"The gentle Lamb stretched on the cross"
A medieval English hymn commemorating the death of Christ. The original language lacks the sophistication and standardization of modern English, and conveys the more childlike piety of a simpler age.
The lyrics themselves are poignant, and the music reinforces the heart-rending message. I know of two recordings, one by Sequentia and the other by Anonymous 4. The former includes simple accompaniment, the latter is a capella.
Note: The parallel (tabular) layout was giving my browser some problems, as I imagine it would have yours, so I have alternated the original stanzas with their translations, with the original in italics.
The milde Lamb, ysprad o rode,
Heng bironnen al o blode,
For oure gilte, for oure gode,
For he ne gilte nevre nought.
Few of hise him were bileved,
Dred hem hadde him al bireved
Whan they sawen here heved
To so shanful deth ybrought.
The gentle Lamb, stretched on the cross,
There hung all drenched in blood,
And for our guilt and for our good—
He never sinned at all.
Few of his friends were left to him;
Fear had deprived him of them all
When they saw the man who'd led them
Brought to so vile a death.
His moder, ther him stod biside,
Ne let to ter other abide,
Whan she saw hire child bitide
Swich pine and deyen gilteles.
Saint Johan, that was him dere,
On other halve him stod eek fere,
And beheld with mourne chere
His maister that him loved and ches.
His mother stood beside him there,
Tears running down her face
To see her child endure such pain,
And dying guiltlessly.
Saint John, who was so dear to him,
Stood opposite—he was his friend—
And looked up with a sorrowing face
Upon the man who'd loved and chosen him.
Sore and harde he was yswungen,
Fet and hondes thurgh ystungen,
Ac most of alle his other wunden
Him dide his modres sorwe wo.
In al his pine, in al his wrake,
That he dreigh for mannes sake,
He saw his moder sorwe make—
Wel rewfuliche he spak hire to.
Beaten sore and hard he was,
Feet and hands pierced through;
But more than all his other wounds,
His mother's grieving caused him pain.
In all his pain, in all the agony
That he endured for mankind's sake,
He saw his mother grieving so,
And in compassion spoke to her.
He seyde, "Woman, lo! me here,
Thi child that thou to manne bere;
Withouten sor and wep thou were
Tho Ich was of thee yborn.
Ac now thou most thi pine dreyen,
Whan thou seest me with thin eyen
Pine thole o rode and deyen
To helen man that was forlorn."
"Woman," he said, "look, hear me now,
The child you bore in human form.
You felt no hurt, no sorrowing,
When I was born of you.
But now you must endure your pain,
And see me with your very eyes
Tormented on the cross, to die
And heal mankind who once was lost."
Saint Johan th'evangeliste
Hir understood thurgh hese of Criste;
Fair he kept hire and biwiste
And served hire from hond to fot.
Rewful is the mineginge
Of this deth and this departinge;
Therin is blis meind with wepinge,
For therthurgh us cam alle bot.
The evengelist Saint John
Supported her at Christ's command.
He kept her safe, looked after her,
And served her hand and foot.
Piteous is the memory
Of this death and this departing.
Joy is mingled with the tears,
For in this way we all were saved.
He that starf in oure kende,
Leve us so ben therof mende,
That he yeve us atten ende
That he hath us to ybought.
Milsful moder, maiden clene,
Mak thi milce upon us sene,
And bring us thurgh thi swete bene
To the blis that failleth nought.
The man who died—as we will die—
Keep us mindful of it all,
That he may give us at the end
What he has bought for us.
Kindly mother, pure young girl,
Make your mercy seen in us,
And bring us through your sweetest prayers
The bliss that never fails.
Also of interest: Augsutine Club Lenten Resources
The Beginning and the End (on Good Friday, 2005)
1. That strange character "Þ" (thorn) reads as the "th" sound.
Text and translation from Tim Chilcott, "Þe milde lomb isprad o rode," English Medieval Religious Lyrics (Chilcott Literary Translations, 2004), 35-36. Special thanks to Mary E. for pointing out this valuable resource!