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Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus was of Italian birth, from Treviso, not far from Venice. Born about the year 531, he came into France at the age of thirty-five or thirty-six. His life spanned the period at which the papacy was taking shape in the West and Mohammedanism was emerging in the East. He was a friend of Gregory of Tours, to whom he wrote many letters. He seems to have combined the characters of troubadour and courtier; and he has left many panegyrics and other fulsome writings composed in a style that has little to commend it. The greater part of his life was passed at Poictiers, where he secured ecclesiastical preferment. He was consecrated bishop of Poictiers about the year 595. He was the intimate friend of the Abbess Agnes and of Queen Radegunda; and his friendship for these women has not escaped criticism. "He was, says Duffield," the first of the Christian poets to begin that worship of the Virgin Mary which rose to a passion and sank to an idolatry." He died about the year 609, leaving many hymns of rare beauty and excellence.
DE PASSIONE CHRISTI
Vexilla regis prodeunt,
Qui vulneratus insuper
Impleta sunt, quae concinit
Dicens: In nationibus
Regnabit a ligno Deus!
Arbor decora et fulgida,
Ornata regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite
Tam sancta membra tangere!
OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST
Lo, the banners of the King are moving on,
And the cross, that mystic emblem, is aglow, Where in flesh, the mighty Maker of our flesh, Hath been hanged upon the tree of bitter woe.
Who, beside the pangs of that dread agony,
By the cruel thrust of spear-point wounded sore, That He might from sin make us forever clean, Mingled streams of blood and water forth did pour.
Now fulfilled are all the prophecies of old
Which in faithful song by David were rehearsed, Saying: Over all the heathen God is King,
And His throne shall be the awful tree accursed!
O illustrious and ever-glorious tree,
All adorned with crimson life-blood of the King; Thou art chosen from a stock of precious worth, Thus to yonder sacred limbs thy touch to bring!