02 January 2009

O Oriens, and an Unexpected Dante Reference

Here is Malcolm Guite's sonnet based on the O Antiphon appointed for 20 December in the Sarum practice:

O Oriens
Paradiso XXX.61
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
‘Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking.’

The passage referenced from the Paradiso reads:

e vidi lume in forma di rivera
fulvido di fulgore, intra due rive
dipinte di mirabil primavera.

Here is the English translation by Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds (Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy 3: Paradise, trans. Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds [London: Penguin, 1962], p. 320):

Light I beheld which as a river flowed.
Fulgid with splendour; and on either shore
The colours of a wondrous springtime showed.

Now for Cynewulf. This is a prose translation of the section of the Advent lyrics in ‘Christ I’ that corresponds to today’s O Antiphon, ‘O Oriens’. The source is The Christ of Cynewulf, trans. Charles Huntington Whitman [Boston: Ginn & Co., 1900], available here.

Lo! Thou Splendor of the dayspring, fairest of angels sent to men upon earth, Thou Radiance of the Sun of righteousness, bright beyond the stars, Thou of Thy very self dost illumine all the tides of time! Even as Thou, God begotten of God, Son of the true Father, didst ever dwell without beginning in the glory of heaven, so Thine own handiwork in its present need imploreth Thee with confidence that Thou send us the bright sun, and come in Thy very person to enlighten those who have long been covered with murky cloud, and sitting here in darkness and eternal night, shrouded in sins, have been forced to endure the shadow of death. Now in the fulness of hope we believe in the salvation brought to men through the Word of God, who was in the beginning co-eternal with God the Father almighty, and afterward became flesh without blemish, being born of the virgin as a help for the afflicted. God appeared among us without sin; the mighty Son of God and the Son of Man dwelt together in harmony among mankind. Wherefore it is right that we should ever give thanks by our deeds unto the Lord of victory, for that He was willing to send Himself unto us.

No comments: