"Te Lucis Ante Terminum."
Sung at Compline
on Septuagesima Sunday.
Available on YouTube at
"Te lucis ante terminum" is an old Latin Hymn in Long Metre. It is the Hymn at Compline in The Roman Breviary.
The authorship, by Saint Ambrose of Milan, for which Pimont contends, is not admitted by The Benedictine Editors, or by Luigi Biraghi. The Hymn is found in a Hymnary, in Irish script (described by Clemens Blume in his Cursus, etc.) of the 8th- or Early-9th-Century A.D.; but the classical Prosody of its two Stanzas (Solita in the third line of the original Text is the only exception) suggests a much earlier origin. In this Hymnary, it is assigned, together with the Hymn Christe qui splendor et dies (also known as Christe qui lux es et dies), to Compline.
An earlier arrangement (as shown by The Rule of Caesarius of Arles, circa 502 A.D.), coupled with the Christe qui lux, the Hymn Christe precamur adnue, and assigned both to the "Twelfth Hour of The Day" for alternate recitation throughout the Year. The later introduction of the Te lucis suggests a later origin.
The old Breviary of The Carthusians used the Christe qui lux throughout the Year. The Roman Breviary assigns the Te lucis daily throughout the Year, except from Holy Thursday to The Friday after Easter, inclusively. Merati, in his notes on Galvanus's Thesaurus, says that it has always held, without variation, this place in The Roman Church. As it is sung daily, The Vatican Antiphonary gives it many Plainsong Settings for the varieties of Season and Rite (e.g. the nine Melodies, pp. 117–121, 131, 174, 356, 366).
The Text, given below, is the original version of the Hymn. It was altered by Pope Urban VIII. The 1974 Breviary of Pope Paul VI restores the earlier form of the first and last Verse, but replaces the second Verse with two additional Verses. Pope Urban's version is still used by some, especially since the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, authorised continued use of The Roman Breviary in its 1962 Form. Most Monasteries adopted Pope Paul's Form in the 1970s, meaning the original version is seldom sung in Monasteries. The following translation is by J. M. Neale (1818–1866).
"Te Lucis Ante Terminum",
by Thomas Tallis.
Availabe on YouTube at
Te lucis ante terminum,
rerum Creator, poscimus,
ut solita clementia,
sis praesul ad custodiam.
Procul recedant somnia,
et noctium phantasmata:
hostemque nostrum comprime,
ne polluantur corpora.
Praesta, Pater omnipotens,
per Iesum Christum Dominum,
qui tecum in perpetuum
regnat cum Sancto Spiritu.
To Thee before the close of day,
Creator of the World, we Pray
That, with Thy wonted favour, Thou
Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.
From all ill dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Withhold from us our ghostly foe,
That spot of sin we may not know.
O, Father, that we ask be done,
Through Jesus Christ, Thine Only Son,
Who, with The Holy Ghost and Thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.
The 1974 Revision replaces the second Strophe with the Text "Te corda nostra somnient,/ te per soporem sentiant,/ tuamque semper gloriam/ vicina luce concinant. Vitam salubrem tribue,/ nostrum calorem refice,/ taetram noctis caliginem/ tua collustret claritas".
This Text has frequently been set to music. The earliest is the Plainsong version found in The Liber Usualis (used as the opening of Benjamin Britten's "Curlew River"); another, from The Sarum Rite, is much used in England. Thomas Tallis and Henry Balfour Gardiner both composed memorable settings of the Text, among many others.