Hostis Herodes impie

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Hostis Herodes impie is the Vesper hymn for Epiphany. It consists of verses 8, 9, 11 & 13 of the 5th century hymn A solis ortus cardine by Coelius Sedulius and a doxology in Long meter. Polyphonic settings are usually alternatim, beginning with Ibant Magi.

In the 1632 Breviarium Romanum the first two lines were changed to "Crudelis Herodes, Deum Regem venire quid times?" and the second verse sometimes appears as "Ibant Magi, qua venerant".

Luther made a version, Was fürchtst du, Feind Herodes, sehr, from which Richard Massie's "Why, Herod, unrelenting foe" was translated, but the most widespread English version is that of John Mason Neale below.

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Text and translations

Latin.png Latin text

1. Hostis Herodes impie,
Christum venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat caelestia.

2. Ibant magi, quam viderant,
Stellam sequentes praeviam:
Lumen requirunt lumine,
Deum fatentur munere.

3. Lavacra puri gurgitis
Caelestis Agnus attigit;
Peccata, quae non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.

4. Novum genus potentiae,
Aquae rubescunt hydriae,
Vinumque iussa fundere
Mutavit unda originem.

5. Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui apparuisti hodie,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Alternative v. 5
5. Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui apparuisti gentibus,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.

English.png English translation

WHY, impious Herod, vainly fear
that Christ the Saviour cometh here?
He takes no earthly realms away
Who gives the crown that lasts for aye.

To greet His birth the Wise Men went,
led by the star before them sent;
called on by light, towards Light they pressed,
and by their gifts their God confessed.

In holy Jordan's purest wave
the heavenly Lamb vouchsafed to lave;
That He, to whom was sin unknown,
might cleanse His people from their own.

New miracle of power divine!
The water reddens into wine:
He spake the word: and poured the wave
in other streams than nature gave.

All glory, Lord, to Thee we pay
for Thine Epiphany today;
all glory as is ever meet,
to Father and to Paraclete. Amen.

Translation by John Mason Neale

English.png English translation

from the Book of Common Prayer (1689)
1. How vain the cruel Herod's fear,
When told that Christ the King is near!
He takes not earthly realms away,
Who gives the realms that ne'er decay.

2. The eastern sages saw from far
And followed on his guiding star;
By light their way to Light they trod,
And by their gifts confessed their God.

3. Within the Jordan's sacred flood
The heavenly Lamb in meekness stood,
That he, to whom no sin was known,
Might cleanse his people from their own.

4. And oh, what miracle divine,
When water reddened into wine!
He spake the word, and forth it flowed
In streams that nature ne'er bestowed.

5. All glory, Jesus, be to thee
For this thy glad epiphany:
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost for evermore.

English.png English translation

by Richard Massie (1800-1887), in Martin Luther’s Spiritual Songs, 1854.
Why, Herod, unrelenting foe,
Doth the Lord’s coming move thee so?
He doth no earthly kingdom seek
Who brings His kingdom to the meek.

Led by the star, the wise men find
The Light that lightens all mankind;
The threefold presents which they bring
Declare Him God, and Man, and King.

In Jordan’s sacred waters stood
The meek and heavenly Lamb of God,
And He who did no sin, thereby
Cleansed us from all iniquity!

And now a miracle was done:
Six water pots stood there of stone;
Christ spake the word with power divine,
The water reddened into wine.

All honour unto Christ be paid,
Pure offspring of the holy maid,
With Father and with Holy Ghost,
Till time in endless time be lost.

Polish.png Polish translation

by ks. Tadeusz Karyłowski
1. Herodzie srogi, przecz trwoga
O ziemskie zdjęła ci kraje?
Nie bierze królestw dłoń Boga,
Co rajskie berło nam daje!

3. Baranek, rajskiej pociechy
Zdrój niosąc, wstąpił w wód fale,
Nas obmywając, zniósł grzechy
Ten, który nie znał win wcale.

5. Niech Tobie, Jezu, cześć będzie,
Coś ludom zjawił moc chwały,
Wraz z Ojcem, z Duchem niech wszędzie
Hołd wieczny śle ci świat cały!
Amen

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