Welcome, Happy Morning

This great Easter hymn was composed by Venantius Fortunatus, an Italian who lived roughly from 530 to  600 or some time thereafter. Born in Venezia, near Treviso, he was educated in the then still-civilized Ravenna some time after Justinian's reconquest of Italy.  He made his way to the Frankish court in Metz, where he established himself as court poet.  Moving to Tour and Poitiers, he was befriended by Radegunde, one of the numerous wives of King Clotaire and became a friend of Bishop Gregory of Tours, the chronicler of Frankish history.  Venantius, who was eventually was made Bishop of Poitiers, is the author of many well-known hymns, including "Vexilla regis prodeunt and "Salva, festa dies," which in the translation of the Rev. John Ellerton, an Anglican clergyman,  was set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan--a joyous hymn that I don't know why is not sung in Catholic churches.  The Latin text is followed by Ellerton's version, which is followed by a leaden-footed more or less literal translation.

Salve festa dies toto venerabilis aevo

Qua Deus infernum vicit et astra tenet

Ecce renascentis testatur gratia mundi

Omnia cum Domino dona redisse suo

Namque triumphanti post tristia tartara Christo

Undique fronde nemus gramina flore favent

Qui crucifixus erat Deus, ecce per omnia regnat

Dantque Creatori cuncta creata precem

Christe, salus rerum, bone Conditor atque Redemptor

Unica progenies ex Deitate Patris

Qui genus humanum cernens mersisse profundo

Ut hominem eriperes es quoque factus homo

Funeris exsequias pateris vitae auctor et orbis

Intras mortis iter dando salutis opem.

Welcome, Happy Morning! Hymn

“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say:

“Hell today is vanquished, Heav’n is won today!”

Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!

Him, their true Creator, all His works adore!

Refrain

“Welcome, happy morning!”

Age to age shall say.

Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring,

All fresh gifts returned with her returning King:

Bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,

Speak His sorrow ended, hail His triumph now.

Refrain

Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,

Hours and passing moments praise Thee in their flight.

Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea,

Vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to Thee.

Refrain

Maker and Redeemer, life and health of all,

Thou from heaven beholding human nature’s fall,

Of the Father’s Godhead true and only Son,

Mankind to deliver, manhood didst put on.

Refrain

Thou, of life the Author, death didst undergo,

Tread the path of darkness, saving strength to show;

Come, then True and Faithful, now fulfill Thy Word;

’Tis Thine own third morning; rise, O buried Lord!

Refrain

Loose the souls long prisoned, bound with Satan’s chain;

All that now is fallen raise to life again;

Show Thy face in brightness, bid the nations see;

Bring again our daylight: day returns with Thee!

Refrain

Hail, festal day, venerable of all ages

By which God conquers hell and holds the stars

Behold, it declares grace for a reborn world

All gifts have returned with their Lord.

For indeed, after hellish sorrows, to the triumphing Christ:

grove with green and buds with flower, everywhere give laud.

The Crucified One was God, behold He reigns over all things,

and all creation offers prayer to its Creator.

O Christ, the salvation of all things,

good Creator and Redeemer, only begotten Son of God the Father.

You Who, seeing mankind to have plunged to the deep,

that you might save man, were also made man.

That Thou, the author of life and the world, might open

the way of death and the grave by giving hope of salvation.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Christopher Check says:

    We sang this very hymn (the Ellerton translation, in fact) at Our Lady of Grace, El Cajon, California at the Easter Vigil. My pastor, Fr. Peter McGuine (a retired USAF chaplain) has been saddled with an ugly building, but he is doing much work to make available reverent and beautiful liturgies. He hired a first-rate music director about six months ago.

  2. Thomas Fleming says:

    I envy you.

  3. Frank Brownlow says:

    The Church of England’s favored version these days is a paraphrase/translation by another C of E priest, Maurice F. Bell, sung to a Vaughan Williams tune, Salva Festa Dies. Everyone complains about the semi-literate first line, “Hail thee, festival day,” but it’s such a good tune they put up with it. John Ellerton, a much better writer, wrote a number of hymns, e.g., “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.”

  4. Thomas Fleming says:

    Frank, yes, I know the Vaughan Williams well, and, while I like it a good deal, I always resent it as a bit to stage-English in melody, the sort of thing one expects in a WW II film based on Shakespeare, while the words–well, the use of thee for a vocative is the least sin against English verse.