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
Jesus’ resurrection.

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.
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).


Dorothy said...

Leave out the Exodus part? What a shame! I really like that reference, especially this year as I've been studying the life of Moses.

C.W.S. said...

I've looked in the hymnal companions of some of the books where that change was made, but no one says why it was done.

I think they just didn't want to include lines that aren't immediately related to the resurrection story (even though Exodus and Easter are somewhat parallel stories between the Testaments).

Leland Bryant Ross said...

More than "somewhat parallel", I'd say. More like "closely parallel, typologically related". (The parallel between Good Friday and Moses before Pharaoh is in some major ways even tighter an analogy.)

But as one who likes lots of stanzas in his hymns, I can't see any good reason to dump either Exodus or Springtime.

This seems to be a relatively rare hymn in recent Baptist hymnody; it occurs in only 14 of my 33 indexed hymnals: it's in only 3 of the 9 Evergreen hymnals, and in only 1 of the 5 Southern Baptist ones, but it is in 5 of the 7 hymnals (generally older) I have categorized as "Other Baptist". All of these set it to St. Kevin, though I also show three hymnals (Yale, Presby 90, and Pilgrim) that set it to Ave Virgo Virginum, and one (Harvard 3rd ed) to Gaudeamus Pariter.

Today I picked up a used copy of Lift Every Voice and Sing II, the Black Episcopal hymnal. But this week my focus is on what I'll be singing this Sunday as "Special Music", which you can find a bit about including PDF and MIDI links in this thread at the Mudcat Café. This is the first morning-worship fruit born of my foray into the Swahili hymnody of Nyimbo za Imani Yetu. I mention all this both so you can check it out and by way of apology for being somewhat scarce about this place for awhile.

Leland aka Haruo

Anonymous said...

I have always loved singing 'unmoistened'.. but 'dryshod'?? man, that's good stuff! :)

I, too, am loving the Israel references in Episcopal hymnody during this Easter season. I'm a recovering mega-churcher, [though still an Evangelical by many measures], and as I friend and I have finally figured out, it's ironic that I never heard a good - or at least complete - sermon on the Resurrection until I became an Episcopalian!!


C.W.S. said...

Welcome, Stephanie. (Readers here should check out her blog titled Hyfrydol. Discuss.)