Prioress's Tale: "O Alma Redemptoris Mater" x 5

516: This litel child, his litel book lernynge,
517: As he sat in the scole at his prymer,
518: He alma redemptoris herde synge,
519: As children lerned hire antiphoner;
520: And as he dorste, he drough hym ner and ner,
521: And herkned ay the wordes and the noote,
522: Til he the firste vers koude al by rote.
551: As I have seyd, thurghout the juerie,
552: This litel child, as he cam to and fro,
553: Ful murily than wolde he synge and crie
554: O alma redemptoris everemo.
609: This gemme of chastite, this emeraude,
610: And eek of martirdom the ruby bright,
611: Ther he with throte ykorven lay upright,
612: He alma redemptoris gan to synge
613: So loude that al the place gan to rynge.
635: Upon this beere ay lith this innocent
636: Biforn the chief auter, whil masse laste;
637: And after that, the abbot with his covent
638: Han sped hem for to burien hym ful faste;
639: And whan they hooly water on hym caste,
640: Yet spak this child, whan spreynd was hooly water,
641: And song o alma redemptoris mater!
649: My throte is kut unto my nekke boon,
650: Seyde this child, and, as by wey of kynde,
651: I sholde have dyed, ye, longe tyme agon.
652: But jesu crist, as ye in bookes fynde,
653: Wil that his glorie laste and be in mynde,
654: And for the worship of his mooder deere
655: Yet may I synge o alma loude and cleere.

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli  
porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,
natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore,
sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.

        Many settings of the standard hymnody existed in Chaucer's time and performance of early music is the subject of lively scholarly debate.  To hear a modern performance of the beginning of John Dunstable's setting of the "Alma Redemptoris Mater" (c1390-1453), click here: