Music for Advent 3 — Sunday, December 11, 2022

Hark, a Herald Voice Is Sounding – Text: Latin (Vox clare); tr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878) / Music: William Henry Monk (1823-1889)

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The customary hymn for the office of Lauds in Advent is Vox clare ecce intonat. From the 11th century onward it is found in the Mozarabic rite for Vespers on Wednesday. By some the hymn has been attributed to Ambrose, but most authorities doubt that it is older than the 10th century. Edward Caswall, a prolific translator of Latin hymns, translated it for his Lyra Catholica 1849. With some alterations his version appeared in Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861. This translation is the basis of the Offertory hymn in church this Sunday: Hark a Herald Voice is Sounding. The text in our New English Hymnal is the same as that used in Hymns Ancient & Modern 1950, apart from the substitution of “herald” for “thrilling” in stanza 1. Most modern hymnals include that change.

The tune Merton, composed by William Henry Monk, appeared for the first time in Parish Choir 1850. It was chosen for Caswall’s translation in Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861, and with few exceptions, it has been paired with this hymn ever since. Its name may have something to do with Walter de Merton, founder of Merton College, Oxford.

Hark! A herald voice is calling:
‘Christ is nigh,’ it seems to say;
‘Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!’

Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven;

So when next he comes in glory,
And earth’s final hour draws near,
May he then as our defender
On the clouds of heaven appear.

Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run. Amen.

Gerald Harder