Saturday Chorale: Byrd – Senex puerum portabat

Byrd’s four-part anthem Senex puerum portabat was published in 1607 in the second book of Gradualia. It’s a beautifully expressive piece of music in which Byrd manipulates the vocal lines to convey the joy felt both by Simeon and by the Virgin Mary. Thus at the end of the first line – "Senex puerum portabat",  he sets the word ‘portabat’ to a rising interval holding the melodic line high. Similarly in the last line culminating in the word ‘adoravit’ where Byrd uses the vocal lines to portray both the Virgin’s adoration of the Messiah and her joy as the mother of a new-born child. It’s performed here by the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir conducted by John Scott. The lyrics and a translation are below the fold. Enjoy :-)



Video Source: Byrd – Senex puerum portabat – YouTube Uploaded by markfromireland on Jan 4, 2012

Lyrics: Senex puerum portabat

Senex puerum portabat*,
puer autem senem regebat:
quem virgo peperit,
et post partum virgo permansit,
ipsum quem genuit adoravit.
The old man carried the boy;
but the young child was the old man’s king;
him did a virgin bear,
and from henceforth remained;
and him whom she had borne she did worship.

* This is often translated as “Simeon carried the young child”, – mfi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *