Stabat Mater Speciosa

Stabat Mater Speciosa must be distinguished from the Stabat Mater. Dolorosa (q.v.). While the former sets forth the sorrows of the Virgin Mother at the cross, the Mater Speciosa speaks of the joys of the Virgin at the manger. For five centuries the Mater Speciosa was forgotten, until A.F. Ozanam, in his Poetes Franciscains, rescued it from oblivion and gave it once more to the world. Cardinal Diepenbrock, bishop of Breslau, made an admirable German translation of this Nativity hymn, and the late Dr. John Mason Neale published the original Latin, with the first English translation, in August 1866, a few days before his death.

I. Text — The hymn itself runs thus:

Stabat mater speciosa Juxta foenum gaudiosa, Dum jacebat parvululs; Cujus auimam gaudentem Lactabundam ac ferventem Pertransivit jubilus.

· quam laeta et beata Fuit illa immaculata Mater Unigeniti! Quae gaudebat et ridebat, Exultabat, cum videbat Nati partum inclyti.

· Quis jam est qui non gauderet Christi matrom si videret In tanto solatio? Quis non posset collaetari, Christi matrem contemplari Ludentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis snae gentis Christum vidit cum jumentis Et algori subditum; Vidit suum dulcem Natum Vagientem, adoratum, Vili diversorio.

Nato Christo in praesepe Coeli cives canunt laete Cum immenso gaudio; Stabat senex cum puella Non cum verbo nec loquela Stupescentes cordibus.

Eja mater, fous amoris, Me sentire vim ardoris, Fac ut tecum sentiam! Fac ut ardeat cor meum In amatum Christum Deum, Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta mater, istud agas, Prone introducas plagas Cordi fixas valide. Tui Nati coelo lapsi, Jam digniati foeno nasci Poenas mecum divide.

Fac me vere congaudere, Jesu lino cohaerere Donec ego vixero. In me sistat ardor tui; Puerino fac me frui Dum sum in exilio. Hunc ardorem fac communem, Ne me facias immunem Ab hoc desiderio.

Virgo virgiuum praeclara, Mihi jam non sis amara; Fac me parvum rapere; Fac ut pulchrum fantem portem, Qui nascendo vicit mortem, Volens vitam tradere.

Fac me tecum satiari, Nato me inebriari, Stans inter tripudio. Inflammatus et accensus Obstupescit omnis sensus Tali de commercio.

Omnes stabnium amantes, Et pastores vigilantes Pernoctantes sociant. Per virtutem Nati tui Ora ut electi sui Ad patriam veniant

Fac me Nato custodiri, Verbo Dei praemuniri, Conservari gratia; Quando corpus morietur, Fac ut animen donetur Tui Nati visio.

II. Authorship. — As to the source of this hymn, both Ozanam and Dr. Neale ascribe it to Jacopone da Todi, the author of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa; while Drs. Schaff and Coles regard the Mater Speciosa as the work of some admiring imitator. Against the latter opinion it may be observed that the second edition of the Italian poems of Jacopone (Laude di Fra Jacopone da Todi), which appeared at Brescia in 1495, contains an appendix of several Latin poems, among which is one De Contemptu Mundi, the Stabat Mater Dolorosa, and, according to Brunel, also the Stabat Mater Speciosa. On this ground, as well as on account of the general agreement of the hymn with what we know of Jacopone and with the spirit of the early Franciscan poetry, Luke Wadding ascribed the Stabat Mater Dolorosa to Jacopone, who. has ever since been commonly regarded as the author.

In the absence of authentic or contemporary evidence, this opinion is no more than a probable conjecture; but it is preferable to other conjectures. From the want of finish and the number of imperfect rhymes, Dr. Neale infers that the Mater Speciosa was composed first; but Dr. Schaff, and with him Dr. Coles, takes an opposite opinion. Says Dr. Schaff: "The Mater Dolorosa was evidently suggested by the Scripture scene as briefly stated by St. John in the first words of the poem (in the Vulgate version); and this, again, suggested the cradle hymn as a counterpart. It is a parallelism of contrast which runs from beginning to end. The Mater Speciosa is a Christmas hymn, and sings the overflowing joy of Mary at the cradle of the newborn Savior. The Mater Dolorosa is a Good Friday hymn, and sings the piercing agony of Mary at the cross of her divine human Son. The breathe the same love to Christ, and the burning desire to become identified with Mary by sympathy in the intensity of her joy as in the intensity of her grief. They are the same in structure, and excel alike in the singularly touching music of language and the soft cadence that echoes the sentiment. Both consist of two parts, the first of which describes the objective situation; the second identifies the author with the situation, and addresses the Virgin as an object of worship. Both bear the impress of their age and of the monastic order which probably gave them birth. They are Roman Catholic in that they fix the pious contemplation upon the mother first, and only through her upon the Son; while the Protestant looks first upon the Son, and worships him only. For this feature of Mariolatry they are, as a whole, unsuitable for an evangelical hymn book, unless they be so changed as to place Christ in the foreground, and to address the prayer to him."

III. Translations. — We subjoin to this text of Dr. Neale his English translation:

"Full of beauty stood the mother By the manger, blest o'er other, Where her little one she lays: For her inmost soul's elation, In its fervid jubilation, Thrills with ecstasy of praise.

"Oh! what glad, what rapturous feeling Filled that blessed mother, kneeling By the Sole-begotten One! How, her heart with laughter bounding, She beheld the work astounding, Saw his birth, the glorious Son!

"Who is he that sight who beareth Nor Christ's mother's solace shareth In her bosom as he lay? Who is he that would not render Tend rest love for love so tender — Love, with that dear Babe at play?

"For the trespass of her nation She with oxen saw his station Subjected to cold and woe; Saw her sweetest offspring's wailing, Wise men him with worship hailing, In the stable, mean and low.

"Jesus lying in the manger, Heavenly armies sang the stranger, In the great joy bearing part; Stood the old man with the maiden, No words speaking, only laden With this wonder in their heart.

"Mother, fount of love still flowing, Let me, with thy rapture glowing, Learn to sympathize with thee: Let me raise my heart's devotion Up to Christ with pare emotion, That accepted I may be.

"Mother, let me win this blessing, Let his sorrow's deep impressing In my heart engraved remain; Since thy Son, from heaven descending, Deigned to bear the manger's tending, Oh! divide with me his pain.

"Keep my heart its gladness bringing, To my Jesus ever clinging. Long as this my life shall last; Love like that thine own love, give it, On thy little child to rivet, Till this exile shall be past. Let me share thine own affliction; Let me suffer no rejection Of my purpose fixed and fast.

"Virgin, peerless of condition, Be not wroth with my petition, Let me clasp thy little Son: Let me bear that child so glorious, Him whose birth, o'er death victorious, Willed that life for man was won.

"Let me, satiate with my pleasure, Feel the rapture of thy treasure Leaping for that joy intense: That, inflamed by such communion, Through the marvel of that union I may thrill in every sense.

"All that love this stable truly, And the shepherds watching duly, Tarry there the livelong night: Pray that, by thy Son's dear merit, His elected may inherit Their own country's endless light."

Besides Dr. Neale's translation, we have one by E.C. Benedict, in Hymns of Hildebert, p. 21, commencing,

" Beautiful, his mother, standing Near the stall — her soul expanding — Saw her Newborn lying there."

And by Dr. Coles:

"Stood the glad and beauteous mother By the hay, where, like no other, Lay her little infant Boy."

This hymn has been translated into German by cardinal Diepenbrock:

"An der Krippe stand die hohe Mutter, die so selig frohe, Wo das Kindlein lag auf Streu."

And by Konigsfeld:

"An der Krippe stand die hohe Gottesmutter, seelenfrohe, Wo er lag, der kleine Sohn."

IV. Character. — This hymn, like the Mater Dolorosa is unfortunately disfigured by Mariolatry, but, says Dr. Schaff, "The mysterious charm and power of the two hymns are due to the subject, and to the intensity of feeling with which the author seized it. Mary at the manger and Mary at the cross open a vista to an abyss of joy and of grief such as the world never saw before. Mary stood there not only as the mother, but as the representative of the whole Christian Church, for which the eternal Son of God was born an infant in the manger, and for which he suffered the most ignominious death on the cross. The author had the rare poetic faculty to bring out, as from immediate vision and heartfelt sympathy, the deep meaning of those scenes in stanzas of classic beauty and melody that melt the heart and start the tear of joy at the manger. and of penitential grief at the cross of Christ, and of burning gratitude to him for that unutterable love which caused his birth and his death for a lost and sinful world. Such lyrics as these can never die, nor lose their charm. 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'"

V. Literature. — Schaff, a new Stabat Mater, in the Hours at Home, May, 1867; Neale, Stabat Mater Speciosa, "Full of beauty stood the mother" (Lond. 1867); Coles, Latin Hymns (N.Y. 1868); Benedict, Hymns of Hildebert (ibid. 1867); Ozanam, Les Poetes Franciscains en Italie au Treizieme Siecle (Paris, 1852; Germ. transl. by N.H. Julius). SEE HYMNOLOGY. (B.P.)

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