Te lucis ante terminum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The hymn Te lucis as written out in a Spanish manuscript (c. 1625). The wording pro tua clementia (instead of solita clementia) reflects the classicizing revisions of Pope Urban VIII. The original Latin version has been restored in the post-Vatican II texts.

Te lucis ante terminum (English: To Thee before the close of day) is an old Latin hymn in long metre. It is the hymn at Compline in the Roman Breviary.


The authorship of Ambrose of Milan, for which Pimont contends, is not admitted by the Benedictine editors or by Luigi Biraghi. The hymn is found in a hymnary in Irish script (described by Clemens Blume in his Cursus, etc.) of the eighth or early ninth century; but the classical prosody of its two stanzas (solita in the third line of the original text is the only exception) suggests a much earlier origin. In this hymnary it is assigned, together with the hymn Christe qui splendor et dies (also known as Christe qui lux es et dies), to Compline.

An earlier arrangement (as shown by the Rule of Caesarius of Arles, c. 502) coupled with the Christe qui lux the hymn Christe precamur adnue, and assigned both to the "twelfth hour" of the day for alternate recitation throughout the year. The later introduction of the Te lucis suggests a later origin.

The two hymns Te lucis and Christe qui lux did not maintain everywhere the same relative position; the latter was used in winter, the former in summer and on festivals; while many cathedrals and monasteries replaced the Te lucis by the Christe qui lux from the first Sunday of Lent to Passion Sunday or Holy Thursday, a custom followed by the Dominicans. The old Breviary of the Carthusians used the Christe qui lux throughout the year. The Roman Breviary assigns the Te lucis daily throughout the year, except from Holy Thursday to the Friday after Easter, inclusively. Merati, in his notes on Galvanus's Thesaurus, says that it has always held without variation this place in the Roman Church. As it is sung daily, the Vatican Antiphonary gives it many plainsong settings for the varieties of season and rite.[1]

The text given below is the original version of the hymn. It was altered by Pope Urban VIII (1623–1644). The 1974 Breviary of Pope Paul VI restores the earlier form of the first and last verse, but replaces the second verse with two additional verses. Pope Urban's version is still used by some, especially since the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum authorized continued use of the Roman Breviary in its 1962 form. Most monasteries adopted Pope Paul's form in the 1970s, meaning the original version is seldom sung in monasteries. The following translation by J. M. Neale (1818–1866) is of the original Latin text, rather than Urban VIII's revised version.

Original Latin text Revised Latin text (Urban VIII) English translation (Neale)

Te lucis ante términum,
rerum Creátor, póscimus,
ut sólita cleméntia
sis præsul ad custódiam.

Procul recédant sómnia
et nóctium phantásmata;
hostémque nostrum cómprime,
ne polluántur córpora.

Præsta, Pater omnípotens,
per Iesum Christum Dóminum,
qui tecum in perpétuum
regnat cum Sancto Spíritu.


Te lucis ante términum,
rerum Creátor, póscimus,
ut pro tua cleméntia
sis præsul et custódia.

Procul recédant sómnia
et nóctium phantásmata;
hostémque nostrum cómprime,
ne polluántur córpora.

Præsta, Pater piíssime,
Patríque compar Unice,
cum Spíritu Paráclito
regnans per omne sǽculum.


To Thee before the close of day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That, with Thy wonted favour, Thou
Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Withhold from us our ghostly foe,
That spot of sin we may not know.

O Father, that we ask be done,
Through Jesus Christ, Thine only Son,
Who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.



The 1974 revision replaces the second strophe with the following two strophes from the hymn Christe precamur adnue.[2][3]

Latin text English verse translation

Te corda nostra sómnient,
te per sopórem séntiant,
tuámque semper glóriam
vicína luce cóncinant.

Vitam salúbrem tríbue
nostrum calórum réfice,
tætrum noctis calíginem
tua collústret cláritas.

Lord, when we sleep, be in our hearts,
Your Spirit peace and rest imparts;
Then, with the light of dawn, may we
Your glory praise unendingly.

Your living power breathe from above,
Renew in us the fire of love;
And may your brightness drive away
All darkness in eternal day.

Musical settings[edit]

This text has frequently been set to music. The earliest is the plainsong version found in the Liber Usualis (used as the opening of Benjamin Britten's Curlew River); another, from the Sarum Rite, is much used in England. Thomas Tallis composed a memorable setting of the text, among many others. Henry Balfour Gardiner composed the anthem Evening Hymn on both the Latin text and an English translation, for mixed choir and organ.


Notes and references
  1. ^ The Antiphonary gives it nine melodies (pp. 117–121, 131, 174, 356, 366).
  2. ^ The relevant text of Christe precamur adnue may be found in A. S. Walpole's Early Latin Hymns, pp. 256–257.
  3. ^ The English verse translation comes from the Panel of Monastic Musicians' Hymns for Prayer and Praise (1995).
Sources cited
  • Mearns and Julian in Dictionary of Hymnography (2nd ed., London, 1907), 1135, 1710.
  • Bagshawe, Breviary Hymns and Missal Sequences (London, s. d.), no. 30;
  • Donahoe, Early Christian Hymns (New York, 1908), 41;
  • Henry, Hymns of the Little Hours in Ecclesiastical Review (Sept., 1890), 204-09;
  • Kent in Shipley, Annus Sanctus, part II, 88;
  • Pimont Les hymnes du breviaire romain, I (Paris, 1874), 124-30, defends (128-9) the simple directness of the language of the second stanza.
  • Hymns Ancient and Modern, (historical edition, London, 1909), no. 34, gives Latin text and tr., harmonized plain-song and a modern setting credited to the Katholische Geistliche Gesangbuch (Andernach, 1608), no. 163;
  • Daniel, Thesaurus Hymnologicus, I,
  • Blume, Der Cursus S. Benedicti Nursini, etc. (Leipzig, 1908), 65, 68, 75.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Te Lucis Ante Terminum". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.