In Nativitate Domini—from Cluny

for an explanation of the metre, see below.


Caelum gaude, terra plaude;
nemo mutus sit a laude:
ad antiquam originem
redit homo per virginem.

Virgo Deum est enixa,
unde vetus perit rixa:
perit vetus discordia,
succedit pax et gloria.

Tunc de caeno surgit reus
cum in feno iacet Deus;
tunc vile celat stabulum
caelestis escae pabulum.

Nutrit virgo creatorem
ex se factum redemptorem;
latet in pueritia
divina sapientia.

Ergo dulci melodía
personemus, o Maria,
religiosis vocibus
et clamosis affectibus:

Tu serpentem evicisti,
cuius caput contrivisti,
cum Deus ex te genitus
eius fuit interitus.

Tu fenestra, porta, vellus,
aula, domus, templum, tellus,
virginitatis lilium
et rosa per martyrium.

Parens nostri tu parentis
et genetrix nos gignentis,
piæ matris fiducia
natos Patri concilia.

Ora, mater, Deum natum,
nostrum solvat ut reatum
et post concessam veniam
det gratiam et gloriam.

These are selected stanzas from a hymn by Pierre de Montboissier (1092-1156), who when he died was Abbot of Cluny—and so had the allegiance of several hundred French monasteries of the Cluniac congregation.

  • He is sometimes known as The Blessed Peter, or Peter the Venerable, or Venerabilis Petrus Cluniacensis.
  • He studied Islam and ordered the first Latin translation of the Koran.
  • His counsel as a peacemaker was sought by several kings.
  • He was a scholar, and an admirer of Peter Abelard.
  • After Abelard’s teaching had been condemned, the Blessed Peter sheltered him at Cluny, and Abelard spent the rest of his life there.

The style of this hymn is notable. By the 11th century rhyme was normally used, and, of course, stress metre.  But the arrangement here is unexpected. The first two lines of each stanza are trochaic tetrameters, but lines 3 & 4 switch to iambic tetrameters.

It is a striking way of suiting the rhythm to the thought. The first pair of lines, trochaic, is dancingly vivid, with physical images; the second pair, iambic, slows down, to be more thoughtful and abstract. Just one example of this switch is the seventh of the stanzas above:

Tú fenéstra, pórta, véllus,
aúla, dómus, témplum, téllus,
virgínitátis lílium
et rósa pér martýrium.

Since this is Latin, the last syllable is unstressed.