Ave Verum Corpus - English Translation

This translation is meant merely to provide an understanding of the meaning of the Latin lyrics, and is definitely NOT meant as a replacement set of lyrics! (Note that some English 'translated' lyric versions do exist; however, in order to fit the rhythm of the melody, and to provide 'more easily understood' lyrics, they have a tendency to mangle the meaning of many of the Latin verses.)

Note that while I do know some Latin (and have access to Latin references for those words I don't understand!), I do not claim to be a master Latin scholar. In addition, some of the Latin words and phrases have meanings which it is difficult to directly convey in English - in these cases, I have done my best to paraphrase, retaining as much of the contextual meaning as possible. Therefore, while I have made every attempt to capture the meaning of the Latin as closely as possible, there may be some errors, and some sections may be open to different interpretations.

Note also that Latin has a different syntax to English, and so some of the translation is not strictly line-for-line.

Ave, verum corpus
natum de Maria Virgine,
Vere passum immolatum
in Cruce pro homine,
Cujus latus perforatum
unda* fluxit (et)* sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
Hail,true body
born of the Virgin Mary,
Who truly suffered, sacrificed
on the Cross for man,
Whose pierced side overflowed
with water* and blood,
Be for us a foretaste**
In the test of death.

* Several people have commented on this, so I thought that I might elaborate. The phrase in the original Latin hymn is "Cujus latus perforatum fluxit aqua et sanguine", whose approximate translation I have used here. However, in the available editions of both the Byrd and the Mozart score, the word 'aqua' ('water') is omitted and the word 'unda' ('whence') inserted. The 'et' (and) is also omitted in the Byrd text, but not in the Mozart, which makes for rather awkward Latin (and one which I had much trouble translating accurately). The origins (and purpose) of this change is unclear; I hope to research this matter futher at a later date.

** Referring to the eucharist in the Roman Catholic tradition, in which the sacrament was often referred to as being a "foretaste of heaven".

Back to Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus
Back to Willam Byrds's Ave Verum Corpus