Audit Tyrannus Anxius

Today is December 28, the fourth day of Christmas, also known as the feast of the Holy Innocents. This day commemorates the episode, in Matthew’s version of the Christmas story, when King Herod has all male children below the age of two in Bethlehem put to death to avert the coming of a rebellious King whose rising threatens to destabilize the region. Like many events in the Gospels, the evidence that this “really happened” as an historical, earthly event is dubious (and irrelevant). As a spiritual event, it has happened repeatedly, is happening now, and will happen throughout human history until the Lord comes to abolish ICE and hold tribunals.

The Latin hymn for this feast day is Audit tyrannus anxius, which I subjected to a loose “translation”/adaptation a couple years ago. One side is a relatively close poetic translation (although not an exact translation as it came out in a different meter; unusually, in this poem the Latin lines mostly come out more concisely in English) while the other is a more loose adaptation touching on the present. I could never choose between the two versions, and neither is exactly spectacular on its own, but I thought that side by side they are at least interesting.

Audit Tyrannus Anxius

The anxious tyrant hears:
a prince of kings is come
to rule all Israel
and royal David’s home.

He rages at the news:
“He’d stand where I have stood!
Go soldier, take up steel,
and drench the cribs in blood.”

What profit from such evil?
From Herod’s crime, what gain?
The Christ is borne unmarked,
alone from all these slain.

All glory to you, Jesus,
who from a Virgin came;
with Father and kind Spirit
eternally the same.

The petty tyrant hears:
the long work has begun
to mend his nation’s name,
remake what he’s undone.

He screams at the fake news:
“We must defend our land!
What if, not saying, but what if
someone took it in hand?”

What grows from his corruption—
who profits? (Pray, do you?)
Through all the cracks in his wall
let pure light still slip through;

from what is uncorrupted
the glory creep out, slow;
what parents learn, and lovers,
each hideous age must know.