December 14, 2014

O Felix Culpa (Adam Lay Ybounden)

15th Century Painting by Berthold Furtmeyr - Courtesy Wikipedia

O Felix Culpa is an anonymous English poem which dates back to a 15th century manuscript, but likely goes back in oral tradition much further. Scholars have suggested that it may be an example of a minstrel's begging song or that it was intended for use in a mystery play. The Latin phrase felix culpa is often translated as "happy fault," and is derived from the writings of St. Augustine regarding the Fall of Man and original sin. O Felix Culpa is included in the Poems for Advent and Christmas Appendix of the Divine Office (1974).

Setting by Boris Ord (1897-1961), performed by Kings College Choir

O FELIX CULPA (Anonymous, 15th century)

Adam lay y-bounden,
   Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
   Thought he not too long;
And all was for an apple,
   An apple that he took,
As clerkès finden written
   In theirè book.
Ne had one apple taken been,
   The apple taken been,
Then haddè never Our Lady
   A been heaven's queen.
Blessed be the time
   That apple taken was!
Therefore we may singen
   'Deo Gratias!'

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