Monday, October 13, 2014

O viridissima virga

Song to the Virgin (R 474rb-va) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
1. O viridissima virga,
ave, que in ventoso flabro sciscitationis
sanctorum prodisti.

2. Cum venit tempus quod tu floruisti in ramis tuis,
ave, ave fuit tibi, quia calor solis in te sudavit
sicut odor balsami.

3. Nam in te floruit
pulcher flos qui odorem dedit
omnibus aromatibus que arida erant.

4. Et illa apparuerunt omnia in viriditate plena.

5. Unde celi dederunt rorem super gramen
et omnis terra leta facta est,
quoniam viscera ipsius frumentum
protulerunt et quoniam volucres celi nidos
     in ipsa habuerunt.

6. Deinde facta est esca hominibus
et gaudium magnum epulantium.
Unde, o suavis Virgo, in te non deficit ullum gaudium.

7. Hec omnia Eva contempsit.

8. Nunc autem laus sit Altissimo.
1. O branch of freshest green,
O hail! Within the windy gusts of saints
upon a quest you swayed and sprouted forth.

2. When it was time, you blossomed in your boughs—
“Hail, hail!” you heard, for in you seeped the sunlight’s warmth
like balsam’s sweet perfume.

3. For in you bloomed
so beautiful a flow’r, whose fragrance wakened
all the spices from their dried-out stupor.

4. And they all appeared in full viridity.

5. Then rained the heavens dew upon the grass
and all the earth was cheered,
for from her womb she brought forth fruit
and for the birds up in the sky
     have nests in her.

6. Then was prepared that food for humankind,
the greatest joy of feasts!
O Virgin sweet, in you can ne’er fail any joy.

7. All this Eve chose to scorn.

8. But now, let praise ring forth unto the Highest!
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

G mode
Range: D below the final to F a seventh above the final (unusual)
Setting: primarily syllabic with some neumatic segments

This is one of the few songs that Hildegard composed in the G mode. G is the primary grammatical marking tone. Most of the phrases are clearly organized in accordance with this pitch.

The piece begins with a salutation to Mary, O viridissima virga, which is outlined by G. Ave, which properly belongs with the salutation, begins on G and ends on D. Musically it fits better with the second phrase, que in ventoso flabro sciscitationis. Lyrically, however, it is awkward. The transcription follows the musical lead, but other interpretations are possible.

On page 1, line 5 ends with B but the phrase continues to the end of the next line. It is too long to place on one line, and a tick barline has been inserted for clarity. The opening of the next verse (lines 7 and 8) could also alternatively be rendered as one phrase.

On page 2, lines 7 and 8 are meant to be sung as one phrase. A tick barline has been included to clarify. Moreover, the next line (ullum gaudium) properly belongs with the previous line, as indicated in the text above. It has been separated for purposes of readability and also for length. The three lines might be difficult to sing on one breath and hence a pause can be taken after either of lines 7 or 8.

Further Resources for O viridissima virga
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 126 and 276-7.
  • 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. Hi, wonderful info, transcription and translation! I wanted to let you know that there is an error in the music transcription, 3rd line 2nd page-- "facta est" notes should be A-F-G :) Thanks again! Rebecca

  2. So sorry for the delay in getting to this. I was away for four months and am finally getting back to work. I double checked the R manuscript. The neumes are virga [A], punctum [G] on facta and virga [A] on est. There is a flexa on the word leta that is pitches, G,F. Leta is inserted - above the lyric line - apparently the scribe forgot it and added it in. Perhaps that is what you were looking at? Thanks for using our site.

  3. Do we know the composition date of this piece?

    1. Not exactly, but we can give a range. Hildegard may have composed her earliest works in the 1140's, but we suspect that her most prolific period was from the end of the 1140's throughout the 1150's. However, since this song does not appear in the earlier Dendermonde manuscript (which was produced in the mid-to-late 1160's), it's possible that it was not composed until the late 1160's or 1170's.

  4. Thank you so much for making all these scores available on Internet. That’s a major gift.. ✨ I will sing it with all my heart.