When researching the text I found it interesting that there were numerous references to a seven-stanza version of Nobilis Humilis but it seemed only four or five were traditionally sung. I became obsessed with finding the other stanzas to work out why but they weren’t exactly easy to find. Once I discovered them it was obvious why, they showed Saint Magus’ humanity and of his struggle with his cousin who wanted to rule in his stead. The cousins were jointly eligible to rule as their fathers had shared the title, however Harcon wanted it for himself. ‘Wild envious cunning enemy Hacon; He longs to lay you low, grind you down, Bring your property under his control’. It seems Magnus was also averse to violence as there is a story where, on a raiding party, he remained on the ship. Though this could have been added to embellish his saintly characteristics or was a conscious political move on Magus part. At the time he was the prisoner of Singard, who had been installed as the illegitimate ruler of Orkney.
My impression of Magnus, reading his history, was that he had been a good man and a kind king, for the few years he managed to reign before being killed by Hacon. It was this humanity and goodness that I wanted to bring out in the text I chose for the piece more so than the spiritual side.
The text I chose is:
Noble, humble, Magnus, steadfast martyr; Suitable, beneficial, Reverend comrade and praiseworthy protector; Watch over your subjects Spent by their load of feeble flesh.
You take great pains to curb the impulses of the flesh, So that the Spirit may reign in the prison of the body.
Suffering bitter weariness for the sake of justice, You are snatched, dragged off, At last, by a fatal blow.
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