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Updated 06/04/2013


Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle

Percy Dearmer

The words to “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle” were written by Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (530-609).  Fortunatus con­vert­ed to Chris­ti­an­i­ty at an ear­ly age, at Aqui­le­ia. While a stu­dent at Ra­ven­na, he be­came al­most blind, but re­cov­ered his sight, as he be­lieved mi­ra­cu­lous­ly, by anoint­ing his eyes with oil tak­en from a lamp that burned be­fore the al­tar of St. Mar­tin of Tours. His re­cov­ery in­duced him to make a pil­grim­age to the shrine of St. Martin at Tours, in 565. He re­mained in Gaul the rest of his life.

At Poitiers, he formed a ro­man­tic, though pure­ly pla­ton­ic, at­tach­ment for Queen Rha­de­gun­da, daugh­ter of Bertharius, king of Neu­stria. As a re­sult of her in­flu­ence, For­tu­na­tus was event­u­al­ly or­dained and, af­ter Rha­de­gun­da’s death, be­came bishop of Poi­tiers shor­tly be­fore his own death in 609.

The words were translated from Latin by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) and John Ma­son Neale (1818-1866).  Dearmer at­tend­ed West­min­ster School and Christ Church, Ox­ford (BA 1890, MA 1896). He was or­dained an Ang­li­can dea­con in 1891, priest in 1892, and served as Vic­ar of St. Mary the Vir­gin in Prim­rose Hill, Lon­don (1901-1915).

John Neal

In World War I, he was a Red Cross chap­lain in Ser­bia. In 1916, he worked with the Young Men’s Christ­ian As­so­ci­a­tion in France. In 1916 & 1917, he joined the Mis­sion of Help in In­dia. In 1919, he was ap­point­ed pro­fess­or of ec­cles­i­as­tic­al art at King’s Coll­ege, Lon­don. In 1931, he be­came a can­on of West­min­ster Abbey.

We know John Ma­son Neale to­day as a hymn­o­graph­er, the trans­lat­or or adapt­er of an­cient and med­ie­val hym.

Lyrics by Venantius Fortunatus

  Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
Sing the ending of the fray;
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay:
Tell how Christ the world’s Redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

He, our Maker, deeply grieving
That the first made Adam fell,
When he ate the fruit forbidden
Whose reward was death and hell,
Marked e’en then this Tree the ruin
Of the first tree to dispel.

Tell how, when at length the fullness,
Of th’appointed time was come,
Christ, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us His heavenly home;
Showed us human life made perfect,
Shone as light amid the gloom.

Lo! He lies an Infant weeping,
Where the narrow manger stands,
While the Mother-Maid His members
Wraps in mean and lowly bands,
And the swaddling clothes is winding
Round His helpless feet and hands.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
Went He forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Wrought His work, and met His death.
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
On the cross His dying breath.
There the nails and spears He suffers,
Vinegar, and gall, and reed;
From His sacred body piercèd
Blood and water both proceed;
Precious flood, which all creation
From the stain of sin hath freed.

Faithful cross, thou sign of triumph,
Now for us the noblest tree,
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!

Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For awhile the ancient rigor
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend!

Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s ransom to sustain,
That a shipwrecked race forever
Might a port of refuge gain,
With the sacred blood anointed
Of the Lamb of sinners slain.

To the Trinity be glory
Everlasting, as is meet:
Equal to the Father, equal
To the Son, and Paraclete:
God the Three in One, whose praises
All created things repeat.