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Lamentations of Jeremiah

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Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, by Rembrandt

Lamentationes Ieremiae (English Lamentations of Jeremiah)

In the Greek and Latin Bibles there are five songs of lament bearing the name of Jeremiah, which follow the Book of the Prophecy of Jeremias. In the Hebrew these are entitled Kinôth. from their elegiac character, or the 'Ekhah songs after the first word of the first, second, and fourth elegies; in Greek they are called Threnoi, in Latin they are known as Lamentationes. The superscription to Lamentations in the Septuagint and other versions throws light on the historical occasion of their production and on the author: "And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity, and Jerusalem was desolate, that Jeremiah the prophet sat weeping, and mourned with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and with a sorrowful mind, sighing and moaning, he said:".

To a man like Jeremiah, the day on which Jerusalem became a heap of ruins was not only a day of national misfortune, for, in a religious sense, Jerusalem had a peculiar importance in the history of salvation, as the footstool of Jahweh and as the scene of the revelation of God and of the Messias. Consequently, the grief of Jeremiah was personal, not merely a sympathetic emotion over the sorrow of others, for he had sought to prevent the disaster by his labours as a prophet in the streets of the city. All the fibres of his heart were bound up with Jerusalem; he was now himself crushed and desolate.

In all five elegies the construction of the verses follows an alphabetical arrangement. The first, second, fourth, and fifth laments are each composed of twenty-two verses, to correspond with the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet; the third lament is made up of three times twenty-two verses. In the first, second, and fourth elegies each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letters following in order, as the first verse begins with ALEPH, the second with BETH etc.

The Lamentations have received a peculiar distinction in the Liturgy of the Church in the Office of Passion Week. If Christ Himself designated His death as the destruction of a temple, "he spoke of the temple of his body" (John 2:19-21), then the Church surely has a right to pour out her grief over His death in those Lamentations which were sung over the ruins of the temple destroyed by the sins of the nation.

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Text and translations

Different authors have set to music different Vss. The particular Vss of one musical settings are mentioned in the author's page and in the music's page. Often the setting starts with the words Incipit lamentatio Ieremiae prophetae (if the Vss are the first ones of one lamentation) or De lamentatione Ieremiae prophetae (if the Vss are not at the beginning of one lamentation). The settings always end with the words Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum ("Jerusalem, return to the Lord thy God").

(from the Clementine Vulgate)

Chapter 1

Latin.png Latin text

1:1  ALEPH. Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! Facta est quasi vidua domina gentium; princeps provinciarum facta est sub tributo.
1:2  BETH. Plorans ploravit in nocte, et lacrimæ ejus in maxillis ejus: non est qui consoletur eam, ex omnibus caris ejus; omnes amici ejus spreverunt eam, et facti sunt ei inimici.
1:3  GHIMEL. Migravit Judas propter afflictionem, et multitudinem servitutis; habitavit inter gentes, nec invenit requiem: omnes persecutores ejus apprehenderunt eam inter angustias.
1:4  DALETH. Viæ Sion lugent, eo quod non sint qui veniant ad solemnitatem: omnes portæ ejus destructæ, sacerdotes ejus gementes; virgines ejus squalidæ, et ipsa oppressa amaritudine.
1:5  HE. Facti sunt hostes ejus in capite; inimici ejus locupletati sunt: quia Dominus locutus est super eam propter multitudinem iniquitatum ejus. Parvuli ejus ducti sunt in captivitatem ante faciem tribulantis.
1:6  VAU. Et egressus est a filia Sion omnis decor ejus; facti sunt principes ejus velut arietes non invenientes pascua, et abierunt absque fortitudine ante faciem subsequentis.
1:7  ZAIN. Recordata est Jerusalem dierum afflictionis suæ, et prævaricationis, omnium desiderabilium suorum, quæ habuerat a diebus antiquis, cum caderet populus ejus in manu hostili, et non esset auxiliator: viderunt eam hostes, et deriserunt sabbata ejus.
1:8  HETH. Peccatum peccavit Hierusalem, propterea instabilis facta est: omnes qui glorificabant eam spreverunt illam: quia viderunt ignominiam eius: ipsa autem gemens et conversa retrorsum.
1:9  TETH. Sordes eius in pedibus eius: nec recordata est finis sui. Deposita est vehementer: non habens consolatorem. Vide Domine afflictionem meam: quoniam erectus est inimicus.
1:10  IOD. Manum suam misit hostis ad omnia desiderabilia ejus, quia vidit gentes ingressas sanctuarium suum, de quibus præceperas ne intrarent in ecclesiam tuam.
1:11  CAPH. Omnis populus ejus gemens, et quærens panem; dederunt pretiosa quæque pro cibo ad refocillandam animam. Vide, Domine, et considera quoniam facta sum vilis!
1:12  LAMED. O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus! quoniam vindemiavit me, ut locutus est Dominus, in die iræ furoris sui.
1:13  MEM. De excelso misit ignem in ossibus meis et erudivit me: expandit rete pedibus meis: convertit me retrorsum: posuit me desolatam tota die maerore confectam.

(from the Revised Standard Version)

Chapter 1

English.png English translation

1:1  ALEPH. How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal.
1:2  BETH. She weeps bitterly in the night, tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
1:3  GHIMEL. Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
1:4  DALETH. The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the appointed feasts; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her maidens have been dragged away, and she herself suffers bitterly.
1:5  HE. Her foes have become the head, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
1:6  VAU. From the daughter of Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like harts that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.
1:7  ZAIN. Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and bitterness all the precious things that were hers from days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was none to help her, the foe gloated over her, mocking at her downfall.
1:8  HETH. Jerusalem sinned grievously, therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; yea, she herself groans, and turns her face away.
1:9  Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her doom; therefore her fall is terrible, she has no comforter. "O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!"
1:10  IOD. The enemy has stretched out his hands over all her precious things; yea, she has seen the nations invade her sanctuary, those whom thou didst forbid to enter thy congregation.
1:11  CAPH. All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. "Look, O Lord, and behold, for I am despised."
1:12  LAMED. "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger."
1:13  MEM. "From on high he sent fire; into my bones he made it descend; he spread a net for my feet; he turned me back;
he has left me stunned, faint all the day long.


Chapter 2
2:8  HETH. Cogitavit Dominus dissipare murum filiæ Sion; tetendit funiculum suum, et non avertit manum suam a perditione: luxitque antemurale, et murus pariter dissipatus est.
2:9  TETH. Defixæ sunt in terra portæ ejus, perdidit et contrivit vectes ejus; regem ejus et principes ejus in gentibus: non est lex, et prophetæ ejus non invenerunt visionem a Domino.
2:10  IOD. Sederunt in terra, conticuerunt senes filiæ Sion; consperserunt cinere capita sua, accincti sunt ciliciis: abjecerunt in terram capita sua virgines Jerusalem.
2:11  CAPH. Defecerunt præ lacrimis oculi mei, conturbata sunt viscera mea; effusum est in terra jecur meum super contritione filiæ populi mei, cum deficeret parvulus et lactens in plateis oppidi.
2:12  LAMED. Matribus suis dixerunt: Ubi est triticum et vinum? cum deficerent quasi vulnerati in plateis civitatis, cum exhalarent animas suas in sinu matrum suarum.
2:13  MEM. Cui comparabo te, vel cui assimilabo te, filia Jerusalem? cui exæquabo te, et consolabor te, virgo, filia Sion? magna est enim velut mare contritio tua: quis medebitur tui?
2:14  NUN. Prophetæ tui viderunt tibi falsa et stulta; nec aperiebant iniquitatem tuam, ut te ad pœnitentiam provocarent; viderunt autem tibi assumptiones falsas, et ejectiones.


Chapter 2
2:8  HETH. The Lord determined to lay in ruins the wall of the daughter of Zion; he marked it off by the line; he restrained not his hand from destroying; he caused rampart and wall to lament, they languish together.
2:9  TETH. Her gates have sunk into the ground; he has ruined and broken her bars; her king and princes are among the nations; the law is no more, and her prophets obtain no vision from the Lord.
2:10  IOD. The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground in silence; they have cast dust on their heads and put on sackcloth; the maidens of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground.
2:11  CAPH. My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city.
2:12  LAMED. They cry to their mothers, "Where is bread and wine?" as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers' bosom.
2:13  MEM. What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?
2:14  NUN. Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles false and misleading.


Chapter 3
3:1  ALEPH. Ego vir videns paupertatem meam in virga indignationis ejus.
3:2  ALEPH. Me minavit, et adduxit in tenebras, et non in lucem.
3:3  ALEPH. Tantum in me vertit et convertit manum suam tota die.
3:4  BETH. Vetustam fecit pellem meam et carnem meam; contrivit ossa mea.
3:22  HETH. Misericordiæ Domini, quia non sumus consumpti; quia non defecerunt miserationes ejus.
3:23  HETH. Novi diluculo, multa est fides tua.
3:24  HETH. Pars mea Dominus, dixit anima mea; propterea exspectabo eum.
3:25  TETH. Bonus est Dominus sperantibus in eum, animæ quærenti illum.
3:26  TETH. Bonum est præstolari cum silentio salutare Dei.
3:27  TETH. Bonum est viro cum portaverit jugum ab adolescentia sua.


Chapter 3
3:1  ALEPH. I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath;
3:2  ALEPH. he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;
3:3  ALEPH. surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long.
3:4  BETH. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones;
3:22  HETH. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;
3:23  HETH. they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.
3:24  HETH. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
3:25  TETH. The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
3:26  TETH. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
3:27  TETH. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.


Chapter 4
4:1  ALEPH. Quomodo obscuratum est aurum, mutatus est color optimus! dispersi sunt lapides sanctuarii in capite omnium platearum!
4:2  BETH. Filii Sion inclyti, et amicti auro primo: quomodo reputati sunt in vasa testea, opus manuum figuli!
4:3  GHIMEL. Sed et lamiæ nudaverunt mammam, lactaverunt catulos suos: filia populi mei crudelis quasi struthio in deserto.


Chapter 4
4:1  ALEPH. How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street.
4:2  BETH. The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are reckoned as earthen pots, the work of a potter's hands!
4:3  GHIMEL. Even the jackals give the breast and suckle their young, but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.


Chapter 5
5:1  Recordare, Domine, quid acciderit nobis; intuere et respice opprobrium nostrum.
5:2  Hæreditas nostra versa est ad alienos, domus nostræ ad extraneos.
5:3  Pupilli facti sumus absque patre, matres nostræ quasi viduæ.
5:4  Aquam nostram pecunia bibimus; ligna nostra pretio comparavimus.
5:5  Cervicibus nostris minabamur, lassis non dabatur requies.


Chapter 5
5:1  Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; behold, and see our disgrace!
5:2  Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to aliens.
5:3  We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.
5:4  We must pay for the water we drink, the wood we get must be bought.
5:5  With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven; we are weary, we are given no rest.

Korean.png Korean translation

1:1 아, 슬프다. 예전에는 사람들로 그렇게 붐비더니, 이제는 이 도성이 어찌 이리 적막한가! 예전에는 뭇 나라 가운데 으뜸이더니 이제는 과부의 신세가 되고, 예전에는 모든 나라 가운데 여왕이더니 이제는 종의 신세가 되었구나.
1:2 이 도성이 여인처럼 밤새도록 서러워 통곡하니, 뺨에 눈물이 마를 날 없고, 예전에 이 여인을 사랑하던 남자 가운데 그를 위로하여 주는 남자가 하나도 없으니, 친구는 모두 그를 배반하여 원수가 되었는가!
1:3 유다가 고통과 고된 노역에 시달리더니, 이제는 사로잡혀 뭇 나라에 흩어져서 쉴 곳을 찾지 못하는데, 뒤쫓는 모든 자들이 막다른 골목에서 그를 덮쳐 잡는구나.
1:4 시온으로 가는 길이 이렇게 쓸쓸하다니! 명절이 되었는데도 순례자가 없고, 시온 성으로 들어가는 모든 문에도 인적이 끊어지니, 제사장들은 탄식하고, 처녀들은 슬픔에 잠겼구나. 시온이 이렇게 괴로움을 겪는구나.
1:5 대적들이 우두머리가 되고, 원수들이 번영한다. 허물이 많다고, 주께서 그에게 고통을 주셨다. 아이들마저 원수들이 보는 앞에서 사로잡혀 끌려갔다.