This hymn is based on a long medieval Latin poem, Salve mundi salutare, with stanzas addressing the various parts of Christ’s body hanging on the Cross. The last part of the poem, from which the hymn is taken, is addressed to Christ’s head, and begins “Salve caput cruentatum.” The poem is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153).
Lyrics: O Sacred Head Surrounded (Latin: Salve caput cruentatum, St. Bernard)
O Sacred Head surrounded By crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head so wounded, Reviled and put to scorn!
Death’s pallid hue comes o’er Thee, The glow of life decays,
Yet angel hosts adore Thee, And tremble as they gaze.
In this, Thy bitter passion, Good shepherd, think of me,
With Thy most sweet compassion, Unworthy though I be:
Beneath Thy cross abiding, Forever would I rest;
In Thy dear love confiding, And with Thy presence blest.