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Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris


A Carolingian hymn that was traditionally prescribed for the feast of John the Baptist. It was divided into three sections, for use at Vespers, Matins, and Lauds on the feast of the Baptist. The second and third divisions begin with Antra deserti and O nimis felix. In all it has 13 stanzas. Erroneously attributed to paul the deacon, it was in fact written by an anonymous poet, his contemporary. Its chief inspiration is the Bible (especially Luke1.4145 and 6769, but cf. Mt 11.11 and 13.8). Several doxologies are attached to this hymn and its divisions. It is written in the classical first sapphic meter, but displays some license. The poet closely follows Horace's Odes. After a brief introduction (first stanza), the hymn refers to various events of the saint's life, for example, the heavenly message about his birth, the Visitation, John in the desert, his mission as Christ's precursor, and Christ's baptism (stanzas 28). Stanza 8 refers also to Christ's words about John (Mt 11.11). The ninth stanza praises John's martyrdom. The next stanza alludes to Biblical passages about the heavenly reward of the Lord's followers. With reference to John's present glory, the poet asks for his intercession with God. The spirit of the carolingian renaissance is reflected not only in the hymn's classical meter, but also in its style and terminology, e.g., the angel is called nuntius celso veniens Olympo. This hymn has left its mark on the history of music, since guido of arezzo derived the names of the notes of the musical scale from the first syllables of the halflines in the first stanza (ut having been replaced by do ).

Bibliography: Text. j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster MD 1957) 200202. Analecta hymnica 50120121. Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Poetae 1:8384. Literature. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 166167. c. a. moberg, "Die Musik in Guido von Arezzos Solmisationshymne," Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 16 (1959) 187206. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:186188.

[j. szÖvÉrffy]

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