Friday, June 29, 2018

Knox and Caswall, and Faber: "Decora Lux" Translations

The June issue of Magnificat includes an art essay on a mosaic in the Church of St. Prassede in Rome and cites the ancient hymn honoring St. Peter and St. Paul, Decora Lux, words attributed to Elphis, the wife of Boethius. Ronald Knox translated the hymn (read more about its development here) thus:

What fairer light is this than time itself doth own,
The golden day with beams more radiant brightening?
The princes of God’s Church this feast day doth enthrone,
To sinners heavenward bound their burden lightening.

One taught mankind its creed, one guards the heavenly gate,
Founders of Rome, they bind the world in loyalty;
One by the sword achieved, one by the cross his fate;
With laurelled brows they hold eternal royalty.

Rejoice, O Rome, this day; thy walls they once did sign
With princely blood, who now their glory share with thee.
What city’s vesture glows with crimson deep as thine?
What beauty else has earth that may compare with thee?

To God the three in one eternal homage be,
All honor, all renown, all songs victorious,
Who rules both heaven and earth by one divine decree,
To everlasting years in empire glorious. 

The Oratorian Father Edward Caswall translated it as Bathed in Eternity's All-Beauteous Beam in his Lyra Catholica in 1849. Another Oratorian, Father Frederick Faber, translated it as It Is No Earthly Summer's Ray. More about the hymn in this book , The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (, on page 262.

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