« Prev Latin Hymns and Hymnists Next »

§ 96. Latin Hymns and Hymnists.

The Latin church poetry of the middle ages is much better known than the Greek, and remains to this day a rich source of devotion in the Roman church and as far as poetic genius and religious fervor are appreciated. The best Latin hymns have passed into the Breviary and Missal (some with misimprovements), and have been often reproduced in modern languages. The number of truly classical hymns, however, which were inspired by pure love to Christ and can be used with profit by Christians of every name, is comparatively small. The poetry of the Latin church is as full of Mariolatry and hagiolatry as the poetry of the Greek church. It is astonishing what an amount of chivalrous and enthusiastic devotion the blessed Mother of our Lord absorbed in the middle ages. In Mone’s collection the hymns to the Virgin fill a whole volume of 457 pages, the hymns to saints another volume of 579 pages, while the first volume of only 461 pages is divided between hymns to God and to the angels. The poets intended to glorify Christ through his mother, but the mother overshadows the child, as in the pictures of the Madonna. She was made the mediatrix of all divine grace, and was almost substituted for Christ, who was thought to occupy a throne of majesty too high for sinful man to reach without the aid of his mother and her tender human sympathies. She is addressed with every epithet of praise, as Mater Dei, Dei Genitrix, Mater summi Domini, Mater misericordiae, Mater bonitatis, Mater dolorosa, Mater jucundosa, Mater speciosa, Maris Stella, Mundi domina, Mundi spes, Porta paradisi, Regina coeli, Radix gratiae, Virgo virginum, Virgo regia Dei. Even the Te Deum was adapted to her by the distinguished St. Bonaventura so as to read “Te Matrem laudamus, Te Virginem confitemur.”470470    See the Marianic Te Deum in Daniel, II. 293; and in Mone, II. 229 sq.

The Latin, as the Greek, hymnists were nearly all monks; but an emperor (Charlemagne?) and a king (Robert of France) claim a place of honor among them.

The sacred poetry of the Latin church may be divided into three periods: 1, The patristic period from Hilary (d. 368) and Ambrose (d. 397) to Venantius Fortunatus (d. about 609) and Gregory I. (d. 604); 2, the early mediaeval period to Peter Damiani (d. 1072); 3, the classical period to the thirteenth century. The first period we have considered in a previous volume. Its most precious legacy to the church universal is the Te Deum laudamus. It is popularly ascribed to Ambrose of Milan (or Ambrose and Augustin jointly), but in its present completed form does not appear before the first half of the sixth century, although portions of it may be traced to earlier Greek origin; it is, like the Apostles’ Creed, and the Greek Gloria in Excelsis, a gradual growth of the church rather than the production of any individual.471471    A curious mediaeval legend makes the Te Deum the joint product of St. Ambrose and St. Augustin, which was alternately uttered by both, as by inspiration, while Augustin ascended from the baptismal font; Ambrose beginning: Te Deum laudamus, Augustin responding; ”Te Dominum confitemur.” But neither the writings of one or the other contain the slightest trace of the hymn and its origin. The first historic testimony of its existence and use is the eleventh rule of St. Benedict of Nursia, a.d. 529, which prescribes to the monks of Monte Casino: ”Post guartum autem responsorium incipiat Abbas hymnum Te Deum laudamus.” But five or eight lines of the hymn are found in Greek as a part of the Gloria in Excelsis (Δοξαἐνὑψίστοις, etc. ) in the Alexandrian Codex of the Bible which dates from the fifth century. See Daniel, II 289 sqq.;Christ p. 39 (from καθ̓ἡμέραν to εἰςτοὺςαἰῶνας), and Kayser, 437 sqq. Daniel traces the whole Te Deum to a lost Greek original (of which the lines in the Cod. Alex. are a fragment), Kayser to an unknown Latin author in the second half of the fifth century, i.e. about one hundred years after the death of St. Ambrose. The third period embraces the greatest Latin hymnists, as Bernard of Morlaix (monk of Cluny about 1150), Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), Adam of St. Victor (d. 1192), Bonaventura (d. 1274), Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), Thomas a Celano (about 1250), Jacopone (d. 1306), and produced the last and the best Catholic hymns which can never die, as Hora Novisasima; Jesu dulcis memoria; Salve caput cruentatum; Stabat Mater; and Dies Irae. In this volume we are concerned with the second period.

Venantius Fortunatus, of Poitiers, and his cotemporary, Pope Gregory I., form the transition from the patristic poetry of Sedulius and Prudentius to the classic poetry of the middle ages.

Fortunatus (about 600)472472    The dates of his birth and death are quite uncertain, and variously stated from 530 or 550 to 600 or 609. was the fashionable poet of his day. A native Italian, he emigrated to Gaul, travelled extensively, became intimate with St. Gregory of Tours, and the widowed queen Radegund when she lived in ascetic retirement, and died as bishop of Poitiers. He was the first master of the trochaic tetrameter, and author of three hundred poems, chief among which are the two famous passion hymns:

“Vexilla regis prodeunt,”

“The Royal Banners forward go;”


“Pange, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis,”

“Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle.”

Both have a place in the Roman Breviary.473473    See two Latin texts with critical notes in Daniel, I. 160 sqq., rhymed English Versions by Mant, Caswall, and Neale. The originals are not rhymed, but very melodious. See vol. III. 597. The Opera of Fortunatus were edited by Luchi, Rom. 1786, and Migne in “Patrol. Lat.” vol. 88 (Paris 1850). Comp. Ampère, Hist. littér. II. 275 sqq.; Ebert, l.c. I. 494 sqq. Fortunatus is a very interesting character, and deserves a special monograph. Kayser devotes to him three chapters (p. 386-434).

Gregory I. (d. 604), though far inferior to Fortunatus in poetic genius, occupies a prominent rank both in church poetry and church music. He followed Ambrose in the metrical form, the prayer-like tone, and the churchly spirit, and wrote for practical use. He composed about a dozen hymns, several of which have found a place in the Roman Breviary.474474    Daniel, I. 175-183, gives ten hymns of Gregory, and an additional one (Laudes canamus) in vol. V. 248. Mone adds some more of doubtful authorship, I. 370, 376 sqq.; III. 325 sqq., and includes hymns in praise of Gregory, as ”O decus sacerdotum, flosque sanctorum.” English translations of his Breviary hymns in Mant, Chambers, Caswall, Newman. On his merits as a poet, see Ebert, I. 827 sqq. Luther, in his Tischreden (which are a strange mixture of truth and fiction), declared the passion hymn Rex Christe, factor omnium, to be the best of all hymns (”der allerbeste Hymnus“), but this extravagant praise is inconsistent with the poetic taste of Luther and the fact that he did not reproduce it in German. The best is his Sunday hymn:

“Primo dierum omnium,”

“On this first day when heaven on earth,”

or, as it has been changed in the Breviary,

“Primo die quo Trinitas,”

“To-day the Blessed Three in One

Began the earth and skies;

To-day a Conqueror, God the Son,

Did from the grave arise;

We too will wake, and, in despite

Of sloth and languor, all unite,

As Psalmists bid, through the dim night

Waiting with wistful eyes.”475475    From Newman’s free reproduction (in Verses on Various Occasions). See the Latin text in both recensions in Daniel, I. 175,

The Venerable Bede (d. 735) wrote a beautiful ascension hymn

“Hymnum canamus gloriae,”

“A hymn of glory let us sing;”

and a hymn for the Holy innocents,

“Hymnum canentes Martyrum,”

“The hymn of conquering martyrs raise.”476476    Daniel, I. 206 sq.; Mone, I.1 (”Primo Deus coeli globum“) and 284 (Ave sacer Christi sanguis). The hymn for the infant martyrs at Bethlehem is far inferior to the Salvete flores martyrum of Prudentius. The first of the hymns quoted in the text is translated by Mrs. Charles and by Neale. German versions by Königsfeld (Ihr Siegeshymnen schallet laut, and Unschuld’ger Kinder Martyrschaar), Knapp, and others. Bede composed also a metrical history, of St. Cuthbert, which Newman has translated in part (”Between two comrades dear”).

Rabanus Maurus, a native of Mainz (Mayence) on the Rhine, a pupil of Alcuin, monk and abbot in the convent of Fulda, archbishop of Mainz from 847 to 856, was the chief Poet of the Carolingian age, and the first German who wrote Latin hymns. Some of them have passed into the Breviary.477477    His carmina were edited from an old MS. found in the convent of Fulda by Christopher Brower, a Jesuit, in 1617 (as an appendix to the poems of Venantius Fortunatus), and reprinted in Migne’s Rab. MauriOpera (1852) Vol. VI. f. 1583-1682. Comp. Kunstmann, Hrabamus Magnentius Maurus, Mainz 1841; Koch, I. 90-93; Ebert, II. 120-145; Hauck in Herzog2XII. 459-465. Hauck refers to Dümmler on the MS. tradition of the poem, of R. M.

He is probably the author of the pentecostal Veni, Creator Spiritus.478478    So Brower, and quite recently S. W. Duffield, in an article In Schaff’s “Rel. Encycl.” III. 2608 sq. Also Clément, Carmina, etc., p. 379. It outweighs all his other poems. It is one of the classical Latin hymns, and still used in the Catholic church on the most solemn occasions, as the opening of Synods, the creating of popes and the crowning of kings. It was invested with a superstitious charm. It is the only Breviary hymn which passed into the Anglican liturgy as part of the office for ordaining priests and consecrating bishops.479479   9 In the abridged and not very happy translation of Bishop Cosin (only four stanzas), beginning:

   “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,

   And lighten with celestial fire.

   Thou the anointing Spirit art,

   Who dost thy sevenfold gift, impart.”


   It was introduced into the Prayer Book after the Restoration, 1662. The alternate ordination hymn, “Come, Holy Ghost, eternal God,” appeared in 1549, and was altered in 1662.
The authorship has been variously ascribed to Charlemagne,480480    By Tomasi (I. 375) and even Daniel (I. 213, sq.; IV. 125), apparently also by Trench (p. 167). Tomasi based his view on an impossible tradition reported by the Bollandists (Acta SS. Apr. 1, 587), that Notker sent to Charlemagne (who died a hundred years before) his sequence Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia, and received in response the Veni, Creator Spiritus from the emperor (whose Latin scholarship was not sufficient for poetic composition). The author of the article “Hymns” in the 9th ed. of the “Encycl. Brit.” revives the legend, but removes the anachronism by substituting for Charlemagne his nephew, Charles the Bald (who was still less competent for the task). to Gregory the Great,481481    By Mone (I. 242, note), Koch, Wackernagel. Mone’s reasons are “the classical metre with partial rhymes, and the prayer-like treatment.” also to Alcuin, and even to Ambrose, without any good reason. It appears first in 898, is found in the MS. containing the Poems of Rabanus Maurus, and in all the old German Breviaries; it was early and repeatedly translated into German482482    In the twelfth and thirteenth century (Komm, Schöpfer, heiliger Geist), as also by Luther (Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist), by Königsfeld (Komm, Schöpfer, heil’ger Geist, erfreu), and others. The oldest German translator (as reported by Daniel, I. 214), says that he who recites this hymn by day or by night, is secure against all enemies visible or invisible. and agrees very well in thought and expression with his treatise on the Holy Spirit.483483    As contained in his work De Universo 1. I. c.3 (in Migne’s edition of the Opera, V. 23-26). Here he calls the Holy Spirit digitus Dei (as in the hymn), and teaches the double procession which had come to be the prevailing doctrine in the West since the adoption of the Filioque at the Synod of Aix in Creed. The scanning of Paraclêtus with a long penultimate differs from that 809, though under protest of Leo III. against its insertion into the Nicene of other Latin poets (Paraecletos).

We give the original with two translations.484484    The Latin text is from Brower, as reprinted in Migne (VI. 1657), with the addition of the first doxology. The first translation is by Robert Campbell, 1850, the second by Rev. S. W. Duffield, made for this work, Feb. 1884. Other English versions by Wither (1623), Drummond (1616), Cosin (1627), Tate (1703), Dryden (1700), Isaac Williams (1839), Bishop Williams (1845), Mant (“Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest”), Benedict (“Spirit, heavenly life bestowing”), MacGill (“Creator Holy Spirit! come”), Morgan (“Creator Spirit, come in love”), in the Marquess of Bute’s Breviary (“Come, Holy Ghost, Creator come”). See nine of these translations in Odenheimer and Bird, Songs of the Spirit, N. Y. 1871, p. 167-180. German versions are almost as numerous. Comp. Daniel, I. 213; IV. 124; Mone, I. 242; Koch, 1. 74 sq.

Veni, Creator Spiritus,

Mentes tuorum visita.

Imple superna gratia

Quo tu creasti pectora.

Creator, Spirit, Lord of Grace,

O make our hearts Thy dwelling-place,

And with Thy might celestial aid

The souls of those whom Thou hast made.

Qui Paracletus diceris,

Donum Dei altissimi,

Fons vivus, ignis, charitas,

Et spiritalis unctio.

Come from the throne of God above,

O Paraclete, O Holy Dove,

Come, Oil of gladness, cleansing Fire,

And Living Spring of pure desire.

Tu septiformis munere,

Dextrae Dei tu digitus,

Tu rite Promissum Patris,

Sermone ditans guttura.

O Finger of the Hand Divine,

The sevenfold gifts of Grace are Thine,

And touched by Thee the lips proclaim

All praise to God’s most holy Name.

Accende lumen sensibus,

Infunde amorem cordibus;

Infirma nostri corporis,

Virtute firmans perpetim.485485    Perpetim, adv., perpetually, constantly. Some copies read perpeti (from perpes).

Then to our souls Thy light impart,

And give Thy Love to every heart

Turn all our weakness into might,

O Thou, the Source of Life and Light.

Hostem repellas longius,

Pacemque dones protinus.

Ductore sic te praevio,

Vitemus omne noxium.

Protect us from the assailing foe,

And Peace, the fruit of Love, bestow;

Upheld by Thee, our Strength and Guide,

No evil can our steps betide.

Per te sciamus, da Patrem,

Noscamus atque Filium,

Te utriusque Spiritum,

Credamus omni tempore.

Spirit of Faith, on us bestow

The Father and the Son to know;

And, of the Twain, the Spirit, Thee;

Eternal One, Eternal Three.

[Sit laus Patri cum Filio,

Sancto simul Paracleto,

Nobisque mittat Filius

Charisma Sancti Spiritus.]486486    The concluding conventional benediction in both forms is a later addition. The first is given by Daniel (I. 214), and Mone (I. 242), the second in the text of Rabanus Maurus. The scanning of Paraecletos differs in both from that in the second stanza.

To God the Father let us sing;

To God the Son, our risen King;

And equally with These adore

The Spirit, God for evermore.

[Praesta hoc Pater piissime,

Patrique compar unice,

Cum Spiritu Paracleto,

Regnans per omne saeculum.] See note above.

O Holy Ghost, Creator come!

Thy people’s minds pervade;

And fill, with Thy supernatural grace,

The souls which Thou hast made.

Kindle our senses to a flame,

And fill our hearts with love,

And, through our bdies’ weakness,


Pour valor from above!

Thou who art called the Paraclete,

The gift of God most high–

Thou living fount, and fire and love,

Our spirit’s pure ally;

Drive further off our enemy,

And straightway give us peace;

That with Thyself as such a guide,

We may from evil cease.

Thou sevenfold giver of all good;

Finger of God’s right hand;

Thou promise of the Father, rich

In words for every land;

Through Thee may we the Father know,

And thus confess the Son;

For Thee, from both the Holy Ghost,

We praise while time shall run.

In this connection we mention the Veni, Sancte Spiritus, the other great pentecostal hymn of the middle ages. It is generally ascribed to King Robert of France (970–1031), the son and success or of Hugh Capet.487487    A few writers claim it for Pope Innocent III. He was distinguished for piety and charity, like his more famous successor, St. Louis IX., and better fitted for the cloister than the throne. He was disciplined by the pope (998) for marrying a distant cousin, and obeyed by effecting a divorce. He loved music and poetry, founded convents and churches, and supported three hundred paupers. His hymn reveals in terse and musical language an experimental knowledge of the gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. It is superior to the companion hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus. Trench calls it “the loveliest” of all the Latin hymns, but we would give this praise rather to St. Bernard’s Jesu dulcis memoria (“Jesus, the very thought of Thee”). The hymn contains ten half-stanzas of three lines each with a refrain in ium. Each line has seven syllables, and ends with a double or triple rhyme; the third line rhymes with the third line of the following half-stanza. Neale has reproduced the double ending of each third line (as “brilliancy”—“radiancy”).

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,

Et emittee coelitus

Lucis tuae radium.

Holy Spirit, God of light!

Come, and on our inner sight

Pour Thy bright and heavenly ray!

Veni, Pater pauperum,

Veni, dator munerum,

Veni, lumen cordium.

Father of the lowly! come;

Here, Great Giver! be Thy home,

Sunshine of our hearts, for aye!

Consolator optime,

Dulcis hospes animae,

Dulce refrigerium:

Inmost Comforter and best!

Of our souls the dearest Guest,

Sweetly all their thirst allay;

In labore requies,

In aestu temperies,

In fletu solatium.

In our toils be our retreat,

Be our shadow in the heat,

Come and wipe our tears away.

O lux beatissima,

Reple cordis intima,

Tuorum fidelium.

O Thou Light, all pure and blest!

Fill with joy this weary breast,

Turning darkness into day.

Sine tuo numine

Nihil est in homine

Nihil est innoxium,

For without Thee nought we find,

Pure or strong in human kind,

Nought that has not gone astray.

Lava quod est sordidum,

Riga quod est aridum,

Sana quod est saucium.

Wash us from the stains of sin,

Gently soften all within,

Wounded spirits heal and stay.

Flecte quod est rigidum,

Fove quod est languidum,

Rege quod est devium.

What is hard and stubborn bend,

What is feeble soothe and tend,

What is erring gently sway.

Da tuis fidelibus,

In te confitentibus,

Sacrum septenarium;

To Thy faithful servants give,

Taught by Thee to trust and live,

Sevenfold blessing from this day;

Da virtutis meritum,

Da salutis exitum,

Da perenne gaudium.488488    See the Latin text in Daniel II. 35; V. 69; Mone, I. 244. In ver. 8 line 2 Daniel reads frigidum for languidum.

Make our title clear, we pray,

When we drop this mortal clay;

Then,—O give us joy for aye.489

The following is a felicitous version by an American divine.489489    Dr. E. A. Washburn, late rector of Calvary Church, New York, a highly accomplished scholar (d. 1881). The version was made in 1860 and published in “Voices from a Busy Life,” N. Y. 1883, p. 142.

Come, O Spirit! Fount of grace!

From thy heavenly dwelling-place

One bright morning beam impart:

Come, O Father of the poor;

Come, O Source of bounties sure;

Come, O Sunshine of the heart!

O! thrice blessed light divine!

Come, the spirit’s inmost shrine

With Thy holy presence fill;

Of Thy brooding love bereft,

Naught to hopeless man is left;

Naught is his but evil still.

Comforter of man the best!

Making the sad soul thy guest;

Sweet refreshing in our fears,

In our labor a retreat,

Cooling shadow in the heat,

Solace in our falling tears.

Wash away each earthly stain,

Flow o’er this parched waste again,

Real the wounds of conscience sore,

Bind the stubborn will within,

Thaw the icy chains of sin,

Guide us, that we stray no more.

Give to Thy believers, give,

In Thy holy hope who live,

All Thy sevenfold dower of love;

Give the sure reward of faith,

Give the love that conquers death,

Give unfailing joy above.

Notker, surnamed the Older, or Balbulus (“the little Stammerer, “from a slight lisp in his speech), was born about 850 of a noble family in Switzerland, educated in the convent of St. Gall, founded by Irish missionaries, and lived there as an humble monk. He died about 912, and was canonized in 1512.490490    Comp. on Notker the biography of Ekkehard; Daniel V. 37 sqq.; Koch I. 94 sqq.; Meyer von Knonau,Lebensbild des heil. Notker von St. Gallen, and his article in Herzog2X. 648 sqq. (abridged in Schaff-Herzog II. 1668); and Ans. Schubiger, Die Sängerschule St. Gallens vom 8ten his 12ten Jahrh. (Einsiedlen, 1858). Daniel II. 3-31 gives thirty-five pieces under the title Notker et Notkeriana. Neale (p. 32) gives a translation of one sequence: Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia.

He is famous as the reputed author of the Sequences (Sequentiae), a class of hymns in rythmical prose, hence also called Proses (Prosae). They arose from the custom of prolonging the last syllable in singing the Allelu-ia of the Gradual, between the Epistle and the Gospel, while the deacon was ascending from the altar to the rood-loft (organ-loft), that he might thence sing the Gospel. This prolongation was called jubilatio or jubilus, or laudes, on account of its jubilant tone, and sometimes sequentia (Greek ajkolouqiva), because it followed the reading of the Epistle or the Alleluia. Mystical interpreters made this unmeaning prolongation of a mere sound the echo of the jubilant music of heaven. A further development was to set words to these notes in rythmical prose for chanting. The name sequence was then applied to the text and in a wider sense also to regular metrical and rhymed hymns. The book in which Sequences were collected was called Sequentiale.491491    For further information on Sequences see especially Neale’s Epistola Critica de Sequentiis at the beginning of the fifth vol. of Daniel’s Thes. (p. 3-36), followed by literary notices of Daniel; also the works of Bartsch and Kehrein (who gives the largest collection), and Duffield in Schaff’s Rel. Encyl. III. 161. Neale defines a sequentia: “prolongatio syllabae τοῦ Alleluia.”

Notker marks the transition from the unmeaning musical sequence to the literary or poetic sequence. Over thirty poems bear his name. His first, attempt begins with the line

“Laudes Deo concinat orbis ubique totus.”

More widely circulated is his Sequence of the Holy Spirit:

“Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia.”

“The grace of the Holy Spirit be present with us.”492492    Translated by Neale, p. 32.

The best of all his compositions, which is said to have been inspired by the sight of the builders of a bridge over an abyss in the Martinstobe, is a meditation on death (Antiphona de morte):

“Media vita in morte sumus:

Quem quaerimus adiutorem nisi te, Domine,

Qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris?

Sancte Deus, sancte fortis,

Sancte et misericors Salvator:

Amarae morti ne tradas nos.”493493    Daniel, II. 329; Mone, I. 397. Several German versions, one by Luther (1524): ”Mitten wir im Leben sind mit dem Tod umfangen.” This version is considerably enlarged and has been translated into English by Miss Winkworth in “Lyra Germanica” : “In the midst of life behold Death has girt us round. See notes in Schaff’s Deutsches Gesangbuch, No. 446.

This solemn prayer is incorporated in many burial services. In the Book of Common Prayer it is thus enlarged:

“In the midst of life we be in death:

Of whom may we seek for succour, but of Thee,

O Lord, which for our sins justly art moved?

Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty,

O holy and most merciful Saviour,

Deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts.

Shut not up thy merciful eyes to our prayers:

But spare us, Lord most holy,

O God most mighty,

O holy and merciful Saviour,

Thou most worthy Judge eternal,

Suffer us not, at our last hour,

For any pains of death,

To fall from Thee.”494494    The text is taken from The First Book of Edward VI., 1549 (as republished by Dr. Morgan Dix, N. Y. 1881, p. 268). In the revision of the Prayer Book the third line was thus improved:
   O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased (irasceris).”

Peter Damiani (d. 1072), a friend of Hildebrand and promoter of his hierarchical refrms, wrote a solemn hymn on the day of death:

Gravi me terrore pulsas vitae dies ultima",”495495    Daniel, I. 224. English Versions by Neale, Benedict, and Washburn (l. c. p. 145). German translation by Königsfeld: “Wie du mich mit Schrecken schüttelst.” Neale (p. 52) calls this “an awful hymn, the Dies Irae of individual life.” His version begins:
“O what terror in thy forethought, Ending scene in mortal life!”

“With what heavy fear thou smitest.”

He is perhaps also the author of the better known descriptive poem on the Glory and Delights of Paradise, which is usually assigned to St. Augustin:

“Ad perennis vitae fontem mens sitivit arida,

Claustra carnis praesto frangi clausa quaerit anima:

Gliscit, ambit, eluctatur exsul frui patria.”496496    Daniel, I. 116-118 (Rhythmus de gloria et gaudiis Paradisi), under the name of St. Augustin. So also Clément, Carmina, p. 162-166, who says that it is, attributed to Augustin ”per les melleurs critiques,” and that it is “un reflet de la Cité de Dieu.” But the great African father put his poetry into prose, and only furnished inspiring thoughts to poets. German translation by Königsfeld (who gives it likewise under the name of St. Augustin) ”Nach des ew’gen Lebens Quellen.”

The subordinate hymn-writers of our period are the following:497497    See their hymns in Daniel, I. 183 sqq., and partly in Mone, and Clément.

Isidor of Seville (Isidoris Hispalensis, 560–636). A hymn on St. Agatha: “Festum insigne prodiit.”

Cyxilla of Spain. Hymnus de S. Thurso et sociis: Exulta nimium turba fidelium.”

Eugenius of Toledo. Oratio S. Eugenii Toletani Episcopi: “Rex Deus.”

Paulus Diaconus (720–800), of Monte Casino, chaplain of Charlemagne, historian of the Lombards, and author of a famous collection of homilies. On John the Baptist (“Ut queant laxis),498498   From this poem (see Daniel I. 209 sq.) Guido of Arezzo got names for the six notes Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La:
   Ut queant laxis Re-sonare fibris

   Mi-ra gestorum Fa-muli tuorum,

   Sol ve polluti La-bii reatum,

   Sancte Joannes.”
and on the Miracles of St. Benedict (Fratres alacri pectore).

Odo of Cluny (d. 941). A hymn on St. Mary Magdalene day, “Lauda, Mater Ecclesiae,” translated by Neale: “Exalt, O mother Church, to-day, The clemency of Christ, thy Lord.” It found its way into the York Breviary.

Godescalcus (Gottschalk, d. about 950, not to be confounded with his predestinarian namesake, who lived in the ninth century), is next to Notker, the best writer of sequences or proses, as “Laus Tibi, Christe” (“Praise be to Thee, O Christ”), and Coeli enarrant (“The heavens declare the glory”), both translated by Neale.

Fulbert Of Chartres (died about 1029) wrote a paschal hymn adopted in several Breviaries: “Chorus novae Jerusalem” (“Ye choirs of New Jerusalem”), translated by Neale.

A few of the choicest hymns of our period, from the sixth to the twelfth century are anonymous.499499    See Daniel, Hymni adespotoi circa sec. VI-IX. conscripti, I. 191 sqq. Mone gives a larger number. To these belong:

“Hymnum dicat turba fratrum.” A morning hymn mentioned by Bede as a fine specimen of the trochaic tetrameter.

“Sancti venite.” A communion hymn.

“Urbs beata Jerusalem.”500500    In the Roman Breviary: ”Coelestis urbs Jerusalem.” Neale thinks that the changes in the revised Breviary of Urban VIII. have deprived “this grand hymn of half of its beauty.” It is from the eighth century, and one of those touching New Jerusalem hymns which take their inspiration from the last chapter of St. John’s Apocalypse, and express the Christian’s home-sickness after heaven. The following is the first stanza (with Neale’s translation):

“Urbs beata Jerusalem,

Dicta pacis visio,

Quae construitur in coelo

Vivis ex lapidibus,

Et angelis coronata

Ut sponsata comite.”

Blessed City, Heavenly Salem,

Vision dear of Peace and Love,

Who, of living stones upbuilded,

Art the joy of Heav’n above,

And, with angel cohorts circled,

As a bride to earth dost move!”

“Apparebit repentina.” An alphabetic and acrostic poem on the Day of Judgment, based on Matt. 25:31–36; from the seventh century; first mentioned by Bede, then long lost sight of; the forerunner of the Dies Irae, more narrative than lyrical, less sublime and terrific, but equally solemn. The following are the first lines in Neale’s admirable translation:501501    See the original in Daniel, I. 194. Other English translations by Mrs. Charles, and E. C. Benedict. In German by Königsfeld: ”Plötzlich wird der Tag erscheinen.”

“That great Day of wrath and terror,

That last Day of woe and doom,

Like a thief that comes at midnight,

On the sons of men shall come;

When the pride and pomp of ages

All shall utterly have passed,

And they stand in anguish, owning

That the end is here at last;

And the trumpet’s pealing clangor,

Through the earth’s four quarters spread,

Waxing loud and ever louder,

Shall convoke the quick and dead:

And the King of heavenly glory

Shall assume His throne on high,

And the cohorts of His angels

Shall be near Him in the sky:

And the sun shall turn to sackcloth,

And the moon be red as blood,

And the stars shall fall from heaven,

Whelm’d beneath destruction’s flood.

Flame and fire, and desolation

At the Judge’s feet shall go:

Earth and sea, and all abysses

Shall His mighty sentence know.”

“Ave, Maris Stella.” This is the favorite mediaeval Mary hymn, and perhaps the very best of the large number devoted to the worship of the “Queen of heaven,” which entered so deeply into the piety and devotion of the Catholic church both in the East and the West. It is therefore given here in full with the version of Edward Caswall.502502    Daniel (I. 204) says of this hymn: ”Hic hymnus Marianus, quem Catholica semper ingenti cum favore prosecuta est, in omnibus breviarriis, quae inspiciendi unquam mihi occasio data est, ad honorem beatissimae virginis cantandus praescribitur, inprimis in Annunciatione; apud permultos tamen aliis quoque diebus Festis Marianis adscriptus est. Quae hymni reverentia ad recentiora usque tempora permansit.” It is one of the few hymns which Urban VIII. did not alter in his revision of the Breviary. Mone (II. 216, 218, 220, 228) gives four variations of Ave Maris Stella, which is used as the text.

“Ave, Maris Stella,503503    This designation of Mary is supposed to be meant for a translation of the name; maria being taken for the plural of mare: see Gen. I: 10 (Vulgate) ”congregationes aquarum appellavit maria. Et vidit Deus, quod esset bonum.” (See the note in Daniel, I. 205). Surely a most extraordinary exposition, not to say imposition, yet not too far-fetched for the middle ages, when Greek and Hebrew were unknown, when the Scriptures were supposed to have four senses, and allegorical and mystical fancies took the place of grammatical and historical exegesis.

Dei Mater alma

Atque semper Virgo,

Felix coeli porta.

Hail, thou Star-of-Ocean,

Portal of the sky,

Ever-Virgin Mother

Of the Lord Most High!

Sumens illud Ave

Gabrielis ore,

Funda nos in pace,

Mutans nomen Evae.504504    The comparison of Mary with Eve—the mother of obedience contrasted with the mother of disobedience, the first Eve bringing in guilt and ruin, the second, redemption and bliss—is as old as Irenaeus (about 180) and is the fruitful germ of Mariolatry. The mystical change of Eva and Ave is mediaeval—a sort of pious conundrum.

Oh, by Gabriel’s Ave

Uttered long ago

Eva’s name reversing,

’Stablish peace below!

Solve vincla reis

Profer lumen coecis,

Mala nostra pelle,

Bona cuncta posce.

Break the captive’s fetters,

Light on blindness pour,

All our ills expelling,

Every bliss implore.

Monstra te esse matrem,505505    The words of our Lord to John: “Behold thy mother” (John 19:27), were supposed to be spoken to all Christians.

Sumat per te precem,

Qui pro nobis natus

Tulit esse tuus.

Show thyself a mother,

Offer Him our sighs,

Who, for us Incarnate,

Did not thee despise.

Virgo singularis,

Inter omnes mitis,

Nos culpis solutos

Mites facet castos.

Virgin of all virgins!

To thy shelter take us—

Gentlest of the gentle!

Chaste and gentle make us.

Vitam praesta puram

Iter para tutum,

Ut videntes Iesum

Semper collaetemur.

Still as on we journey,

Help our weak endeavor,

Till with thee and Jesus,

We rejoice for ever.

Sit laus Deo Patri,

Summo Christo decus,

Spiritui Sancto

Honor trinus et unus.

Through the highest heaven

To the Almighty Three,

Father, Son, and Spirit,

One same glory be.

The Latin hymnody was only, for priests and monks, and those few who understood the Latin language. The people listened to it as they do to the mass, and responded with the Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, which passed from the Greek church into the Western litanies. As the modern languages of Europe developed themselves out of the Latin, and out of the Teutonic, a popular poetry arose during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and afterwards received a powerful impulse from the Reformation. Since that time the Protestant churches, especially in Germany and England, have produced the richest hymnody, which speaks to the heart of the people in their own familiar tongue, and is, next to the Psalter, the chief feeder of public and private devotion. In this body of evangelical hymns the choicest Greek and Latin hymns in various translations, reproductions, and transformations occupy an honored place and serve as connecting links between past and modern times in the worship of the same God and Saviour.

« Prev Latin Hymns and Hymnists Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection