Anonymous: Song of the Watchmen of Modena (From Latin)

During the late 9th century, the walls of Modena were fortified under bishop Ludovicus against Magyar (Hungarian) raiders, whose numerous incursions into western Europe at the time had become a considerable and constant menace, and would remain so until their neutralization by Otto the Great at the battle of Lechfeld in 955, followed by the formal conversion to Christianity of the Hungarian elite over the subsequent century.
This poem, preserved in a manuscript alongside prayers explicitly entreating deliverance from Hungarian raiders, appears to have been composed for use at mass just before sending guards off to sentry duty. The mass was presumably conducted in the Chapel of Saint John and Saint Mary (located near one of the city gates, and dedicated to the two saints invoked in the penultimate stanza) where the poem was sung by attendant clerics, possibly joined by the guardsmen as well. 
The music to which the song was composed still survives, and a modern rendition can be heard here. (Note though that the lyrics heard in the recording are a truncated version of the unedited text as found in manuscript. They therefore both lack a considerable part of the full text presented here, and also contain a large chunk of material interpolated from another composition.)

Song of the Watchmen of Modena
By Anonymous (c. late 9th cent.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Good men who guard those walls tonight with arms,
I warn you: do not sleep. Stand watchful guard.
While Hector stood his watch, Troy still stood free
And did not fall to any scheme of Greece.
But as Troy slept in the early morning's peace,
Sinon unlocked the gift horse of defeat.

The horde slipped down a rope in dark concealed,
Stormed into Troy and raped her to debris.
And the watchful voice of the white goose redeemed
Rome's citadel and forced the Celts to flee.
For this they made her a silver effigy
And adored the bird as a Roman deity1.

But let us worship Christ's divinity
And pay to Him our tuneful jubilee.
Trusting in Him,  His guardianship supreme,
Let us sing Him this wakeful hymn with cheer
"Christ, King of all things, guardian godhead, keep
This faithful city in Thy watchful care.

Be to Thy people a bulwark none may breach,
The fearsome enemy our enemies fear.
Within Thy care no power can do us harm
For Thou wilt drive all hostile force afar.
Keep these our walls O Christ, under Thy care
With the protection of Thy mighty spear.

And Glorious Mary, mother of Lord Jesus
With Saint John's aid entreat our victory,
You whose most holy relics we revere,
To whom we consecrate this chapel here."
Swords under Christ's command strike victory.
Without Him, of what use can weapons be?

Brave, good young men, bold in your strength of arms
Let the ramparts sound with song from wakeful hearts;
And take your turns to stand at arms on guard
That no foe's ploy may breach these walls of ours.
Let the echo sound along the walls "Stand guard!"
Let it resound "Comrades, stand watchful guard!"

Notes:

1 - Reference is made here to the Gaulish siege of the Capitoline Hill in Rome following the Battle of Allia. The Gaulish forces attempted to sneak into the Capitoline by night, and managed to go undetected by the guards or the dogs. But the sacred geese consecrated to Juno were roused, which in turn alerted the Romans who rallied under Marcus Manlius Capitolinus to repel the Gauls back down the hill. The part about the Romans making a silver model of the goose is apparently the poet's invention.

The Original:

Carmen Mutinense

O tu, qui servas   armis ista moenia,
Noli dormire,   moneo, sed vigila.
Dum Hector vigil   exstitit in Troïa,
Non eam cepit   fraudulenta Graecia.
Prima quiete   dormiente Troïa,
Laxavit Sinon   fallax claustra perfida.

Per funem lapsa   occultata agmina
Invadunt urbem,   et incendunt Pergama.
Vigili voce,   avis anser candida
Fugavit Gallos   ex Arce Romulea;
Pro qua virtute   facta est argentea,
Et a Romanis   adorata ut Dea.

Nos adoremus   celsa Christi numina,
Illi canora   demus nostra iubila.
Illius magna   fisi sub custodia,
Haec vigilantes   iubilemus carmina.
Divina, Mundi   Rex Christe, custodia
Sub tua serva   haec castra vigilia.

Tu murus tuis   sis inexpugnabilis,
Sis inimicis   hostis tu terribilis.
Te vigilante,   nulla nocet fortia,
Qui cuncta fugas   procul arma bellica.
Tu cinge haec   nostra, Christe, munimina,
Defendens ea   tua forti lancea.

Sancta Maria   Mater Christi splendida,
Haec cum Iohanne,   Theotocos, impetra:
Quorum hic sancta   veneramur pignora,
Et quibus ista   sunt sacrata limina
Quo duce victrix   est in bello dextera,
Et sine ipso   nihil valent iacula.

Fortis iuventus,   virtus audax, bellica,
Vestra per muros   audiantur carmina:
Et sit in armis   alterna vigilia,
Ne fraus hostilis   haec invadat moenia.
Resultet Echo   comes: eia vigila.
Per muros eia   dicat Echo, vigila!

No comments:

Post a Comment

There was an error in this gadget