Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dunbar, Of the Nativitie of Christ

William Dunbar (c.1460-c.1520) was a noted Scottish poet, and from his pen comes this glorious poem for Our Lord's Birth, which I offer as a meditation and gift to all at this holy season now upon us.  I have glossed the obscurer words infra, but will leave the unusual spellings to be worked out; read it aloud, with a guid Scots accent!  (My distant forebears are mainly Scottish.)  

Of the Nativitie of Christ

Rorate celi desuper!  
Hevins distill your balmy schouris, 
For now is rissin the bricht day ster, 
Fro the ros Mary, flour of flouris: 
The cleir Sone, quhome¹ no clud devouris,
Surminting Phebus in the est, 
Is cumin of his hevinly touris; 
Et nobis Puer natus est.  

Archangellis, angellis, and dompnationis, 
Tronis, potestatis², and marteiris³ seir⁴, 
And all ye hevinly operationis, 
Ster, planeit, firmament, and speir⁵, 
Fyre, erd⁶, air, and watter cleir, 
To him gife loving⁷, most and lest, 
That come into so meik maneir; 
Et nobis Puer natus est.  

Synnaris be glaid, and pennance do, 
And thank your Makar hairtfully; 
For he that ye mycht⁸ nocht cum to, 
To yow is cumin full humly, 
Your saulis with his blud to by, 
And lous yow of the feindis arrest, 
And only of his awin mercy; 
Pro nobis Puer natus est.  

All clergy do to him inclyne, 
And bow unto that barne benyng, 
And do your observance devyne 
To him that is of kingis King; 
Ensence his altar, reid and sing 
In haly kirk, with mynd degest⁹, 
Him honouring attour¹⁰ all thing, 
Qui nobis Puer natus est.  

Celestiall fowlis in the are 
Sing with your nottis upoun hicht; 
In firthis and in forrestis fair 
Be myrthfull now, at all your mycht, 
For passit is your dully nycht, 
Aurora hes the cluddis perst, 
The son is rissin with glaidsum lycht, 
Et nobis Puer natus est.  

Now spring up flouris fra the rute, 
Revert yow upwart naturaly, 
In honour of the blissit frute 
That rais up fro the rose Mary; 
Lay out your levis lustely, 
Fro deid tak lyfe now at the lest 
In wirschip of that Prince wirthy, 
Qui nobis Puer natus est.  

Syng hevin imperiall, most of hicht, 
Regions of air mak armony; 
All fishe in flud and foull of flicht 
Be myrthfull and mak melody: 
All Gloria in excelsis cry, 
Hevin, erd, se, man, bird, and best, 
He that is crownit abone¹¹ the sky 
Pro nobis Puer natus est.


1  quh- = wh-
2  powers
3  martyrs
4  many
5  sphere
6  earth
7  praises
8  -cht = -ght
9  composed
10 above
11  above

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