Monday, 23 April 2012

An Eastertide Carol: Through each wonder of fair days

This Eastertide carol is a (very free) translation of the Piae Cantiones carol 'Tempus adest floridum', which goes like this. The tune which goes with it in that collection was used by J. M. Neale for 'Good King Wenceslas', and thus basically lost to its original springtime context - much to the horror of the editors of the Oxford Book of Carols. 'Good King Wenceslas' is firmly part of the Christmas repertoire nowadays, and I find the O.B.C.'s disdain for it rather amusing: the editors call it a "rather confused narrative... one of [Neale's] less happy pieces, which E. Duncan goes so far as to call 'doggerel', and Bullen condemns as 'poor and commonplace to the last degree'.  The time has not yet come for a comprehensive book to discard it; but we reprint the tune in its proper setting ('Spring has now unwrapped the flowers') not without hope that, with the present wealth of carols for Christmas, 'Good King Wenceslas' may gradually fall into disuse, and the tune be restored to spring-time."

Bad luck, chaps - you were on the wrong side of history on that one!  However, 'Spring has now unwrapped the flowers' really does have delightful words, though the tune is indeed forever ruined for me.  Perhaps someone will set it to a less Christmassy tune one day.

1. Spring has now unwrapped the flowers,
Day is fast reviving,
Life in all her growing powers
Towards the light is striving:
Gone the iron touch of cold,
Winter time and frost time,
Seedlings, working through the mould,
Now make up for lost time.

2. Herb and plant that, winter long,
Slumbered at their leisure,
Now bestirring, green and strong,
Find in growth their pleasure;
All the world with beauty fills,
Gold the green enhancing,
Flowers make glee among the hills,
Set the meadows dancing.

3. Through each wonder of fair days
God himself expresses;
Beauty follows all his ways,
As the world he blesses:
So, as he renews the earth,
Artist without rival,
In his grace of glad new birth
We must seek revival.

4. Earth puts on her dress of glee;
Flowers and grasses hide her;
We go forth in charity -
Brothers all beside her;
For, as man this glory sees
In the awakening season,
Reason learns the heart’s decrees,
And hearts are led by reason.

5. Praise the Maker, all ye saints;
He with glory girt you,
He who skies and meadows paints
Fashioned all your virtue;
Praise Him, seers, heroes, kings,
Heralds of perfection;
Brothers, praise Him, for He brings
All to resurrection!

The pictures are from the gardens of Magdalen College today, where flowers were indeed 'making glee among the hills'.

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