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Rerum Crerator Optime

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The hymn for Matins of Wednesday in the Divine Office. It comprises four strophes of four iambic dimeters rhymed in couplets, e.g.

Rerum Creator optime,
Rectorque noster aspice:
Nos a quiete noxia
Mersos sopore libera.

Its ascription to St. Ambrose is not sanctioned by the most recent authorities. Mone cites it as in an eighth-century manuscript at Trier, denying it to St. Ambrose because of its rhyme and thinking it may possibly be by St. Gregory with the remark that, if a choice must be made between the two, he would certainly choose him; Biraghi does not include it in his inni sinceri of St. Ambrose, nor does Dreves place it among those "possibly his". Blume thinks that neither St. Ambrose nor St. Gregory may seriously be considered for ascription of authorship. Daniel, citing it as in a manuscript of the tenth century at Rheinau, puts it in his category of hymns of the seventh and eighth century. Pimont ("Les hymnes du bréviaire romain", I Paris, 1874, pp. 192-9) gives the Latin text and an extended commentary. The "Hymnarium Sarisburiense" (London, 1851, p. 49) gives the uncorrected Latin text with various manuscript readings. The variants from the text of the Roman Breviary are nine in number and of small importance, but Pimont thinks that in the couplet of what he styles the texte primitif

Te, sancte Christe,
poscimus,
Ignosce Tu criminibus,

the contrast between the holiness of Christ and the sinfulness of His petitioners is better emphasized by criminibus than by the culpis of the Roman Breviary text (Ignosce culpis omnibus), while the Te of the first line and the Tu of the second line heighten the energy of the prayer. He also defends gessimus in the line, "Vides malum quod gessimus", changed in our Breviary to fecimus (possibly because in the older poem the three forms, gerendum, gestis, gessimus, of the verb gero, occur in close proximity, and also possibly because of the words of the "Miserere")("Et malum coram Te feci"). There are thirteen translations into English verse, eight by Catholics. Newman's version is given in the Marquess of Bute's "The Roman Breviary". To the list given in Julian's "Dictionary of Hymnology" (2nd ed., 1907, p. 956) should be added the version of Archbishop Bagshawe, "Most Holy Maker of the world" ("Breviary Hymns and Missal Sequences", London, 1900, p. 11) and that of Judge D. J. Donahoe, "Creator of the earth and skies" ("Early Christian Hymns ", New York, 1908, p. 99).


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