O quanta, qualia (Peter Abelard, 1079-1142) (contributed by Mark Walker)

This hymn employs an iambic rhythm in lines of twelve syllables (or half-lines of six syllables each if you prefer). Abelard was not only a brilliant scholar, he was also a celebrated composer whose love songs were once the toast of Paris. In his later monastic life he composed a complete hymnal for the Monastery of the Paraclete where his beloved Heloise was abbess. Sadly all his secular songs are lost, and only a handful of his sacred works have been positively identified in manuscript sources, this being the best known.

Mark Walker

O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata

quae semper celebrat superna curia,

quae fessis requies, quae merces fortibus,

cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus.


Vera Ierusalem est illa civitas,

cuius pax iugis est, summa iucunditas,

ubi non praevenit rem desiderium,

nec desiderio minus est praemium.


Quis rex, quae curia, quale palatium,

quae pax, quae requies, quod illud gaudium,

huius participes exponant gloriae,

si quantum sentiunt, possint exprimere.


Nostrum est interim mentem erigere

et totis patriam votis appetere,

et ad Ierusalem a Babylonia

post longa regredi tandem exsilia.


Illic molestiis finitis omnibus

securi cantica Sion cantibimus,

et iuges gratias de donis gratiae

beata referet plebs tibi, Domine.


Illic ex sabbato succedet sabbatum,

perpes laetitia sabbatizantium,

nec ineffabiles cessabunt iubili,

quos decantabimus et nos et angeli.


Perenni Domino perpes sit gloria,

ex quo sunt, per quem sunt, in quo sunt omnia;

ex quo sunt, Pater est, per quem sunt, Filius,

in quo sunt, Patris et Filii Spiritus.


O how many and of what kind are the Sabbaths which the celestial council always celebrates. What rest for the weary, what reward for the strong, when God will be all things in everything.

True Jerusalem is that city, whose peace is everlasting, the greatest delight, where desire does not anticipate fulfilment, nor is the reward for desire less.

What king, what council, what palace, what peace, what rest, what that joy, let those who partake of this glory expound, if they can express how much they feel.

It is ours in the meantime to raise up our hearts and seek our homeland with all our prayers, and after a long exile to return at last from Babylon to Jerusalem.

In that place, after all our woes have ended, untroubled we will sing the songs of Sion, and the blessed multitude will return to you, O Lord, everlasting thanks for the gifts of grace.

In that place Sabbath will follow Sabbath, the continual happiness of those celebrating the Sabbaths, nor will the unutterable cries of joy cease, which both we and the angels will chant.

Let there be glory everlasting for the eternal Lord, from whom there are, through whom there are, in whom there are all things; he is the Father from whom there are, the Son through whom there are, the Spirit of the Father and the Son in which there are all things.



Chosen and translated by Mark Walker (www.pineapplepubs.co.uk).


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