Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin

The choir sang this during the Offertory yesterday.  It is a stunningly beautiful piece.  Britten wrote it when he was 17 and confined to the school’s sanitorium one summer.  The text came from The Oxford Book of English Verse and was written c. 1300 (unattributed).

It is sung by two choirs, antiphonally.  Here is a free .mp3 from St. Peter’s, Nottingham, UK.

A Hymn to the Virgin

Of one that is so fair and bright 
Velut maris stella, 
Brighter than the day is light, 
Parens et puella: 
I cry to thee, thou see to me, 
Lady, pray thy Son for me, 
Tam pia, 
That I might come to thee 
Maria.

Al this world was forlon
Eva peccatrice, 
Till our Lord was y-bore 
De te genetrice. 
With ave it went away 
Darkest night and comes the day 
Salutis; 
The well springeth out of thee, 
Virtutis.

Lady, flower of everything, 
Rose sine spina, 
Thou bear Jesu, heavens king, 
Gratia divina: 
Of all that bear’st the prize, 
Lady, queen of paradise 
Electa: 
Maid mild, mother es 
Effecta.

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