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Venite, adoremus Dominum. This has been translated by Rev. Frederick Oakeley (1808–1880) and by Rev. Edward Caswall (1814–1878) the version of the former being the one in more general use. The ancient hymn is much abridged in the hymnals, and even the translations have been altered and modernized in the three or four stanzas commonly sung. Caswall's version renders the first line “Come hither, ye faithful,” literally construing the Latin words.
The following is substantially Oakeley's English of the “Adeste, fideles.”
O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
Come and behold Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.
Sing choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation
Now to our God be
O come, let us adore Him!
Yea, Lord, we bless Thee,
Born for our salvation
Word of the Father
O come, let us adore Him! The hymn with its primitive music as chanted in the ancient churches, was known as “The Midnight Mass," and was the processional song of the religious orders on their way to the sanctuaries where they gathered in preparation for the Christmas morning service. The modern tune—or rather the tune in modern use—is the one everywhere familiar as the “Portuguese Hymn.” (See page 205.)
MILTON'S HYMN TO THE NATIVITY.
It was the winter wild
While the Heavenly Child
Nature in awe of Him
Had doffed her gaudy trim
Was heard the world around.
The hooked shariot stood
Unstained with hostile blood,
And Kings sat still with awful eye
This exalted song—the work of a boy of scarcely twenty-one-is a Greek ode in form, of two hundred and sixteen lines in twenty-seven strophes. Some of its figures and fancies are more to the taste of the seventeenth century than to ours, but it is full of poetic and Christian sublimities, and its high periods will be heard in the Christmas hymnody of coming centuries, though it is not the fashion to sing it now.
John Milton, son and grandson of John Miltons, was born in Breadstreet, London, Dec. 9, 1608, fitted for the University in St. Paul's school, and studied seven years at Cambridge. His parents intended him for the church, but he chose literature as a profession, travelled and made distinguished friendships in Italy, Switzerland and France, and when little past his majority was before the public as a poet, author of the Ode to the Nativity, of a Masque, and of many songs and elegies. In later years he entered political life under the stress of his Puritan sympathies, and served under Cromwell and his successor as Latin Secretary of State through the time of the Commonwealth. While in public duty he became blind, but in his retirement composed “Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.” Died in 1676.
In the old “Carmina Sacra” a noble choral (without name except “No war nor battle sound”) well interprets. portions of the 4th and 5th stanzas of the great hymn, but replaces the "The idle spear and shield were high uphung." -with the more modern and less figurative
"No hostile chiefs to furious combat ran." Three stanzas are also added, by the Rev. H. O. Dwight, missionary to Constantinople. The substituted line, which is also, perhaps, the composition of Mr. Dwight, rhymes with—
"His reign of peace upon the earth began,” --and as it is not un-Miltonic, few singers have ever known that it was not Milton's own.
Dr. John Knowles Paine, Professor of Music at Harvard University, and author of the Oratorio of “St. Peter," composed a cantata to the great Christmas Ode of Milton, probably about 1868.
Professor Paine died Apr. 25, 1906.
It is worth noting that John Milton senior, the great poet's father, was a skilled musician and a composer of psalmody. The old tunes “York" and "Norwich,” in Ravenscroft's collection and copied from it in many early New England singing-books, are supposed to be his.
The Miltons were an old Oxfordshire Catholic family, and John, the poet's father, was disinherited for turning Protestant, but he prospered in business, and earned the comfort of a country gentleman. He died, very aged, in May, 1646, and his son addressed a Latin poem (“Ad Patrem") to his memory.
This hymn of Charles Wesley, dating about 1730, was evidently written with the“ Adeste Fideles" in mind, some of the stanzas, in fact, being almost like translations of it. The form of the two first lines was originally
Hark! how all the welkin rings,
"Glory to the King of Kings!” -but was altered thirty years later by Rev. Martin Madan (1726-1790) to
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Hail the heavenly Prince of Peace!
“Mendelssohn” is the favorite musical interpreter of the hymn. It is a noble and spirited choral from Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's cantata, “Gott ist Licht.”
“JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME!”
This inspirational lyric of Dr. Watts never glows old. It was written in 1719.