What Is a Canticle?

The term 'canticle' comes from the word cantare in Latin, meaning 'to sing'. Canticles were originally self-contained songs that were used within the liturgies of the Office and Mass to praise God. They are frequently drawn from the Old and New Testaments, as you will see below but they also came to include the three 'Creeds' or statements of faith as well. They are frequently included after the 150 psalms in the many psalters from Anglo-Saxon England.

The canticles that are catalogued in D.I.L.S. are the liturgical canticles rather than the so-called 'monastic' canticles, since the former were far more widely known and used in the pre-Conquest era than the latter, and there is plentiful evidence of their influence on Old English prose and verse. A number of Old English poems are largely or even entirely based on some of the better-known liturgical canticles, we hear echoes in The Dream of the Rood and many other Old English poetry, and they are referred to either directly or indirectly in a good deal of prose as well.

The Directory of Liturgical Canticles in D.I.L.S.

The following table provides a listing of the canticles in this study. The following lists classification number, headword, and source or title plus use (M = Mass, O = Office) of each canticle text.

Classification Headword Source/Title and Use
I.1 Confitebor tibi Is. 12: 1-6/O
I.2 Ego dixi in Dimidio Is. 38: 10-20/O
I.3 Exultavit Cor Meum 1 Sam. 1: 1-10/O
I.4 Cantemus Domino Ex. 15: 1-19/M or O
I.5 Domine Audivi Habb. 3: 2-19/O
I.6 Audite Caeli Deut. 32: 1-43/M or O
I.7 Benedicite Omnia Dan. 3: 57-88/M or O
I.8 Benedictus Lk. 1: 68-79/M or O
I.9 Magnificat Lk. 1: 46-55/O
I.10 Nunc Dimittis Lk. 2: 29-32/O
II.1 Te Deum Laudamus Hymnus Ambrosianus/O
II.2 Gloria in excelsis Lk 2: 14/M
II.3 Pater Noster Mt.6:9-13/Lk.11:2-4/M or O
II.4 Credo in Deum Patrem Apostles' Creed/M or O
II.5 Quicumque Vult Athanasian Creed/M or O
III.1 Credo in Unum Deum Nicene Creed/M
III.2 Benedictus es Domine Dan. 3: 52/O
III.3 Te Decet Laus part of Te Deum/O
IV.1 Gloria Patri Lesser Doxology/M or O
IV.2 Agnus Dei Lamb of God/M
IV/3 Kyrie Eleison Lord Have Mercy/M
IV.4 Sanctus Benedictus Holy Holy Holy/M

Each canticle is presented as two files: Latin and Old English. The suffix 'LAT' will appear appended to the headword for the former, and 'OE' for the latter. The following list provides the links for each specific canticle, and classifies it with M or O which refer to Mass or Office as the liturgy where the specific canticle is to be found. Not all of the following links are in place yet.

I.1 Confitebor tibi: Confitebor-LAT or Confitebor-OE

I.2 Ego Dixi in Dimidio: Ego Dixi-LAT or Ego Dixi-OE

I.3 Exultavit Cor Meum: Exultavit-LAT or Exultavit-OE

I.4 Cantemus Domino: Cantemus Domino-LAT or Cantemus Domino-OE

I.5 Domine Audivi: Domine-LAT or Domine-OE

I.6 Audite Caeli: Audite-LAT or Audite-OE

I.7 Benedicite Omnia: Benedicite-LAT or Benedicite-OE

I.8 Benedictus: Benedictus-LAT or Benedictus-OE

I.9 Magnificat: Magnificat-LAT or Magnificat-OE

I.10 Nunc Dimittis: Nunc Dimittis-LAT or Nunc Dimittis-OE

II.1 Te Deum Laudamus: Te Deum-LAT or Te Deum-OE

II.2 Gloria in Excelsis: Gloria-LAT or Gloria-OE

II.3 Pater Noster: Pater Noster-LAT or Pater Noster-OE

II.4 Credo in Deum Patrem: Credo in Deum-LAT or Credo in Deum-OE

II.5 Quicumque Vult: Quicumque-LAT or Quicumque-OE

III.1 Credo in Unum Deum: Credo in Unum-LAT or Credo in Unum-OE

III.2 Benedictus es Domine: Benedictus es-LAT or Benedictus es-OE

III.3 Te Decet Laus: Te Decet Laus-LAT or Te Decet Laus-OE

IV.1 Gloria Patri: Gloria Patri-LAT or Gloria Patri-OE

IV.2 Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei-LAT or Agnus Dei-OE

IV.3 Kyrie Eleison: Kyrie Eleison-LAT or Kyrie Eleison-OE

IV.4 Sanctus Benedictus: Sanctus-LAT or Sanctus-OE

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Return to the Trent homepage. This page was last updated 1 May, 1998 by Sarah Larratt Keefer (SKEEFER@TRENTU.CA) and Kendra Adema (KADEMA@NEXICOM.NET)