Marc-Antoine Muret (1526-1585) –
the unknown author of Silent Night
Marc-Antoine Muret was born at Muret near Limoges, France on 12 April, 1526. At the age of eighteen he was invited to lecture at the Archiepiscopal College at Auch. He afterwards taught Latin at Villeneuve, and then at the College of Guienne, Bordeaux, where his Latin tragedy Julius Caesar was staged with Michel de Montaigne in the main part, his student and one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Some time before 1552 he delivered a course of lectures at the College of Cardinal Lemoine in Paris, which drew a large audience,
King Henry II and Queen Catherine Medici being among his hearers. In Paris he formed part of the larger circle of humanists and poets that included such names as Jean Dorat and Pierre Ronsard. He wrote almost exclusively in Latin: epigrams, odes, satires and letters, which were widely circulated before they were printed. His orations remained models for students all over Europe through centuries, including Hungarian Bálint Balassi, English William Shakespeare, Moravian Iohannes Amos Comenius, Russian Gregory Skovoroda etc. His success made him many enemies, and he was thrown into prison on false charges, but released by the intervention of powerful friends. New accusations were brought against him in Toulouse, and he only saved his life by timely flight. The records of the town show that he was burned in effigy as a Huguenot in 1554. After a wandering and insecure life of some years in Italy, he received and accepted the invitation of the Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este to settle in Rome in 1559. In 1561 Muret revisited France as a member of the Cardinal's suite at the conference between Roman Catholics and Protestants held at Poissy. He returned to Rome in 1563. His lectures gained him a wide European reputation, and in 1578 he received quite a tempting offer from Polish-Hungarian King István Báthory and one of his greatest admirers, to become teacher of jurisprudence at his new college in Cracow. Muret however, who about 1576 had taken holy orders, was induced by the liberality of Pope Gregory XIII to remain in Rome, where he died soon after retiring in 1584. At his pompous funeral, the Pope proudly proclaimed him “the torch and column of the Roman school”. Marc-Antoine Muret edited a number of classical authors with learned and scholarly notes. His other works include Juvenilia et poemata varia, orationes and epistolae.
For some of us here today, his great name will always be connected with that of his most beautiful sacred hymn In Natali Domini, better known as the Austrian Christmas carol Stille Nacht, the English Silent Night, the French Sainte Nuit, the Hungarian Csendes Éj, the Polish Ciha noc, the Russian Ночь тиха, the Ukrainian Тиха ніч etc., originally translated into German by Jacob Thomas, his first biographer and literary critic. We are very lucky to teach and study at the 480-year-old Sárospatak Reformed College, where Marc-Antoine Muret’s immortal masterpieces are still available in the three old leatherbacks printed in Ingolstadt and Leipzig in the late-sixteenth and mid-eighteenth centuries.
In Natali Domini
O nox vel medio splendidior die,
Cuius per tenebras virginis integrae
Ex aluo nitida Sol nouus emicat,
Complens omnia lumine.
Aeterno imperio qui regit omnia,
Humanumque Deo conciliat genus,
In nunc sub tugur I vilis operculo
Nascens, pauperiem docet.
Pastores ouium, dum gregibus suis
Intenti vigiles excubias agunt,
Primi hunc angelico carmine nuncium
Laetis auribus hauriunt.
Grata est haud dubie simplicitas Deo,
Grata est vita, dolis quae procul omnibus.
Rectum sponte sua perpetuo colit,
Et priscam retinet fidem.
Ô nuit de paix! Sainte nuit!
Dans le ciel l'astre luit.
Dans les champs tout repose en paix,
Mais soudain dans l'air pur et frais
Le brillant coeur des anges
Aux bergers apparait.
Ô nuit de Foi! Sainte nuit!
Les bergers sont instruits
Confiants de la voix des cieux,
Ils s'en vont adorer leur Dieu
Et Jésus, en échange
Leur sourit radieux.
Ô nuit d’amour! Sainte nuit!
Dans l’étable, aucun bruit
Sur la paille est couché l’enfant
Que la Vierge endort en chantant
Il repose en ses langes
Son Jésus ravissant.
Ô nuit d'espoir! Sainte nuit!
L'espérance a relui:
Le Sauveur de la terre est né;
C'est à nous que Dieu l'a donné
Célébrons ses louanges.
Gloire au Verbe incarné!
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born,
Christ, the Saviour is born.
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
In Natalem Iesu
О ночь нова, дивна, чудна,
ЯснЂйшая свЂтла полудня,
Когда чрез мрак темній, черній
Блиснул солнца свЂт невечерній.
Веселитеся, яко с намы Бог,
Яко с намы Бог.
Кой всЂ моря усмиряет.
Кой Богу нас всЂх примиряет,
Сей в нищетной днесь хижинЂ
Нищети нас учит всЂх нинЂ.
Веселитеся, яко с намы Бог. (2)
Там под Вифлеемским градом
Пастухы, пасуще стадо,
ВсЂх первЂе вЂсть пріемлют,
Что к нам Христос прійде на землю
Чрез ангелов, яко с намы Бог. (2)
Видно, что то Богу люба
Та простота беззлобна, груба,
Кая хранит правость ревно
Чрез простой свой нрав вЂрной, древной.
Веселитеся, яко с вамы Бог. (2)
Вифлеемска возлЂ града
Там пастирскій сонм берег стада...
На глас: «ПохвалЂмо царя Христа!».