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A. D. 800-900

Each Christian people has brought its own characteristic tribute to the vast treasury of devotional thought and literature, which is the common property of the whole Christian Church. The tribute of Germany is pre-eminently that of sacred song, of verse and music in combination and adapted for use in the Church and among the people. Her literature begins with a work of religious poetry, and from that time onwards has been always remarkably rich in productions of this class. The very genius of the people--its inborn love for music, especially for part-singing, its bent towards the expression of feeling in the lyrical form--peculiarly fitted it for this work; and the result has been the creation of a literature of hymns and hymn-tunes, which has had a wide influence not only within but beyond Germany. The hymn-books of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, and in part those of Holland, consist, to a large extent (until recently it would have been correct, we believe, to say, almost entirely), of translations and adaptations from the German; which have, however, become so completely 4 naturalized among the people that their alien origin is forgotten, and they have furnished the model on which the hymns of native growth have been composed. In Switzerland, in the Protestant Church of France, and to some extent in Holland, the spread of the German hymns has been checked by the influence of the Calvinistic Churches, which have always feared to give a prominent place to art of any kind in the worship of God--rather indeed have allowed it to creep in on sufferance, than delighted to introduce it as a free-will offering of beauty. Yet here, too, hymns adopted from the German, or of the German type, have gradually made their way. In England the national character of our Reformation has left less scope for the influence of foreign elements. Our Church has distinguished its services more by the beauty of its prayers than its hymns, while our Nonconformist sects have been strongly imbued with those Calvinistic views of worship of whose influence we have just spoken. But a people with so marked a genius for poetry as the English, could not but use their gift in the service of religion as well as in secular ways; though the fact that hymns occupied a less important place in the religious worship of England than Germany, produced a marked difference in form in the compositions of the two countries. Germany's preeminence is in her hymns; but in sacred poetry not of this class, she has had no names of equal rank with those of Milton or Herbert of old, or Keble, Coleridge, and Wordsworth in the present day. In course of time, however, her hymns reached us too. There can be no doubt that the acquaintance of the Wesleys with the stores of her hymnology led them to see both the 5 beauty of this form of poetry and the immense advantages that might be drawn from it, in spreading a knowledge of the truth among the common people, and in increasing the warmth and attractiveness of worship. They not only translated many German hymns, but wrote a large number themselves in the same style; and it is from their time that the impulse dates which has led to the study of hymnology, not only of English or German, but also of Latin and Eastern growth, and to the rise among us of a large number of new and very good hymn-writers and hymn-books.

The story of the hymnology of Germany in the sense we have here given it, begins properly speaking with the Reformation. It was not until the people possessed the word of God and liberty to worship Him in their own language, that such a body of hymns could be created, though vernacular hymns and sacred lyrics had existed in Germany throughout the Middle Ages. But it was then that a great outburst of national poetry and music took place which reflected the spirit of those times; and on a somewhat smaller scale the same thing has happened both before and since that time at every great crisis in the history of the German people. The most marked of these periods are the twelfth and thirteenth centuries--the era of the Crusades abroad and the rise of the great cities at home; the Reformation; the great struggle for religious liberty in the seventeenth century; and the revival of literature towards the close of the eighteenth century, after the exhaustion that followed the Thirty Years' War.

As far back, however, as we hear anything of the 6 German race, we hear of their love for song. They sang hymns, we are told, in their heathen worship, and lays in honour of their heroes at their banquets; and their heaven was pictured as echoing with the songs of the brave heroes who had fallen in battle. The first dawn of Christianity came to the Gothic races from Greece, but in Southern Germany it seems to have proceeded from the many missionaries who were sent out by the British and Irish monasteries in the sixth century, who sought no special authorization from Rome, and did not carry with them the Roman liturgy. But the chief instruments in the conversion of the remoter regions were the Anglo-Saxon monk Winifred, better known as St. Boniface, who was martyred in 755, and Charlemagne. Both these great men saw the imperative need of some centre of unity and order to restore society and preserve anything of faith or of letters in those times of utter chaos and discord, and believed that they had found the means to this end in the unity of the Church. That they greatly promoted civilization there is no doubt, but their work, even that of Boniface, had its darker side, where it came in contact with an already existing Christianity, and forcibly repressed what was national and distinctive in its character. For wherever they went they introduced at once not only the Christian religion, but the hierarchy and liturgy of Rome, and with it the Gregorian Church music and the Latin hymns.

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