Sunday, April 26, 2009
Now the Queen of Seasons
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel
Into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot
Through the Red Sea waters.
’Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ has burst the prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins,
Long and cold, is flying
From thy light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Now the queen of seasons, bright
With the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts,
Comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem,
Who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains
Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s cold portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal
Hold thee as a mortal;
But today amidst thine own,
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That, thy peace which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
John of Damascus, 6th c.
tr. John Mason Neale, 1859; alt.
Tune: ST. KEVIN (22.214.171.124.D.)
Arthur Sullivan, 1872
There are several different versions of this hymn out there, depending on which hymnal you use. I grew up knowing only three verses; some denominations replaced the last four lines of the first verse with the last four lines of the third verse, thus leaving out the Exodus connection (maybe someone thought it would be confusing) and the "queen of seasons" lines. Some hymnals add a fifth, Trinitarian verse, apparently written by the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The hymnal where I think this tune first appeared with this text, Church Hymns With Tunes (1874), omitted the fourth verse seen above. There are probably other permutations, and definitely many other word or phrase changes that have been made by different editors over the years.
Compare this translation into rhyming verse by John Mason Neale to another English translation (into prose) of the same Greek text by John of Damascus.
All peoples let us sing a song of victory to him who rescued Israel from the bitter slavery of Pharao, and guided them dryshod in the depths of the sea, for he has been glorified.
To-day is the spring of souls, for Christ, shining from the tomb like the sun, has dispelled the foggy winter of our sin. Let us sing to him, for he has been glorified.
The queen of seasons, filled with light, as escort to the brilliant queen of days, delights the chosen people of the Church, which unceasingly praises the risen Christ.
Neither death’s gates, O Christ, nor the seals of the tomb, nor the bolts of the doors stood in your way; but having risen you came to your friends, O Master, giving them the peace which passes all understanding.
Its all there.
Some sources say that the "queen of seasons" is the Eastertide season of the church year, which is probably correct, but others believe that it refers to spring, of the four we usually think of as "seasons." Since Easter can never fall earlier than March 22, Eastertide always happens during spring anyway.
This tune, ST. KEVIN, was probably the most widely used one for its first hundred years or so. It's the kind of tune that congregations tend to know and sing well, but that church musicians often disdain. I don't believe we've sung it at my current church since I've.been there, though the choir sings the text as an anthem during the Easter Vigil with music by a different composer. Since Arthur Sullivan's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, we'll talk about his affinity for Easter tunes at that time (it will still be within the queen of seasons -- either way you define her).