What he commands others to do.
 
He cut the knot
   Of Gordium
To make our future good,
He cut the halter
   Which for eight years
Has hung around our necks.
 
With his slicing blade he has
   Cut off
The strength and daring of the wicked,
He has made the dead enemies’
   Great corpses
Fall upon the ground.
 
They were fought,
   Beaten down,
Crushed into the dust
Like oaks lopped down,
   Battered
Under a bursting thunderbolt.
 
Covered in blood they all lie
   Overturned,
Witnesses to his valiant hand.
They were crushed,
   Turned to dust,
On the banks of the Charente.
 
The Charente, which takes its name
   From Acheron,
Acted as guide to those spirits,
Passing them, as if in boats,
   Through its waters
To the banks of Acheron.
 
They are catapulted down,
   A meal
For dogs, without burial
And without the honour of tombs;
   Crows
Feast on their flesh.
 
Neither the slicing cutlass,
   Nor an arm
Or strength suited to war
Offer any help in the end
   To the finest
When he takes himself to his master.
 
From a powerful father comes a son
   Triumphant;
The horse follows his breeding,
The dog which comes from a good bloodline
   Happily goes
Off to the hunt by himself.
 
Thus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles,
   Cut short
The ancient war of the Trojan,
Hurling down in the age in which you are
   Those who once were Greek
Within the city of Troy.
 
So, valorous and fortunate
   Prince,
You have made an end of our wars
Which for the last eight years
   Oppressed
Us all, squeezing our hearts.
 
What the ancients could not do,
   You have managed
To complete in a single hour;
So Prince of good fortune,
   All the glory
Rests with you and you alone.
 
To God we give thanks
   And shatter
The air with our victory song;
Shouting gaily and joyously
   To the heavens
Your name, your deeds and your glory.
 
Whether at the first rising
   Of the sun,
Or when he sets in the sea,
We continuously sing of Henry,
   Favourite
Of Mars and of our youth.

 

 Plenty of classical and other learning in here, so let’s add a few notes. 
 
Stanzas 3-4 reminds us that this was a period of considerable Catholic-Protestant tension. The Battle of Montcontour was in 1569, during the Third War of Religion, and was (as suggested in stanza 16) decisive. Sadly it did not end the strife; the famous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place three years later in 1572 (when Ronsard was in his late 40s). Henry, who was only 18 at the time of the battle, came to the throne in 1574.
 
In stanza 6, the reference to Gordium goes back to Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot – a symbol of future rule over Asia and of future victories, hence its appropriate use here. But the knot is also proverbially used as a symbol of insoluble problems; and any claim that Henry III resolved the Wars of Religion at Montcontour can only be considered optimistic…!
 
In stanzas 9-10 Ronsard makes the fanciful claim that the river Charente derives its name from Acheron, the river of Hades. It gives him a good image but seems unlikely. (Montcontour is in the Poitou-Charentes region.)
 
Pyrrhus (in stanza 14) is another name for Neoptolemus, the rather angry and aggressive son of Achilles who killed old men, boys & women (Priam, Astyanax & Polyxena) in the sack of Troy. I doubt Ronsard is suggesting Henry III is quite so savage or ruthless; the link is rather the decisiveness of the victories.
 
 
There are some minor variants in editions: Blanchemain’s opening stanza goes
 
      Tel qu’un petit Aigle sort,
         Fier et fort,
      De dessous l’aile à sa mere,
      Et d’ongles crochus et longs,
         Aux dragons
      Fait guerre sortant de l’aire
 
– the changed third line can be translated identically, or could mean the eagle comes out ‘from beneath the wing to its mother’.  Then stanzas 10-11 go:
 
      Charante qui prend son nom
         D’Acheron,
      Leur sert de port et de guide,
      Les passant comme en bateau
         Par son eau
      Au rivage Acherontide.
 
      Ils sont trebuchez à bas,
         Le repas
      Des mastins, sans sepulture,
      Et sans honneur de tombeaux ;
         Les corbeaux
      De leur chair font leur pasture.
 
 
(The Charente ‘acts as their port and guide’; and crows ‘make their feast on their flesh’).