Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences/Urbs Beata Jerusalem

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Urbs beata Jerusalem.

This grand Hymn of the eighth century, was modernised in the reform of Pope Urban VIII., into the Cœlestis Urbs Jerusalem: and lost half of its beauty in the process.

Blessed City, Heavenly Salem,
Vision dear of Peace and Love,
Who, of living stones upbuilded,
Art the joy of Heav'n above,
And, with angel cohorts circled,
As a Bride to earth dost move!

From celestial realms descending,
Ready for the nuptial bed,
To His presence, deck'd with jewels,
By her Lord shall she be led:
All her streets, and all her bulwarks,
Of pure gold are fashioned.

Bright with pearls her portal glitters;
It is open evermore;
And, by virtue of His merits,
Thither faithful souls may soar,
Who for Christ's dear Name, in this world
Pain and tribulation bore.

Many a blow and biting sculpture
Polish'd well those stones elect,
In their places now compacted
By the Heavenly Architect,
Who therewith hath will'd for ever
That His Palace should be deck'd.

Christ is made the sure Foundation,
And the precious Corner-stone,
Who, the two-fold walls surmounting,
Binds them closely into one:
Holy Sion's help for ever,
And her confidence alone.

All that dedicated City,
Dearly lov'd by God on high,
In exultant jubilation
Pours perpetual melody;
God the One, and God the Trinal,
Singing everlastingly.

To this Temple,[1] where we call Thee,
Come, O Lord of Hosts, to-day!
With Thy wonted loving-kindness
Hear Thy people as they pray;
And Thy fullest benediction
Shed within its walls for aye.

Here vouchsafe to all Thy servants
That they supplicate to gain:
Here to have and hold for ever
Those good things their prayers obtain;
And hereafter in Thy Glory
With Thy blessed ones to reign.

Laud and honour to the Father;
Laud and honour to the Son;
Laud and honour to the Spirit;
Ever Three, and ever One:
Consubstantial, Co-eternal,
While unending ages run. Amen.[2]

  1. Daniel imagines these stanzas to be a later addition, when the hymn, originally general, was adapted to the dedication of a church. Dean Trench, on the contrary, will have the whole poem to be of one date: and alleges, very truly, that this mixture of the earthly and heavenly temple is usual in hymns and sequences on a similar subject. Nevertheless, I think that Daniel is right: 1. Because there is a clear difference in the style and language of the two last and seven first stanzas. 2. Because the transition from one part to the other is so unusually abrupt. 3. Because, at the end of the sixth stanza, there is a quasi-doxology as if to point out that the hymn originally concluded there.
  2. ​ There is, in the Paris Breviary, a rifacimento of this Hymn; very inferior, it is true, to the original, but much superior to the Roman reform. The first verse may serve as an example.

    Urbs beata, Jerusalem,
    Dicta pacis visio,
    Quæ construitur in cœlo
    Vivis ex lapidibus,
    Et angelis coronata
    Ut sponsata comite.

    Cœlestis urbs Jerusalem
    Beata pacis visio,
    Quæ celsa de viventibus
    Saxis ad astra tolleris;
    Sponsæque ritu cingeris
    Mille Aogelorum millibus.

    Urbs beata, vera pacis
    Visio, Jerusalem;
    Quanta surgit; celsa saxis
    Conditur viventibus:
    Quæ polivit, hæc coaptat
    Sedibus suis Deus.

    This Hymn, divided as in the Breviary, after the fourth verse, was inserted, with some corrections, in the Hymnal Noted. Thence, with a good many alterations, it was copied in the Sarum Hymnal; one of these changes seems true and happy: v. 27.

    Who, the two walls underlying,
    Bound in each, binds both in one.

    In Hymns Ancient and Modern it is very slightly altered: and some of the changes can hardly be thought improvements, e.g., " Thither faithful souls do soar." It is curious to observe how both one and the other soften the second line of the second verse: the Sarum has:

    Grace and glory round her shed,

    Hymns Ancient and Modern, (much better,)

    Bridal glory round her shed.

    The second part of the translation, "Christ is made the sure Foundation," has been adopted as a dedication hymn with so much general favour, that it would be unthankful not to mention the fact.