Saturday, May 9, 2009

ave verum corpiss

Name this photograph:

[This is all from Karl's Choral Music Webpage.]

This translation is meant merely to provide an understanding of the meaning of
the Latin lyrics, and is definitely NOT meant as a replacement set of lyrics!
(Note that some English 'translated' lyric versions do exist; however, in order
to fit the rhythm of the melody, and to provide 'more easily understood' lyrics,
they have a tendency to mangle the meaning of many of the Latin verses.)

Note that while I do know some Latin (and have access to Latin
references for those words I don't understand!), I do not claim to be a master
Latin scholar. In addition, some of the Latin words and phrases have meanings
which it is difficult to directly convey in English - in these cases, I have
done my best to paraphrase, retaining as much of the contextual meaning as
possible. Therefore, while I have made every attempt to capture the meaning of
the Latin as closely as possible, there may be some errors, and some sections
may be open to different interpretations.

Note also that Latin has a
different syntax to English, and so some of the translation is not strictly

Ave, verum corpus
natum de Maria Virgine,
Vere passum
Cruce pro homine,
Cujus latus perforatum
fluxit (et)* sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.

Hail,true body
born of the Virgin Mary,
Who truly suffered,
on the Cross
for man,
Whose pierced side overflowed
with water* and blood,
Be for
us a foretaste**
In the test of

* Several people have commented on this, so I
thought that I might elaborate. The phrase in the original Latin hymn is "Cujus
latus perforatum fluxit aqua et sanguine", whose approximate translation I have
used here. However, in the available editions of both the Byrd and the Mozart
score, the word 'aqua' ('water') is omitted and the word 'unda' ('whence')
inserted. The 'et' (and) is also omitted in the Byrd text, but not in the
Mozart, which makes for rather awkward Latin (and one which I had much trouble
translating accurately). The origins (and purpose) of this change is unclear; I
hope to research this matter futher at a later date.

** Referring to the
eucharist in the Roman Catholic tradition, in which the sacrament was often
referred to as being a "foretaste of heaven".

If you have any comments
or suggestions about this translation, or about this site in general, please
e-mail me at

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