Monday, June 01, 2009

The Pentecost Sequence: Veni, Sancte Spiritus ("Come, Holy Spirit")

I posted on this hymn, Veni Sancte Spiritus, a couple of years ago and then again last year, but now there's a video available on YouTube, with better audio:

Here's TPL on this song:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, known as the Golden Sequence, is the sequence for the Mass for Pentecost. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. Its beauty and depth have been praised by many. The hymn has been attributed to three different authors, King Robert II the Pious of France (970-1031), Pope Innocent III (1161-1216), and Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury, of which the last is most likely the author.

Here's the chant score with Latin words:

Here's a translation from this page; these are the words I've sung myself.  It's really a very beautiful song, both in tis words and its melody:
Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From the clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure;
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die,
Give us life with thee on high,
Give us joys that never end.


The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 has a bit more about the hymn:
The sequence for Pentecost (the "Golden Sequence"). It is sung at Mass from Whitsunday until the following Saturday inclusively, and comprises ten stanzas of the form:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
Et emitte coelitus
Lucis tuae radium.
Some hymnologists bind two such stanzas into one, doubtless in order to complete the rhythmic scheme for the third line, as in the case of the "Lauda Sion" and the "Stabat Mater". The peculiar feature of the "Veni Sancte Spiritus", however, the persistence throughout the hymn of the same rhythmic close in "ium" For all the stanzas — a feature imitated in Dr. Neale's translation (given in the Baltimore Manual of Prayers"). This version of the Anglican hymnologist is only less popular than that of Brother Caswall, which is found alike in Protestant and Catholic hymnals and in the "Raccolta" (Philadelphia, 1881). Dean Trench and others follow Durandus in ascribing the authorship of the sequence to Robert II, who reigned in France from 997-1031. With Cardinal Bona, Duffield gives it to Hermann Contractus and argues earnestly for the ascription. The sequence has indeed been found in manuscripts of the eleventh century, and of the twelfth, but written by a later hand, and the conclusion is drawn that it dates sometime after the middle of the twelfth century. This makes probable the ascription to Stephen Langton (q.v.), made by a writer whom Cardinal Pitra thinks an English Cistercian who lived about the year 1210. More probable is the ascription to Innocent III made by Ekkehard V in his "Vita S. Notkeri", written about 1220. Ekkehard, a monk of St. Gall, says that his abbot, Ulrich, was sent to Rome by Frederick II, conferred with the pope on various matters, and was present at the Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated before the Holy Father. The sequence of the Mass was Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia". Hereupon Ekkehard remarks (what he probably learned from Abbot Ulrich himself on his return to St. Gall) that the pope himself "had composed a sequence of the Holy Spirit, namely Veni Sancte Spiritus". The older sequence yielded but gradually to its rival, which was almost universally assigned to one or more days within the octave. The revised Missal of 1570 finally assigned it to Whitsunday and the octave. The revision (1634) under Urban VIII left, it unaltered. Well styled by medieval writers the "Golden Sequence", it has won universal esteem, the reasons for which are set forth by Clichtoveus, who in his "Elucidatorium" considers it "above all praise because of its wondrous sweetness, clarity of style, pleasant brevity combined with wealth of thought (so that every line is a sentence), and finally the constructive grace and elegance displayed in the skilful and apt juxtaposition of contrasting thoughts . Daniel applauds this appreciation. Gihr spends not a little space in his work on the Mass in praise of the hymn, and Julian accords it a careful and appreciative tribute.

Interestingly, Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books prescribes a different sequence for Pentecost: Laudes Deo devotas. A post is in the works about that one, which I don't know and which I need to look into further.

Meanwhile, Full Homely Divinity's Pentecost entry is most definitely worth a read.

Here are links to all the mass propers on the day, from the Benedictines of Brazil:

Dominica Pentecostes ad Missam in die
Introitus:  Spiritus Domini (cum Gloria Patri)(5m07.0s - 4798 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Emitte Spiritum tuum (1m55.4s - 1806 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m02.9s - 1922 kb)  view score
Sequentia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m29.7s - 2341 kb)  view score
Offertorium: Confirma hoc, Deus (1m35.3s - 1491 kb)  view score
Communio: Factus est repente (1m16.3s - 1195 kb)  view score
Ad dimittendum populum: Ite missa est (28.7s - 451 kb)  view score

And here are Chantblog posts on the Pentecost propers:

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