Monday 4 July 2016

A New Hiberno-Latin Hymn on Saint Martin of Tours

Professor Michael Lapidge has published the text of a hymn to Saint Martin, which although it has been preserved in a collection of materials called the pseudo-Bede Collectaneum published in Basle in 1543, is felt by Lapidge to be of Irish provenance. The prayer to Saint Martin is one of a group of six which have identifiable links with early insular prayerbooks, but scholars have long felt that many of the prayers in Anglo-Saxon prayerbooks derive from Irish sources. Lapidge argues that this prayer to St Martin has obviously originated outside France since it calls for protection against shipwreck for visiting pilgrims and, since early medieval England does not have a literary tradition of veneration of Saint Martin, Ireland is the most likely point of origin. The author goes on to argue for a seventh-century date, based on linguistic analysis and comparisons with other Irish hymns of that period. Lapidge's paper gives only the Latin text, but below is a translation by David Howlett, with some accompanying notes.

Deus Domine Meus 'A New Hiberno-Latin Hymn on Saint Martin'

1. God, my Lord, I am the one responsible for Your death: be patient now with me, who are strong and powerful.

2. I adjure the true God, always one and triune, that I may have power now to go to Saint Martin.

3. I ask now the King of Kings, Who is divine light, that I may be able now, just to visit Saint Martin.

4. Christ, God of gods, Whose majesty is wondrous, make me to lament, healed, before Saint Martin.

5. Direct the way clearly, O Nazarene Jesu, so that I may be able excellently to bewail sins there.

6. For me an aid through shipwreck will be the support of Christ's soldier Martin.

7. I wish to visit you; make me come to you, who are of such great virtue, O my Saint Martin.

8. O my Saint Martin, intercede now, I beg, for me, grieving ill, burdened by the disgrace of sins.

9. O my Saint Martin, for me now intercede, lest the wisps of flame of perennial punishment touch me.

10. O my Saint Martin, beloved of the throng of the heavens, lest I be a sharer of punishment help me.

11. O my Saint Martin, help me that I may enjoy at the end the perennial bread of life.

12. Glory to You, Father, Who are Brother and Mother.


The first 5 stanzas are addressed to God. The central sixth stanza describes the aid of Saint Martin against shipwreck on the journey from the poet's home, presumably in Ireland, and the shrine of Saint Martin, presumably at Tours. The last 5 stanzas are addressed to Saint Martin. The doxology is addressed to God. The most appropriate occasions for recitation of this hymn might be the two principal feasts of Saint Martin, 4 July and 11 November.

David Howlett, The Celtic Latin Tradition of Biblical Style, (Dublin, 1995), 183-186.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

No comments: