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  • Alexandra Clark | The Daily Knight

A Masterpiece Hymn of Love: Jesu Dulcis Memoria (all 42 verses!)

Alexandra Clark | The Daily Knight

Jesu Dulcis Memoria was written in the 12th century by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, an Abbot and Doctor of the Church (1090–1153). Sometimes also referred to as one of the Doctors of Divine Love. A title well deserved as the masterpiece of the 42 verses written from his heart shows that Divine Love in an extraordinary way!

It is a unique poem of 42 stanzas originally written in Latin by St. Bernard. It was divided at some point into three Divine Office hymns for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: "Jesu dulcis memoria" (Vespers), "Jesu Rex admirabilis" (Matins), "Jesu decus angelicum" (Lauds). The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, was traditionally celebrated on the Sunday between the Circumcision and Epiphany, on January 2. After the destructive liturgical revisions of Vatican II, the feast was deleted, though a votive Mass to the Holy Name of Jesus had been retained for devotional use. In March 2002, the revised Roman Missal now has the feast restored as an optional memorial on January 3.

It is worthy to note how the three powers of man: memory, understanding and will, are called upon throughout the hymn along with the three highest virtues of Faith, Hope and Love, by which we are lead through what St. Bonaventure calls the Triple Way of Love: the purgative, the illumative and the unitive.

When I discovered that the hymn Jesu Dulcis Memoria was more than just the 5 verses usually found in the most hymnals, I was overjoyed and surprised at the discovery. In an attempt to share this great treasure, I have created a printable PDF found here that has both the Latin and English of all 42 verses. The English translation loses the amazing poetic prose and rhyme of the Latin. Thus, in the Latin is the original masterpiece to be admired for its perfect rhyme as you can see here by the first 2 verses, each line matches the previous:

1. Jesu Dulcis memoria,

dans vera cordi gaudia,

sed super mel et omnia

eius dulcis presentia.

2. Nil canitur suavius,

Nil auditur icundius,

nil cogitatur dulcius

quam Jesus Dei filius.

Here are all 42 verses in English of the Jesu Dulcis Memoria:

(for the tune, hear this video here of a mixed choir:

or a simple version here:

and a beautiful rendition here from the 17th century:

1. Sweet memory of Jesus,

giving true joys to the heart,

but above honey and all else

is his sweet presence.

2. Nothing is sung more sweet,

nothing heard more pleasant,

nothing thought more sweet

than Jesus, son of God.

3. Jesus, hope for the penitent,

how faithful you are to the beseeching,

how good to those seeking you:

but what to those who find you?

4. Jesus, the sweetness of hearts,

source of truth, light of minds,

exceeds all joy and all desire.

5. Neither tongue can say

nor words express, [only]

the one who knows by experience has learnt

to grasp what it is to love Jesus.

6. I will seek Jesus in my bed,

with the cubicle of my heart closed,

privately and in public

I will seek with persistent love.

7. With Mary at dawn

I will seek Jesus in the tomb,

with a querulous clamour of the heart,

I will seek with mind and not with eye.

8. I will drench the tomb with tears,

filling the place with moans,

I will cast myself at the feet of Jesus,

clinging with a tight embrace.

9. Jesus, wonderful king

and renowned victor,

ineffable sweetness,

wholly desirable.

10. Stay with us, Lord,

at the new dawn with light,

the fog of night driven away,

filling the world with sweetness.

11. Love of Jesus, the sweetest

and truly most agreeable,

more than a thousand time

more sweet than we can suffice to say.

12. You who know by experience,

recognize him,

nourish pious love,

seek Jesus ardently, burn in seeking.

13. Jesus, author of mercy,

hope of joy entirely,

fount of sweetness,

of grace, and of the delight of the true heart.

14. Although I cannot speak worthily concerning you,

I will not remain silent,

love makes me bold

since I will rejoice about you alone.

15. Jesus, your love,

pleasing refreshment for the mind,

fills without distaste,

giving hunger to desire.

16. Those who taste you hunger,

those who drink still thirst,

they are unable to wish [for anything]

except Jesus, whom they sense.

17. He whom your love intoxicates

knows what Jesus tastes like,

he whom the happy taste fills up,

there is nothing further that he desires.

18. Jesus, angelic crown,

in the ear a sweet song,

in the mouth a marvellous honey,

in the heart a heavenly colour.

19. Love him a thousand times:

my Jesus, when will you come?

When will you make me blessed,

that you might satisfy me concerning Jesus?

20. Your constant love

is continual languor to me,

mellifluous Jesus is to me

the eternal fruit of life.

21. Jesus, highest kindness,

wonderful pleasure of the heart,

incomprehensible goodness,

your love draws me in.

22. It is good for me to love,

and to seek nothing beyond Jesus,

to withdraw entirely from myself,

that I might be able to live for him.

23. Jesus, my most beloved,

hope of my sighing soul,

how the pious tears of my soul

and the clamour of my mind seek you.

24. Wherever I shall be,

I will desire my Jesus:

how glad when I shall have found him,

how happy when I shall have held him.

25. Then the embrace, then the kisses

which would surpass cups of honey,

then the happy clasp of Christ –

but a little delay in these things.

26. Presently I see what I sought,

I hold what I desired,

I languish in the love of Jesus

and love with my whole heart.

27. This love burns sweetly,

miraculously grows sweeter,

tastes delightfully

and delights joyfully.

28. This love sent from heaven

clings to the very marrow in me,

it extends inwardly to the mind,

the spirit is delighted in it.

29. O blessed fire,

o burning desire,

o sweet coolness

to love the son of God.

30. When Jesus is loved thus,

this love is not extinguished,

it neither wanes nor dies,

but increases and is kindled further.

31. Jesus, flower of the virgin mother,

love of our sweetness, praise to you,

honour of the deity,

kingdom of blessing.

32. Jesus, brighter than the sun

and more agreeable than balsam,

sweeter than all sweetness,

lovelier than everything.

33. The love of whom thus affects me,

the taste of whom restores me,

Jesus in whom the mind loses [itself],

he alone suffices for the lover.

34. You delight of the mind,

consummation of love,

you my exulting,

Jesus, salvation of the world.

35. My beloved partner, be returned

to the fatherly right hand,

you who have conquered the enemy,

prosper, now enjoy the kingdom of heaven.

36. I will follow you wherever you go,

you cannot be taken from me,

since you stole my heart,

Jesus, praise of our race.

37. Lift up your gates,

citizens of heaven, run to meet

the victor, say to him:

‘Hail, Jesus, renowned king.’

38. King of strength, king of glory,

king of the remarkable victory,

Jesus, bestower of grace,

honour of the celestial court.

39. The celestial choir proclaims you

and repeats your praises,

Jesus gladdens the world

and makes peace for us with God.

40. Jesus rules with a peace

that passes all understanding,

the mind desires him at all times

and hastens to enjoy him.

41. Jesus returned to the father,

entered the heavenly kingdom,

my heart went from me,

it went away together with Jesus.

42. Now let us attend upon Jesus

with praises, hymns and prayers,

so that he might deliver us

with Christ to the royal seats of heaven.




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