Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cum erubuerint

Psalm antiphon for the Virgin (D 155r, R 467rb) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
Cum erubuerint infelices
in progenie sua,
procedentes in peregrinatione casus,
tunc tu clamas clara voce,
hoc modo homines elevans
de isto malicioso
While downcast parents blushed,
ashamed to see their offspring
wand’ring off into the fallen exile’s pilgrimage,
you cried aloud with crystal voice,
to lift up humankind
from that malicious
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

Cum erubuerint by Sequentia on Grooveshark

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This haunting yet hopeful antiphon, a companion to Cum processit factura, traces an arc from our first parents and their unhappy fall, through our fallen exile, to the Virgin’s clarion call to lift us up with her Son. For Hildegard, as for most patristic and medieval theologians and exegetes, the shameful blush that opens this antiphon reflects the reactions that Adam and Eve had to their nakedness before and after the Fall. Before, it is written, “They were both naked, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25: Erat autem uterque nudus, et non erubescebant); but after they became aware of what they had done, of the paradise that they would lose because of their disobedience, they did take shame in that nakedness and moved to cover it up (Gen. 3:7). Sexuality, which was in Paradise God’s gift of procreation to the humans he made in his image and likeness, became tainted with that disobedience, with the pains of uncontrollable lust and the pangs of childbirth. In both this antiphon and in Cum processit factura, that vitiation of the sexuality’s original creative order is representative of the disorder wrought upon all of creation by the Fall.

This overturning of the natural order is what set humankind on their exile in this world—a pilgrimage in a world in which they do not rightly belong and which they cannot truly call their home; for the home for which they were made—Paradise—has been lost, and they wander now in the wilderness, trying to find their way back home through the darkness. The pilgrimage of sin seeks a home within this world; the pilgrimage of grace remains in exile in this world, for that pilgrim sets her sight upon the city and the home that is to come.

In the darkened, fallen world in which irrational sin seems to make sense and holiness demands homelessness, as it were, it is the paradoxical weakness of the Virgin’s meek and quiet voice that allows it to carry over the din. In this antiphon, Hildegard reserves the longest melismas and the highest notes for just two words: clara (“crystal-clear,” line 4) and casu (“fall,” final line). The Fall receives double the number of notes—a long, final, perhaps even wearying meditation. But the Virgin’s crystal-clear voice receives the highest note—G, an octave and a thid above the lowest note of the piece, the B that begins the final phrase on casu. That voice pierces through the confusion, and delivers the startling news that lifts us up out of it—the felix culpa:
He Who created you in the first human foresaw all things; and that same most gentle Father sent His Only-Begotten to die for the people, to deliver humanity from the power of the Devil. And thus humankind, having been delivered, shines in God, and God in humankind; humankind, having community in God, has in Heaven more radiant brightness than they had before. This would not have been so if the Son of God had not put on flesh, for if humankind had remained in Paradise, the Son of God would not have suffered on the cross. But when humankind was deceived by the wily serpent, God was touched by true mercy and ordained that His Only-Begotten would become incarnate in the most pure Virgin. And thus, after the ruin of humankind, many shining virtues were lifted up in Heaven, like humility, the queen of the virtues, which flowered in the virgin birth, and other virtues, which lead God’s elect to the heavenly places. For when a field with great labor is cultivated, it brings forth much fruit; and the same is shown in the human race, for after humanity’s ruin many virtues arose to raise it up again. But you, O humans, oppressed by the heaviness of the flesh, do not see that great glory God’s full justice has prepared for you, without stain or unworthiness, so that no one can throw it down. For before the structure of the world was made, God in true justice had foreseen all these things.
     —Scivias I.2.30-31[1]
Mediating the center of that “eternal counsel” and its predestined Incarnation is this paradox of the Virgin Mother, offering in her simplicity, humility, and purity the balm to heal the wounds of sin. Moreover, as Barabara Newman notes (Symphonia, p. 274), the syntax of this antiphon shifts (in a rhetorical move used similarly in Cum processit factura) startlingly from the perfect subjunctive of erubuerint—our parents’ blushes temporally consigned to the past—to the present tense of Mary’s clamas—for the Virgin’s voice calls out to us still, lifted out of the darkened constraints of mortal life and into the glories of eternity now streaming into time.

Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

E mode
Range: B below the final to G an octave and a third above the final
Setting: primarily neumatic, with strategically placed melismas on clara voce and casu

This short antiphon addresses Mary’s action, “then you cried aloud with crystal voice to lift up humankind from that malicious fall.” The image of the clara vox (“clear voice”) is interesting choice, as voice/word is generally associated with primary divinity. There is no mention of motherhood or other more conventional Marian imagery. Again, the light motif occurs with the use of the phrase clara voce.

E is the primary tonal demarcator in this piece, with B being used alternatively and strategically. B outlines the phrase, tunc tu clamas clara voce, and the extensive melisma on the final word, casu, begins on B below the final. This deployment of the secondary modal tone thus serves to emphasize and link the two ideas: Mary’s saving action (crying out with a clear voice) to save mankind from the Fall. The importance of Mary’s agency receives further emphasis in that the highest pitch, G, in Dendermonde is reached on the phrase, tunc tu clamas clara voce, and this only happens once. In the Riesenkodex, the G high point is transcribed down to the E an octave above the final, and while it remains the highest pitch, it does not produce quite the same effect as the version in D.

The opening phrase is outlined by E. The second line of the transcription begins on B but ends on E. This segment can be considered two ways: either as one long phrase or as two phrases. Similarly, the use of B to end hoc modo homines elevans can be considered as an “imperfect” ending and not a full stop.

The final word, casu (“fall”) interestingly begins on the lowest pitch, B below the final, and this is the only occurrence of that low note. Previous melodic material is then reiterated and thus recalled within its lengthy, concluding melisma.

Further Resources for Cum erubuerint
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 118 and 274.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography


[1] Adapted from Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), pp. 87-8; Latin text from the edition of Adelgundis Führkötter and Angela Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978), pp. 33-4. 

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