Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521) Aeternae laudis lilium

The title and first line of Fayrfax’s  five-part votive antiphon ‘Aeternae laudis lilium’ “Aeternae laudis lilium, O dulcis Maria, te laudat” (“O gentle Mary, eternally the lily to be praised”), is a reference to Christian usage of the lily as as a symbol of chastity, innocence, purity and piety. Fayrfax and his audience would have been thoroughly familiar with Annunciation paintings in which a white lily held held by the Archangel Gabriel symbolised both the Virgin Mary and her attributes.

Fayrfax composed it for the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the day on which the Church celebrates the Virgin Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who herself was pregnant with John the Baptist).  It’s almost certainly the ‘Anthem of our Lady and Saint Elizabeth’ for which Queen Elizabeth of York paid Fayrfax what was then considerable sum of twenty shillings when she visited St Albans in 1502. The text starts with praises of the Virigin Mary and proceeds to give a rhymed Genealogy of Christ. The name ‘Elizabeth is higlighted by being passed through all the voices. I particulalry like how Fayrax contrasts lightly scored sections for two or three parts with rich and dynamic tuttis. It’s a very daring piece of music for its time and a good example of why Fayrfax’s music was still influential long after his contemporaries had been forgotten. Lyrics and a translation to English are below the fold. Enjoy :-).


Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521) Aeternae laudis lilium

Performers: The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers

Text & Translation: Aeternae laudis lilium

Aeternae laudis lilium, O dulcis Maria, te laudat vox angelica. Nutrix Christi pia. Jure prolis gloriae detur harmonia, salus nostrae memoriae omni agonia. Ave radix, flos virginum, O santificata;
Benedicta in utero materno creata. Eras sancta puerpera et inviolata, tuo ex Jesu Filio Virgo peramata. Honestis caeli precibus Virgo veneraris, Régis excelsi filii Visu jocundaris; Eius divino lumine Tu nusquam privaris; Gaude sole splendidior Virgo singularis. Issachar quoque Nazaphat nex non Ismaria, nati ex Jesse stipite qua
venit Maria, atque Maria Cleophae Sancto
Zacharia, a qua pâtre Elizabeth, matre Sophonia natus est Dei gratia Johannes Baptista; Gaudebat clauso Domino in matrice cista. Linae ex hoc genere est Evangelista Johannes. Annae filia ex
Maria ista est Jesus Dei Filius natus in hune
mundum; Cujus cruoris tumulo mundatur in
mundum; Conférât nos in gaudium, in aevum jocundum, qui cum Pâtre et Spiritu Sancto régnât in unum. Amen.
O gentle Mary, eternally the lily to be praised, the voice of angels praises thee, holy nurse of Christ. Let music sound to the glory of your child, mindful that his agony is or salvation. Hail, fio wer of virgins, our sacred root, y ou were made blessed by your maternai womb, holy and immaculate in childbirth, Virgin most beloved of your son, Jesus. Virgin worshipped in the true
prayers of heaven, you delight to see your Son, the sublime King; you are nowhere deprived of his divine light; rejoice unrivalled Virgin, more brilliant than the sun. Issachar, Nazaphat and Ismaria were born of Jesse’s stem, from which Mary sprang, and Mary, daughter of Cleophas.
From holy Zacharia, and Elizabeth daughter of Sophonia, was born John the Baptist, by God’s grâce; he was rejoicing while the Lord was enclosed in his mother’s womb. Of this line was John the Evangelist. The daughter of Ann, Mary, brought Jesus, the son of God, into the world; the burial of his blood purified him in the world; he brings us to joy and eternai happiness, who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, reigns in one. Amen.

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