Text: 6th century Latin hymn
Music: Benedictine plainsong; 17th-century Lutheran chorale
Tune name: IAM LUCIS ORTO SIDERE; HERR JESU CHRIST
Before Amazon began to dominate our lives, “Prime” (with a capital P) was understood to refer to one of the times fixed in the life of the Church for liturgical prayer. Prime was the early-morning hour or “office,” typically tied to dawn. This hymn was regularly sung in the office of Prime in the Anglo-Irish liturgies, especially in the later Middle Ages, as it supplanted a hymn that had been appointed in the earlier Benedictine liturgy. The translation in our Hymnal is by the Anglican priest and prolific translator John Mason Neale (1818-1866).
1. Now that the daylight fills the sky,
we lift our hearts to God on high,
that he, in all we do or say,
would keep us free from harm to-day:
2. Would guard our hearts and tongues from strife;
from anger’s din would hide our life;
from all ill sights would turn our eyes;
would close our ears from vanities:
3. Would keep our inmost conscience pure;
our souls from folly would secure;
would bid us check the pride of sense
with due and holy abstinence.
4. So we, when this new day is gone,
and night in turn is drawing on,
with conscience by the world unstained
shall praise his name for vict’ry gained.
5. All laud to God the Father be;
all praise, eternal Son, to thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God, the holy Paraclete.
The tune IAM LUCIS ORTO SIDERE in one of the plainchant melodies traditionally associated with this text, but not the one most commonly sung. Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.
Another plainchant melody for this hymn is sung here by the Daughters of Mary Mother of Our Savior, a congregation of traditional Catholic Sisters in Round Top, New York.
The Lutheran chorale HERR JESU CHRIST was first published in 1648. It was used for a hymn which began: “Lord Jesus Christ! Turn towards us,
send your Holy Spirit to us.” Here is the first stanza of that German hymn, as harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach, and sung by the Chamber Choir of Europe.
Bach wrote a number of works for organ based on this chorale melody. Here is a setting (BWV 632) played by organist Wolfgang Zerer.
A more ornamented riff on the melody (BWV 726) is played here by Kay Johannsen.
Yet another setting (BWV 749) is played here by organist Gerrit Veldman.