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The Hymns Of Prudentius by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius


Ye clouds and darkness, hosts of night
That breed confusion and affright,
Begone! o'erhead the dawn shines clear,
The light breaks in and Christ is here.

Earth's gloom flees broken and dispersed,
By the sun's piercing shafts coerced:
The daystar's eyes rain influence bright
And colours glimmer back to sight.

So shall our guilty midnight fade,
The sin-stained heart's gross dusky shade:
So shall the King's All-radiant Face
Sudden unveil our deep disgrace.

No longer then may we disguise
Our dark intents from those clear eyes:
Yea, at the dayspring's advent blest
Our inmost thoughts will stand confest.

The thief his hidden traffic plies
Unmarked before the dawn doth rise:
But light, the foe of guile concealed,
Lets no ill craft lie unrevealed.

Fraud and Deceit love only night,
Their wiles they practise out of sight;
Curtained by dark, Adultery too
Doth his foul treachery pursue,

But slinks abashed and shamed away
Soon as the sun rekindles day,
For none can damning light resist
And 'neath its rays in sin persist.

Who doth not blush o'ertook by morn
And his long night's carousal scorn?
For day subdues the lustful soul,
And doth all foul desires control.

Now each to earnest life awakes,
Now each his wanton sport forsakes;
Now foolish things are put away
And gravity resumes her sway.

It is the hour for duty's deeds,
The path to which our labour leads,
Be it the forum, army, sea,
The mart or field or factory.

One seeks the plaudits of the bar,
One the stern trumpet calls to war:
Those bent on trade and husbandry
At greed's behest for lucre sigh.

Mine is no rhetorician's fame,
No petty usury I claim;
Nor am I skilled to face the foe:
'Tis Thou, O Christ, alone I know.

Yea, I have learnt to wait on Thee
With heart and lips of purity,
Humbly my knees in prayer to bend,
And tears with songs of praise to blend.

These are the gains I hold in view
And these the arts that I pursue:
These are the offices I ply
When the bright sun mounts up the sky.

Prove Thou my heart, my every thought,
Search into all that I have wrought:
Though I be stained with blots within,
Thy quickening rays shall purge my sin.

O may I ever spotless be
As when my stains were cleansed by Thee,
Who bad'st me 'neath the Jordan's wave
Of yore my soiled spirit lave.

If e'er since then the world's gross night
Hath cast its curtain o'er my sight,
Dispel the cloud, O King of grace,
Star of the East! with thy pure face.

Since Thou canst change, O holy Light,
The blackest hue to milky white,
Ebon to clearness crystalline,
Wash my foul stains and make me clean.

'Twas 'neath the lonely star-blue night
That Jacob waged the unequal fight,
Stoutly he wrestled with the Man
In darkness, till the day began.

And when the sun rose in the sky
He halted on his shrivelled thigh:
His natural might had ebbed away,
Vanquished in that tremendous fray.

Not wounded he in nobler part
Nor smitten in life's fount, the heart:
But lust was shaken from his throne
And his foul empire overthrown.

Whereby we clearly learn aright
That man is whelmed by deadly night,
Unless he own God conqueror
And strive against His will no more.

Yet happier he whom rising morn
Shall find of nature's strength forlorn,
Whose warring flesh hath shrunk away,
Palsied by virtue's puissant sway.

And then at length let darkness flee,
Which all too long held us in fee,
'Mid wildering shadows made us stray
And led in devious tracks our way.

We pray Thee, Rising Light serene,
E'en as Thyself our hearts make clean:
Let no deceit our lips defile
Nor let our souls be vexed by guile.

O keep us, as the hours proceed,
From lying word and evil deed,
Our roving eyes from sin set free,
Our body from impurity.

For thou dost from above survey
The converse of each fleeting day:
Thou dost foresee from morning light
Our every deed, until the night.

Justice and judgment dwell with Thee,
Whatever is, Thine eye doth see:
Thou know'st what human hearts conceive
And none Thy wisdom may deceive.

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