Thursday, October 04, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi: "Canticle of Brother Sun"

In celebration of his feast day, today. Wikipedia has the orginal text and an English translation  (and notes that 'the "Canticle of the Sun" is first mentioned in the Vita Prima of Thomas of Celano, in 1228' - which would have been only two years after Francis' death in 1226):
Original text in Umbrian dialect:

Altissimu, onnipotente bon Signore,
Tue so le laude, la gloria e l'honore et onne benedictione.
Ad Te solo, Altissimo, se konfano,
et nullu homo ène dignu te mentouare.

Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de Te, Altissimo, porta significatione.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora Luna e le stelle:
in celu l'ài formate clarite et pretiose et belle.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Uento
et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per lo quale, a le Tue creature dài sustentamento.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor'Acqua,
la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Focu,
per lo quale ennallumini la nocte:
ed ello è bello et iucundo et robustoso et forte.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre Terra,
la quale ne sustenta et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti fior et herba.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano per lo Tuo amore
et sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione.
Beati quelli ke 'l sosterranno in pace,
ka da Te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.

Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
da la quale nullu homo uiuente pò skappare:
guai a quelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali;
beati quelli ke trouarà ne le Tue sanctissime uoluntati,
ka la morte secunda no 'l farrà male.

Laudate et benedicete mi Signore et rengratiate
e seruiteli cum grande humilitate.

NOTE: so=sono, si=sii (you are), mi=mio, ka=perché, u replaces v, sirano=saranno

English Translation:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

Sing Iste Confessor (mp3) today; Iste Confessor is the Sarum hymn at First Vespers on the Feast of a Confessor (and this is the Sarum melody); the audio file comes from the website of the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood.

He, whose confession God of old accepted,
Whom through the ages all now hold in honor,
Gaining his wages this day came to enter
Heaven’s high portal.

God-fearing, watchful, pure of mind and body,
Holy and humble, thus did all men find him,
While, through his members, to the life immortal
Mortal life called him.

Thus to the weary, from the life enshrinèd,
Potent in virtue, flowed humane compassion;
Sick and sore laden, howsoever burdened,
There they found healing.

So now in chorus, giving God the glory,
Raise we our anthem gladly to his honor,
That in fair kinship we may all be sharers
Here and hereafter.

Honor and glory, power and salvation,
Be in the highest unto Him Who reigneth
Changeless in Heaven over earthly changes
Triune, eternal.

Or, if you'd prefer, sing it in Latin, to a different tune:

You can also sing Jesu, Redemptor Omnium today; this is the Sarum hymn for Lauds and 2nd Vespers of a Confessor. Unfortunately, I don't have a recording in English (the English words are here), and this is not any of the tunes used in the Sarum Office, but here it is in Latin using another tune.

Here's a Francis page on Chantblog.

Catholicity and Convent today posts this quote, about the circumstances surrounding the composition of "Canticle of Brother Sun," from Augustine Thompson's biography of Francis of Assisi:
As winter drew on, Francis stayed in a little hut of reed mats attached to the church of San Damiano.  The cold hastened his decline in health.  Brother Elias pressed him to get medical treatment and move to a place where his convalescence could be better managed.  Francis's eyes were now severely affected by light, even at night, but it was "not the season" for eye surgery, which would have to wait until warmer weather in the spring.  So for fifty days, probably until late March of 1225, Francis stayed in his drafty hut day and night.  It appears that he was suffering from trachoma or perhaps conjunctivitis, in addition to the malaria he had contracted in Egypt and malnutrition from his fast on Mount La Verna.  The squalor attracted vermin and mice, which attacked him as he tried to sleep at night.  By day they infested and defiled his food.  Francis became convinced that they were no ordinary vermin, but a trial sent by the devil himself.

Francis identified his temptations with the trials of Christ and told the brothers that he wanted to compose new "praises of God" expressing his will to rejoice in the tribulations ... Francis, in this great composition, paid homage to the Sun, to Light, and to Fire, the very forces that caused him the greatest physical pain.  In it he addressed God the Father as subject of all praise.  Christ and his Cross recede into the background but are taken for granted.

(Augustine Thompson O.P. Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, p. 122f.)

Here's a detail of a Cimabue St. Francis:

It's a detail from this fresco, "Madonna enthroned with the child, four angels, and St. Francis":

According to the Web Gallery of art,
The fresco is located in the right transept of the Lower Church [at San Francesco, Assisi]. It is one of the most problematic works of Cimabue concerning its datation and its condition after the 19th century repaintings. Considering its datation, it is generally accepted from stylistic reasons that it is later than Cimabue's frescoes in the Upper Church or the Madonna in the Musée du Louvre.

Cimabue (Bencivieni di Pepo (Benvenuto di Giuseppe) Giovanni Cimabue) was born in Florence around 1251 and died in Pisa in 1302.  For some perspective:  St. Francis was born in 1181 and was only 45 years old at the time of his death in 1226.

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