What did the Carmelites of Compiegne sing?
The 16 Carmelites martyrs of Compiegne have become famous not only for their martyrdom, but for singing while at the scaffold.
William Bush, in his book To Quell the Terror: The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne Guillotined July 17, 1794, draws from eyewitness accounts and archival material to describe what exactly the sisters sang.
The first song to note is a parody of La Marseillaise, written by one of the sisters, and sung when the sisters were in prison awaiting trial. A partial translation from Bush's book is below:
Let our hearts be giv'n to joyfulness The day of glory now is here! Let us banish all of our weakness, We can see that the cross now is near! Let's prepare ourselves for the victory! Let us each as a conqueror go forth! Under the cross, God's great banner, Let's all run, let's all fly toward glory! Let our ardor be enflamed! Let's give our bodies in his Name! Let's climb, let's climb, the scaffold high! We'll give God the victory!
Once they were loaded into carts to be taken to the guillotine, they likely sang the Office for the Dead (they were very likely chanting the Divine Office throughout their imprisonment as well),
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam….
Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness. According to the multitude of thy mercies, do away mine offenses…
the Salve Regina…
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ,
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
and possibly Vespers and Compline (the trial had been that morning, the verdict that afternoon; the execution happened in the evening).
Some two hours later, at the foot of the scaffold, they sang the Te Deum.
Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confi temur.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli, tibi caeli et universae Potestates.
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra majestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confi tetur Ecclesia.
Patrem immensae majestatis;
venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Judex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni, quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum Sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee: the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud: the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim: continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy: Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty: of thy Glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles: praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets: praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs: praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world: doth acknowledge thee;
The Father: of an infinite Majesty;
Thine adorable, true: and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory: O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son: of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man: thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death: thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God: in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come: to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants: whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints: in glory everlasting.
As the sisters mounted the scaffold, they sang Veni Creator Spiritus…
Veni, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.
Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.
Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.
Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.
Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heav'nly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O Comforter, to Thee we cry,
Thou heav'nly gift of God most high,
Thou Fount of life, and Fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
O Finger of the hand divine,
the sevenfold gifts of grace are thine;
true promise of the Father thou,
who dost the tongue with power endow.
Thy light to every sense impart,
and shed thy love in every heart;
thine own unfailing might supply
to strengthen our infirmity.
Drive far away our ghostly foe,
and thine abiding peace bestow;
if thou be our preventing Guide,
no evil can our steps betide.
Praise we the Father and the Son
and Holy Spirit with them One;
and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow.
and Psalm 117, Laudate Dominum omnes gentes.
Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; laudate eum, omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus, et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
Praise the Lord, all ye nations!
Praise Him all ye people!
For His mercy is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever.