Now You Know

No, by the grace of God, you will NOT plead ignorance. You will NOT testify that you never knew any better because no one ever taught you anything better. You will not plead that you were never told.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Song of Brother Sun by St. Francis of Assisi

Have any of you ever seen or heard of the movie, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon"? It's about the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the humble and gentle friar who founded the Franciscans. Whether you've seen or heard of the movie or not, I thought I'd share with you from where the movie got its title. [I brought you the Lord's Prayer in Old English previously, then went off on a tangent and brought you how to make foreign letters with accent marks, and now it's time for a little Italian from the 13th century. That's just the kind of madcap devil-may-care guy I am. Yep. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.]

The title of the movie comes from the words to a song that was written by St. Francis of Assisi. The song is known in English as either "The Canticle of the Creatures" or "The Canticle of Brother Sun." It was written by St. Francis nearly fifty years before the birth of Dante. It is also the earliest surviving poem, I believe, that was written in the Italian vernacular.

It is beautiful and simple, and simply beautiful. I'll give you the Italian first, followed by my translation. Enjoy!

Il Cantico di frate Sole

Altissimu, onnipotente, bon signore,
tue so le laude la gloria e l’onore e onne benedictione.
Ad te solo, altissimu, se konfano
et nullu homo ene dignu te mentovare.

Laudato sie, mi signore, cum tucte le tue creature
spetialmente messor lu frate sole,
lo quale iorna, et allùmini per lui;
e ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore;
de te, altissimo, porta significatione.

Laudato si, mi signore, per sora luna e le stelle;
in celu l’hai formate clarite et pretiose et belle.

Laudato si, mio signore, per frate vento
e per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per le quale a le tue creature dai sustentamentu.

Laudato si, mi signore, per sor acqua,
la qual è multo utile et humele et pretiosa et casta.

Laudato si, mi signore, per frate focu,
per lu quale enallumini la nocte;
e ellu è bello e iocundo e robustoso e forte.
Laudato si, mi signore, per sora nostra matre terra,
la quale ne sustenta e governa
e produce diversi fructi e colorati flori et herba.

Laudato si, mi signore, per quilli ke perdonano per lo tuo amore
e sostengo infirmitate et tribulatione:
beati quilli ke ’l sosterrano in pace,
ka da te, altissimu, sirano incoronati.

Laudatu si, mi signore, per sora nostra morte corporale
da la quale nullu homo vivente po skappare;
guai a quilli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali;
beati quilli ke se trovarà ne le tue sanctissime voluntati,
ka la morte secunda nol farrà male.

Laudate et benedicete lu mi signore et rengratiate
et serviteli cum grande humilitate.

The Song of Brother Sun

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are praise, glory, honour and all blessing.
Only to You, Most High, do they belong
and no one is worthy to call upon Your name.

May You be praised, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially mister brother sun,
by whom You light the day for us.
He is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
he signifies You, O Most High.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister moon and the stars;
in heaven You have formed them, clear and precious and lovely.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother wind
and for air and clouds and clear skies and all weathers,
by which, to Your creatures, You give sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother fire,
by whom the night is illumined for us:
he is beautiful and cheerful and robust and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, mother earth,
who sustains and governs us
and produces diverse fruits and colored flowers and grass.

Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of You
and who bear infirmity and tribulation:
blessèd are they who bear them in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, for our sister bodily death
from whom no one living can escape;
woe to them who die in mortal sin;
blessèd are they who are found doing Your most holy will,
for the second death will do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
You've been told and NOW YOU KNOW.