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§ 133. Hymns and Sacred Poetry.


Latin Hymns: H. A. Daniel: Thesaurus Hymnol., 5 vols. Halle and Leipzig, 1855–1856. —F, J. Mone: Latein. Hymnen d. Mittelalters, 3 vols. Freib., 1853–1855. —R. C. Trench: Sacr. Lat. Poetry with Notes, Lond., 1849, 3d ed., 1874. —G. A. Königsfeld: Latein. Hymnen und Gesänge d. MtA., 2 vols. Bonn, 1847–1863 with transll.—J. M. Neale: Med. Hymns and Sequences, Lond., 1851, 3d ed., 1867; Hymns chiefly Med. on the Joys and Glories of Paradise, Lond., 1862, 4th ed., by S. G. Hatherley, 1882.—W. J. Loftie: Lat. Hymns, 3 vols. Lond., 1873–1877.—F. W. E. Roth: Lat. Hymnen d. MtA., Augsb., 1888.—*G. M. Dreves and C. Blume: Analecta hymnica medii aevi, Leipz., 1886–1906, 49 parts in 16 vols.—U. Chevalier: Repertorium hymnol. Cat. des chants, hymnes, proses, sequences, tropes, etc., 2 vols. Louvaine, 1892–1897; Poésie liturg. du moyen âge, Paris, 1893.—S. G. Pirmont: Les hymnes du Bréviare rom., 3 vols. Paris, 1874–1884.—Ed. Caswall: Lyra Catholica (197 transll.), Lond., 1849.—R. Mant: Anc. Hymns from the Rom. Brev., new ed., Lond., 1871.—F. A. March: Lat. Hymns with Engl. Notes, N. Y., 1874.—D. T. Morgan: Hymns and other Poems of the Lat. Ch., Oxf., 1880.—W. H. Frere: The Winchester Tropar from MSS. of the 10th and 11th centt., Lond., 1894. —H. Mills: The Hymn of Hildebert and the Ode of Xavier, with Engl. transll., Auburn, 1844.—W. C. Prime: The Seven Great Hymns of the Med. Ch., N. Y., 1865. —E. C. Benedict: The Hymn of Hildebert and other Med. Hymns, with transll., N. Y., 1867, 2d ed., 1869. —A. Coles: Dies Irae and other Lat. Poems, N. Y., 1868. —D. S. Wrangham: The Liturg. Poetry of Adam de St. Victor, with Engl. transll., 3 vols. Lond., 1881.—Ozanam: Les Poètes Franciscains en Italie au XIIIe siècle, Paris, 1852, 3d ed. 1869.—L. Gautier: Oeuvres poet. d’ Adam de St. Victor, Paris, 1858, 2d ed., 1887; Hist. de la poésie liturg. au moyen âge. Paris, 1886.—P. Schaff: Christ in Song, a Collection of Hymns, Engl. and trans. with notes, N. Y. and Lond., 1869. —Schaff and Gilman: Libr. of Rel. Poetry, N. Y., 1881.—Schaff: Lit. and Poetry, N. Y., 1890. Contains essays of St. Bernard as a Hymnist, the Dies irae, Stabat mater, etc.—S. W. Duffield: Lat. Hymn Writers and their Hymns, N. Y., 1889.

For German Hymns, etc.: C. E. P. Wackernagel: D. Deutsche Kirchenlied von d. ältesten Zeit bis zum 1600, 5 vols. Leip., 1864–1877.—Ed. E. Koch: Gesch. des Kirchenlieds und Kirchengesangs, 2 vols. 1847, 3d ed., by Lauxmann, 8 vols. 1866–1876.—Artt., Hymnus and Kirchenlied in Wetzer-Welte, VI. 519–551, VII. 600–606; Kirchenlied, in Herzog, by Drews, X. 409–419, and Lat. and Ger. Hymnody in Julian’s Dicty. of hymnology.


Note. The collection of Latin hymns by Dreves and Blume, members of the Society of Jesus, is a monument of persevering industry and scholarship. It is with few exceptions made up of hitherto unpublished poems. The collection is meant to be exhaustive and one is fairly amazed at the extent of mediaeval sacred poetry. There are about seven hundred pages and an average of eleven hundred poems to each volume. Monasteries and breviaries of every locality in Western Europe were searched for hymnological treasures. In cases, an entire number, or Heft (for the volumes have appeared in numbers), is given up to the poems of a single convent, as No. Vll., pp. 282, to the proses of St. Martial in Limoges. No. XL. contains sequences taken from English MSS., such as the missals of Salisbury, York, Canterbury, and Winchester, and is edited by H. M. Bannister, 1902. Among the more curious parts is No. XXVII., pp. 287, containing the religious poems of the Mozarabic, or Gothic liturgy. If Dreves adds a printed edition of the mediaeval Latin poetry found in Mone, Daniel, and other standard collections, his collection will supersede all the collections of his predecessors.


The mediaeval sermon is, at best, the object of curious search by an occasional student. It is otherwise with some of the mediaeval hymns. They shine in the cluster of the great hymns of all the ages. They have entered into the worship of all the churches of the West and continue to exercise a sanctifying mission. They are not adapted to the adherents of one confession or age alone, but to Christian believers of every age.

The Latin sacred poems of the Middle Ages, of which thousands have been preserved, were written, for the most part, in the shadow of cloistral walls, notably St. Gall, St. Martial in Limoges, Cluny, Clairvaux, and St. Victor near Paris. Few of them passed into public use in the church service, or were rendered by the voice. They served the purpose of devotional reading. The rhyme is universal after 1150.

These poems include liturgical proses, hymns, sequences, tropes, psalteries, and rhymed prayers to the rosary, called rosaria. The psalteries, psalteria rhythmica, in imitation of the Psalms, are divided into one hundred and fifty parts, and are addressed to the Trinity, to Jesus and to Mary, the larger number of them to Mary.20842084    In No. XXXV., 254-270, Dreves gives two psalteries, ascribed to Anselm.20852085    Anal. Hymn., XLVII. 11 sq. and were joined on to the Gloria, the Hosanna, and other parts. They started in France and were most popular there and in England.20862086    Blume has collected hundreds of tropes in Anal. Hymn. They extended from two or three to as many as fifty lines. Gautier was the first to call the attention of modern students to this forgotten form of med. poetry.

The authorship of the Latin mediaeval poetry belongs chiefly to France and Germany. England produced only a limited number of religious poems, and no one of the first rank. The best is Archbishop Peckham’s (d. 1292) rhymed office to the Trinity, from which three hymns were taken.20872087    They are found in prose renderings in the Primer of Sarum of about 1400 (ed. by Maskell, Mon. ritualia, Vol. III.). Daniel gives all three, I. 276, etc. Dreves gives the adesto and thefesti laudes, No. IV., 14, and calls the former, "a hymn in the strict sense of the word." See No. XXIII., 5, 6, where Dreves pronounces Peckham as, beyond dispute, their author.


Adesto, sancta trinitas

Par splendor, una deitas,

Qui exstas rerum omnium

Sine fine principium.


Come near, O holy Trinity,

In splender equal, in deity one

Of all things that exist

The beginning, and without end.


The number of mediaeval hymns in German is also large. The custom of blending German and Latin lines in the same hymn was also very common, especially in the next period. The number of Saxon hymns, that is hymns produced in England, was very limited.20882088    Two addressed to Mary and one to God are given by Morris, Old Engl. Hom., II. 255 sqq.

Although the liturgical service was chanted by the priests, singing was also in vogue among the people, especially in Northern Italy and in Germany. The Flagellants sang. Gerhoh of Reichersberg (d. 1169) said that all the people poured forth praises to the Saviour in hymns.20892089    Hauck, IV. 60.


Christ der du geboren bist.


St. Bernard, when he left Germany, spoke of missing the German songs of his companions. At popular religious services the people also to some extent joined in song. The songs were called Leisen and Berthold of Regensburg was accustomed, at the close of his sermons, to call upon the congregation to sing.20902090    Linsenmayer, Deutsche Predigt, pp. 70, 132. Autun gives directions for the people to join in the singing, such as the following: "Now lift high your voices," or "Lift up your song, Let us praise the Son of God."

As compared with the hymns of the Ambrosian group and of Prudentius, the mediaeval sacred poems are lacking in their strong and triumphant tone. They are written in the minor key, and give expression to the softer feelings of the heart, and its fears and forebodings. They linger at the cross and over the mystery of the Lord’s Supper, passionately supplicate the intercession of Mary or dwell on her perfections, and also depict the awful solemnities of the judgment and the entrancing glories of paradise. Where we are unable to follow the poet in his theology, we cannot help but be moved by his soft cadences and the tenderness of his devotion.

Among the poets of the earlier part of the period are Peter Damiani, some of whose hymns were received into the Breviaries,20912091    Migne, 145. 930 sqq. See Libr. of Rel. Poetry, pp. 897, 880.debert’s lines were used by Longfellow in his "Golden Legend." Abaelard also wrote hymns, one of which, on the creation, was translated by Trench.20922092    Cousin gave 97 of these poems in his ed. of Abaelard, 1849.

Bernard of Clairvaux, according to Abaelard’s pupil, Berengar, cultivated poetic composition from his youth.20932093    Apol. pro Abaelardo, Migne, 178. 1857.20942094    See Herold, Bernhard’s Hymnen, in Herzog, II. 649. The text of the hymns is found in Migne, 184. 1307 sqq., and in part in Schaff, Lit. and Poetry, etc. Mabillon, whose edition Migne reproduced, casts doubt upon the genuineness of all but two of these poems, and Vacandard (Vie de S. Bern., II. 103) and Haureau (Les poèms attribués à S. Bern., Paris, 1890) upon all of them. But they are ascribed to Bernard by the oldest tradition and no one can be found so likely to be their author as Bernard, Herold advocates the Bernardian authorship.


Jesus, the very thought of thee.

Jesus, King most wonderful.

O Jesus, thou the beauty art.


Jesu, dulcis memoria.

Jesu, rex admirabilis.

Jesus, decus angelicum.


The first of these hymns has been called by Dr. Philip Schaff, "the sweetest and most evangelical hymn of the Middle Ages."

The free version of some of the verses by Ray Palmer is the most popular form of Bernard’s poem as used in the American churches.


Jesus, thou Joy of loving hearts,

Thou Fount of life, thou Light of men,

From the best bliss that earth imparts

We turn unfilled to thee again.


The poem to the Members of Christ’s body on the Cross—Rhythmica oratio ad unum quodlibet membrorum Christi patientis — is a series of devotional poems addressed to the crucified Saviour’s feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. From the poem addressed to our Lord’s face—Salve caput cruentatum — John Gerhardt, 1656, took his


O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden.


O sacred head, now wounded,

With grief and shame weighed down.


Much as Bernard influenced his own age in other ways, he continues to influence our own effectively and chiefly by his hymns.

Bernard of Cluny, d. about 1150, has an enduring name as the author of the most beautiful and widely sung hymn on heaven, "Jerusalem the Golden." He was an inmate of the convent of Cluny when Peter the Venerable was its abbot, 1122–1156. From his probable place of birth, Morlaix, Brittany, he is sometimes called Bernard of Morlaix. Of his career nothing is known. He lives in his poem, "The Contempt of the World"—de contemptu mundi — from which the hymns are taken which go by his name.20952095    Ninety-six lines of the original were made known to English readers by Trench. Neale’s transl. is given in the Libr. of Rel. Poetry, pp. 981-985; a prose transl. of the whole poem by Dr. S. M. Jackson, in Am. Journ. of Theol., 1906. See note in Schaff’s Christ in Song, Lond. ed., pp. 511 sq.ons of heaven, which are repetitions, it contains a satire on the follies of the age and the greed of the Roman court.20962096    For this reason Flacius Illyricus printed the poem entire in his collection of poems on the corruption of the Church,—Varia doctorum piorumque virorum de corrupto eccles. statu poemata, Basel, 1557. I have a copy of this rare volume.

The most prolific of the mediaeval Latin poets is Adam of St. Victor, d. about 1180. He was one of the men who made the convent of St. Victor famous. He wrote in the departments of exegesis and psychology, but it is as a poet he has enduring fame. Gautier, Neale and Trench have agreed in pronouncing him the "foremost among the sacred Latin poets of the Middle Ages"; but none of his hymns are equal to Bernard’s hymns,20972097    Deutsch, art. Adam de S. Victor, Herzog, I. 164, Migne, vol. 196, gives 36 of Adam’s poems. Gautier, in 1858, found 106 in the Louvre library, whither they had been removed at the destruction of St. Victor during the Revolution. He regards 45 as genuine. A deep vein of piety runs through them all.20982098    Wrangham has given translations of all of Adam’s hymns. March gives eight poems in the original. Some of these have gone into English Hymnals. See Julian, p. 15.

Hymns of a high order and full of devotion we owe to the two eminent theologians, Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas. Of Bonaventura’s sacred poems the one which has gone into many collections of hymns begins, —


Recordare sanctae crucis

qui perfectam viam ducis.


Jesus, holy Cross, and dying.


Three of Thomas Aquinas’ hymns have found a place in the Roman Breviary. For six hundred years two of these have formed a part of the ritual of Corpus Christi: namely, —


Pange, lingua, gloriosi corporis mysterium,


Sing, my tongue, the mystery telling,


And


Lauda, Zion, salvatorem.


Zion, to thy Saviour singing.20992099    Julian, pp. 662 sqq., 878 sqq. Also Christ in Song, Engl. ed., pp. 467 sqq. Daniel gives five of Thomas’ hymns, I. 251-256, II. 97.


In both of these fine poems, the doctrine of transubstantiation finds full expression.

No other two hymns of ancient or mediaeval times have received so much attention as the Dies irae and the Stabat mater. They were the product of the extraordinary religious fervor which marked the Franciscan order in its earlier period, and have never been excelled, the one by its solemn grandeur, and the other by its tender and moving pathos.

Thomas of Celano, the author of Dies irae,21002100    The first mention of his authorship is in the liber conformitatum, about 1380. The oldest MS. is a Dominican missal in the Bodleian of the same date.r Naples, and became one of the earliest companions of Francis d’Assisi. In 1221 he accompanied Caesar of Spires to Germany, and a few years later was made guardian, custos of the Franciscan convents of Worms, Spires, Mainz, and Cologne. Returning to Assisi, he wrote, by commission of Gregory IX., his first Life of St. Francis, and later, by command of the general of his order, he wrote the second Life.


The Dies irae opens with the lines, —


Dies irae, dies illa

solvet saeclum in favilla,

teste David cum sibylla.


In the most familiar of the versions, Sir Walter Scott freely reproduced the first lines thus:—


That day of wrath, that dreadful day,

When heaven and earth shall pass away,

What power shall be the sinner’s stay?

How shall he meet that dreadful day?


This solemn poem depicts the dissolution of the world and the trembling fear of the sinner as he looks forward to the awful scene of the last day and appeals for mercy. It has been characterized by Dr. Philip Schaff,21012101    Lit. and Poetry pp. 135-186. "as the acknowledged masterpiece of Latin Church poetry and the greatest judgment hymn of all ages." The poet is the single actor. He realizes the coming judgment of the world, he hears the trumpet of the archangel through the open sepulchre, he expresses this sense of guilt and dismay, and ends with a prayer for the same mercy which the Saviour showed to Mary Magdalene and to the thief on the cross. The stanzas sound like the peals of an organ; now crashing like a clap of thunder, now stealing softly and tremulously like a whisper through the vacant cathedral spaces. The first words are taken from Zephaniah 1:15. Like the Fathers and Michael Angelo and the painters of the Renaissance, the author unites the prediction of the heathen Sibyl with the prophecies of the Old Testament.

The hymn is used on All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Mozart introduced it into his requiem mass. It has been translated more frequently than any other Latin poem.21022102    Julian, pp. 299 sqq., gives a list of 133 versions, 19 of which are used in hymn books. The London Athenaeum, July 26, 1890, gave a still larger list of 87 British and 92 American translations. The first English version is that of Joshua Sylvester, 1621, and one of the best, that of W. J. Irons, 1848.t into the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and Goethe made Gretchen tremble in dismay on hearing it in the cathedral.

The most tender hymn of the Middle Ages is the Stabat mater dolorosa. The first verse runs:—


Stabat mater dolorosa

juxta crucem lachrymosa

dum pendebat filius;

cujus animam gementem

contristatam ac dolentem

pertransivit gladius.


At the cross her station keeping,

Stood the mournful mother weeping,

Close to Jesus to the last;

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,

All His bitter anguish bearing,

Now at length the sword had passed.21032103    Caswall’s transl. Dr. Schaff gives a number of versions. Lit. and Poetry, pp. 187-218.


This hymn occupies the leading place among the many mediaeval hymns devoted to Mary and, in spite of its mariolatry, it appeals to the deepest emotions of the human heart. Its passion has been transfused into the compositions of Palestrina, Astorga, Pergolesi, Haydn, Bellini, Rossini, and other musical composers.

The poem depicts the agony of Mary at the sight of her dying Son. The first line is taken from John 19:25. The poet prays to Mary to be joined with her in her sorrow and to be defended by her on the day of judgment and taken into glory. The hymn passed into all the missals and was sung by the Flagellants in Italy at the close of the fourteenth century.21042104    The companion hymn, Stabat mater speciosa, "Stands the fair mother," ascribed to the same author, was discovered in 1852. See Lit. and Poetry, pp. 219-230.

Jacopone da Todi, the author of these hymns, called also Jacobus de Benedictis (d. 1306), was converted from a wild career by the sudden death of his wife through the falling of a gallery in a theatre. He gave up the law, both degrees of which he had received from Bologna, and was admitted to the Franciscan order.21052105    See Julian, pp. 1080-1084, the art. Jacopone, by Lauxmann-Lempp, in Herzog, VIII. 516-519, and the references to Wadding there given. The Florentine ed. of his works, 1490, contains 100 Italian poems; the Venetian ed. of 1614, 211.r of poems in the vulgar tongue, exposing the vices of his age and arraigning Boniface VIII. for avarice. He espoused the cause of the Colonna against that pope. Boniface had him thrown into prison and the story went that when the pope asked him, when he expected to get out, Jacopone replied, "when you get in." Not until Boniface’s death, in 1303, was the poet released. He spent his last years in the convent of Collazone. His comfort in his last hours was his own hymn, Giesu nostra fidanza — Jesus our trust and confidence.



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