327. On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry

1 On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!

2 Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.

3 We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

4 Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.

5 All praise to you, eternal Son,
whose advent has our freedom won,
whom with the Father we adore,
and Holy Spirit, evermore.

Text Information
First Line: On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
Title: On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry
Author: Charles Coffin (1736, tr. composite)
Publication Date: 1987
Meter: LM
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:3-4; Luke 3:3-4; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:4
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: John the Baptist; Biblical Names & Places: Jordan; Advent
Language: English
Tune Information
Name: PUER NOBIS
Harmonizer: George R. Woodward (1910)
Adapter: Michael Praetorius (1609)
Meter: LM
Key: D Major
Source: Trier manuscript, 15th Cent.


Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1-2 = Isa. 40:3, 9, Matt. 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:3-4
st. 3 = Ps. 46:1, Isa. 40:7

John the Baptist's announcement "Prepare the way for the Lord" (Matt. 3:3, a quote from Isa. 40:3) is the primary basis for this Advent hymn. Stanzas 1 and 2 apply that message to people today; stanza 3 is a confession by God's people of their need for salvation; stanza 4 is a prayer for healing and love; stanza 5 is a doxology. This much-loved Advent text is laced with various scriptural phrases.

Charles Coffin (b. Buzancy, Ardennes, France, 1676; d. Paris, France, 1749) wrote this text in Latin (“Jordanis oras praevia”) for the Paris Breviary (1736), a famous Roman Catholic liturgical collection of psalms, hymns, and prayers. Coffin was partially responsible for the compilation of that hymnbook. Latin remained the language of scholarship and of the Roman Catholic liturgy in the eighteenth century. Working in that tradition, Coffin was an accomplished Latin scholar and writer of Latin poems and hymns. Educated at Deplessis College of the University of Paris, he served on the faculty and was university rector at the College of Doirmans-Beauvais, the University of Paris. He collected a hundred of his hymns and published them in Hymni Sacri (1736); a number of these have found their way into English language hymnals, including this Advent hymn.

The English translation is a composite work based on a translation by John Chandler (PHH 485), who published it in Hymns of the Primitive Church (1837). (Chandler thought it was a medieval text!) Since 1837, various hymnal editors have revised the text in attempts to bring the translation closer to Coffin's original.

Liturgical Use:
During Advent, especially in worship services on John the Baptist; sermons on repentance and renewal. The final stanza makes a fitting doxology for the four Sundays in Advent as well as for Christmas.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

PUER NOBIS is a melody from a fifteenth-century manuscript from Trier. However, the tune probably dates from an earlier time and may even have folk roots. PVER NOBIS was altered in Spangenberg's Christliches GesangbUchlein (1568), in Petri's famous Piae Cantiones (1582), and again in Praetorius's (PHH 351) Musae Sioniae (Part VI, 1609), which is the basis for the triple-meter version used in the 1987 Psalter Hymnal. Another form of the tune in duple meter is usually called PUER NOBIS NASCITUR. The tune name is taken from the incipit of the original Latin Christmas text, which was translated into German by the mid-sixteenth century as "Uns ist geborn ein Kindelein," and later in English as "Unto Us a Boy Is Born." The harmonization is from the 1902 edition of George R. Woodward's (PHH 403) Cowley Carol Book.

PUER NOBIS is a splendid tune in arch form that lifts and then propels itself along to its final note. Try having the choir sing stanzas 1 and 2 in unison. Then all could sing stanzas 3 and 4 in unison with the choir providing the harmony. Stanza 4 could also be sung in canon at one measure, with either a strictly unison accompaniment or one composed to accommodate the canon. All worshipers could sing stanza 5 in unison again. Use a rather light organ registration, but change to a full one for stanza 5.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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