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Title: The Latin Hymn-writers and Their Hymns

Author: Samuel Willoughby Duffield

Editor: R. E. Thompson

Release date: June 13, 2017 [eBook #54903]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Stephen Hutcheson


The Latin Hymn-Writers And Their Hymns


Author of “The Heavenly Land,” “Warp and Woof,” “The Burial of the Dead,” and “English Hymns: Their Authors and History.”

Of the University of Pennsylvania.

“Et semper in hunc studiorum quare munitissimum portum ex hujus temporis tempestatibus lubenter confugissem.”—H. A. Daniel.

“In diesem Sinne betrachte ich diese, uns von der Vorzeit überlieferten ehrwürdigen und erhabenen Kirchlichen Dichtungen als ein geistiges Gemeingut.”—G. A. Konigsfeld.

All Rights Reserved.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1889, by
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C.


Editor’s Preface iii
Introduction viii
I The Praise Service of the Early Church xi
II The Study of the Latin Hymns 12
III Hilary of Poitiers and the Earliest Latin Hymns 19
IV Pope Damasus and the Beginning of Rhyme 35
V Ambrose 47
VI Prudentius, the First Christian Poet 63
VII Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia 73
VIII Caelius Sedulius and his Alphabet Hymn 83
IX Venantius Fortunatus the Troubadour 88
X Gregorius Magnus [540-604] 97
XI The Venerable Bede 109
XII Rabanus Maurus, Author of the “Veni, Creator” 114
XIII Notker of St. Gall, Called Balbulus 132
XIV Walafrid Strabo 143
XV Hermannus Contractus and the “Veni Sancte Spiritus” 149
XVI Peter Damiani, Cardinal and Flagellant 169
XVII Hildebert and his Hymn 179
XVIII Bernard of Clairvaux 186
XIX Abelard 194
XX Peter the Venerable 214
XXI Bernard of Cluny 222
XXII Adam of St. Victor 227
XXIII Thomas of Celano 240
XXIV Thomas Aquinas and John Bonaventura 255
XXV Jacoponus and the “Stabat Mater” 272
XXVI Thomas À Kempis 283
XXVII Francis Xavier, Missionary to the Indies (1506-52) 298
XXVIII The Hymn-Writers of the Breviary 316
XXIX The Unknown and the Less Known Hymn-Writers [Fourth to Tenth Century] 347
XXX The Unknown and the Less Known Hymn-Writers [Tenth to Sixteenth Century] 370
XXXI Latin Hymnology and Protestantism 401
XXXIII Index to Translated Hymns 446
Appendix 485
Appendix II The Carmina Burana 495
Appendix III The Four Crazed Brothers 497
General Index 499
Index to Latin Hymns Quoted or Mentioned 507


Some months before the death of my true hearted friend, Rev. S. W. Duffield, he wrote to express his wish that I should complete this work, if he did not live to finish it. As I was not aware how grave, and even hopeless, was his illness, I did not feel that I was undertaking a serious responsibility in assenting to his wish. But his untimely death brought to me the duty of discharging a wish which “the emphasis of death” made imperative.

In our conferences over the book and its subject, which we had had for three years past, I had come to appreciate Mr. Duffield’s ideas as to its form and content, and read with much interest his preliminary studies in the Christian Intelligencer, the Sunday-School Times, and the New Englander. On coming into possession of his manuscript and notes, I found that the greater part of the book had been carried almost to the point of readiness for the printer, although several chapters had not been written and all needed careful revision.

I have revised throughout the chapters Mr. Duffield left, but in doing so I have been embarrassed by the very vitality and personal quality in Mr. Duffield’s style. He reminds one of what Archdeacon Hare says of the freshness and living force in a page of Luther’s. This has constrained me to leave intact many a phrase or expression I should not have used, but which was natural and even inevitable in him. It is my hope that I have not sacrificed this admirable quality of his writing to any pedantry of judgment.

The chapters on Pope Damasus (Chapter IV.) I have rewritten throughout. That on Bernard of Cluny I have rearranged, but without much alteration. That on Thomas of Celano I have rewritten to the top of page 252. That on Hermann of Reichenau I should have liked to rewrite; but as I dissented from some of its arguments, I feared to more than retouch it. It stands as a iv monument of its author’s vehement conviction that in Hermann he had found the true author of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.

The later chapters, from Thomas Aquinas, with the exception of those on Jacoponus and Xavier, are the work of the editor alone. In preparing them I have followed the author’s own plan for the book, except (1) in treating of the less-known as well as the unknown hymn-writers in Chapters XXX. and XXXI.; (2) in inserting a chapter on the relations of Protestantism to Latin hymnology; and (3) in giving in the last chapter only a selection from Mr. Duffield’s great Index of the Latin Hymns, which I hope to see published complete in a separate book. Translations not credited to any other person are the work of Mr. Duffield.

Mr. Duffield’s own idea of his book is well expressed in the Introduction which follows this Preface. I give it as he left it, although he had noted his purpose to prepare another which would cover the ground more fully. It now remains to say something of the man personally, and in this I am indebted much to the assistance of his faithful coworker in his hymnological studies, Miss Lilian B. Day of Bloomfield, who copied his great Index of the Latin Hymns, and who prepared the indexes to both his English Hymns and the present volume.

Samuel Augustus Willoughby Duffield was born at Brooklyn, on September 24th, 1843. His family was of French Huguenot extraction (Du Field), and found a home in the North of Ireland after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Between 1725 and 1730 George Duffield, his ancestor by five removes, settled in Lancaster County, as one of the great Ulster emigration which was flowing into Pennsylvania. His son George graduated at Princeton, and after several pastorates was settled in Philadelphia in the Pine Street church. He was an ardent patriot, chaplain in Washington’s army, and Bishop White’s associate in the chaplaincy of the Continental Congress. Of two sons who survived him, one became a minister, while the other took a prominent part in public life. His grandson, Rev. George Duffield, D.D. (1796-1868) was a leader of the New School division of the Presbyterian Church, both before and after the separation of 1837, and while pastor at Carlisle was arraigned for unsound teaching in his work on Regeneration. “Barnes, Beman, and Duffield” were the v three names most offensive to the Aristarchuses of orthodoxy in that time. He was married to a sister of Dr. George W. Bethune. His son, generally known in our times as Dr. George Duffield, Jr., to distinguish him from his father, was born in 1818 at Carlisle, graduated at Yale College in 1837, and at Union Theological Seminary. One of his pastorates was in Brooklyn, from 1840 to 1847, during which his son, Samuel Augustus Willoughby, was born. He is best known as a hymn-writer, two of his hymns being known and loved wherever the English language is spoken. They are, “Blessed Saviour, Thee I love,” and “Stand up, stand up for Jesus,” the latter being suggested by the dying words of Dudley Tyng in 1858.

Samuel W. Duffield was of the sixth American generation of his family. From his youth he was a young giant, with an inborn love of active sports, quick in movement, and apparently incapable of fatigue. His mind showed equal vigor and freshness, and he early developed a passion for poetry. By his tenth year he had mastered Chaucer, in spite of difficulties much more serious to beginners in those days than in our own. And he very early began to find expression for his own ideas in verse. He united with the Church at the age of thirteen, when his father was a pastor in Philadelphia, being the only one who did so at the time, so that the act was the result of personal decision and not of a revival excitement. He graduated at Yale in 1863; and after teaching for a while, he began the study of theology under the care of his grandfather and his father. Not until after he had been licensed to preach, and had had charge of a mission in Chicago, did he present himself as a student in Union Theological Seminary.

His first pastorate was from 1867 to 1870 at Tioga, one of the northern suburbs of Philadelphia. As he frequently came to the office of the American Presbyterian, on which I was assisting the late Dr. John W. Mears, I then formed an acquaintance with him, which ripened into a friendship that was to be lifelong, and I hope even longer. He was an impressive figure, of more than the ordinary height, and yet so massively built that he was seen to be tall only when beside another person. His manner was cheerful, affectionate and buoyant, giving evidence in various ways of his French descent. His character was winning and attractive by its openness, and its entire freedom from selfishness. He was a man vi out of whose heart the child never died, and he carried the freshness of his boyhood’s years into the mature pursuits of his manhood.

Our common love of poetry and our dawning interest in Latin hymnology—he had translated Bernard of Cluny and was trying his hand on the Dies Irae in those days—drew us closer together and gave our friendship an intellectual interest. When he left Tioga for Jersey City our intercourse became more fragmentary, but during his pastorate at Ann Arbor (1871-74) it was renewed by correspondence. He felt himself especially at home in the university city of Michigan, with a congregation composed largely of the students. Here he had the delight of welcoming Dr. George Macdonald to his pulpit, when the poet visited America in 1873. He worked hard to have me called to the Chair of English Literature in the University of Michigan, but did not succeed.

Chicago, 1874, Auburn, 1876, Altoona, 1878, and Bloomfield, 1882, were his subsequent pastorates; and in Bloomfield he remained until his death. In this New Jersey suburb of New York City he seemed to find himself especially at home. It was indeed the home of his early boyhood, for his father had been pastor of the same church from 1847 to 1852; he well remembered his playmates and schoolmates, and kept up his acquaintance by correspondence and visits, until he came among them as their pastor. He was near enough to the great city to find easy access to its libraries, especially the Astor Library and that of Union Seminary, and to enjoy the friendship of scholars of tastes similar to his own, especially that of Dr. Charles S. Robinson. He found a congenial people in his congregation. He took a lively interest in matters relating to the welfare of the town, was an active member of the Village Improvement Association, labored hard to establish a public library, and helped to set on foot a good weekly paper. He became Chaplain of the Fire Company, and preached a special sermon every year to its members. He spoke always with enthusiasm of his new environment, and seemed to look forward to many happy and useful years there. His home life, I shall only say, was especially happy and helpful to him. Among his delights was to watch the dawning powers of a daughter, who inherits all her father’s poetic gifts.

His best poetical work is still unpublished, except such parts of vii it as have appeared in the Sunday-School Times and other weeklies. His first venture was The Heavenly Land, from the Rhythm of Bernard of Morlaix (New York, 1867). His second and most characteristic book was Warp and Woof: A Book of Verse (1868), in which “Undergraduate Orioles” and some other pieces at once attracted attention by their felicitous beauty and genuineness. Along with his father, he prepared The Burial of the Dead (1882), a manual for use at funerals. In the long interval between these two dates he was already laboring at his book on the Latin hymn-writers. “During the years 1882-85,” writes Miss Day, “those of us who saw him most frequently on his way to and from the New York libraries came to recognize a large, square note-book and a green cloth bag as his inseparable Monday companions. Something of their contents we knew, for with his genial disposition he could not refrain from quoting snatches of the old Latin hymns with translations into musical English. But no one could appreciate the real worth of the knowledge concealed between cloth and board as did the student himself, who had spent the hours of leisure snatched from professional labors in the libraries, and among Latin quartos and folios, in search of the materials for his book. During the latter part of 1885 the Latin hymn-writers were laid aside for a while to give time for his work on English Hymns: Their Authors and History (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886),” which was suggested by the appearance of Dr. Robinson’s Laudes Domini in 1884, and is mainly an account of the hymns included in that work, and of their authors. When this was finished he returned to his opus magnum, in the expectation of having it soon ready for the press. From our conferences and correspondence I was led to hope for its early appearance. But this was not to be. A failure of the vessels of the heart, evidently from some constitutional weakness, as he had been making no special exertion when it showed itself, was the beginning of the end. Twelve weary months of illness, spent partly in Bloomfield and partly at a watering-place, to which he had gone for change of air, were followed by his death on May 12th, 1887. He died as he had lived, in the full assurance of the Gospel, and looking for life everlasting in Jesus Christ.

The news of his death was received with grief by the whole community, especially by the young people, with whom he had so viii lively a sympathy. The Bloomfield Fire Company displayed their flag at half-mast, placed a guard of honor over his remains during the forty hours they lay at the church, and attended his funeral in a body. Signs of the general mourning were seen everywhere, and the town felt it had lost a public-spirited citizen, while his church had lost a faithful and devoted pastor. Mingled with memoranda for his book, I find in his note-books other indications of the breadth and energy of his work for the spiritual and intellectual improvement of his people, especially through his lectures before the Young People’s Society of the Westminster Church.

In the city of the dead at Detroit, where his kindred lie buried, there stands a memorial stone, which bears the inscription:


Beside him lies now the mortal part of the much-loved father who wrote these words. Dr. George Duffield the younger died July 6, 1888.



The study of the Latin hymns is so much a thing of its own kind that one owes it to himself as well as to his readers to begin at the beginning. This beginning in the present instance happened to be on the North River, on a bright, fresh April morning in the year of grace 1882. It was at that time, with the clear sky overhead and the hearty breeze coming full in our faces from the Narrows, that my friend, the Rev. F. N. Zabriskie, D.D., broached the following proposition:

It was, he said, a matter of great surprise to him that no one had done for the Latin hymn-writers what had been done for those of later date. We had their hymns, but for his part he confessed to a love for the personality of the poets themselves, and for the circumstances which conspired to produce their poems. Now, if it seemed good to myself, who had already given time and study to the hymns, he would gladly open the columns of the Christian Intelligencer (the organ of the Reformed Church in America) to a series of articles bearing such a character. And there and then the book began.

But my original ideas modified greatly as I went on. In place of my mastering the subject, the subject mastered me. My previous studies went for but very little, and my confidence in my ability to prepare the articles without taking much time from regular and important duties diminished with every number. I found myself on new ground and was perpetually referred back to the original authorities. French and German and Latin—I had to investigate them all in order to satisfy that insatiate creature, a scholar’s conscience. I discovered that, except for rare and slight notices, this sort of work had neither been done nor was likely to be done, and conferences with our best hymnologists only made x me more interested in doing it, and doing it as well as I could. Doubtless those whose specialities lie in mediaeval days will find much to criticise, but no one can be a severer critic than myself according to my means of information.

These chapters, like this Introduction, will be found to be written in the American language. Their purpose is to reach the popular desire for better knowledge, and it would be absurd to offer these facts in any dry or pedantic style. Yet the scholar and the hymnologist will both find that a positive value and a careful accuracy attach to the work that has been done. I found I could take nothing for granted, and I took nothing for granted. Even the Archbishop of Dublin and the principal of Sackville College have their idiosyncrasies and predilections, and a quite easy way of writing on these topics is to copy what has been said already. A very notable case to the contrary is Lord Selborne’s splendid article on “Hymns” in the new Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Therefore life and song and color are not absent, I trust, from these pages. I should not like to give all the authorities consulted or rummaged through; for, indeed, I have kept no record of them. Like the famous sun-dial I have registered none but the serene hours, and many a time the scarce and long-sought volume before me has been jejune enough. While, on the other hand, a book like Morison’s Life of St. Bernard has turned out to be precisely the help I was seeking, bright in its style and careful and original in its researches. I have verified its quotations too often not to pay it at least this faint tribute of approval.

It would be also beyond measure ungrateful in me if I did not here acknowledge the kindnesses I have received in this quest after the Sangreal of a true psalmody. Let me name, then, the Astor Library. Its superintendent, Mr. Little, and its librarians, Mr. Frederick Saunders (author of Evenings with the Sacred Poets), and his assistant, Mr. Bierstadt, have been uniformly courteous and obliging. So has been the Rev. Professor Charles A. Briggs, D.D., in whose care is the fine theological library of Union Seminary. So have been the authorities of the Society Library (New York), and of the Philadelphia Library, and of the Boston Athenaeum and Public libraries.

Personally, I am deeply indebted to the culture and friendship of Miss Marion L. Pelton, Assistant Professor of Literature in xi Wellesley College, who has made for me many valuable notes; and to the assistance and counsel of Professor F. A. March, LL.D., Professor F. M. Bird, Professor Philip Schaff, D.D., and Judge W. H. Arnoux.

It will be readily seen that I have not concerned myself with the matter of the host of English translations, or with that of the comparison and criticism of the text of the hymns. These branches of hymnology are in a scientific sense the most valuable, but in a popular sense they are the least interesting. And I could not hope to rival, far less to equal, such illustrious scholarship as that of Daniel or Mone. I have therefore been content to pipe to a lesser reed, and in a more familiar and gossiping way to attempt the history of the hymns. And for the rest I can only add what Master Robert Burton saith in his Anatomy of Melancholy: “If through weakness, folly, passion, ignorance, I have said amiss, let it be forgotten and forgiven.... I earnestly request every private man, as Scaliger did Cardan, not to take offence.... If thou knewest my modesty and simplicity, thou wouldest easily pardon and forgive what is here amiss, or by thee misconceived.”

Samuel Willoughby Duffield.

Bloomfield, N. J., U. S. A.




When our Lord and His disciples “had sung an hymn” they left the place where they had observed the passover, and went out to the Mount of Olives. This hymn was the “Great Hallel,” consisting of Psalms 113 to 118 inclusive. The 113th and 114th were sung previous to the feast; the others, after it. We thus know, with singular accuracy, what was the first hymn of praise in the Christian Church. The essence of this “Hallel” is the essence of all true psalmody—trust and thanksgiving and praise.

It may be said, and with truth, that the Magnificat of Mary, the Nunc Dimittis of old Simeon, and, above all, that the Gloria in Excelsis Deo of the angels at Bethlehem, antedate this hymn of our Lord and His apostles. It may also be said, and with the same truth, that these furnished to the early Christians their earliest expressions of praise. But it appears that the Last Supper, with its pathetic union of Jewish and Christian ideas, was also the place at which the Psalms of David and the spiritual songs of primitive Christianity were united. The thought that this reveals is larger than these limits will permit us to discuss. It is in brief that as Jesus Christ came, “not to destroy, but to fulfil,” He designed to show to His Church that gratitude, love, trust, and adoration were to be combined in all future psalmody. The t’hillim of the Jew were to become the hymni of the Christian.

The noticeable fact remains that the early Church only caught the simplest and most fervent forms of this worship. Their pure veneration of the Lord led Pliny to write (Ep. 10:97) that they 2 “sung alternately among themselves a hymn to Christ as God”—carmen Christo quasi Deo, dicere secum invicem. It is this loving devotion which charms us as we read those verses which have been preserved. For the most part the subjects are limited. We could naturally expect that, being largely drawn from Jewish sources, they would express gratitude and adoration—and this is correct. Chrysostom declared that the early Christians sung at prayers in the morning, at their work, and very usually at their meals. Jerome, writing to Marcellus, says—and we quote Cave’s translation for its quaintness—“You could not go into the field but you might hear the Ploughman at his Hallelujahs, the Mower at his Hymns, and the Vine-dresser singing David’s Psalms.” In fact, Christian song was a notable feature of primitive Christianity.

The language of these hymns was either Syriac or Greek. By degrees the Greek obtained the precedence; and as the Latin hymns did not arise until Hilary of Poitiers (fourth century), the period between the Ascension and that era belongs to the Greek language rather more than to any other. We also know from the New Testament writers some very important facts, which may properly be classified at this point.

1. There were three terms for the sacred song. It might be a psalm, or a hymn, or a spiritual song, as we discover from Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

2. From 1 Corinthians 14:23-33, it seems plain that the composition, as well as the singing of these hymns and songs, might be the result of sudden emotion or inspiration. In any case, there is no doubt (for Tertullian decisively states it) that the “extempore,” or, more strictly, “private” authorship of such psalmody was not uncommon. The council of Laodicea (circa A.D. 360) interdicted private persons from this privilege. Even in Paul’s time it would appear to have produced an effect akin to the “spirituals” of our own freedmen—much of it being exquisite in its simple devotion, while a certain share offended good taste, and hindered the propriety and solemnity of worship.

3. The alternation of prayer with praise was never better illustrated than when Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25) sent up their midnight anthems from that “inner prison,” while their feet were “made fast in the stocks.” This alternation was—as the Fathers assure us—the order in public worship also.


4. We have received in the very pages of the New Testament some of these earliest hymns. To say nothing, at present, of those great leading chants which bear the names of the angels, and of Mary, and of Zacharias, and of Simeon—and to pass over all those of Jewish origin—we have still left us such a strain as that in Acts 4:24-30. Here we have an impulse which expresses itself in reply to Peter and John by sacred song.

Ephesians 5:14 has also been considered to be such a fragment:

“Awake, O thou that sleepest!

Arouse thee from the dead!

And Christ shall give to thee


So too 1 Timothy 3:16 has been arranged by some scholars as though it were a well-known strophe the Apostle quoted:

“Who—for the mystery is great—

Was manifest in body,

Was justified in spirit,

Was visible to angels,

Was heralded to heathen,

Was trusted on the earth,

Was taken up to glory.”

Nor is this the only instance in this very Epistle, for 1 Timothy 6:15, 16, reads:

“The king of all the kingly ones,

The lord of all the lordly ones,

Who only hath the power of life immortal;

Inhabiting the unapproachable light;

Whom never any one of men hath seen,

Nor ever can behold;

Let glory and eternal strength be his!


5. When, now, we complete our New Testament mention of this praise—which clings like incense to the temple-curtains and sweetly perfumes the place—we have only to add the earliest received anthems. These are the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55); the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79); the Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Luke 2:18); and the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32). It will be observed that all these are derived from a single gospel, wherein, more than in any other, the “sweet, sad music of humanity” can 4 most readily be found. It is natural, too, that the painter and physician, Luke, should have a poetic ear which could catch—as in the Acts of the Apostles—this faintest and earliest praise. There were, indeed, in the primitive church, eight of these classic expressions of worship. These are:

(1) The Lesser Doxology (Gloria Patri),
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.”
(2) The Greater Doxology (Gloria in Excelsis),
“Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace,” etc.
[This was also called the Angelical Hymn.]
(3) The Ter Sanctus (the cherubical hymn),
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.”
(4) The Hallelujah.
[This “Alleluia, Amen!” was the response of the church.]
(5) The Evening Hymn (containing the Nunc Dimittis).
(6) The Benedicite.
[The “Song of the Three Children,” which is taken from the Apocrypha, and which appears in the service of the Episcopal Church (Order for Morning Prayer) as, “O all ye works of the Lord,” etc.]
(7) The Magnificat.
[Named—as these are all named—from the first word of the Latin Vulgate version.]
(8) The Te Deum,
“We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord,” etc.

We can feel quite sure that the Latin Church merely borrowed these hymns from the earliest forms of the Greek. The Te Deum was probably translated from that language, either by Hilary of Poitiers or by an unknown author of that date. It is, undoubtedly, a close rendering of many phrases and expressions which are common to the Greek hymns, and, if the learned hymnologist H. A. Daniel is to be credited (Thesaurus Hymnologicus II. 289), it is a real and literal translation of an actual chant of praise of great antiquity. His words are these: “To give you my opinion briefly, the Te Deum, equally with the Angelic Hymn (to which it is very similar in form and expression), was born in the Eastern Church, whence it has been translated into the Latin tongue.” He then proceeds to cite an ancient Greek hymn, five lines of which are exact with the Latin.

In 2 Timothy 2:11-13 the “faithful saying” has been interpreted to be a similar quotation from one of these ancient hymns:


“For if we are dead together,

We shall live together;

If we serve together,

We shall reign together;

If we should deny Him,

He will deny us too;

If we should be faithless,

He is faithful still.”

It does not, of course, absolutely follow that these are really such fragments of hymns as scholars have supposed. The late Dr. Lyman Coleman—a man of great practical good judgment—comments upon these citations thus:

“The argument is not conclusive; and all the learned criticism, the talent, and the taste, that have been employed on this point, leave us little else than uncertain conjecture on which to build an hypothesis.” (Primitive Church, p. 366.) Yet the latest scholarship tends so strongly in this direction, and the internal evidence is so good and fair, that it may be regarded as pretty well affirmed and accepted. No one, for example, would think of comparing such passages as these with the antithetic prose of Romans 3:21-23; or with the magnificent unrhythmic utterance in Romans 8:38, 39; or with the careful particularity of 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. They are seen and felt to be different both in tone and in form.

In the Apocalypse, where the language is naturally exalted and poetic, several such instances have been noted. They are: Revelation 1:4-8; 5:9, 10, 12-14; 11:15, 17, 18; 15:3, 4; 21:10-14, and 22:17. Of one of these—the “Song of Moses and of the Lamb”—we may be reasonably certain:

“Great are Thy works and strange,

Lord God, Thou Ruler of all!

And just are Thy ways, and true,

Thou King of the nations of earth.

For who shall not fear Thee, Lord,

And give to Thy name the praise,

For holy art Thou alone!—

To Thee shall the nations come

And worship before Thy face;

For all of Thy righteous acts

Shall then be openly known!”


In the same manner may be written the stanza from Revelation 22:17:

“And the Spirit and the Bride—

Are saying, ‘Come!’

And he that heareth—

Let him say, ‘Come!’

And he that thirsteth—

Let him come!

And he that willeth—

Let him receive,

Freely, the water of life!”

We have also a positive acquaintance with the order of religious worship in the early Church, dating back one hardly knows how far, but definitely leading us into the custom of the first three centuries. Public services began, and were continued, as follows:

First, Prayer—or, possibly, a Salutation or Invocation, such as is in common use to-day.

Then the Reading of Scripture. The Old Testament and New Testament were both employed: the one being expounded to apply to the case of the Christian Church; and the other for her comfort, encouragement, and edification.

Then followed the Hymns and Psalms. The distinction appears to have been that the psalms were those of David; the hymns, such as the song of Mary, or of the angels; and the spiritual songs, such as were composed by private persons, or which sprang up spontaneously in a kind of chant. That this was liable to abuse, and might cause confusion, is made evident by Paul’s advice to the Corinthians. Between these acts of praise was interpolated some brief Scripture lesson. And, very likely, a considerable portion of time was taken up by this part of the service.

Then came the Sermon, which was succeeded by a Prayer.

Another question now meets us, and one of some importance: Did the early Christians employ any musical instruments? In reply, it can be noted that ψάλλειν, “to make melody” (Eph.5:19), is usually taken to refer to a musical accompaniment. In Romans 15:9 it is a quotation from Psalm 18:50, where it means, “I will sing psalms.” In 1 Corinthians 15:15 (“I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also”) 7 and in James 5:13 (“Is any merry? let him sing psalms”) we have nothing decisive except that we know that the Jewish method of “singing psalms” was to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Thus, with all these texts before us, we are not able either to affirm or deny the fact. The reference of Paul (1 Cor. 14:7) to the pipe (αυλός, flute) and harp (κιθάρα, lute) gives us no assistance. The “harp” of Revelation 5:8, 14:2, and 15:2, is the cithara or lute again; but neither does this tell us what the early Christians did or did not do. The inference is pretty strong that they avoided some things that were Jewish—and instrumental music was a marked feature in the Jew’s worship—but it is plain that (as with the Sabbath question) there was a great deal of blending at the edges between the two dispensations. We are told, moreover, that the Syriac Church has always been rich in tunes, having fully two hundred and seventy-five, while the Greek was confined to about eight.

There is another fact which comes in just here, however, to explain what we would otherwise find it hard to unriddle. It is the matter of the very language of the hymns themselves.

When we observe the places where these fragments occur, or where singing in the church is mentioned, we find that the language naturally is Greek. No one doubts that Luke and the other New Testament writers employed the tongue which was the educated and flexible medium of conveying the loftiest truth; nor that Ephesians or Corinthians chanted in Greek. “The Greek tongue,” say Conybeare and Howson (St. Paul, 1:10), “became to the Christian more than it had been to the Roman or the Jew.” It lends itself most readily to that dithyrambic shape in which highly emotional natures could best express their praise. So the irregularity of the verse; its utter lack of metrical form (as Dr. Neale found when he examined eighteen quarto volumes of it), and its simplicity of diction, all combined to put the instrumental accompaniment aside. Perhaps there was a prejudice—as Archbishop Trench affirms—against a distinctively Jewish method. Perhaps there was a disposition in this, as in other matters where art had perverted the morals of men, to oppose whatever looked toward a possible laxity. Music and banqueting, music and luxury, music and profligacy, went together so much that the early Church reacted to the extreme of Puritanism—forgetting that her 8 Lord and Master had often worshipped in the full-choired temple itself. In the catacombs, where every manner of ordinary symbol may be found, there is neither pipe nor harp, nor any sort of musical instrument—the lyre alone excepted. But neither is there any condescension to beauty in form or color. Everything betokens a rude, uncultivated simplicity—a piety which contented itself with the barest and meagerest representations. It rose high enough to portray the face of Christ, in the ancient cemetery of Domitilla, and in one carving on a sarcophagus of the fourth century. And, remembering how repugnant anything heathenish was to the souls of those who associated pipe and tabret and harp with the bloody arena and the wild revelry of Rome, can we doubt why they mingled only their unassisted voices in these chants of praise? It can be positively added that Ambrose, Basil, and Chrysostom do not include instrumental music in their eulogies of the Church’s practice upon this theme.

We are justified, however, in going one step beyond this bald statement, that the early Christians sang together. They sang secum invicem, alternately. The quotations already given show the adaptation of their hymns to this use. In this, at least, they were following the Jewish habit of responses and part-singing, whatever other changes their poverty or prejudices or principles or persecutions might have produced.

It remains for us to speak of the ancient hymns which have come down to our day. We have some information as to Harmonius and Bardesanes, who wrote Syriac hymns in the first century, but the hymns themselves are either lost or unidentified. Ephrem Syrus (died 378) furnishes the earliest authentic hymns in that language. One of these (Daniel, Thesaurus Hymnologicus, III. 145) is on the Nativity of our Lord, and may be thus rendered, following Zingerle’s German version:

“Into his arms with tender love

Did Joseph take his holy son,

And worshipped him as God, and saw

The babe like any little one.

His heart rejoiced above him there,

For now the only Good had birth;

And pious fear upon him came

Before this Judge of all the earth.

Oh, what a lofty wonder!


“Who gave me then this precious Son

Of highest God, to be my child?

For I against thy mother here

Had almost been by zeal beguiled;

And I had thought to cast her off—

Alas, I saw not truly then

How in her bosom she should bear

The costliest treasure known to men,

To make my poverty, so soon,

The richest lot in mortal ken!

“David, that king of ancient days,

My ancestor, had placed the crown

On his own head, and there it lay;

But I sank deep and further down:

I was no king, but in its stead

A carpenter, and that alone.

But now may crown my brow again

That which befits a kingly throne,

For here upon my bosom lies

The Lord of lords, my very own!”

There is a trifle of doubt as to which is the very oldest Greek hymn. One cited by Basil (died 379),

“Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δοξής”—κ. τ. λ.

has been by some considered the most ancient, and is known to us as, “Hail, gladdening Light.” It is wrongly credited to Athenagenes (died 169), for Basil explicitly denies that authorship. That which it is safest for us to receive is one found in the works of Clement of Alexandria, and by him ascribed to an earlier author. It was probably composed about 200 A.D.; and while it is too long to quote, it may be characterized as dithyrambic, and almost Anacreontic, in rhythm. It begins:

“Στρομίον πώλων ἀδαῶν.”—κ. τ. λ.

and is known as “Shepherd of Tender Youth,” from its best English version, by the Rev. Dr. H. M. Dexter, of Boston. The Φῶς ἱλαρὸν is also accessible in Longfellow’s beautiful translation in the Golden Legend, commencing, “O gladsome light.”

As we turn the pages on which Daniel and Mone have recorded these hymns of the earliest age of the Church, we observe that they are either in praise of Christ or of God, or are songs of worship 10 for the morning or the evening. Their simplicity is admirable. Here is one called ἦχος—an “Echo”—literally rendered:

“We who have risen from our sleep

Worship before thee, O Good One.

And, of the angels the hymn

We cry aloud to thee, thou Mighty One;

Holy, holy art thou, O God,

And of thy mercy have pity on us!

“From my couch and from my sleep

Thou hast raised me, O Lord;

Enlighten my mind and my heart,

And open thou my lips

To praise thee, Holy Trinity,

Holy, holy, holy art thou!

“Suddenly shall come the Judge,

And the deeds of each shall be laid bare;

But guard us from fear in the midst of the night,

Holy, holy, holy art thou!”

Another of these unplaced, anonymous, and possibly very ancient hymns, may be given in full for comparison:

“Ψυχή μου, ψυχή μου,

Ἀνάστα, τί καθεύδεις;

Τὸ τέλος ἐγγίζει,

Καὶ μήλλεις θορυβεῖσθαι;

“Ἀνάνηψον ὀυν, ἵνα

Φείσηται σου Χριστὸς

Ὁ Θεὸς, ὁ πανταχοῦ παρὼν

Καὶ τὰ πάντα πληρῶν.”

“O soul of mine, O soul of mine,

Arise, why sleepest thou?

The end of earth is drawing near

And art thou fearful now?

Be sober therefore, O my soul,

That He who filleth space

And filleth time, our Saviour, God,

May spare thee by His grace.”

And this beautiful little doxology:

“My hope is God,

My refuge is the Lord,

My shelter is the Holy Ghost;

Be thou, O Holy Three, adored!”


In such sweet and simple language did the early Christians sing their “praise to Christ, as God.” They understood the true meaning of a hymn as Ambrose and St. Bernard also understood it—and as Gregory Nazianzen and Adam of St. Victor never knew it at all. In 1866 Professor Coppée could truly declare that there was no collection of sacred verse in which this thought of adoration and of worship was “the leading feature.” It is better now; but even to-day there is an honored place for any book of praise in which the formal and didactic shall be done away, and where nothing shall be found but the pure reverence of a loving and trusting soul.

Of old, in the temple, there was kept—said the rabbins—a flute of reed, plain and straight and simple, but of marvellous sweetness. It came down from Moses’ day. But the king commanded his goldsmiths to cover and adorn it with gold and gems. And, lo, the sweetness of the reed flute was forever gone! Thus, perchance, in our later art and our foolish wisdom, it may be we have often spoiled the ancient hymns!



The genealogy of the song of praise in the mediaeval and modern Christian Church is both simple and beautiful. It begins far back, as we have seen, in the chants and psalms of the Hebrew. Then it changes to the Syriac and the Greek. Then it emerges into the Latin. Next it is caught up in the old High-German poetry, and at length it becomes the modern English hymn. The line of direct descent is like that of some high and puissant family whose inheritance is transferred now to one branch and now to another, but whose noble lineage is never lost.

When the reader or the worshipper is attracted to-day by some ancient hymn-writer’s name, he naturally asks for information. He is aware that hymnology is called a branch of study, like any other scholastic pursuit. He is also aware that the more usual English and German hymns have their historians, and, to a limited degree, that they have been analyzed, classified, compared, and their text settled. Even their impelling causes and surroundings are known, as in the case of the touching lyrics of George Neumark and Paul Gerhardt, or the pathetic strains of Cowper, or the stirring notes of Charles Wesley.

But occasionally a bird of strange plumage flies across this peaceful sky or perches and sings in these religious groves. The name of some Greek father—an Anatolius or a John of Damascus—appears as the original author. The hymn-horizon widens out to an earlier age. When one sings the Te Deum Laudamus, he discovers that it has its antecedent in the Greek liturgy. And when he employs that fine version of Bishop Patrick,

“O God, we praise Thee and confess,”

he is put upon a track of inquiry by which he discerns an even earlier rendering in the oldest prayer-books, beginning—


“We praise Thee, God, we knowledge Thee

The only Lord to be.”

These little hints and stray gleams of outlook through the mists of uninformation are intensely alluring. And when by some happy chance it is learned that this old Latin sequence is traditionally ascribed to Ambrose, Bishop of Milan; when it is accredited to the spontaneous utterance of Augustine and his great preceptor at the time of Augustine’s baptism; when it is noted as a derivative from that Greek psalmody whence the holy Ambrose obtained so many of his hymns; and when it opens thus a door into the heaven of the earlier worship of the Church, then indeed the reader is proportionately stimulated to further question.

For the most part it will be found that the Latin language contains the best of the Greek, and the inspiration of the majority of the first German hymns. In the dead ark of the Middle Ages was kept this rod that budded and this golden pot with its sacred heavenly food. It is amazing that this treasure has been so well preserved, but it is none the less certain that we now have it safely, never to be lost again.

There are no Latin hymns—let us here say—earlier than Hilary of Poitiers (died 366). His Hymnarium has perished, and all but one of the compositions attributed to himself are doubtful. The “evening-song” which he sent to his daughter Abra, while he was in exile among the followers of the Eastern Church, forms the connecting link between Greek and Latin hymnody. The true hymn—a different thing from the rhythmic but unmetrical sequence—here takes its rise. In this small, pure fountain-head reappear the percolating praises of the two previous centuries. The short lines drop with a gentle tinkling melody upon the ear. As yet there is no rhyme, although there is an occasional lightening of the lyric by some such verbal art.

But with Ambrose the full stream begins to sweep along. There can be no doubt that many ungathered and traditional stanzas were in his time discoverable in the Church—much as it can be observed that phrases in prayer or in exhortation are the inheritance of our own generation from days of struggle and of trial among our Christian ancestors. And what better could a beleaguered bishop do, when he was shut up in a church “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” than to collate these old 14 hymns? Twelve possibly—eight, or less, with moderate certainty—can be regarded as of his own composition. The rest of the ninety or a hundred are commonly received as “Ambrosian,” since they share his spirit and partake in some degree of his method. The rules of the Venerable Bede are not infallible, and modern criticism frequently rejects what the early collectors are disposed to assign to this single illustrious source.

Augustine wrote no actual hymns, but he was the cause of hymns in others—as, notably, in the case of Cardinal Peter Damiani. The Ambrosian music and the Augustinian theology served for inspiration to many later men. Yet the assignment of these Latin hymns to their proper authors is, at the best, a most precarious undertaking. A few, quoted or mentioned by competent witnesses—as when Augustine quotes Ambrose—seem duly authentic. This is, however, a rare occurrence. Generally we proceed upon the mere dictum of the first compilers—especially of Thomasius, George Fabricius, and Clichtove.

These early compilations are sufficiently scarce. Professor Dr. H. Ad. Daniel gives a list of some which, except for the books of “the venerable Thilo” in the Yale Library, are beyond the reach of American students. Dating from 1492 and running into the first decade of the sixteenth century there were many “Expositions” of hymns, of which the work of Clichtove (Basle, 1517) remains to us in the greatest number of editions. Up to the middle of the present century this book was practically indispensable to any correct knowledge of the original texts. Since that time it, as well as every similar work, has received attention, and its contents have been often reproduced.

Other and later laborers are such as Cardinal Thomasius (Rome, 1741), who follows upon the traces of George Cassander, the Liberal Catholic (Paris, 1616). We are possibly more indebted to Cassander than to Thomasius for the correct designation of a good deal of the authorship. Both of these editors collate the text with other versions, and thus prepare the way for later and more accurate work. Both depend to a notable degree upon the book of George Fabricius (Basle, 1564), which is quite rare; although Thomasius’ works are said by Daniel to be sufficiently uncommon in Germany, as they certainly are in America. The recent republication 15 of the Mozarabic Breviary in J. P. Migne’s Patrologia brings this volume, however, within easy reach.

Thus we are naturally led to speak of the sources of the hymns themselves—sources from which these editors have secured them. As a part of religious worship they were incorporated into the various breviaries, of which hundreds must have been in use before the unification begun by the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century. Besides these church books, there were collections of hymns alone made by mediaeval schools, whose manuscripts still exist in European libraries.

The only method by which to ascertain the number and extent of these treasures was to gather and classify them. And strangely enough this labor has been performed by Protestants rather than by Catholics. Cassander’s book was forbidden at Rome, as he was what now would be called an Old Catholic; Luther, George Fabricius, and Hermann Bonn were in no better odor of sanctity; and for our own times the standard work is that of Herman Adelbert Daniel, who was a Lutheran professor at Halle, while close behind him come several others of the same religious belief.

The necessary and highly difficult task of getting the materials together has been exhaustively performed. Professor Daniel’s investigations extended to the original copies in monasteries and abbeys almost without number. But F. J. Mone enlarged even upon this. Daniel’s Thesaurus in five volumes was completed in 1856—having been several years in course of publication—and it stands as yet unrivalled. Mone’s Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters appeared in 1853-55, and was therefore available for the conclusion of Daniel’s great work. Its value consists in the fact that it is derived exclusively from manuscripts and from material hitherto untouched. The Germans, indeed, have made Latin hymnology a special branch of study, considering that it is profitable to them for its value religiously and historically. From old Flacius Illyricus’ appendix to the Catalogus Testium Veritatis has been recovered the original of Bernard of Cluny’s “Jerusalem the Golden”—a poem which would never have been known by us if this same Matthias Flacius had not preserved it as a testimony against the corrupt state of the Church.

We must then add the German names of Schlosser, and Simrock, and Fortlage, and Stadelmann, and Jacob Grimm, and Königsfeld, 16 and Bässler, and Kayser, and Kehrein, and Morel. Wackernagel and Koch, the great historians of German hymnology, have also done admirable service in prefixing the Latin hymns to the earlier part of their collections and histories of German praise. There is a host of lesser names, and there have been some separate discoveries worthy of note. Thus the English ritualists, under the lead of Newman and Neale, unearthed some capital lyrics. The Hymni Ecclesiae of Cardinal J. H. Newman, being half derived from the Paris Breviary, contain hymns which are scarcely to be found elsewhere—many of them, as our Index will show, being accessible only in those pages. The Sequentiae Medii Aevii of Dr. John Mason Neale also bring to us texts which are extremely scarce. Archbishop Trench, in his collection of eighty hymns, has avoided anything like Romanism even to the occasional expurgation of a phrase; but he has given us a few hymns which are difficult to procure. Königsfeld’s selection of one hundred is admirable; and Bässler’s and Simrock’s little books have made a very good choice. More recently still Professor F. A. March, of Lafayette College, has prepared a selection of one hundred and fifty of these hymns for the use of institutions of learning; and this, for every purpose, is the finest and most satisfactory series of texts at our command. The ordinary student can learn much from this before he needs to attempt the larger and more expensive works.

In making an exhaustive index of all the originals before us, these collections soon dwindle into a very diminutive form. There are about three thousand five hundred hymns in the various books. And they are of all sorts—good, bad, and indifferent. The good are the pure and true utterance of pious spirits—such lyrics as the Veni, Redemptor, and the Veni, Sancte Spiritus, and the Vexilla Regis. The positively bad are those which are either poor in execution—a common fault—or decidedly defective in religious tone. Many so-called “hymns” are nothing but plagiaries or parodies upon older compositions. Some are debased into mere patchwork. There are a few which are macaronic, and a great many in which poverty of phrase is helped out by wholesale pilfering. Moreover, it is easy to find those which are highly objectionable in point of taste and theology, to say nothing of prosody or Protestantism. And if Protestants are principally 17 energetic in restoring and editing these hymns, to the frank and generous extent of overlooking what is unpleasant in them, it ought to follow that they should not be blamed for preferring only those lyrics in which the broad and Christian fervor of devout souls can be observed.

Of those hymns which are upon the border line, the pathetic Stabat Mater may stand as an example. It would be bigotry to reject it from the list—as one compiler has done—while it would certainly not be fair to Protestants to utilize it, in any close translation, for the worship of the Church universal.

Perhaps there are not less than from four to five hundred of these hymns, then, to which no cause of blame can attach—which are as dear to the Church of the Roman Catholics as to that of the Catholic Protestants. On such common ground the heartiest sympathy and co-operation can develop the riches which yet remain. Already it is Caswall, the priest, and Newman, the cardinal, and Neale, the ritualist, who have given to our daily praise the happiest versions. It is Ozanam who has discovered several unknown hymns; and Gautier and Digby S. Wrangham who have brought out Adam of St. Victor; and the ninety-seven pieces of Abaelard are reprinted from Cousin’s text in Migne’s Patrologia. The study of these sacred verses has been comparatively limited in range and nationality, but it has had the incomparable advantage of being thorough.

Thus we are to-day possessed of the text of every really fine sacred Latin lyric. Somewhere or other it has bloomed and has been gathered by some acute hymnologist. The text, too, is tolerably clarified. Translations into our own tongue have been made by such men as Caswall and Newman and Neale (who have rendered all the hymns of the Roman Breviary), and by Mant, Chandler, Pearson, Kynaston, and many others. In America the Rev. Dr. Washburn, Dr. Coles, and Chancellor Benedict have been as prolific as any. Scattered renderings have obtained place in various hymnals. And we are now prepared at last for the general and popular interest which should be taken in this vast treasure of the Latin tongue.

Nothing is more surprising than the utter misinformation which prevails. A few scholars, like Dr. Schaff and Dr. William R. Williams, have endeavored to illuminate our American darkness. 18 But, speaking only now of the Latin hymns, the story of their authors remains obscure and the romantic history of their origin remains for the most part untouched.

Yet Prudentius, the Spaniard, was a classic survival in Spain. And Damasus, the pope, was associated with certain dramatic scenes. And Venantius Fortunatus, troubadour and bishop, furnishes us with a most striking portrait of the times in his attachment to the abbess-queen, Radegunda. The list presumably includes Elpis, the wife of Boethius, the “last of the Romans;” and Coelius Sedulius, the Briton; and Gregory the Great and the great archbishop, Rabanus Maurus, and perhaps Robert II. of France. It calls into fresh life the histories of the Venerable Bede and of Alcuin; of the two Bernards, the one of Clairvaux and the other of Cluny; of Peter the Venerable and of Abaelard and Heloise; of Adam of St. Victor, and Thomas of Celano; of Bonaventura and Aquinas and à Kempis and Xavier. It shows us that mad Solomon, poor Jacoponus; and it leaves us with verses from John Huss, the martyr, to be read by the light of the Reformation’s dawn.

Thus largely does the subject of the Latin hymns traverse the ages. From the fourth to the sixteenth centuries of the Christian era it is the one stream which was fed from Alpine or from Pyrenean snows—a “river of God that is full of water,” which expands into the stately movement of the Notkerian and Gottschalkian sequence, or gently murmurs its song of trust with the missionary Xavier as he writes the exquisite melody of that hymn, O Deus, ego amo te! To understand and to love these lyrics is to be better fitted for this nineteenth century of praise. Not the persecutors and the injurious, not the cruel and the cold-hearted will then remain to us; but the Dies Irae will utter its trumpet-voice above the dead phrases of a formal service, and the Salve caput cruentatum will call us afresh to the foot of the cross.



When Master Peter Abaelard was preparing his own hymns for use in the Abbey of the Paraclete, he prefaced them with a brief treatise. There were ninety-three of them, arranged for all the services of Heloise and her nuns, and he answers the request of his abbess-wife by sending them, somewhere in the neighborhood of the year 1135. “At the instance of thy requests, my sister Heloise,” he writes, “formerly dear in the world and now most dear in Christ, I have composed what are called in Greek, ‘hymns,’ and in Hebrew, ‘tillim.’” For it is plain that she has a vivid recollection of his “wild, unhallowed rhymes, writ in his unbaptized times,” and she would now have him tune his lyre, as Robert Herrick did, to a loftier strain.

Hence he made for these gentle sisters a hymn-book of their own, and so became the Watts or Wesley of their matins and vespers. With characteristic self-confidence he only included what he had himself prepared; but this introduction casts a great deal of light upon the knowledge and piety of the time respecting hymns.

“I remember,” continues Abaelard, “that you asked me for an explanation. ‘We know,’ you said, ‘that the Latin, and especially the French Church, have in psalms, and also in hymns, followed more a custom than an authority.’” This was quite true; and the remark is eminently characteristic of Heloise, whose scholarship was admirable, and whose disposition was of a sort to crave for and cling to a stronger nature. He then quotes for her the decree of the fourth Council of Toledo (A.D. 633), by which Hilary of Poitiers and Ambrose of Milan are established as the great fathers of Christian song in the Western Church, and by which the praise of God in hymns is sanctioned and commended.

To much the same effect are the words of Augustine of Hippo, centuries earlier. His beloved mother, Monica, had died, and 20 nothing appeared to comfort him so much as one of these same holy songs. “Then I slept, and woke up again and found my grief not a little softened; and as I was alone in my bed, I remembered those true verses of thy Ambrose. For thou art the

“‘Maker of all, the Lord

And Ruler of the height,

Who, robing day in light, hast poured

Soft slumbers o’er the night,

That to our limbs the power

Of toil may be renewed,

And hearts be raised that sink and cower,

And sorrows be subdued.’”

This is the Deus creator omnium of the great bishop of Milan; and this, in consequence of Augustine’s quotation, is among the best authenticated and earliest hymns of the Latin Church.

But there were more ancient hymns than the Ambrosian or Augustinian. They bear the name of Hilary, and with them Latin hymnology really begins. It is true that in the previous century—the third—Cyprian of Carthage had written religious poetry, but he composed nothing which could be sung. There is, indeed, nothing previous to Hilary.

And now let us go back to the creation of this first and noblest light. For Hilary had been a heathen—a heathen of the heathen—in Roman Gaul. He was born in Poitiers (Pictavium) about the beginning of the fourth century. His father’s name was Francarius, whose tomb—although he must at first have lived as an idolater—is said by Bouchet to have been “for upward of fifteen hundred years” in the parish church of Clissonium (Clisson, near Nantes). We are indebted to Jerome for the main facts of Hilary’s life, and to Fortunatus for a large share in the filling up of the outlines. Hilary was so celebrated a man that contemporary references are more abundant and helpful in his career even than in that of Shakespeare. In those days he was at the summit of renown, a notable exception to the case of the prophet, “not being without honor save in his own country.” “For who,” says Augustine, “does not know Hilary the Gallic bishop?” And Jerome wrote to St. Eustacia that Hilary and Cyprian were the “two great cedars of the age.”

He was doubtless well educated. His Latin was good and 21 copious, without possessing very great polish. His Greek was sufficient to fit him to translate the creeds of the Eastern Church, and to become familiar with their hymns. We have his own testimony that he lived in comfort, if not in luxury; and the inference is plain that his family were of consequence in the place. It was in his leisure that he took up Moses and the prophets; and there, in that famous old town of his birth, the mists of his idolatry thinned away. We do not know that any external pressure was brought to bear upon his mind, or that he was led by anything except a natural curiosity into this new learning.

Poitiers itself is a noble situation for such an intellect. It is perched on a promontory, and surrounded on all sides by gorges and narrow valleys. The isthmus, which joins it back to the ridge, was once walled and ditched across. The Pictavi, and afterward the Romans, understood the military advantages of the spot. It has always been the abode of scholars and of warriors. Here Francis Bacon once studied. Here Clovis, founder of the Merovingian dynasty, beat Alaric II., in 507, in fair battle. Here Radegunda the Holy lies buried. Here Fortunatus, the poet-bishop, dwelled. Here Charles Martel hammered the Saracens in 732. Here, in the Cathedral of St. Pierre, rest the ashes of Richard Coeur de Lion. Here, beneath these walls, fought Edward the Black Prince against King John of France, in 1356, when the English had the best of the day. For they had learned—as Bishop Hugh Latimer says that he himself was taught—how to draw the cloth-yard shaft to a head, and let it fly with a deadly aim. “In my tyme,” said Latimer, “my poore father was as diligent to teach me to shote as to learne anye other thynge, and so I thynke other menne dyd theyr children. Hee taughte me how to drawe, how to laye my bodye in my bowe, and not to drawe with strength of armes as other nacions do, but with strength of the bodye. I had my bowes boughte me accordyng to my age and strength; as I encreased in them, so my bowes were made bigger and bigger; for men shall never shoot well excepte they be broughte up in it.” (Sixth sermon before Edward VI.) It was such archery as this that laid the flower of France in the dust, and put John, their king, into prison.

Poitiers is thus a noble and appropriate birthplace for one who 22 before the time of Charles the Hammerer was called the “Hammer of the Arians” (Malleus Arianorum), and who combined fighting with praying all through his life. Places and circumstances and the untamable blood of heroes have more to do with the making of men than we suppose; and Hilary was so distinctly a son of Caesar’s Gaul that he became its large, true, and free expression, appropriate to its landscape and harmonized to its atmosphere.

And as to his emergence from heathenism, there can be nothing more satisfactory to us than his own story. He has recorded that when he found, in Exodus, how God was called “I am that I am,” and when he read in Isaiah (40:12) of a deity who “held the wind in His fists,” and again (66:1) of Him who said, “Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool,” then this Deus immensus surpassed all his heathen conceptions of grandeur and power. And when he read (in Ps. 138:7) how this great God loved and cared for His children, so that one could say, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me; Thou shalt stretch forth Thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and Thy right hand shall save me”—then he was drawn toward this mighty being by a sentiment of confidence and trust. He also—turning the pages of the Wisdom of Solomon (13:5) in the Apocrypha—found it written that “by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionately the Maker of them is seen.” And then, encountering the Gospel of John, its opening sentences clarified his mind. All became plain. He accepted with calmness, firmness, and dignity the great doctrines of the Christian faith. He was imbued with John’s conception of that Word, “which was in the beginning” and “which was God.” From that moment he had a theology which was as pure as crystal and as indestructible as adamant. There is no muddiness about his ideas from this time onward, though Arians buzz and sting, and calamities rain upon him, and the path of duty is deep with mire and the future is dark. Every one of these things passes away. His own language as to this great change in his belief is as characteristic as it is beautiful: “I extended my desires further, and longed that the good thoughts I had about God, and the good life which I built on them, might have an eternal reward.” Like one of his own favorite saints in the Gospel and the Apocalypse of John, he was 23 thus “led by the Spirit of God” to become one of the chanting choir before the throne.

It matters very little, therefore, to us of to-day, that, in 1851, Pius IX., himself a man of sweet and gentle temper, made Hilary a “Doctor of the Church”—a distinction reserved for those greatest ones, like Augustine and Chrysostom, whose learning and eloquence are world-renowned. The dead bishop did not need this posthumous distinction. He has long been recognized—to quote Professor Dorner—as “one of the most original and profound,” albeit not the easiest to understand at all times, of the great teachers of the Christian Church. We may hereafter attach more value to his work even than we do at present.

This then was the man who had determined to enter upon a Christian life. He was already married and had one daughter—Abra by name—and possessed a certain repute as a man of reading and of affairs. His origin protected him from a contempt of pagan learning; and his marriage protected him from that one-sided development which has Romanized the once Catholic Church. The period in which he lived was one of transition—from classic literature to Christian literature, and from the Latin of far-off Virgil and Cicero to the Latin which was to become the uniting tongue of all scholars in that Babel of the Middle Ages. This language was now shaping itself to its new work and becoming, like English under the genius of Chaucer, a living speech. In the moulding hands of these first Christian writers it became flexible, not always fluent or graceful or even strictly grammatical, but capable at least to carry what would otherwise have been lost. Greek was gone, and French and German and English had not yet appeared. As a Gallo-Roman, then—a post-classic Latinist—Hilary gives in his allegiance to Christianity, and his wife and daughter are baptized with him into the true faith.

So far much is conjectural; and more is vague and to be derived from the shadows cast upon the screen of history by the “spirit of the years to come yearning to mix itself with life.” We emerge, however, into historical certainty about the year 351. Then, on the death of their bishop—who is thought to have been Maxentius, the brother of St. Maximin of Trier—his townspeople clamored for Hilary. The Histoire Litteraire de la France sets this election down for the year 350; but that authority, in this and 24 a great many other instances, is profuse and multitudinous and not absolutely safe. We are certainly not far out from the correct date in saying 351.

It illustrates a condition of things which are suggestive of the simplicity of the early Church, when we find that in spite of his being a married man and a father—and in spite of Cyprian’s and of Tertullian’s praises of celibacy—Hilary was heartily chosen and almost forced into the episcopate. In this position he exhibited “all the excellent qualities of the great bishops.” We are told that he was “gentle and peaceable, given particularly to an ability to persuade and to influence.” With these he joined “a holy vigor which held him firm against rising heresies.” And Cassian says that Hilary “had all the virtues of an incomparable man.” The fact, after all, speaks for itself more loudly than these commendations. He was so much one of themselves that the people of Poitiers would not have selected him, if they had not known him to be the best man for the mitre.

From this time began that career of stainless honor which has outlasted the very walls which echoed his voice. He was known from Great Britain to the Indies. He ranks second only to Athanasius as a defender of the faith; and—as we already noted—he is classed by Jerome with the great bishop of Hippo whose portrait is given to us so vividly in Charles Kingsley’s Hypatia. And to us of our century and of our convictions in favor of charity and culture, it is particularly praiseworthy that he never gave up his secular scholarship, and that he never flagged or faltered in defending opinions which were as large and liberal as they were undeniably orthodox. He was an oak which stood against the blast unshaken, and which yet held, in the heart of its great branches, sweet nests of singing birds and leafy coverts of shade and peace.

Hilary was not suffered to be inactive. It was the period at which the Arian heresy was in full incandescence. No one holding the opinions of the Bishop of Poitiers could well remain neutral. He had—in conformity with a custom soon to become a law—separated his life from that of his home; but he appears always to have cherished a warm love for his wife and child. This placed him, however, in perfect freedom from other cares, and at liberty to devote himself to the eradication of false doctrine. Constantius, 25 the Emperor, was an Arian, and this made the perplexity of the position very great. An honest man might ruin all by his blunt independence—but an honest man dare not be silent. And, besides, Hilary had neither attended the Synod of Arles (353) nor that of Milan (355), and was somewhat out of the ecclesiastical tide.

That he was no coward was soon shown to everybody’s satisfaction. He prepared a letter to the Emperor as brave as it was keen, and which touched up with a vigorous lash the cringing sycophants and shuffling hypocrites about the court. Hilary is notably strong when he denounces the substitution of force for reason—and perhaps his doctorate came to him only in 1851 (when he could not well care much for it) because this doctrine of his was not altogether what Mother Church has been in the habit of teaching and practising! I may refer to the recent work of the Rev. R. T. Smith upon The Church in Roman Gaul as fully confirming this statement. St. Martin of Tours is there called to bear testimony that the Bishop of Poitiers held such opinions just as sturdily in his days of power as in these times of trial and persecution. He was, in short, a thoroughly sincere man, and it took him only a few years—until 355—to get into the hottest bubbling spot of all the caldron. At that date, in company with other leaders of the church in Gaul, he drove out a very pestilent fellow—Saturninus, the Bishop of Arles—as a seditious and irreconcilable element in their midst. With him was cast out Valens, and with Valens was cast out Ursacius. But of all these, Bishop Saturninus was the angriest and the most revengeful.

A year of something like good order followed, when lo, the Arians came to the front with a synod of their own complexion at Beziers. Here Hilary found himself in the vocative case altogether. The tables were turned upon him, and it was he who must now go forth a banished man. The power was against him, and he set out with bowed head and sad heart upon one of those pride-humbling journeys which have not seldom brought the greatest results to religion, and which not a few of the best men have taken in their day. In this manner Bernard went to meet Abaelard; Martin Luther went to the diet at Worms; and John Bunyan took his way to Bedford jail.

Principal among the causes of his sadness was that he was snatched away from his constant and congenial duty of explaining 26 the Scriptures to the people of his diocese. Still he had nothing for it but to go; and so, somewhere about 356, we find him in Phrygia. He is accompanied by Rodanius, Bishop of Toulouse, who had plucked up considerable courage by seeing how well Hilary took his defeat.

In 357 the Church in Roman Gaul sent him their greeting, from which that of his own Poitiers people was not absent. And the Gallic bishops, having perceived him to be capable of much good service in his enforced residence abroad, bade him inform himself and them upon the creeds and customs of the Eastern Church. This he had already, to a degree, undertaken. And in 359, whom do we find entering a convocation of bishops at Seleucia but our very Hilary, opposing with a strong and unflinching philosophic power all those—and there were many there—who denied the consubstantiality of the Word.

There were one hundred and sixty of these bishops at Seleucia, of whom one hundred and five—a very handsome majority—were “semi-Arians.” Of the remaining fifty-five there were nineteen classed as Anomoeans—those who held that the Son was unlike the Father in essence, or ἀνόμοιος—and the rest were heretics of different grades of badness. It was the natural outcome of the difficulties with Athanasius, where the royal authority was on the side of the Arians. The Roman Catholic historians are therefore not complimentary to this synod—or rather “double council” of Seleucia and Rimini—and this was assuredly no very comfortable body of Christians for a banished bishop to exhort. But he did it with effect, and proceeded to the council at Constantinople (360) and did it again; and presently (361) Constantius died and the Nicene Creed was victorious.

So was Hilary, who—in 360-61—returned to Poitiers, where, as soon as his crozier was once more well in hand, he levelled Saturninus and compelled him to abandon his diocese. He then turned upon Auxentius of Milan, who only escaped the same or a worse fate by clinging to Valentinian, the reigning Emperor, and was denounced by Hilary as a hypocrite for his pains. Our bishop appears in these days to have been decidedly a member of the Church Militant; and perhaps it was natural enough when one had survived the reigns of Constantius, Julian the Apostate, 27 and Jovian, for him to be as he was. I am not commenting upon these exciting scenes; I desire rather to go back and show how they produced the hymns of which we are to speak.

It was in 357—at the same date with the letters from the bishops and from the churches—that Abra, his daughter, wrote to him herself. From this epistle we learn that her mother still lived, and we observe the dutiful and loving daughter apparent in every line. In reply Hilary sends a well-composed and even imaginative letter. Under the figures of a pearl and a garment he charges her to keep her soul and her conduct pure. He rather recommends a single life, but not in any such extravagant eulogy of celibacy as some would have us suppose. It is more after the style of what Grynaeus affirmed of him—that he was so moderate in these opinions as to suffer his canons to marry—since it would be hard for an unbiassed mind to draw any harsh conclusions from the language; yet all this is of small consequence compared with the enclosure—two Latin hymns, one for the morning and one for the evening, which she may use in the worship of God. The first of these is the Lucis largitor splendide; but the second is probably lost. It is said that it was the hymn, Ad coeli clara non sum dignus sidera—“To the clear stars of heaven I am not worthy,” etc. This is very doubtful indeed, so much so that we may decline to receive it on several grounds. It is to be found in the superb folio edition of Hilary’s works (Paris, 1693) prepared by the Benedictines of St. Maur. Yet if internal evidence is to weigh at all we must reject it without scruple. It is not a hymn in any true sense, and certainly has no reference to the evening hour of worship. It contains a gross phrase or two, which are not suggestive of Hilary, who would scarcely have said that he would “despise Arius” by “modulating a hymn” against him, nor would he have spoken of the “barking Sabellius” or the “grunting Simon.” The verses are unpleasantly flavored with earthliness, and to think that a young girl would be inclined to sing ninety-six lines of an abecedary—or “alphabet-hymn”—is absurd. Moreover, the editors of the edition of 1693 only print four stanzas, and express their own disbelief that Hilary wrote it, based upon these facts and upon their no less important criticism of the style, which is masculine throughout, and refers to ideas highly inappropriate to the use intended. Mone is nearer to the correct doctrine 28 when he assigns it to a period between the sixth and eighth centuries. Daniel (4:130) prints it in full and quotes Mone’s remark that an Irish monk is likely to have been its author. It is in the metre familiar to modern eyes in the Integer vitae of Horace, but it displays neither taste nor poetry nor any religious fervor. That it begins each stanza with a consecutive letter of the alphabet is no proof of anything except wasted ingenuity. So that, I repeat, we do well to reject it and to leave it rejected.

All, then, that is left us is the Lucis largitor splendide—“Thou splendid giver of the light.” The letter went back from Seleucia to Poitiers and carried this hymn, at least, with it. Hilary had sent this and its companion, ut memor mei semper sis—“that you may always remember me.” And we may fancy the lovely high-born daughter of that earnest and scholarly man as, daily and nightly, she sits at her window—perchance with her gaze wistfully turned to the eastward. There she sang these simple, beautiful hymns—she the first singer of the new hymns of the Latin Church. Among the themes for Christian art yet left to us there is hardly one more suggestive than this—for Abra doubtless sang her father’s hymns to her father’s loyal people. It may even be supposed that he gave her the tunes as well as the words, and that, by morning and by night, the battle-scarred Poitiers re-echoed this voice of the exiled bishop.

Of the hymn itself as much can be said in favor as we have just said against its pretended and ill-matched companion. It breathes the Johannean sentiments throughout. It celebrates the Light, the Son of God, the glory of the Father, “clearer than the full sun, the perfect light and day itself.” To one who is acquainted with the Greek hymns it is instantly suggestive of those pellucid songs—its atmosphere is all peace and its trust is as restful to the tired spirit as the quiet coming of the rising day. It may easily have been a translation from the Greek, or, even more easily, the natural up-gush of melody which was touched into life by the frequent hearing of the Eastern hymns. Hilary never learned it in an Arian church, nor did he find it among controversialists. Its nest, where it was first reared, was in some corner of a catacomb or in some nook of the Holy Land. This hymn, then, we may safely accept as the oldest authentic original Latin “song of praise to Christ as God.”


Whether the Bishop of Poitiers had much or little learning, he wrote a valuable book on Synods, and translated for us many useful and otherwise inaccessible confessions of faith and statements of doctrine. Erasmus—himself no brave man, nor one likely to estimate moral courage properly—calls this letter to Abra “nugamentum hominis otiose indocti”—the trifling production of a man lazily uneducated! Well, perhaps it would have been as well if some of that same “luxurious ignorance” of Hilary could have secured the “laborious learning” of Erasmus from exhibiting, at the end of life, its own inefficiency. Jerome said that whoever found fault with Hilary’s knowledge was compelled to concede his philosophic skill; and it reminds one of the remark of Dante Rossetti, who said that nothing in our age could stand comparison with a sonnet of Shakespeare, for, rough as it might seem, Shakespeare wrote it. It was this manhood behind the Latin which went for more than all Rotterdam!

Hilary is credited with a great deal, doubtless, that he never wrote. So he is, by Fortunatus, with miracles which he never performed. Alcuin and others assign to him the Gloria in Excelsis, but this was certainly more ancient than Hilary, being quoted by Athanasius in his treatise on Virginity. He could at best merely have translated it. This he might also have done for the Te Deum laudamus. And since we know that he prepared a Liber Hymnorum—the first actual hymn-book of the Western Church—we have some reason to think that he would not have altogether forgotten the greatest chants of the early Christians. This hymn-book is utterly lost to us. This is not the same as the Liber Mysteriorum—the book of the mysteries—and its existence, like that of its companion work, rests upon the testimony of Jerome. Doubtless in it there were other poems and songs from which the Hilarian authorship has been broken or lost. It was not the ancient custom either to preserve the author’s name, or even to retain the precise form of his hymn. He threw his little lyric—as the Israelites did their jewelry—into the common treasury of the Church; and in the Breviaries, where so many of these hymns are to be discovered, a later and more critical scholarship may identify some of them hereafter. As delicate insects are preserved in amber, we there find much that we should otherwise have lost; but, like that very amber, when its electricity is excited, his was 30 that sort of reputation which attracted many anonymous trifles—as, for example, the Ad coeli clara—to itself.

Of Hilary’s other writings, with exception of his work on the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, we have the full text. His commentaries on the Psalms and on Matthew; his controversial pamphlets against Constantius; his book of Synods; his twelve books De Trinitate—these are accessible in the Patrologia of Migne.

It was undoubtedly believed at the time of the fourth Council of Toledo that he had written many pieces “in favor of God, and of the triumphs of apostles and martyrs;” and both Jerome and Isidore of Seville declare him to have been the first among the Latins to write Christian verse. But to show how uncertain is the conjecture that is thus started, I may mention that the Ut queant laxis of Paul Winfrid, the “Deacon,” is credited to Hilary by the Histoire Litteraire. The same authority also claims for him the first Pange lingua (Pange lingua gloriosi, praelium certaminis), which is sometimes assigned to Claudianus Mamertus, but is the well-authenticated composition of Venantius Fortunatus, the troubadour and friend of Radegunda, the wife of Clotaire. We may as well admit that a great man did not necessarily do all the great things of his day.

Besides, the search after truth in this matter is complicated marvellously by the trade of the hymn-tinkers, who put new bottoms and tops and sides to a great many religious lyrics. Here is a case in point in Mone (vol. iii., p. 633). The hymn begins Christum rogemus et patrem—“We call on Christ and on the Father.” It has seven stanzas. The first stanza is from a morning hymn, supposed to be by Hilary. The second is from an Ambrosian hymn. The third and fourth are from another Ambrosian hymn to the Archangel Michael. The fifth is from a very noble Ambrosian hymn—the Aeterna Christi munera—of which Daniel says that it itself has been “wretchedly torn to pieces by the Church” (ab ecclesia miser e dilaceratum). The sixth and seventh stanzas are also Ambrosian—from the Jesu corona virginum. Thus this single hymn of seven stanzas is mere patchwork, gathered from that Ambrosian hymnody which the Breviaries supply. And finding all the rest of it credited to Ambrose and to his century, we are inclined to doubt that Hilary should be considered as the author of any portion at all.


Indeed the identification of Hilary’s hymns—except the Lucis largitor—is purely conjectural. It rests mainly on the hymnological acumen of Cardinal Thomasius, which may or may not be liable to error. Kayser refuses, on one ground or another, to positively endorse any, except the one which all now concede. Next to this in probability stands the Beata nobis gaudia (though it is doubted by Professor March), and then the Deus pater ingenite, which is taken from the Mozarabic Breviary. The Jam meta noctis transiit, the In matutinis surgimus, and the Jesu refulsit omnium, have only the authority of Thomasius. The Jesu quadragenariae, Daniel says, is an old hymn, but very certainly composed later than the time of Hilary. The Ad coeli clara we have already rejected. Thus we have one authentic and five conjectural Hilarian hymns. There is, however, great doubt resting on the Jesu refulsit omnium; and if I consulted merely my own judgment, I should declare against it, if only in view of the rhymes—a characteristic which it would scarcely possess if it were genuinely of the fourth century. And while we are upon this somewhat ungrateful duty of trying to set matters right, shall we pass over the slip which Mrs. Charles makes in her capital little book? (Christian Life in Song. Am. ed., p. 74.) For she says that “The Hilary who wrote the hymns was the canonized Bishop of Arles.” There was, much later, a Hilary of Arles; and there was another Hilary of Rome, and there were also others of the same name; but none of them wrote hymns. He of Arles assuredly did not.

Of our own Hilary it may be added that the rest of his life was earnest, but comparatively quiet. We shall find Gregory of Tours and Fortunatus asserting that he raised the dead and healed the sick, and cast out devils (some of them in the shape of snakes) from a boy’s stomach; but these stories belong naturally to a credulous and superstitious age. More to the purpose is it to find that the bishop had entered upon the composition of tunes for his hymns, and had taken up calligraphy and the ornamentation of manuscripts. There was a book of the Gospels found, on which was indorsed, “Quem scripsit Hilarius Pictavensis quondam sacerdos”—“which Hilary of Poitiers, formerly a priest, wrote.” A similar book was left by St. Perpetuus, Bishop of Tours, to Bishop Euphronius, Fortunatus’s friend. This is attested by his will, executed in 474. “I saw,” says Christian Druthmar (ninth 32 century), “a book of the Gospels, written in Greek, which was said to have been St. Hilary’s, in which were Matthew and John,” etc. But whether Hilary wrote this is naturally an open question.

The good bishop died at Poitiers—as Jerome and Gregory of Tours declare—but the date is still a matter of some uncertainty. Valentinian and Valens were upon the throne, and it is safe to say that 367-68 was the year. January 14th has also been assigned by some authorities, but with no better reason than a generally received tradition to this effect, and the fact that this is his day in the Roman calendar. His body was, however, scattered rather widely. It was removed from its tomb in the time of Clovis—a bone of his arm was in Belgium, and some other portions of his anatomy were in Limoges. About the year 638, Dagobert is stated to have placed his remains in the Church of St. Dionysius, and so confident of this fact were the people of Poitiers, in 1394, that they vehemently asserted that they had his relics there in perfect safety. “Calvinistic heretics” were said to have burned the mortal remnants of the great “hammer of the Arians,” and the Pictavians took this method to meet the calumny. For aught we know to the contrary they were perfectly right, and the dust of their bishop is still resting peacefully in their midst.

For his works, the Paris edition of 1693 is the best; but the Patrologia of J. P. Migne contains all that any one can need or care to see. It is the full reprint of the Paris volumes, together with biographical and critical notes, in Latin, prepared with great diligence and research; but, of course, from the Roman Catholic point of view.



1. Lucis largitor splendide,

Cujus sereno lumine

Post lapsa noctis tempora

Dies refusus panditur;

2. Tu verus mundi Lucifer,

Non is, qui parvi sideris

Venturae lucis nuntius

Angusto fulget lumine,

3. Sed toto sole clarior,

Lux ipse totus et dies,

Interna nostri pectoris

Illuminans praecordia:

4. Adesto, rerum conditor,

Paternae lucis gloria,

Cujus admota gratia

Nostra patescunt corpora;

5. Tuoque plena spiritu,

Secum Deum gestantia,

Ne rapientis perfidi

Diris patescant fraudibus,

6. Ut inter actus seculi

Vitae quos usus exigit,

Omni carentes crimine

Tuis vivamus legibus.

7. Probrosas mentis castitas

Carnis vincat libidines,

Sanctumque puri corporis

Delubrum servet Spiritus.

8. Haec spes precantis animae,

Haec sunt votiva munera,

Ut matutina nobis sit

Lux in noctis custodiam.


1. Thou splendid giver of the light,

By whose serene and lovely ray

Beyond the gloomy shades of night

Is opened wide another day!

2. Thou true Light-bearer of the earth,

Far more than he whose slender star,

Son of the morning, in its dearth

Of radiance sheds its beams afar!

3. But clearer than the sun may shine,

All light and day in Thee I find,

To fill my night with glory fine

And purify my inner mind.

4. Come near, Thou maker of the world,

Illustrious in thy Father’s light,

From whose free grace if we were hurled,

Body and soul were ruined quite.

5. Fill with Thy Spirit every sense,

That God’s divine and gracious love

May drive Satanic temptings hence,

And blight their falsehoods from above.

6. That in the acts of common toil

Which life demands from us each day,

We may, without a stain or soil,

Live in Thy holy laws alway.

7. Let chastity of mind prevail

To conquer every fleshly lust;

And keep Thy temple without fail,

O Holy Ghost, from filth and dust.

8. This hope is in my praying heart—

These are my vows which now I pay;

That this sweet light may not depart,

But guide me purely through the day.



1. Deus, Pater ingenite,

Et Fili unigenite,

Quos Trinitatis unitas

Sancto connectit Spiritu.

2. Te frustra nullus invocat,

Nec cassis unquam vocibus

Amator tui luminis

Ad coelum vultus erigit.

3. Et tu suspirantem, Deus,

Vel vota supplicantium,

Vel corda confitentium

Semper benignus aspice.

4. Nos lucis ortus admonet

Grates deferre debitas,

Tibique laudes dicere,

Quod nox obscura praeterit.

5. [Et] diem precamur bonum,

Ut nostros, Salvator, actus

Sinceritate perpeti

Pius benigne instruas.


1. Eternal Father, God,

And sole-begotten Son,

Who with the Holy Ghost

Art ever Three in One.

2. None calleth Thee in vain,

Nor yet with empty cry

Doth he who seeks Thy light

Lift up his gaze on high.

3. Do Thou, O God, behold

With mercy them that pray;

Receive their earnest vows

And take their guilt away.

4. The kindling sky forewarns

Our souls what praise we owe

To Him at whose command

The night has ceased below.

5. We ask a happy day,

That Thou shouldst guide our ways

In constant faithfulness,

O Saviour, to Thy praise!



1. Beata nobis gaudia

Anni reduxit orbita,

Cum Spiritus paraclitus

Illapsus est discipulis.

2. Ignis vibrante lumine

Linguae figuram detulit,

Verbis ut essent proflui,

Et charitate fervidi.

3. Linguis loquuntur omnium;

Turbae pavent gentilium:

Musto madere deputant,

Quos Spiritus repleverat.

4. Patrata sunt haec mystice,

Paschae peracto tempore,

Sacro dierum circulo,

Quo lege fit remissio.

5. Te nunc, Deus piissime,

Vultu precamur cernuo:

Illapsa nobis coelitus

Largire dona Spiritus!

6. Dudum sacrata pectora

Tua replesti gratia,

Dimitte nostra crimina,

Et da quieta tempora!


1. What blessed joys are ours,

When time renews our thought

Of that true Comforter

On the disciples brought.

2. With light of quivering flame

In fiery tongues He fell,

And hearts were warm with love

And lips were quick to tell.

3. All tongues were loosened then,

And fear, in men, awoke

Before that mighty power

By which the Spirit spoke.

4. Achieved in mystic sign

Has been that paschal feast,

Whose sacred list of days

The soul from sin released.

5. Thee then, O holiest Lord,

We pray in humble guise

To give such heavenly gifts

Before our later eyes.

6. Fill consecrated breasts

With grace to keep Thy ways;

Show us forgiveness now,

And grant us quiet days.


1. Jam meta noctis transiit,

Somni quies jam praeterit

Aurora surgit fulgida

Et spargit coelum lux nova.

2. Sed cum diei spiculum

Cernamus, hinc nos omnium

Ad te, superne Lucifer,

Preces necesse est fundere.

3. Te lucis sancte Spiritus

Et caritatis actibus

Ad instar illud gloriae

Nos innovatos effice.

4. Praesta Pater piissime

Patrique compar unice,

Cum Spiritu paraclito

Nunc et per omne saeculum.


1. The limit of the night is passed,

The quiet hour of sleep has fled;

Far up the lance of dawn is cast;

New light upon the heaven is spread.

2. But when this sparkle of the day

Our eyes discern, then, Lord of light,

To Thee our souls make haste to pray

And offer all their wants aright.

3. O Holy Spirit, by the deeds

Of Thine own light and charity,

Renew us through our earthly needs

And cause us to be like to Thee.

4. Grant this, O Father ever blessed;

And Holy Son, our heavenly friend;

And Holy Ghost, Thou comfort best!

Now and until all time shall end.



Contemporary with Hilary of Poitiers, but probably a younger man, as he survived him by seventeen years, was Damasus of Rome. Like many other Romans of the imperial period, he was a Spaniard by birth; or, at least, he was the son of a Spaniard who had removed to Rome and had become a deacon or presbyter of the church dedicated to the memory of the Roman martyr, St. Lawrence. Of his own earlier life we know very little. An extant epitaph records the fact that he had a sister who became a nun and died in her twentieth year. He himself served in the Church of St. Lawrence until his sixtieth year, when he was chosen Bishop of Rome; and in the accepted catalogue, which begins with the Apostle Peter, he ranks as the thirty-sixth bishop of the see.

He was chosen bishop in A.D. 366, because of the position he had taken with reference to the controversy which then agitated the diocese, and because of the firmness and weight of character he had displayed in the troubles of the years before his election. The great Christological controversy was agitating the Church of both East and West. The West was substantially in agreement with Athanasius, against both the Arians and the semi-Arians, and would have been entirely so but for the influence exerted by semi-Arian or Arian emperors and the courtly bishops of their party. Constantius, the last surviving son of Constantine the Great, was exceedingly zealous for the semi-Arian doctrine, which rejected the statement of our Lord’s substantial identity with His Father, but was willing to assert His substantial likeness. It was only the difference of an iota in a Greek word—ὁμοουσιος or ὁμοιουσιος—but if there ever was a case in which neither jot nor tittle must be allowed to pass away, it was this.

Liberius, who was elected Bishop of Rome in 352, was the victim of Constantius’s policy. In 353 the East and West were united 36 under his rule, and that year at Arles, as in 355 at Milan, councils were called, in which the condemnation of Athanasius was procured by imperial blandishments. In the former the presbyter sent by Liberius to represent the Roman see subscribed with the majority. But in the second his three representatives obeyed their instructions, and accepted disfavor and exile rather than subscribe. Then Liberius himself was summoned to Milan, and the weight of imperial threats and persuasions was brought to bear upon him. He withstood both manfully, and demanded as a preliminary to any discussion of the charges against Athanasius, that the Nicene Creed should be subscribed by all parties, and the banished bishops returned to their sees. When given his choice between submission and exile, he chose the latter.

The Emperor now sought among the Roman clergy for a man to put into Liberius’s place. In Rome, as in most of the cities of the West, Arians were not to be found. But in the Deacon Felix the court party obtained a candidate who, while himself a Trinitarian, was willing to hold communion with the Arians, and presumably to condemn Athanasius. Of the details of his election and ordination little is known, but we find him installed in the Roman see with the vigorous support of the civil authority, although not with the assent of the Roman people. The great body of the Christians in Rome are said to have refused communion with him because he was tainted by communion with heretics; and when Constantius came to visit the city, he was besieged by the Christian ladies of the city with appeals for the restoration of Liberius.

In the mean time three years of exile to Thrace, where he was thrown of set purpose into constant association with bishops of the semi-Arian party, and isolated from his friends, had broken the spirit of Liberius. He was not a man of strong character, and, unfortunately for the theory of papal infallibility, he yielded. He signed a creed compiled for the occasion, which described Christ as of like substance with the Father, and condemned Athanasius.[1] 37 He then was allowed to return to Rome, although Felix II. was still the recognized bishop. Constantius seems to have foreseen the difficulties which would attend the presence of the two bishops in the city, and he consented to the return of Liberius unwillingly. The body of the people and of the clergy at once rallied around Liberius, and rejected Felix altogether; and of this party was Damasus. But while they were willing to condone his weakness in the matter of condemning Athanasius, there was a party of more determined Athanasians who refused to do so, and the diocese now was divided between the three factions. That of Felix disappeared with his own death in 360 and the death of Constantius in 361. But the extreme Athanasians, although they did not attempt to set up a rival bishop while Liberius lived, perpetuated their party, and they probably received aid and comfort from a similar party which had arisen in the East, in opposition to the wiser and more charitable policy of Athanasius himself. This party was called the Luciferians, from Lucifer, Bishop of Cagliari, in Sardinia, who was in exile in the East at the time when this question was raised there after the death of Constantius.

In 367 Liberius died, and the schism at once showed itself in Rome. Damasus was chosen and ordained bishop in the regular form by the friends of Liberius, who were the great majority. But the Deacon Ursicinus was chosen by the Luciferian party, and ordained by bishops of that party in the basilica of St. Sicinus. Unfortunately the prefect of the city was a weak and ineffective man, who was quite unable to preserve peace between the two factions. It soon came to blows between them, and the pagan historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, tells us with what result:

“Damasus and Ursinus being eager beyond measure to secure possession of the bishop’s seat, carried on the conflict most bitterly and with divisive partisanship, their supporters carrying their quarrels to the point of inflicting death and wounds. As Juventius was unable either to suppress or abate these evils, he yielded to the violence and withdrew to the 38 suburbs. And in the struggle Damasus overcame, as his party was the more determined of the two. It is admitted that in the basilica of Sicinus, which is a place of assemblage for Christian worship, there were found in one day one hundred and thirty-seven corpses of those who had been done to death; and also that the excitement of the populace abated slowly and with difficulty after the affair was over.”

“See how these Christians love one another!” was a comment made by pagans on the spirit which had prevailed in the earlier Church. They now might have said it ironically. It is impossible to acquit Damasus of all responsibility in the matter, as he was a man of eminent ability and influence, and might have put an end to these scenes of violence if he had exerted his authority. It is equally impossible to believe that he took any part in them. Then, as in the Reformation times, what John Knox calls “the raskill multitude” greatly enjoyed an opportunity to show how great their zeal for religion, in any other shape but that of obeying its precepts. “Set Jehu to pulling down idols,” said an old Puritan, “and see how zealous he can be.”

The schism did not end with the bloody struggle around the basilica of St. Sicinus. It is true that the civil authority now interposed and banished the bishop of the Luciferian party. But he afterward was allowed to return, and again the troubles revived and ceased only with his second banishment. Even when the Emperor Gratian gave Damasus the entire jurisdiction over the bishops and priests involved in the schism, with a view to the final suppression of these disputes, the extremists lingered on. After Ursicinus there was yet another Luciferian bishop of Rome; and by a curious freak of controversial zeal the memory of Felix was consecrated as that of an opponent of Liberius, and a mythical account of their relations was given currency, which has resulted in the elevation of Felix to the rank of “pope and martyr,” on the ground that Constantius had him beheaded for his loyalty to the Nicene faith![2]


Damasus made an excellent record in his see, after the abating of the troubles which attended his accession to it. He left no room for doubt as to his orthodoxy. For the first time since the great controversy broke out in Alexandria, the whole weight and influence of the great Roman see was thrown unreservedly and effectively on the Athanasian side. The accession of Valentinian (364-75) to the imperial authority in the West once more threw the weight of court influence on the other side; but intolerance was not carried to the same extent as by Constantius. At every stage of the discussion we find Damasus outspoken on behalf of the Nicene faith, and in support of Athanasius. In 368 he held a synod at Rome, in which the Illyrian bishops Ursacius and Valens, who were trying to Arianize the West, were condemned as heretics; and in 370 another in which the same condemnation was meted out to Auxentius, the Bishop of Milan. Before he died he saw the second General Council meet at Constantinople and lay the ban of the Church on all the compromises with Arianism.

The see of Rome already had become a place of great splendor and influence. “Make me Bishop of Rome,” the pagan senator Praetextatus said to him, “and I will be a Christian to-morrow.” Damasus seems to have enjoyed the pomp and show and opportunities for outlay and for influence which his position secured him. But there was much in his administration of his diocese which commends him to our sympathies and even our admiration. He seems to have been the first to have taken a genuine interest in the Catacombs—the great underground burial-places which are so rich in memorials of the Church’s primitive and martyr ages. He fostered their use as places of pilgrimage and reunion for the people of his own diocese and pilgrims from others. He constructed the staircases which made them accessible, the well-lights for their illumination and ventilation, and the chapels for collective worship. Here Christendom, in the day of its triumph, gathered to commemorate those who had been faithful when the Church was under the cross, and Prudentius in his Peristephanon has left us a lively picture of the eager multitudes who resorted 40 thither on the festival days, some from Rome itself, others from the Etrurian and Sabine villages, thronging even the great roads to the city to their utmost capacity: “From early morn they press thither to greet the saints. The multitude comes and goes until evening. They kiss the polished plates of silver which cover the grave of the martyr. They offer incense, and tears of emotion stream from the eyes of all.”

When, after long centuries of forgetfulness, the Catacombs were reopened in 1578 by Antonio Bosio, traces of these pilgrimages were found in the graffiti or rude chalk-inscriptions left on the walls of the passages by the Italian peasants of the fourth and fifth centuries. There also were found the inscriptions in verse, composed by Damasus, and cut in stone by his friend, Furius Filocalus, who devised an ornamental alphabet for the purpose. In one of these Filocalus describes himself as one who “reverenced and loved Pope Damasus” (Damasi papae cultor atque amator).

Another side of his activity has been brought into light by more recent researches in Rome. Professor Lanciani says that to Damasus belongs also the honor of having founded the first public library of Christendom: “The finest libraries of the first centuries of Christendom were, of course, in Rome.... Such was the importance attributed to books in those early days of our faith that, in Christian basilicas, or places of worship, they were kept in the place of honor—next to the episcopal chair. Many of the basilicas which we discover from time to time, especially in the Campagna, have the apse trichora—that is, divided into three small hemicycles. The reason of this peculiar form was long sought in vain; but a recent discovery made at Hispalis proves that of the three hemicycles the central one contained the tribunal or episcopal chair, the one on the right the sacred implements, the one on the left the sacred books.

“The first building erected in Rome, under the Christian rule, for the study and preservation of books and documents, was the Archivum (Archives) of Pope Damasus. This just and enterprising pope, the last representative of good old Roman traditions as regards the magnificence and usefulness of his public structures, modelled his establishment on the pattern of the typical library at Pergamos; of which the Palatine Library in Rome had been the worthy rival. He began by raising in the centre a hall of basilical 41 type, which he dedicated to St. Lawrence,” and which “was surrounded by a square portico, into which opened the rooms or cells containing the various departments of the archives and of the library.” A commemorative inscription, composed by Damasus himself, in hexameters, seven in number, was set in front of the building above the main entrance. The text has been discovered in a MS. formerly at Heidelberg, now in the Vatican. The first four hexameters do not bring out in a good light the poetical faculties of the worthy pontiff—in fact their real meaning has not yet been ascertained; but the last three verses are more intelligible:

‘Archibis, fateor, volui nova condere tecta;

Addere praeterea dextra laevaque columnas,

Quae Damasi teneant proprium per saecula nomen.’

“Around the apse of the inner hall there was another distich of about the same poetical value, the text of which has been discovered in a MS. at Verdun:

‘Haec Damasi tibi, Christe Deus, nova tecta levavi

Laurenti saeptus martyris auxilio.’

“Mention of Damasus’s Archives is frequently made in the documents of the fourth and fifth centuries. Jerome calls them chartarium ecclesiae Romanae.”[3]

But a still more lasting monument of his fame is the Latin Vulgate, which he incited Jerome—as the English-speaking world calls Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus—to prepare for the Church of the West. From a very early time Latin translations of the Scriptures from the Greek version of the Old Testament and the Greek original of the New Testament had been in existence. But although there were two well recognized types of these early versions—the Italian and the African—there was so little uniformity that there were “almost as many versions as copies.” Jerome was a man of classical culture and a close student of the Scriptures, which he could read in Hebrew as well as in Greek and Latin. He came to Rome from Syria in 382, to ask the aid of Damasus in behalf of the Luciferian schism at Antioch—a matter in which the Bishop of Rome hardly could meddle. Even before his 42 arrival he had been in correspondence with Damasus and had written for him an exposition of the vision of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6. Damasus called a synod in which the schism at Antioch was discussed, but no result reached. It is said that in this synod he exhorted Jerome to take up the work of giving the Church a good Latin version of the Bible. A ninth-century writer says he put him in charge of the Archivum, or public library, described by Professor Lanciani. Later writers speak of him, without much warrant, as Damasus’s secretary. It seems probable that Damasus regarded him as a desirable man for the bishopric when his own death should leave it vacant. But when his death came in 384, the Dalmatian scholar was passed over, perhaps because he was not a Roman, and a much smaller man than either Damasus or Jerome was chosen instead. So Jerome went back to the East and established himself at Bethlehem. Between 382 and 404 he completed his version of the Scriptures, which is of especial importance to the student of Latin hymnology, as it stands in much the same relation to the Latin hymns of the fifth and later centuries as does the English Bible to the English hymn-writers. It controls their vocabulary and explains their allusions.

As a poet Damasus does not take very high rank. We have seen Professor Lanciani’s opinion of his inscriptions. Some forty poems are attributed to him, but only a very few of these concern us here. In the Cottonian MSS. there is a copy of rhymed “Verses of Damasus to his Friend” (Versus Damasi ad Amicum suum), which would be interesting to us if we were sure that Sir Alexander Croke is right in assuming that this is our Damasus. But the name “Rainalde” in the first line would hardly occur in a Latin poem by a Roman author of the fourth century.

There is no reason, however, to call in question the two hymns—one to the Martyr Agatha and the other to the Apostle Andrew—which are ascribed to him in the collections. And the former is especially remarkable as being the oldest hymn in which rhyme is employed intentionally and throughout. Of course if it were true that Hilary wrote the Jesu refulsit omnium or the Jesu quadrigenariae, which sometimes are printed as his, we should be obliged to assign to him the honor thus claimed for Damasus. But the preponderance of evidence and of presumption is against ascribing these hymns to him. Koch assigns the latter to the fifth century 43 and not to the fourth. Mone ascribes the former to one of the early Irish hymn-writers, whose name is lost to us. He finds in it a tendency to alliterative construction, which indicates either Celtic or Teutonic authorship; and he is decided for the former by the mixture of Greek words, which was a favorite practice with the Irish hymn writers. Also the metrical form is one affected by them. On these grounds it is fair to claim that the hymn of Damasus marks the introduction of end-rhymes into the Latin hymns.

Rhyme was by no means unknown in the poetry of the Greeks and the Romans. But in languages which occupied that stage of grammatical development in which the relations of words are expressed by terminations, the resemblances in these were so numerous and so constant that rhyme must have appeared rather a cheap form for poetry. So in this stage we find the Southern Aryans of Europe employing the quantity of syllables and those of Northern Europe the coincidences of initial sounds (stabreim or alliteration) and assonance in their verse. It was when the development of languages substituted auxiliary and connecting words for terminations that the coincidences of final sounds became so much a source of pleasure to the ear as to justify their continuous employment for that purpose.

But besides the occasional occurrence of rhyme in classic poetry—as in Virgil’s famous jeu d’ esprit,

“Sic vos non vobis edificatis aves,” etc.—

there seems to have existed forms of popular Latin verse in which rhyme and accent held the place which quantity held in classic poetry. It is this popular form of verse which the Church’s hymns began to reproduce, just as they also in many cases are written in that lingua rustica, or countrified speech of the peasantry of Italy and France, which was to become the basis of the Romance languages. It is a matter of dispute whether the Saturnian verse-form, to whose early prevalence and prolonged existence among the classes not pervaded by Greek culture Horace alludes, was based on an accentual scansion or merely on a numbering of syllables and a rude approach to quantity. The general consensus of scholars is that the Saturnian metres were based on accent, and 44 that rhyme, which is the natural and invariable product of the accentual scansion, was also in use.[4]

So this hidden current of rhymed and accented poetry of the common people rose to light again after many ages in the hymns of the Western Church. Thus Damasus brings us to the parting of the ways. In Hilary, Ambrose and his school, Prudentius, Ennodius, Fortunatus, Elpis, Gregory, and Bede we have the perpetuation of the classic tradition of quantitative verse in the service of Christendom and for the ear of the cultivated classes. And while that tradition expires in the Middle Ages, we see it revive again in the sacred poets of the Renaissance—in Zacharius Ferrari, George Fabricius, Marcus Antonius Muretus, Famiano Strada and the other revisers of the Roman Breviary, the two Santeuls in the Breviary of Clugny, and Charles Coffin in the Paris Breviary. But Damasus stands at the head of a still more illustrious line. Catching, perhaps, from the Etruscan and Sabine peasants, who thronged the Catacombs on the day when the Martyr Agatha was commemorated, the accents of the popular poetry, he became the founder of the tradition which lives in the broader current of Latin sacred song. In this line of succession we find already a few of the Ambrosian hymns, and then a long series in which the two Bernards, Adam of St. Victor, Thomas of Celano, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventura are the most illustrious names. And as indeed the tradition of accent and rhyme seems to have made its way into the literature of the modern world through the Latin hymns, Dante and all the great poets who have illustrated its power to give pleasure might be said to belong here.

The hymn in commemoration of the Martyr Agatha—whose story of suffering and triumph had seized on the imagination of the people as did those of the martyrs Cecilia and Sebastian—we 45 give with the English version of the Rev. J. Anketell, which he has kindly permitted us to use.

Martyris ecce dies Agathae

Virginis emicat eximiae,

Christus eam Sibi qua sociat,

Et diadema duplex decorat.

Stirpe decens, elegans specie,

Sed magis actibus atque fide:

Terrea prospera nil reputans

Jussa Dei sibi corde ligans.

Fortior haec trucibusque viris

Exposuit sua membra flagris,

Pectore quam fuerit valido

Torta mamilla docet patulo.

Deliciae cui carcer erat,

Pastor ovem Petrus hanc recreat,

Laetior inde magisque flagrans

Cuncta flagella cucurrit ovans.

Ethnica turba rogum fugiens,

Hujus et ipsa meretur opem:

Quos fidei titulus decorat,

His Venerem magis ipsa premat.

Jam renitens quasi sponsa polo,

Pro misero rogitet Damaso,

Sic sua festa coli faciat,

Se celebrantibus ut faveat.

Gloria cum Patre sit Genito,

Spirituique proinde sacro,

Qui Deus unus et omnipotens

Hanc nostri faciat memorem.

Fair as the morn in the deep blushing East,

Dawns the bright day of Saint Agatha’s feast;

Christ who has borne her from labor to rest,

Crowns her as Virgin and Martyr most blest.

Noble by birth and of beautiful face,

Richer by far in her deeds and her grace,

Earth’s fleeting honors and gains she despised,

God’s holy will and commandments she prized.


Braver and nobler than merciless foes,

Willing her limbs to the scourge to expose;

Weakly she sank not by anguish oppressed,

When cruel torture destroyed her fair breast.

Then her dark dungeon was filled with delight,

Peter the shepherd refreshed her by night;

Forth to her tortures rejoicing she went,

Thanking her God for the trials he sent.

Barbarous pagans, escaping their doom,

Honor her virtues that brighten their gloom;

They whom the title of faith hath adorned,

Like her, earth’s possessions and pleasures have scorned.

Radiant and glorious, a heavenly bride,

She to the Lord for the wretched hath cried;

So in her honor your praises employ,

That ye too may share in her triumph and joy.

Praise to the Father and praise to the Son,

Praise to the Spirit, the blest Three in One;

God of all might in Heaven’s glory arrayed,

Praise for thy grace in thy servant displayed.

It will be observed that Mr. Anketell, in the second line of the sixth verse, follows the reading preferred by Daniel: Pro miseris supplica Domino, which omits the Pope’s name. But it seems much more unlikely that this line should be altered to the line as given above, than that the contrary change should have been made. Emendators generally pass from the concrete to the vague, from the specific to the general.



It would appear that the Ambrosian hymns obtained much of their earliest recognition in Spain. At least so runs the statement of Cardinal Thomasius, who edited the Mozarabic (Spanish) Breviary. He says: “It is not doubtful that in the seventh century of the Church, when the Spanish Church especially flourished, the Ambrosian hymns were everywhere in vogue.” The Concilium Agathense (Council of Agde in Southern France, A.D. 506), which concerned itself chiefly with matters of discipline, ordained that hymns should be sung morning and evening, and at the conclusion of matins, vespers, and masses. These and similar enactments had reference to the body of hymns which had received the name of the Bishop of Milan. Then, as now, they formed the true fragrant cedar-heart of the old psalmody, and it is from their structure that the Council of Toledo (633) drew its famous definition. The Council said: “Proprie autem hymni sunt continentes laudem Dei. Si ergo sit laus, et non sit Dei, non est hymnus. Si sit et laus Dei laus [sic] et non cantatur non est hymnus. Si ergo laudem Dei dicitur et cantatur, tunc est hymnus.” That is to say: “Hymns properly contain the praise of God. If therefore there be praise, but not of God, this is no hymn. If there be praise, praise of God, but not capable of being sung, this is no hymn. If therefore the praise of God be both composed and sung, it is then a hymn.”

The author who is thus honored as the first great leader of the Church’s praise was born at Treves, in Gaul, about the year 340 (or, as some say, 334). His father was a Roman noble who became praetorian prefect of the province of Gallia Narbonensis; and as Hither Gaul was an important region, it can be easily seen that the young Ambrose was reared in the midst of wealth and power. His mother was a learned woman and he naturally imbibed letters as he grew up. A tradition, which is probably based 48 on fact, assures us that even in his cradle he was marked for fame. A swarm of bees came down upon him, and the amazed nurse saw them clustered about his very mouth without harming him. This was the same prodigy which had been related of Plato, and hence his parents imagined a high destiny for the lad. It was indeed a singular and suggestive commentary on his future life. He preserved his equanimity amid a great deal of buzzing; and the sweetness of his speech won to him no less a convert than the great Augustine. His entire career was worthy of the sainted Sotheria, his ancestress, who was martyred for the faith under Diocletian.

He appears to us a man of both character and conscience. His education was given him at Rome, and his brother Satyrus and himself went to Milan to practice at the bar. His success as a pleader was great. He became first assessor to the prefect with the rank of Consularis, whose headquarters were now at Milan; and subsequently he took charge of Liguria and Emilia. For in 369 we find him, by appointment of the Emperor Valentinian, prefect of Upper Italy and Milan. His position is sometimes styled that of “consular,” sometimes that of “governor,” and sometimes that of “praetor” or imperial president, which last perhaps the easiest designation for modern ears and carries the plainest meaning with it.

Now Milan was the capital of Liguria and it was the business of the praetor to preside in the stead of the Emperor over the choice of a bishop. Auxentius, an Arian, who had held this office, died in 374 and a new election was necessary. This was not an easy matter, for the feud between the Catholics and the Arians was at fever-heat, and rioting and bloodshed were very certain to occur.

The praetor called to mind the advice of Probus, prefect of Italy, who had once charged him to administer the affairs of his region “like a bishop.” He therefore tried to cast oil upon the waters. His genial gravity and calm serenity of spirit aided the impression he meant to produce. Both factions gazed upon him with delight. His attitude was so unpartisan as to charm everybody, and it was very natural that this eloquent representative of the Emperor should carry the suffrages of the throng. And just when the interest was most intense and the confidence greatest, a child cried 49 out, “Let Ambrose be bishop,” and the crowd caught the contagion at once.

In later days it was maliciously said that Ambrose had himself contrived this scene with an eye to the stage effect—that for all his apparent humility the coming bishop set store by the office and wanted to obtain it—that, in short, his reluctance to receive it and even his precipitate flight from the city were prearranged! More than this, it has been asserted that the various schemes and subterfuges to avoid becoming bishop were known to and abetted by his friends, who were of the orthodox party and desired to have their candidate elected. The best reply that can be given is the character of the man himself. Such a person must have entertained the highest reverence for such an office. In his administration of its cares and duties he showed a conscious supremacy over every worldly consideration. In his final acceptance of it he evinced no less of self-denial than of sincerity. And it is incredible that so mighty a mind as that of Augustine could have been caught by the glittering emptiness of a hypocritical or self-seeking nature. We may well charge these calumnies to their proper sources—those, namely, of disappointed ambition or of envious malignity.

The record of this endeavor to escape office reads singularly enough. He first put some criminals to the torture, hoping by this means to shock the people through his hard-hearted justice. When this would not do he avowed philosophic rather than Christian sentiments. Having again failed, he welcomed some very profligate persons—men and women—to his palace in a way to invite scandal. This expedient being also detected he actually escaped from the city by night, but lost his way and found himself in front of the gates when morning dawned. This being his fourth unavailing effort, he fled to a friend’s house in the country, begging that he might lie hidden there until the first rush of feeling had been stemmed and he could hope for calmer consideration of his refusal. But the friend immediately betrayed him for his own good, and this well-meant treachery fastened the mitre firmly on his brow. Basil the Great gloried in this new coadjutor; and at the age of thirty-four or thereabouts, he himself became convinced that he could struggle no longer against his fate.

It was thus that Ambrose finally assumed the episcopate, and it was soon evident that this catechumen—for he had not even been 50 previously baptized—respected its dignities and meant that others should be of the same mind as himself. He gave up his private fortune, selling his large estates and personal property, and reserving from them only a proper allowance to his sister Marcellina, who had early taken the vow of virginity. He associated with this proceeding the most strict method of living. “He accepted no invitations to banquets; took dinner only on Sunday, Saturday, and the festivals of celebrated martyrs; devoted the greater part of the night to prayer, to the hitherto necessarily neglected study of the Scriptures and the Greek fathers and to theological writing; preached every Sunday and often in the week; was accessible to all, most accessible to the poor and needy; and administered his spiritual oversight, particularly his instruction of catechumens, with the greatest fidelity.”

This is the character, admirably condensed, of a model bishop. To its fulfilment it requires the fervent piety of a true Christian and the constant zeal of an acute student together with the large prudence of a man of affairs. All these are abundantly found in Ambrose. And if it happened that in other and worse times his assertion of the spiritual independence of a bishop gave a foundation for what became the authority of the pope, it may be properly retorted that for him not to have done so then would have prevented many another better thing in later ages.

He was a more polished scholar than Hilary, and a more devout Christian than Damasus. Hence it was that his energy and skill contributed largely to the success of the Nicene orthodoxy in the West. Those times were troublous, and a cheerful and sunshiny temper like that of Ambrose was a vast auxiliary to the cause. He had been consecrated in 374, eight days after his election; and in 382 he presided at the synod in Aquileia which deposed Palladius and Secundianus, the Arian bishops. By so doing, and by his general attitude, he incurred the anger of Justina, whose son, the younger Valentinian, he always upheld and shielded. The Empress, however, determined to deal with him a good deal as Ahab’s wife dealt with Elijah. This comparison takes additional point from the use which Ambrose himself made of the story of Naboth in his defence of the Portian Church.

He had already encountered the smouldering idolatry of old Rome, headed by the rhetorician, Symmachus; but the eloquence 51 of Ambrose had borne down all opposition and that conflict was now at an end. A vindictive woman was, however, a greater danger than a clever orator, and he found this true when Justina, the Empress-mother, allied herself with the heretical Arians. His pious zeal was kindled in a moment. Give up churches to such a schismatic set as these? Never!

It was at Easter in the year 386 that the Portian Church and its holy vessels were demanded for the use of the other party. Then stood up both the old Roman and the new Christian in the single person of the Bishop of Milan. He compared the demand to that of Ahab for Naboth’s vineyard; and it may well be supposed that with the rush of such a torrent of speech a current of inference was also borne along which involved Justina herself. The sermon, which has survived to us, was preached on Palm Sunday, and in it he said that he would hold every religious edifice against heresy to the very death. Let them take his property; let them depose or destroy himself; let them do their worst—but for his part he would stand there unshaken for the truth. He would not incite riot and confusion, but he would not yield. It was the anticipation of Luther’s “Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir!” For Ambrose proclaimed, almost in these actual words, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me!”

He made one magnificent point in this discourse—the focal centre it was of the entire outburst of eloquent declamation. It was when he quoted what our Lord Himself had said. “Yes,” cries Ambrose, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s. Is the Church the property of Caesar? Never! It belongs unalterably to God. For God, then, it shall be kept. It shall never be surrendered to Caesar.”

The fight was really a siege. The sacred character of the churches protected their defenders. Ambrose invigorated the multitude who flocked to help him, and who organized relief parties to keep possession by day and by night. To relieve the monotony of their watches, he frequently addressed them words of encouragement. His fine equanimity triumphed over the impending disaster. He taught the people there and then the hymns of the early Church. He composed tunes and instructed them in singing. And when at last he was able to discover the bodies of 52 Gervasius and Protasius, the ancient martyrs, he kindled in the spirits of his hearers such a fire that the popular voice was heeded even by the throne itself, and Justina was defeated and gave up the struggle. The court actually retreated before the authority of the Church. And from that moment, and that other memorable moment when he arraigned Theodosius, Ambrose delivered the power of the bishop’s crozier from any interference coming from the Emperor’s sceptre. Those were the days when the pastoral staff might be of wood, but the man who wielded it was of pure gold.

This account needs the story of Theodosius to be immediately attached to it in order to make it stand out in its true relation to the character of Ambrose. The bishop met three great enemies during his career. First appeared Idolatry, championed by Symmachus; then followed Heresy, championed by Justina; and now came Despotism, behind which stood the beloved Theodosius, the Emperor-pupil, with his hands red from the massacre of Thessalonica. The facts were these: a tumult had arisen in the circus at that place; Botheric, an imperial officer, had been killed; and the Emperor had in revenge put very many people to death. Some have even run the figures up to the incredible altitude of thirty thousand, and the massacre has been always regarded as involving seven thousand victims at the lowest estimate. It was a brutal and a horrible act, and Ambrose came out as Nathan did before David and denounced it with the most withering reproaches. The Emperor cowered and bent before this sirocco of the truth. The speaker was poised so high above him in the assured calm of a steady rectitude that Theodosius could do nothing except yield. And yield he did; and for eight months he paid penance before he was restored. It was the penance of the German Henry which hastened the Reformation; it was the humiliation of Theodosius which preserved both rights and dignities to the Church.

There is another side of Ambrose, and one on which Protestants will love to dwell. While his great disciple Augustine lent the weight of his authority to the doctrine that civil constraint might be used to bring men to orthodox beliefs, Ambrose always denounced that. When Valentinian II. sent him to Trier to negotiate with the rebel Maximus, in the winter of 383-84, Ambrose—like his contemporary, Martin of Tours—refused to have any 53 communion with the bishops who recognized Maximus as Emperor, not on political grounds, but because they had obtained the execution of certain Spanish Priscillianists for heresy. This was the first blood-stain on the white garments of the Church—the first in the long line of such sins against the Word and Spirit of Christ. Yet Adrian VI. appealed to it as a precedent against Luther, and described the usurper as one of “the ancient and pious emperors.” In this he followed the example of his infallible predecessor, Leo I., who, in 447, declared there would be an end of all law, human and divine, if such heretics were allowed to live!

As an orator and writer, Ambrose’s strength lay in the simple direct plunge of his sentences, wide and grand and forceful as the launching of a great bowlder down a mountain path. And Mr. Simcox has noticed that the words which are used to describe his rhetorical power are almost all derived from eloqui. The other assemblage of expressions, drawn from disertus and the like, refer to the logical or learned weight of an argument. But what struck every one in the case of Ambrose was that he let the truth come mightily, just as he felt and believed it, with a swing and a vigor which was the outburst of his own majestic soul. It was this which won his victories. It was this power of sincerity which made him the counsellor of Theodosius and the instructor of Gratian as well as the guardian of Valentinian II. It was this unshrinking forwardness of movement which led him to oppose the rebuilding of the Jews’ synagogue; they had denied the Lord Jesus—let their house burn! But a victory more Christian was gained when thirty days of respite were fixed by his intercession between the sentence and execution of criminals. And although the defence of “Virginity,” as Ambrose conducted it, was the mainspring of the conventual idea, and was afterward vigorously used for that purpose, it is again plain that he advocated what he believed and what he himself devoutly practised. He shines upon us, from every angle of vision, as a character most pure, serene, and brave.

The siege in the basilica at Milan had an important bearing on the whole future of the Christian Church. Augustine tells us how his mother Monica had followed him to Milan, and how when there “she hastened the more eagerly to the church and hung 54 upon the lips of Ambrose.” (Aug. Conf., B. vi.) “That man,” he continues, “she loved as an angel of God because she knew that by him I had been brought to that doubtful state of faith I now was in.” She evidently anticipated that so eloquent a preacher would complete the work that he had been permitted to begin. As for Augustine himself, he felt “shut out both from his ear and speech by multitudes of busy people whose weaknesses he served.”

How finely, by the way, this very expression illustrates the greatness of Ambrose’s character and the unselfishness of his life! We get also a picture of the man as a student—one whose voice would become worn by any extended public speaking, and who therefore read to himself in his private studies in a manner unusual apparently in that age—namely, as we do now, without opening his lips or articulating the words. The effect of Justina’s persecution is also given most graphically. (Aug. Conf., B. ix.) For Augustine, having first told us how these heavenly voices fell upon his ear, says that his mother “bore a chief part of those anxieties and watchings” and “lived for prayer.” At this date, he emphatically declares, “it was first instituted that after the manner of the Eastern churches, hymns and psalms should be sung lest the people should wax faint through the tediousness of sorrow; and from that day to this the custom is retained, divers (yea, almost all) congregations throughout other parts of the world following herein.” It is he, moreover, who tells us that the two martyrs’ bodies were transferred to that Ambrosian church erected in 387, and where afterward were placed the bones of its great founder; which was spared by Barbarossa in 1162, and which, as the church of San Ambrogio, still occupies its old site in Milan. Thus we have the most important of contemporary testimony to some of these troublous scenes.

Of the Ambrosian hymns themselves a great deal may be said. It is better to confine one’s self rather, therefore, to results than to the long processes which have led thither. But it is impossible to agree with Dr. Neale and Archbishop Trench, who say of them that “there is a certain coldness in them—an aloofness of the author from his subject.” This is one of those bits of critical misapprehension which lead us to doubt the infallibility of even so admirable a judgment as that of the warden of Sackville College. 55 The truth is that Dr. Neale admired gorgeousness and the splendor of ritual. He praises the Pange lingua of Aquinas altogether too much and he praises Ambrose altogether too little. A simple and reverent spirit cannot be said to experience, as he does, a “feeling of disappointment” before this which he calls “an altar of unhewn stone.” This single phrase exposes the delusion. “Unhewn stone” is not to Dr. Neale’s nor to Archbishop Trench’s churchly taste, while it is precisely upon such an altar as that (Ex. 20:25) that God was ready to let His flame descend. The latest judgment—that of Mr. Simcox—(Latin Literature, vol. ii., 405) is decidedly preferable: “They all have the character of deep, spontaneous feeling, flowing in a clear, rhythmical current, and show a more genuine literary feeling than the prose works.” To any one who is at all familiar with the Ambrosian hymns this will at once commend itself as the better criticism.

We may pause a moment to inquire about the chants which bear his name, but we shall have slight enough information. Four tunes are traditional: the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixed Lydian. What these were and how they were sung, we do not accurately know. We do know, however, that Ambrose employed but four notes (the tetrachord) where we have subdivided the various tones into the octave. The Germans do not profess to tell us anything more definite than this.

The actual hymns are to be reckoned up in several ways. First comes the mass of Ambrosiani, including hymns of Gregory the Great and of other and much later authors. Many have been foisted into this category because they were found in old breviaries and manuscripts. Then from these we may separate the presumed originals—of which a large proportion are now known to belong to other writers. These misapprehensions are due to such compilers as Fabricius, Cassander, Clichtove, and Thomasius, who were not invariably correct and who perpetuated their designations through later works. Still a third class are the possible originals, selected by the judicious but not always accurate zeal of the Benedictines of St. Maur when they edited the collected works of the great bishop. And last of all can be placed the probable originals—those hymns which are authenticated by Augustine and by St. Caelestin (A.D. 430), together with those in structure closely resembling them.


For our own purposes a fifth class can even yet be formed from the last named group—the undoubted originals, which will comprise only those attested by contemporary authority.

The list would stand then in the order of authenticity, about as follows:


Attested by St Augustine.
Deus Creator omnium,
Aeterne rerum conditor,
Jam surgit hora tertia, Qua
Referred to directly by St. Caelestin.
Veni Redemptor gentium.

These are the undoubted hymns and the only hymns to be safely assigned to Ambrose.


Aeterna Christi numera, et martyrum,
Illuminans altissimus,
Orabo mente dominum,
(from Bis ternas horas,)
Splendor paternae gloriae.

These are the probable hymns.


Apostolorum passio,
Conditor alme siderum,
Consors paterni luminis,
Hic est dies verus Dei,
Jam lucis orto sidere,
Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus,
O lux beata Trinitas,
Obduxere polum nubila coeli,
O rex aeterne domine,
Rector potens, verax Deus,
Rerum Deus tenax vigor,
Somno refectis artubus,
Squalent arva soli pulvere multo,
Summae Deus clementiae,
Tristes erant apostoli.

These have, for one reason or another, been assigned to Ambrose. It is to be remembered that the Tristes erant is a part of the Aurora lucis rutilat, and that in many cases the hymns are very much intermingled. A rigid designation is therefore impossible. The fourth class comprehends what may be called Ambrosiani—the Sedulian and Gregorian and other hymns being simply excluded from the list.



Aeternae lucis conditor,
Agnis beatae virginis,
Apostolorum supparem,
A solis ortus cardine Et usque,
Aurora lucis rutilat,
Bis ternas horas explicans,
Certum tenentes ordinem,
Christe coelorum conditor,
Christe cunctorum dominator alme,
Christe qui lux es et dies,
Christe rex coeli domine,
Christe redemptor gentium,
Cibis resumptis congruis,
Coeli Deus sanctissime,
Convexa solis orbita,
Dei fide, qua vivimus,
Deus aeterni luminis,
Deus qui certis legibus,
Deus qui claro lumine,
Deus qui coeli lumen es,
Dicamus laudes Domino,
Diei luce reddita,
Fulgentis auctor aetheris,
Gesta sanctorum martyrum,
Grates tibi Jesu novas,
Hymnum dicamus Domino,
Immense coeli conditor,
Jam cursus horae sextae,
Jam lucis splendor rutilat,
Jam sexta sensim volvitur,
Jam surgit hora tertia, Et nos,
Jam ter quaternis trahitur,
Jesu corona celsior,
Jesu corona virginum,
Jesu nostra redemptio,
Magnae Deus potentiae,
Magni palmam certaminis,
Mediae noctis tempus est,
Meridie orandum est,
Miraculum laudabile,
Mysteriorum signifer,
Mysterium ecclesiae,
Nox atra rerum contegit,
Optatus votis omnium,
Perfectum trinum numerum,
Plasmator hominis Deus,
Post matutinas laudes,
Rerum creator optime,
Sacratum hoc templum Dei,
Saevus bella serit barbarus horrens,
Stephano primo martyri,
Telluris ingens conditor,
Te lucis ante termium,
Tempus noctis surgentibus,
Ter hora trina volvitur,
Ternis ter horis numerus,
Tristes nunc populi, Christe redemptor,
Tu Trinitatis unitas,
Verbum supernum prodiens, a Patre,
Victor, Nabor, Felix pii,
Vox clara ecce intonat.

While these are often known to be mere paraphrases of Ambrose’s own homilies, or imitations of his hymns, they are as frequently found to possess his spirit and almost the very forms of his verse. Thus Daniel says of the Ter hora trina that it is “not 58 unworthy of Ambrose himself.” We also find many cases where the Roman Breviary has altered the first line as well as changed the arrangement of the stanzas.

The last class are those hymns, formerly called Ambrosian, but now known to be the work of other hands. They are given with their authors’ names appended.


Ad coenam Agni providi.
(Ad regias Agni.)
An ancient hymn, older possibly than Ambrose or Hilary.
Aeterna Christi unmera nos.A mediaeval patchwork.
Aeterna coeli gloria.An Abcedary of later date.
Agathae sanctae virginis.Found at Milan among Ambrosian hymns.
Almi prophetae progenies.Time of Ennodius, sixth century.
Amore Christi nobilis.Versification of Ambrose on the Incarnation, cap. 3.
A solis ortus cardine, Ad usque.“An Abcedary arranged by Sedulius.”—Neale.
Aurora jam spargit polum.“Incognitus auctor.”—Cassander.
Bellator armis inclytus.“Ein altes Lied.”—Mone.
Ex more docti mystico.—Gregory.
Fit porta Christi pervia.Part of A solis ortus.—Sedulius.
Jam Christus astra ascenderat.Gregory.
Lucis creator optime.Gregory.

Here, then, we have what may be called substantially the earliest hymn-book of the Latin Church. Of course there were other hymns which were very soon separated and properly assigned, but not until the fifteenth century was any intelligent analysis attempted, and it is even now—as can be easily seen—a matter not of dogmatic certainty, but of scholarly authority and inherent probability. It may not be improper to add, however, that in these hymns we find some of the purest and most pious of praises. The honor of the Virgin Mother and of the saints has not yet been attempted. The martyrs, Stephen and Agnes and Agatha, are alone mentioned, if we except an occasional and somewhat doubtful tribute to others. These are hymns of worship and of prayer—of adoration and of fellowship.


As a handful of grain from a great granary, here are four versions of hymns counted as among Ambrose’s best:


Maker of all, the Lord,

And ruler in the height,

Thy care doth robe the day in peace,

Thou givest sleep by night.

Let rest refresh our limbs

For toil, though wearied now,

And let our troubled minds be calm,

And smooth the anxious brow.

We sing our thanks, for day

Is gone and night appears;

Our vows and prayers in contrite hope

Are lifted to thine ears.

To thee the deepest soul,

To thee the tuneful voice,

To thee the chaste affections turn,

In thee our minds rejoice.

That when black depths of gloom

Have hid the day from sight,

Our faith may tread no darkening path,

And night by faith be bright.

And let no slumber seize

That mind which must not sleep,

Whose faith must keep its virtue fresh,

Whose dreams may not be deep.

When sensual things are done

Our loftiest thought is thine,

Nor fear of unseen enemies

Can break such peace divine.

To Christ and to the Father now,

And to the Spirit equally,

We pray for every favoring gift,

One God supreme, a Trinity.



O splendor of the Father’s face,

Affording light from light,

Thou Light of light, thou fount of grace,

Thou day of day most bright.

O shine upon us, perfect Sun,

With lasting brightness shine;

Let radiance from the Spirit run,

Our senses to refine.

To thee, our Father, do we pray,

Whose glory endeth not,

That thine almighty favor may

Remove each sinful spot.

He fills our deeds with heavenly strength,

He blunts the look of hate,

He ends our weary lot at length,

Or gives us grace to wait.


This is the very day of God,

Serene with holy light,

On which the pure atoning blood

Has cleansed the world aright.

Restoring hope to lost mankind,

Enlightening darkened eyes,

Relieving fear in us who find

The thief in Paradise.

Who, changing swiftly cross for crown,

By one brief glance of trust,

Beheld God’s Kingdom shining down,

And followed Christ the Just.

The very angels stand amazed,

Beholding such a sight,

And such a trusting sinner raised

To blessed life and light.


O mystery beyond our thought,

To take earth’s stain away,

And lift the burden sin hath brought,

And cleanse this coarser clay.

What deed can more sublime appear?

For sorrow seeks for grace,

And love releases mortal fear,

And death renews the race.

Death seizes on the bitter barb,

And binds herself thereto,

And life is clad in deathly garb,

And life shall rise anew.

When death through earth has made her path,

Then all the dead shall rise,

And death, consumed by heavenly wrath,

In groans, and lonely, dies.


O blessed light, the Trinity,

In Unity of primal love—

Now that the burning sun has gone,

Our hearts illumine from above.

Thee, in the morn with songs of praise,

Thee, at the evening time, we seek;

Thee, through all ages we adore,

And, suppliant of thy love, we speak.

To God the Father be the praise,

And to his sole-begotten Son,

And to the Blessed Comforter,

Both now and while all time shall run.

The closing scenes in the life of the great bishop were such as became his past. His funeral address over his brother Satyrus is like that of Bernard over his brother Gerard, or like that of Melanchthon above the dead Luther. His eulogy of Theodosius, whom he survived but two years, is conceived in a strain of lofty poetry, several paragraphs opening with the repeated phrase Dilexi virum illum. I loved that man!


Ambrose died on the night after Good Friday, A.D. 397. Paulinus, his biographer, was taking notes of the commentary pronounced by his dying master on the 43d psalm. It was a scene like that at the deathbed of the Venerable Bede. The failing bishop said that he heard angelic voices and saw the smiling face of Christ; and the reverent scribe avows that the face which looked on his own was bright, and that around that aged head shone until the very last an aureole of glory.

Let us allow much charity to the miracles and to the superstition of that time, but let us also remember the gravity and sweetness of the poet-bishop. For it is no wonder that when he lay in state in the great cathedral with quiet, upturned face, little children were moved by his gentle dignity of countenance and men and women, affected by this holy presence, put away their sins, and were baptized as followers of the dead man’s faith.



Aurelius Prudentius Clemens has received rather more than his due share of renown. His works have been edited by the most careful scholars. There is a beautiful little “Elzevir” upon which Heinsius expended his labor and which was printed at Amsterdam in 1667. There is an “Aldine,” 4to, Venice, 1501. But the most elegant is that of Parma (1788, 2 vols., 4to), edited by Teoli; and the best is regarded as that of Faustinus Arevalus, the Spaniard, Rome 1788-89, also in 2 vols. 4to. If to these we add the most accessible collection of his writings, we shall find it in the fifty-ninth and sixtieth volumes of Migne’s Patrologia. The text of these various editions is derived from what is called the Codex Puteanus, now in the Paris Library—a manuscript dating into the fifth or sixth century. In all, there have been nearly a dozen of them, of which that of R. Langius (1490, 4to) is the true princeps—the very earliest. And in the matter of editorship, it is worthy of note that Erasmus did not disdain to expend his fine classical skill upon the hymns for Christmas and the Epiphany.

If we ask Bentley his opinion of Prudentius he tells us that he is “the Horace and Virgil of the Christians.” Milman declares that he was “the great popular author of the Middle Ages,” and that “no work but the Bible appears with so many glosses [commentaries] in High German.” “T. D.,” away back in 1821, when dear old Kit North was editing Blackwood, furnished that periodical with some poetical translations and remarked that Prudentius was “the Latin Dr. Watts.” In La Rousse he obtains the credit of being “the first Christian poet.” Among the earlier contemporaneous, or slightly subsequent references his name is preceded by the magic letters, “V. C.,” standing not, as some have thought, for Vir Consularis, a man who had enjoyed the consulship, but for Vir Clarissimus, a person of high distinction. It is reserved for the “worthy and impartial” Du Pin to formulate a judgment 64 more in accord with the true facts of the case. “Prudentius,” saith Du Pin, “is no very good poet, he often useth expressions not reconcilable to the purity of Augustus’s Age.”

The value of his poetry turns largely upon its theological and historical merits—both of which are considerable. It is not structurally perfect by any means, and yet it has furnished several very lovely hymns to the Church—graceful and delicate, rather than strong or inspiring.

In giving him his name it is safe to take that which is usually adopted: Aurelius Prudentius, surnamed Clemens or the Merciful. To this has occasionally been prefixed Quintus or Marcus, but neither has sufficient authority in its favor. He was a Spaniard, and the main facts concerning his life are learned from his own metrical preface to his poems. Probably few questions have been more closely discussed by the learned than this of his birthplace. The internal evidence is heaped up on either side until it is seen that Calahorra [Calagurris] is probably where he was born, while Saragossa [Caesarea-Augusta] was “his city” and the place with which he was most identified.

He was doubtless of good family. Those industrious and microscopic editors who have devoted themselves to his fame have laid great stress upon the names Aurelius and Clemens. The Aurelii, they say, were distinguished and well-born people. The Clementes were also of notable memory. And there were two Prudentii beside himself who obtained rather more than ordinary distinction. Indeed, there were some five Prudentii, early and late, and one of them, Prudentius Amoenus, tried, indifferently badly, to climb to fame by an abridgment of his predecessor’s history of the Old and New Testaments. In this he was so successful that the original is now lost, the condensation alone remains, and our Prudentius is often known as Prudentius Major, to differentiate him from this troublesome Minor, who was a preceptor of Walafrid Strabo. In regard to two other hymns—the Corde natus and the Vidit anguis—an element of doubt has been introduced by this same person. Faustinus Arevalus was nothing if not a hymn-tinker (see Christian Remembrancer, vol. xlvi., p. 125 ff.), and it is possible that these by such careless editorship have been incorporated into the text of the true Prudentius from the pages of his namesake and imitator. The hymn Virgo Dei genitrix 65 (of the fifteenth century) is ascribed to another of the five Prudentii.

This sort of blunder is by no means unusual. We have an instance in point with reference to the very Consul Salia in whose consulship our poet tells us that he was born. A similarity between Coss. Salia and Massalia misled the learned. They saw in this a proof that Massilia (Marseilles) was his birthplace, and Prudentius was at once claimed for France. But we have now unravelled and disentangled the greater part of this obscure coil. Flavius Philippus and Flavius Salia are known to have served conjointly in the year 348, and hence the industry of Aldus Manutius and Labbeus (Labbèe) has been thrown away and their false conjecture has been abandoned.

Prudentius himself tells us nothing about his family, beyond what we derive by inference. The deeper that we plunge into this labyrinth of guesses the further we are from being settled in opinion. The exhaustive—and, let us add, the exhausting—editor of the latest edition finally calls a halt in the middle of his complicated Latin sentences and avows himself utterly at a loss about the truth. There is then some comfort left to us in cutting and untying these knots; for whatever view we may advance has found distinguished and earnest championship already! On the whole, Teoli appears a reliable leader, and him we have mostly followed, as later authors, such as Professors Fiske and Teuffel, seem to have done before us.

Let us say, then, that he was born in 348, Philippus and Salia being consuls, at Calahorra, which lies up the Ebro and to the northwest of Saragossa. To-day Calahorra is a small place of a few thousand inhabitants, but it furnishes two other notable facts to history in addition to its claim to be the birthplace of Prudentius. It was this little fighting town which resisted Afranius, whom Pompey sent to take it in 78 B.C., and it was then that the citizens ate their wives and children sooner than surrender. Besides this somewhat doubtful glory it produced Quinctilian; while Tudela, which is between it and Saragossa, gave a name to the learned Jew, Benjamin of Tudela, whose ideas about the Tower of Babel have become as classic as Prudentius’s hymns or as the Maid of Saragossa herself. It may be added that paganism was very early abandoned in all this region.


The parents of Prudentius gave him a good education. He possessed, says Teoli, ingenium acre, disertum, ferax—talent that was keen, eloquent, and fruitful. But at the rhetoricians’ schools, which he attended about the age of seventeen, he found little that was commendable in manners or morals. It would appear that he gave the rein to his vices and that his life was not very rapidly turned into the ways of Christianity.

He was at first called to the bar and made judge in two towns of considerable size, which may perhaps have been Toledo and Cordova. About the year 400 he is supposed to have gone to Rome and to have been favorably received by Honorius the Emperor, who then promoted him to some sort of honorable office in his native country. At fifty-seven years of age, as he himself tells us, he began to cultivate literature. He had retired from active life, much as Chaucer did in later days. From this period onward he lived in quiet; he “fled fro’ the presse and dwelt in soothfastnesse,” like the father of English verse. He gave himself to sacred things—to hymns in honor of God and of the saints, and to poems against paganism and in favor of Christian duty.

His poems have Greek titles. First comes the Psychomachia (the Battles of the Soul)—in hexameter—treating of the conflict in a Christian soul between virtue and vice. The contrasts are arranged somewhat like those of Plutarch between the Greek and Roman leaders, only, of course, the antithesis is decidedly against the vices. Here stand Faith opposed to Idolatry, and Chastity facing Impurity, and Patience resisting Anger, and Humility contrasted with Pride, and Sobriety pre-eminent over Excess, and Liberality vanquishing Covetousness, and Concord healing the wounds caused by Dissension. There are nine hundred and fifteen lines in the poem.

The Peristephanon (Concerning Crowns) has twelve hymns in honor of various martyrs. Mr. Simcox notes that these are almost idyllic in form, and that there is much made of the white dove which flies from the burning pile about St. Eulalia and of the violets which the girls should bring to the tombs of the virgin martyrs. It may be interesting to name the martyrs thus celebrated. There were two from Calahorra; then Laurentius and Eulalia; eighteen who suffered at Saragossa; Vincentius, and finally Fructuosus and Quirinus, bishops both.


Then comes a poem on the Baptistery at Calahorra (translated in Blackwood, vol. ix., p. 192), with a description of the deaths of Cassian, Romanus, Hippolytus, Peter and Paul the apostles, Cyprian and Agnes. These poems, it should be said, are various in metre and some are quite long.

The Cathemerinon (a Book of Hours) is the real mine whence the most of the hymns which were composed by Prudentius are taken. In this we have hymns for cock-crowing and morning; before and after food; at the lighting of the lamp; and before retiring to rest. With these are joined others for the use of those who are fasting, and at the conclusion of the fast; for all hours and at the burial of the dead; the work ending with hymns for Christmas and Epiphany.

The Apotheosis consists of poems relating to the errors of all the heretics that can be named—Patripassians, Arians, Sabellians, Manichaeans, Docetae, etc. The value of this to ecclesiastical history is easily perceived. It has more than a thousand hexameters and it treats additionally of the nature of the soul and of sin and of the resurrection.

The Hamartigenia (the Origin of Evil) takes up original sin as against Marcion; and the Dittochaeon (which possibly means Double Food) is the abridgment of Old and New Testaments. This last is a sort of religious picture gallery ranging from Adam to the Apocalypse in hexametrical epigrams. There is reason to doubt whether it be what Prudentius originally composed. If he followed his usual vein of abundant verse, there is no question but that these half a hundred epigrams would be more popular than his very extensive poetical treatment of such subjects.

It is left us to mention the two books against Symmachus, the Roman senator, whom Ambrose so earnestly and successfully opposed. Symmachus had purposed to restore the idols, revive the revenues of the pagan temples, and generally to cast out Christianity from Rome. The poetry of Prudentius is again valuable here, for it plunges into the origin and baseness of idolatry, describing the conversion of Rome, and presenting a picture of the times which is invaluable to the historian. It is from the pages of Prudentius that we learn the cruelty of the purest of the Roman women, when


“The modest vestal, with her down-turned thumb

Urges the gladiator to his stroke

Lest life may lurk in any vital place!”

One line in our author’s hymn in honor of St. Lawrence preserves an historical fact which was not appreciated in its full significance until our own times. He says, Aedemque Laurenti tuam Vestalis intrat Claudia—“Claudia, the Vestal Virgin, enters Thy House.” In 1883 there was discovered in the Atrium of the Vestals a pedestal of a statue dedicated to one of the heads of the order, from which her name had been effaced purposely. Nothing of it was left except the initial C., while there still remained the praise of “her chastity and her profound knowledge in religious matters” (Ob meritvm Castitatis Pvdicitiae adq. in Sacris Religionibusqve Doctrinae Mirabilis). The statue was erected in the year 364, and the order was abolished by the younger Theodosius in 394, so that her conversion must have taken place between those two dates. The conversion of a person filling a place of such high honor in pagan eyes, of a Vestalis maxima, must have been a severe blow to the pagan party, which in Rome was making a fierce but hopeless fight for the old worship. Yet we find no other reference to it in literature, unless the letter of Symmachus to a Vestal, of whom he had heard that she meant to withdraw from her order, was addressed to Claudia. See Professor Lanciani’s Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, pp. 170-72 (Boston, 1888).

It is uncertain in what year or in what part of Spain Prudentius died. Conjecture varies between 410 and 424 A.D. This infinitude of filmy particulars causes one to feel as if he were walking through spider-webs of a morning in the country. This hard, practical nineteenth century only experiences a sense of annoyance as it encounters the elaborate nothings of that strangely laborious, all-gathering scholarship which prevailed in the sixteenth and seventeenth. To create any intensity of interest to-day requires an imagination which would sacrifice truth to attractiveness.

But certainly, from what we can see of the man in his works, we can have no hesitation in pronouncing a verdict highly favorable both to his poetry and his piety. As governor of important towns he merited—or he would scarcely have received—his title of “the Merciful.” As a close observer of his time and a student 69 of its thought, he has preserved for us what we cannot spare. It is he who in the Jam moesta quiesce querela struck the first notes which were to vibrate in the Dies irae. It is he again who in the Ales die nuntius anticipated Henry Vaughan and his

“Father of lights, what sunny seed,

What glance of day hast thou confined

Into this bird!”

The hymn is as follows:

“The bird, the messenger of day,

Cries the approaching light;

And thus doth Christ, who calleth us

Our minds to life excite.

“Bear off, he cries, these beds of ease

Where lie the sick and dumb;

And let the chaste and pure and true

Watch, for I quickly come.

“We haste to Jesus at his word,

Earnest to pray and weep,

Such fervent supplication still

Forbids pure hearts to sleep.

“Disturb our dream, thou holy Christ,

Break off the night’s dark chain;

Forgive us all our sin of old,

And grant us light again.”

And so it is still he who casts the ray of his fancy upon Bethlehem and upon the Transfigured Christ. Here is the Quicumque Christum quaeritis in proof of his real genius:

“O ye who seek your Lord to-day,

Lift up your eyes on high,

And view him there, as now ye may,

Whose brightness cannot die.

“How gloriously it shineth on

As though it knew no dearth:

Sublime and lofty, never done,

Older than heaven and earth.


“Thou art the very King of men,

Thy people Israel’s King,

Promised unto our fathers when

From Abraham all should spring.

“To thee the prophets testified,

In thee their hearts rejoice—

Our Father bids us seek thy side

To hear and heed thy voice.”

I have changed the two last stanzas into the second person instead of the third. Otherwise the rendering is a faithful and literal version of the hymn. This, then, is a good proof of the genuine ring of true metal to be found in Prudentius.

The variety and flexibility of his measures, in spite of archaic or post-classical words and phrases, deserves our highest praise. He is a writer of the “Brazen Age,” but he has not sunk far from the “Silver,” nor exactly into the falchion sweep of the more brutal “Iron” time.

Here is another of his hymns, the Nox et tenebrae et nubila, which has obtained a place in the Roman Breviary:

“Night, clouds and darkness, get you gone!

Depart, confusions of the earth!

Light comes; the sky so dark and wan

Brightens—it is the Saviour’s birth!

“The gloom of earth is cleft in twain

Struck by that sudden, solar ray;

Color and life return again

Before the shining face of day.

“Thee, Christ, alone we seek to know,

Thee, pure in mind, and plain in speech;

We seek thee in our worship, so

That thou canst through our senses teach.

“How many are the dreams of dread

Which by thy light are swept apart!

Thou, Saviour of the sainted dead,

Shine with calm lustre in the heart!”

The same leading idea of the analogy of the natural light with the spiritual runs through the following:


“Lo the golden light appears,

Lo the darkness pales away

Which has plunged us long in fears,

Wandering in a devious way.

“Now the light brings peace at last,

Holds us purely as its own;

All our doubts aside are cast,

And we speak with holy tone.

“So may all the day run on

Free from sin of hand or tongue,

And our very glances shun

Every form and shape of wrong.

“High above us One is set

All our days to know and mark,

And our acts he watches yet

From the dawning to the dark.”

Prudentius undoubtedly exhibits the early traces of observances which are peculiar to the Roman Catholic Church. In one of his hymns (the Cultor Dei memento) he advises that the sign of the cross be made upon the forehead and above the heart:

“Frontem locumque cordis

Crucis figura signet.”

But we have not the space, nor is this the proper occasion, to follow him through those matters which belong to the church historian more than to the hymnologist. We must leave him to end his days in undisturbed quiet, a good deal after the manner of Chaucer, as indeed we have already hinted. He is said to have died in the neighborhood of the year 405 in Spain. Our information is largely conjectural and affords us no certainty about his closing years.

That a poet who still dwelt amid the sculptured coldness of the pagan past should have written such hymns, is a proof of what Christianity was then achieving. She had banished from the chilly apartments of literature the ancient focus with its feeble charcoal and its mephitic smoke. Instead of this she had created the cheerful hearth, on which a pure fire of devotion was kindled and whose ascending flame swept off the immoral vapors of the time. Prudentius, in a word, made scholarship and religion companions 72 instead of enemies; and brightened classic prosody by the presence of a living faith.

To Prudentius also more hymns have been ascribed than he ever wrote, but after these have been weeded out, there are left:

Ales diei nuntius,
Nox et tenebrae et nubila,
Sol ecce surgit igneus,
Intende nostris sensibus,
O crucifer bone, lucisator,
Pastis visceribus, ciboque sumpto,
Inventor rutili dux bone luminis,
Ades pater supreme,
Cultor Dei memento,
O Nazarene lux Bethlem verbum Patris,
In Ninivitas se coactus percito,
Christe servorum regimen tuorum,
Da puer plectrum,
Corde natus ex parentis,
Deus ignee fons animarum,
Jam moesta quiesce querela,
Quid est quod arctum circulum,
Quicumque Christum quaeritis,
O sola magnarum urbium,
Audit tyrannus anxius,
Salvete flores martyrum,
Qui ter quaternus denique,
Felix terra quae Fructuoso vestiris,
Lux ecce surgit aurea,
En martyris Laurentii,
Beate martyr prospera,
Noctis terrae primordia,
Obsidionis obvias,
Hymnum Mariae Virginis,
Germine nobilis Eulalia,
Scripta sunt coelo duorum,
Innumeros cineres sanctorum.


Rambach says, in his Anthology, that none of the hymns of Ennodius have been adopted by the Church. “Nor have I,” adds Daniel, “found in any breviary a verse of Ennodius. Yet,” he continues, “since there are many of them in the collection of Thomasius, which have been taken from the Mozarabic Breviary, it seems to me certain that in some countries they were formerly employed by the Church.” Some corruption has also taken place in the text. And, in short, these hymns have never appeared either devout or original enough to secure the suffrages of the faithful.

The reason for their emptiness is not far to seek. Their author was a man of great celebrity but of little piety. His reputation, too, is that of an ardent ecclesiast, who managed to climb the heights of saintship by working in the interest of the Roman pontiff. He labored to maintain the supremacy of the Pope—upon whom, it is said, on good authority, that he was the first to bestow the world-wide appellation of Papa (Pope)—and to effect the union under this one religious head of both Greek and Roman churches. To this single cause, with its double aspect, Ennodius gave his talents and his zeal. He was so far successful that he gained honor and position for himself, however he was prospered in his other plans.

He was a person of sufficient prominence for Italy and Gaul to contest the honor of his birth. It would appear, however, that Gaul has the best title to whatever credit his nationality may give. The works on hymnology do not mention him, and the only notices of his life and writings are to be found in out-of-the-way corners of books on Latin literature and in the controversial pages of Church historians. Those who attack and those who defend the papal claims, are in the habit of mentioning the two embassies of Ennodius as notable points in their argument; but the man is 74 lost from sight in the paramount importance of his mission. It cannot be so with us, to whom his personal character is the topic of interest, and who care only for his circumstances as these develop him to us upon his hymnologic side.

Ennodius has himself informed us that he regarded Arles as his native place. We also know that he was born in 473, because he died in 521 at the age of forty-eight. His family was highly respectable, if, indeed, it was not actually illustrious. Our poet always shows a familiarity with the affairs of good society; and in those times good society had only one meaning. It was a society which educated its scions in the polite learning of Greece and Rome, and which made much of the ability to speak and write the Latin tongue. It is scarcely to be questioned that this was the theory on which the early education of Ennodius proceeded. He was sent to Milan in order to become versed in what was called humane learning. If he is himself to be believed he acquired both bad and good in this school. He laments with a mock humility (for so it would appear by his later literary derelictions) that he had obtained a great deal of wicked and ungodly information; and really no one can read some of his nasty epigrams and doubt his assertion. For, whether it was permissible to a saint or not, it is a fact, that the editors of his works have not scrupled to print some exceedingly profane and improper pieces which are undoubtedly the product of his pen.

His aunt, who was bearing the cost of this admirable instruction, died in 489—that is, when he was sixteen—and he was left without means to proceed with his studies. He avows that he had come to detest the very name of liberal education, and this, under the circumstances, cannot well be regarded as anything very surprising. We soon after find him married to a lady who is described as of a “most noble” and therefore highly appropriate family. She was, moreover, “very rich”—another satisfactory point. With this wealthy and fashionable wife, Ennodius rapidly obtained a view of earth, and what earth can give, which was so far limited in that the money did not equal the desires of the married pair. It ran low and the bitterness of financial perplexities mingled with the cup of their happiness. Judging the husband by his epigrams he was pretty fairly exhausted by the speed of their career, and was quite ready to shake off the encumbrance of a family and devote 75 himself to the lofty purpose of being supported by somebody else. An unprejudiced mind fails to see in this any particular “admonition” or “example” to his age. It is merely the selfish escape of a worldly but embarrassed man. Divorces were not available then with the ease with which a less scrupulous and more intellectual generation can now procure them. The proper, and, indeed, the meritorious way, was to slip into a cloister and become one of that vast army which was soon to be the tower of strength of the Pope. He himself ascribes this step to a serious illness in which he had been healed through the miraculous interposition of St. Victor, after the doctors had given up his case.

Ennodius now attached himself to the person and fortunes of Epiphanius, the Bishop of Pavia. He was placed under the tutelage of one Servilio, who taught him theology according to the methods and opinions then in vogue. His wife meanwhile had made the best of it after the same fashion, and had gone into a convent, where all trace of her vanishes in that monotone of gray walls, chanted services, and ceaseless devotion. At least no individuality resembling her ever henceforth emerges from that uniform procession which passes by us, in this and later centuries, as the long line of hooded figures moves athwart Dante and Virgil in the “Purgatorio.”

But the career of Ennodius now begins. He is the bishop’s chosen companion, the associate of his expedition to Briançon in Burgundy in behalf of certain prisoners; for in those days the spiritual hand was often laid with a mighty grip on the secular arm. The poet was by this time a deacon, having been ordained thereto by his kind friend the bishop. And the duties of this private secretaryship were so pleasant that it is evident no one would willingly surrender them for a cold cell and matins early in the morning. The glimpses which we get of Ennodius do not encourage us to esteem him an ascetic, or to think him lacking in zeal for personal comfort. He was the literary adjunct of a remarkably amiable prelate, with whom he was on terms of intimacy which made his own life no care at all, and his meat and drink no problem whatever! From 494, then, he continued still to occupy this post of trust and ease. We are told that the bishop persuaded him to it, but there can be no reasonable objection to our believing that the bishop had no unwilling listener.


The literary capacity of Ennodius next attracts attention. His patron (who must not be confused with the great Bishop of Salamis, the author of the famous Heresies, who belongs to the previous century) died before 510. Maximus III. had succeeded Epiphanius, and after his death our Ennodius, in 510 or 511, was selected for the vacant diocese. The name of this episcopate was Ticinum, or, as we now style it, Pavia. It is plain that the bestowal of this dignity was hastened by the fact that our scholar while still a deacon had defended Pope Symmachus before the Roman synod called “Palmare,” and so effectually that the discourse was entered on the acts of the council, where it still appears. The Pope had been charged with crimes, and a synod convoked by the heretical Theodoric was to decide the case. The date was October, 501. The place was a portico of the church of St. Peter at Rome to which this name of Palmare was usually given. And the speech is historic inasmuch as it is the earliest recorded instance of that assertion of supremacy on the part of the Roman pontiff which frees him from any responsibility to earthly rulers. Ennodius thus became the advocate of this dogma, and upon the broad wings of papal favor he soared to the high station which his patron Epiphanius had quitted.

This burst of declamatory eloquence did not come without preparatory training. Ennodius had been exercised in the art of declamation in his youthful days and, as a deacon, he was able to utilize his knowledge. In 510 or 511, not long after his elevation to the mitre, he wrote the life of his friend and predecessor. And this he followed with divers performances of a literary character which were generously applauded. He became a sort of hero in the world of letters, and whatever he was pleased to compose was heartily commended.

In 515 it was natural that such an advocate of the absolute domination of the Roman pontiff should be selected to help in the effort to reunite the Eastern Church to the Western. The ambassadors were himself, the Bishop of Pavia; Fortunatus, Bishop of Catania; Venantius, a presbyter; Vitalis, a deacon, and Hilarius, a notary and scribe. These names themselves reveal a not infrequent source of confusion to students of that distressingly barren period, when it was regarded as a very pleasant compliment to call the son of a nobody by the distinguished appellation of 77 some great person in the Church. In this manner Hilary and Fortunatus suffered then, and modern scholars have been often vexed and perplexed since, especially when dates come near together. It hardly needs to be added that these wearers of illustrious names have only that meed of renown, such as it is.

The purpose of the embassy was to obtain from the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius, at that time a man of great age, the recognition of Hormisdas, the ruling Pope, as the supreme religious head of both empires. It was a delicate negotiation, and it demanded a perfectly incorruptible adherence to the interests of Rome. In this respect Ennodius stood pre-eminent as what Mosheim styles an “infatuated adulator of the Roman pontiff,” and as a master of the style then required in a diplomat. He had (in 503) eulogized Pope Symmachus, calling him “one who judged in the place of God” (vice Dei judicare) and again (in 507) he had published a panegyric on Theodoric, the Gothic King of Italy, which had all the absurd flattery of that species of composition. To crown these he was the obedient occupant of the see of Pavia. He was therefore just the man to do the work of the relentless and uncompromising Pope.

Caelius Hormisdas was a man who never yielded, never forgot, and never relaxed a purpose. Such men, backed by a sufficient power, wring from a reluctant world about all that they have determined to secure. But to the obstinate will of the Pope was opposed the no less obstinate will of the old Emperor—now fully eighty-five years of age—and quite as grim in his methods as any Hormisdas. It was to be a battle of giants and the intermediates might look for little favor. The opportunity for the negotiation itself happened to occur in an unusual way. Vitalianus, commander of the Imperial Byzantine cavalry, had taken arms against the Emperor; had defeated and put to death Cyril, the opposing general, and had then marched to the very gates of Constantinople. The victor was proposing to color his rebellion by a pleasant pretext of helping the orthodox; and the old Emperor, therefore, turned the edge of his own humiliation by agreeing to a correspondence with the Pope.

Anastasius began to carry out his share of this unpleasant business by appointing a council to meet at Heraclea, in Thrace, on July 15th, 515, and asking for commissioners to be sent from 78 Rome. The venerable fox knew perfectly well that he had not allowed time enough for the proper instruction of these delegates, nor for them to make the long journey. But Pope Hormisdas appointed them, and they proceeded to the imperial court, utterly indifferent as to the time of the council, and without any apologies for their delay which history deigns to record. They went, indeed, in a very haughty spirit, and did not even commence their expedition before August 12th.

When they reached the Emperor they asked, or rather demanded, that he should assent to the letter of Pope Leo, who was the first to claim this submission from the East. They insisted, furthermore, that this heterodox monarch should accept the definitions of the famous Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, which relate to the nature and personality of Christ. The schism between East and West had now lasted for thirty-one years, and a certain Acacius, Bishop of Constantinople, who had been a most persistent opponent of the demands of Leo the Great, was still a thorn in the Roman pontiff’s side.

But Anastasius received the ambassadors with just as proud a spirit as they had shown to him. He would neither yield to Leo nor to Chalcedon, nor would he anathematize Acacius. Ennodius and his companions returned to Rome without accomplishing their mission, and the Emperor sent letters after them by Theopompus and Severianus, principal men of his court. When these reached Rome they were badly received by Hormisdas, and found that nothing would answer except the excommunication of Acacius. With this ultimatum they got back, somewhat crestfallen; and poor Acacius (who was not half so bad as his papal foe) was once more threatened with banishment to eternal fires.

Anastasius, however, was not at all inclined to hand over his bishop to the mercies of Hormisdas. He stoutly refused and continued to refuse throughout the ensuing correspondence. About two hundred monks and archimandrites (heads of monasteries) sent from Syria a letter to the Pope which was directed against the patriarch of Antioch, Severus by name, and which gave in their own allegiance to the Western Church. Nevertheless, the Emperor still maintained the cause of Acacius, although he must have seen that the Pope was as determined as ever to carry his point and that there was now a great deal which was working in favor of the 79 papal plans. When the Syrians addressed their letter to the “Most holy and blessed Hormisdas, Patriarch of the whole earth, holding the see of Peter the prince of the apostles,” it spoke volumes for what the Pope had been able to effect by his agents and representations in the East. But the Emperor would not yield the point and act upon the conciliatory policy of the heretical Theodoric of Italy, which was that they might settle religious matters in their own fashion, provided they honored absolutely his temporal sway.

A second embassy was set on foot consisting of Ennodius and Peregrinus, Bishop of Misenum. By these ambassadors letters were sent renewing the old conditions and avowing that nothing would be satisfactory short of the complete banishment of that pestilent wretch Acacius. This was too much for the Emperor to bear. He angrily dismissed the legates, shipping them off in an old and leaky vessel, and giving a special order to Demetrius and Heliodorus to see that they did not set foot in his dominions after they had once sailed for home. Behind the flying ambassadors followed a document which expressed the royal mind with force and vigor. After comparing the conduct of the Pope very unfavorably with that of Jesus Christ, the Emperor proceeds to say: “We shall give you no further trouble, it being in vain for us to pray or entreat you, since you are obstinately determined not to hearken to our prayers and entreaties. We can bear to be despised and affronted, but we will not be commanded.”

This was dated July 11th, 517, and reveals an unexpected dignity in the old Emperor, and it makes us glad to record that, while he lived, the Bishop of Constantinople was at least preserved in a salvable state.

But when Anastasius died, then Hormisdas began again upon Justin, his successor, and never stopped until Acacius was struck from the roll of bishops and until the East acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the West. That the victory was of no long continuance or of any enormous value, does not prevent us from noticing that it gave to Magnus Felix Ennodius his permanent place in the Roman calendar, and did everything for his literary and ecclesiastical comfort. He was well rewarded for his devotion to the cause.

Anastasius reigned 491-518, and Hormisdas, who had once 80 been married and had a son, who also became Pope, ruled in his sphere from 514 to 523. Thus he had nearly five years wherein to rejoice over his obstinate dead enemy. And Ennodius possessed his soul in peace and turned his attention once more to polite literature.

Of the writings which he has left to us, the principal are the life of Epiphanius; another of Antonius of Pannonia, a hermit at Lake Como and then a monk at Lerins; together with a Eucharisticum de Vita sua and the apology and panegyric mentioned above. Add to these nine books of letters, “weighed down with emptiness,” and various itineraries, declamations, and poetical pieces, and you have all he did. The letters are most unsatisfactory when we remember that he was the friend, and perhaps the relative, of men like Boethius, Faustus, Avienus, Caesar of Arles, Aurelian, and of bishops and other prelates without number, and lived in Italy under the great Theodoric. He is utterly lacking in contemporary portraits, and his accounts of his three journeys give us nothing valuable. All is stilted, unnatural, and dull. He was not much of a traveller at best. A trip into Burgundy, another across the Po to see his sister, and one from Rome by sea, make up the list of which he kept any trace in his writings. He is in no haste to detail the sayings and doings at Constantinople! But it should be said that these performances with the pen were previous to his elevation to the mitre. Afterward he doubtless composed only hymns and epigrams—the hymns being decent and the epigrams very much the reverse. The German scholar Teuffel looks upon his productions as an “important source of history” for some enigmatic reason of his own, but Simcox very justly scouts them; and the Romanist Berington asserts that he rises “with weariness” from their perusal. I must personally declare that they exhibit neither skill, taste, nor information. They are jejune and empty to a marvellous degree; and for complication of sentences and unclassical phraseology, they are equal to the stupidest books of a later day. And nothing worse than this can be said by any critic.

The Eucharisticum is an insincere sort of thanksgiving for his restoration to health, and very far behind the style of Augustine which it copies. It gives us a few particulars of his personal history, but it is prosaic and Pharisaic, and full of a mock humble 81 glorification of the blessed Victor the Martyr, by whose intercession he is now convalescent.

The hymns are a trifle more hopeful, and really merit our notice. They are by no means the “dozen tame hymns” of which Simcox speaks so contemptuously. There are sixteen of them and three are quite good. Here, for instance, is the Christe lumen perpetuum:

“O Christ, the eternal light

Of every sun and sphere,

Illumine thou our mortal night

And keep our spirits clear.

“Let nothing evil smite,

Nor enemy invade;

And let us stainless be, and white,

By nothing base betrayed.

“Guard thou the hearts of all,

But chiefly of thine own;

And hold us, that we may not fall,

Through thy great might alone.

“That so our souls may sing,

When favoring light they see;

And every vow and tribute bring

To God in Trinity.”

The Christe precamur is quite as good:

“To thee O Christ we ever pray

And blend our prayer with tears;

Thou pure and holy One, alway

Protect our night of years!

“Our hearts shall be at rest in thee;

In sleep they dream thy praise,

And to thy glory, faithfully,

They hail the coming days.

“Give us a life that shall not fail;

Refresh our spirits then;

Let blackest night before thee pale,

And bring thy light to men!

“Our vows in song we pay thee still,

And, at the evening hour,

May all that we have purposed ill

Be right through sovereign power!”


There is yet one more hymn which seems worthy of a place in our regard. It is the Christe salvator omnium:

“O Christ, the Saviour of all,

Thou Lord of the heavens above;

We ask thy glorious aid

Before the day shall remove.

“The sun is hastening down;

His light is sunk in the west;

He hideth the world in gloom,

According to God’s behest.

“Do thou, most excellent Lord,

As we thy followers pray,

To us, all weary with toil,

Grant quiet night on our way.

“That day, from our darkening hearts,

May never withdraw her light;

But, safe in thy guardian grace,

Thy love illumine our night.”

The poetical and spiritual range of these lyrics is not extensive, of course, but it is a vast improvement on those “uncleanly imitations of Martial,” or such involved and heartless tricks of verse as he sometimes essays. But he became a saint, and that must suffice! His life has been written by Sirmond; and his times and life together have occupied the attention of Fertig (Passau, 1855). He died at Padua, as we are credibly informed, on July 17th (XVI. Kal. Aug.), 521, and this date is assigned to him in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints. His epitaph, according to Despont, who wrote in 1677, was still to be found in the church of St. Michael, and testimonies to his services are among the acts of the Fifth Synod of Rome, and are included in the public papers of Hormisdas.

When you break open the important historical facts with which he was identified, then like the toad from the stone, comes forth Ennodius. And like that toad, though “ugly and venomous,” he yet “wears a precious jewel in his head.”



Latin hymnology gives a distinguished place to a hymn of twenty-three stanzas, each stanza containing four lines and beginning with a letter of the alphabet in regular order. Thus from A to Z all the letters appear except J, U, and W. Caterva is spelled Katerva, to answer for K. Y is represented by Ymnis, which is another form of Hymnis. And at last Zelum concludes the list. The author struggles with a difficulty when he takes Xeromyrrham to answer for X, but otherwise the ideas and versification are so excellent as to have made the hymn classic. The Roman Breviary uses two selections from it. One commences A solis ortus cardine, ad usque, and the other, Hostis Herodes impie. The general subject is the Nativity, but the poem soon proceeds to the Miracles of our Lord, and closes with an ascription of praise for His Resurrection.

There can be no doubt about the authorship. Old manuscript codices, and the tradition of the Church, assign it definitely to Caelius Sedulius—sometimes called Caius Caelius Sedulius—who flourished near the middle of the fifth century. But his personal history is much harder to come at, and the few facts which we possess only stimulate our curiosity to know more. And besides, he is so entangled with another Sedulius—also a poet, also a celebrated author, also a Scot, and also involved in much obscurity—that nearly every notice of his name contains more or less of error. This second Sedulius, however, wrote no hymn which has survived, and therefore needs no further mention. He is always named Sedulius Scotus, to distinguish him from our Sedulius, who is invariably called Caelius Sedulius. He flourished somewhere between 721 and 818, while the best ascertained date of his predecessor’s life appears to be 434.

Our sources of information regarding Sedulius are Isidore of Seville and Fortunatus of Poitiers. Jerome (Hieronymus) left a 84 catalogue of authors from the time of St. Peter to his own day. This was continued by Gennadius, as Notker of St. Gall tells us, and then it was still further extended by Isidore. Neither Jerome nor Gennadius mention our poet; the first because he died in 420, before Sedulius had achieved distinction, and the second possibly for the same reason, as his death occurred about 496 at Marseilles. Isidore (who died 636) then undertook to supply the deficiencies of the catalogue and inserted a brief note respecting Sedulius.

Earlier than Isidore, however, is Fortunatus (530-609), who names our author as one of the five first Christian poets. Juvencus he dates at 330 A.D.; Sedulius flourished in the first half of the fifth century; Prudentius was converted in 405; Paulinus died in 458, and Arator was at his zenith in 560. This would seem to fix pretty closely the period to which Sedulius belongs.

References in the manuscripts are of no additional value. They tell us that he was a “Gentile layman,” or, in other words, a person not of Italian birth; that he learned philosophy in Italy; was converted and baptized by Macedonius, a presbyter; and that he wrote his theological works in Arcadia, or, as some say, Achaia. The Vatican “Codex of the Queen of Sweden” calls him a “verse-maker” and “teacher of the art of heroic metre.” Another codex adds that he also taught other varieties of metrical composition, and that all this happened in the days of the younger Theodosius, son of Arcadius, and of Valentinian, son of Constantine. Of his specific writings still another codex states that he “put forth in Achaia this book against error and composed in verse a commendation of the Christian faith.”

Some Sedulius, “notable for his writings,” appears to have found his way into Spain where, in the year 428, Isicius, a Palestine monk, who had become Bishop of Toledo, detained him for his good fellowship at Toledo. With him is said to have tarried a certain Bishop Oretanus, and the inference is that these three worthies held numerous symposia upon theology and literature. But the story is denied by Nicolaus Antonius, the historian of old Spanish scholarship.

Those minute and laborious investigators, the Benedictines, have, with ant-like patience, threaded every corner of the labyrinth in which these stray facts are gathered. They assert that Macedonius probably received him after he had been baptized by some 85 one else. And while we do not know under what master he studied theology, nor even where the school was located, we know that Sedulius became presbyter in a church whose bishop’s name was Ursinus, and where Ursicinus, Laurentius, and Gallicanus were his co-presbyters.

Ussher relates that the epithet Scotigena—the Scot—was frequently applied to him. Trithemius gives us to understand that he was led by love of learning to visit France, then Italy, then Asia, and then Achaia, and that his reputation was gained in the city of Rome. Sixtus Senensis compares him to Apollonius of Tyana in his zealous pursuit of wisdom; and enlarges the list of countries which he traversed by adding Britain and Spain. Under Theodosius and at Rome, he too declares Sedulius to have been famous in prose and verse. But Ussher first claimed him for Britain; and Ussher it was who maintained that he was a pupil of that Hildebert who ranks among the earliest of the Irish bishops. It must not be forgotten that somewhere in Britain in those days there was the light of Christianity, for in 432 St. Patrick set out from Scotland “to convert Ireland.” Nor can we omit to notice that Ussher styles Sedulius “Scotus Hybernensis,” thus originating the expression “Scotch-Irishman,” but using it in exactly the reverse of its modern sense.

So far as these partial facts and conjectures go we are safe in affirming that Sedulius was a learned and studious person, probably an Irishman—for at that time Scot and Irishman were synonymous—and that he gained renown about the year 434, having studied in Italy, travelled extensively, and been a resident in Achaia. The temptation is, however, irresistible to make him Irish rather than Scotch, upon the strength of the most ancient “bull” on record. It is found in the Alphabet Hymn and reads thus:

“Quarta die jam foetidus

Vitam recepit Lazarus,

Cunctisque liber vinculis

Factus superstes est sibi.”

“Upon the fourth day Lazarus

Revived, though all malodorous;

And freed from the enchaining ground

Himself his own survivor found!”

The writings of Sedulius are more numerous than might be supposed. Those which have been preserved are nine, two in verse and the rest in prose. The most elaborate is a commentary on the four Gospels, dedicated to the abbot Macedonius and to 86 which he prefixed his Carmen Paschale. He also wrote on the Pauline Epistles, as did his namesake of the ninth century. To Theodosius he addressed a book. He wrote treatises on the books of Priscian and Donatus, the grammarians. He also treated of the miracles of Christ in prose and sent out many “epistles of Sedulius Scotigena.” His poetry is comprised in the Alphabet Hymn; in the Carmen Paschale whence we get nothing for hymnology except the hexameter Salve Sancta Parens enixa (puerpera regem); and in the Elegy, from which comes the Cantemus socii.

The Carmen Paschale is an epic in the Virgilian style. The Elegy is an exhortation to the faithful. But the Alphabet Hymn has enriched the Church with two lyrics, one on the Nativity and one on the Slaughter of the Innocents. By placing the first stanza side by side with the first stanza of the famous Ambrosian hymn, it is easily seen that they are the same.


“A solis ortus cardine

Et usque terrae limitem

Christum canamus principem

Natum Mariae virginis.”


“A solis ortus cardine

Ad usque terrae limitem

Christum canamus principem

Natum Maria virgine.”

But this is no unusual occurrence in days when the language of the Psalms was employed in the Ambrosian hymns, and when the Ambrosian hymns themselves furnished a convenient foundation for the later praises of the Church. Not only did Sedulius imitate them closely, but Ennodius, Fortunatus, Gregory, Bede, Rabanus, and Damiani—with many other unknown writers—studied and copied their metre and expression. A curious instance of this same copying and following can be found in our own hymn. In it the stanza, Ibant magi quam viderant, contains two lines which have been inserted bodily in a production of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It is true that they are very suggestive and beautiful, but when Sedulius wrote

“Stellam sequentes praeviam

Lumen requirunt lumine,”

he wrote what was original with him, but which was sheer theft in the hands of the author of Hymnis laudum preconiis, who nevertheless takes the couplet to grace the feast of the Three Kings.

Latin hymns are by no means all beautiful or all graceful. The earlier pieces appear and reappear—fragments from the better 87 workmanship of the past—throughout the Dark Ages. And here we must leave Sedulius. If he was indeed the companion of Hildebert, his story belongs to that fabulous age of the British Church when bishops were but simple pastors and when great purity and truth prevailed. In the Alphabet Hymn there are references to the direct Scripture narrative; to the “enclosed John” who greets the Saviour; to Him fed with a little milk, who Himself feeds the birds; to the great Shepherd revealed to shepherds; to Herod who seems to fear a King who does not covet earthly dignities; to the Magi who seek their Light from the light; to the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead; to the water that blushes into wine, as perhaps Crashaw had read; to Peter who fears by nature and walks the wave by faith; to Lazarus “his own survivor;” to Judas the carnifex who professed peace by his kiss which was not in his soul; to Him who triumphing over Tartarus returned of Himself to heaven. Such is the hymn, and upon reading it one is not surprised that Fortunatus called its author Sedulius dulcis—the sweet Sedulius. Nay, Rudolph of Dunstable goes so far as to perpetrate a pun, and declares that Sedulius sedulously sings of things that are old and new. And the dear man of God, Dr. Martin Luther of blessed memory, who had no relish for Ambrose’s hymns, called our Irishman a poeta Christianissimus, and translated into his massive German both the hymns the Breviary had extracted from his chief poem.



Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus was a man not satisfied with four names. In jest or earnest he assumed another, Theodosius. In point of time he had an interesting position; in regard to residence his story becomes really valuable; and when we add that he gave to the Church several of her best-known hymns, he appears before us as a person unfamiliar, but highly attractive.

If, as we have reason to think, he came into France in 566 or 567, at the age of thirty-five or thirty-six, we must suppose him to have been born about 531. He was an Italian of Treviso, which is not far northwest of Venice and northeast of Padua. Of his parentage and early education (except the fact that he was trained at Ravenna) we are ignorant; but he is said to have been acquainted with Boethius, a thing hard to believe, for the philosopher perished in 524. We are left in some doubt whether he had set forth from Italy because the Lombards were about to invade his part of it, or whether religious motives were at the bottom of this “exile,” as he is very ready to call it.

Judging his unknown past by his better-known later history, he was a man of affable and genial character, who could pay for all favors in the small coin of panegyric, and whose pen filled his pocket and procured him the hospitality of the rich and the great of the earth. We know he could sing, for he says so himself; and he could also turn verses so sweet and mellow that even the poorest of them were learned by his admirers and recited again with much delight. Now it happened that his eyes were affected, and his friend Gregory of Tours sent him some of the blessed St. Martin’s holy lamp-oil. When this was rubbed upon them—and it was doubtless good oil, and therefore not an objectionable ointment—he was greatly helped. He consequently showed his gratitude in two ways: by making a pilgrimage to the blessed St. 89 Martin’s own town, and by writing the blessed St. Martin’s biography. This last he accomplished to the extent of four books of verse, employing, without any apparent scruple, the much more classic and elaborate treatise of Sulpicius Severus as the groundwork of his own. It was this journey which raises the question whether he was avoiding the Lombards or performing a pious vow when he entered France. Perhaps in this, as in other events of his life, the religious garment covered the secular desire.

From his native country, then, he made his way into another and less cultivated region. There was a Gallo-Roman society at the time, very much as there now are groups of educated persons in Siberia, or in the seaboard cities of China. A certain freemasonry of intelligence passed a literary man along from castle to cloister and from cloister to court. It was a period when classic learning was at its lowest ebb, and when the Romance tongues, like the second growth of a forest, were thickly clustering in upon the few survivors of the ancient groves of literature. The sixth century was removed from the past, but had not attained to much on its own account.

Yet we must not think that this century was barren of beginnings. The Merving kings—Clovis, and Childebert, and Clotaire the First, and Charibert—had now given place to Chilperic on the throne of France. Indeed, some writers are inclined to make this sixth century the true commencement of the Middle Ages, and it is very certain that we can see a great deal in the story of Fortunatus which is mediaeval. Moreover, Mohammed was born in 570, at Mecca, while our future bishop was traversing Gaul. And nearly contemporary with our author’s birth—that is, in 533—comes the announcement of the supremacy of the Roman bishop, which culminated in 590 in the strong administration of Gregory the Great. Fortunatus lived, therefore, in days when Latin Christianity was taking shape, and when the most aggressive of false religions was springing up. We have indeed said, in effect, that the Western Empire was at an end, and that the Monarchy of France had begun in 476.

Thus, as he looked backward, the Italian refugee could recall the successive blows of barbarian swords—the swords of Alaric, and Genseric, and Attila, and Odoacer—under which Rome had fallen. When Alboin started his raid from Pannonia in 568, with 90 Lombards (Longobardi) and Gepidae and twenty thousand Saxons, it was surely enough to make a troubadour take refuge at Tours.

Our materials for the biography of Fortunatus from this point in the story become more available. He kept an itinerary, which was lost; but he wrote often to Gregory of Tours, and this seems to be the only correspondence which he conducted in a natural and ordinary manner. From it we learn that he crossed the mountains in a “snowy July,” and had written either “on horseback or half asleep.” He passed some time at Metz and Rheims. His days and nights were spent in travelling and feasting and in preparing songs and odes, to the consternation of his modern biographer, Luchi, who does not find much evidence of piety in these proceedings.

Fortunatus is his own exponent, and his language, literally translated, gives us a vivid picture of the way in which he made friends with everybody. “Travelling among the barbarians” (he writes to Gregory), “on a long journey, either weary of the way or drunk beneath the icy chill, at the exhortation of the muse (I know not whether more cold or sober), a new Orpheus I gave voices to the wood, and the wood replied.” The sentence illustrates not merely his experience but also his style of composition, which is turgid and frequently obscure. His panegyrics, for example, abound in the most fulsome flattery, arrayed bombastically in a string of nouns, verbs, and adjectives half a page long. The real idea walks within much of his Latin, like a pigmy in a great court train, ridiculously small and ridiculously pretentious.

Sometimes these same expressions of our poet betoken a convivial familiarity with his friend Gregory of Tours, which is not precisely canonical. Many post-classical words appear, and phrases which no grammarian would easily justify. The man is full of sly hints of good eating and drinking, and has a high-flown style of compliment, as when he writes to Lupus, “As often as I put together the parts of your discourse, I thought that I reclined upon ambrosial roses.” To Sigismund and Aregesles, two brothers, he declares that, “This sweet letter reveals to me the names of friends. Here is the brilliant Sigismund, and here is the modest Aregesles. After Italy, O Rhine, thou givest me parents, and by the coming of these brothers I shall be no longer a stranger.” In fact, he picked up “brothers” and “parents” 91 with charming facility, and had a dexterity in drawing a corner of the mantle of royal favor over him which any courtier might covet.

Thus he went—we cannot well detect in what order or by what method, but pretty conclusively as a troubadour might have done—all through France. Like Chamisso, he proposed to

“Take his harp in his hand

And wander the wide world over,

Singing from land to land.”

With Sigebert, King of Austrasia, he contracted quite a friendship, and being at Poitiers when Gelesuintha was put to death, he lamented her in verses which pleased Sigebert, her brother-in-law and avenger, greatly. He also became well acquainted with Euphronius of Tours, nephew of St. Gregory, the bishop, and thus laid a good foundation for ecclesiastical preferment. But it was to Poitiers that he gradually drifted, and there circumstances fixed him for the most of his life.

We may safely conclude that Tours, which is not a great distance off, first attracted his wandering feet. He had a duty to the blessed St. Martin’s holy lamp and to the blessed St. Martin’s holy memory, and these devout proceedings were more than sufficient to commend him to a hospitable bishop. Contemporary accounts of him are lacking, if we except the brief notice of Paul the Deacon, which cannot properly be called contemporary, as it is in his history of the Lombards, which was prepared in the first half of the eighth century. But Fortunatus again comes to our rescue with quite a goodly supply of verses and with some epistles which show that the life of that period was a curious resultant between the Roman and barbarian ideas. It ought in honesty to be added that Brunehilda was no saint, and that the court of the Merovingians was so barbaric that it stood by and saw her torn to death, at eighty, at the heels of a wild horse; and this was later even than Fortunatus’s day.

By this time Treviso (Trevisium) had been regularly attacked by the Lombards, and the pilgrimage, which had changed to a pleasure-trip, changed again to a residence. He speaks of himself later as having been “for nine years an exile from Italy,” and his only reference to his family that is discoverable is when he tells the Abbess Agnes that she is as dear to him as his own sister 92 Titiana. He is a poet driven like a leaf before the storm, and he is whirled first into Tours and then into the safe eddy of Poitiers, which he celebrates reverently in song as the home of the great Hilary.

His royal friendships are made apparent by epithalamia—especially that on the marriage of Sigebert and Brunehilda—and by various odes. But now comes the real romance of our poet’s life. Clotaire the First had married a fair woman named Radegunda, whose piety gave him not a little trouble. She was determined to keep all her vigils and fasts and to exert herself in works of charity, even to the scrubbing of the base of the altar with her own hands. It was one of her greatest pleasures to take leprous women in her arms and kiss them, and when one of the lepers said to her, “Who will kiss you after you embrace us?” she “answered benevolently, that if others will not kiss me, it is truly no affair of mine.”

It would be beneath the dignity of this narrative, if it were not a portion of her own life in the Latin, for us to record the incident which helped to cause her separation from her husband. She had arisen at night and came back thoroughly chilled, and with her feet properly cold. Clotaire growled out that he would sooner have a nun for a wife (jugalem monacham) than such a queen. So she took him at his word, founded a convent at Poitiers, and distinguished herself to later generations by many noble works.

Over this convent she placed her maid Agnes, and served her former servant with profound humility and obedience, albeit she must always have been herself the ruling spirit of the place. With Fortunatus she formed a close friendship. And as this is the beginning of the conventual and ecclesiastical side of his career, we may as well bring the story up to its parallel point in current history.

Gregory, Archbishop of Tours and historian of France, always addresses his friend Fortunatus as presbyter Italicus. That Fortunatus embraced the monastic life at Aquileia (about 558-59) has been maintained, and the opinion is also fairly defended that he was enrolled as a “cleric” at Poitiers, although he was novus, or a “new-comer,” there. He had evidently some quasi ecclesiastical connection, and those were days when the celibacy of the clergy was much mooted, but when the wandering monks had not yet been held to the stringencies of the monastic orders. If we ask Fortunatus why he remained in Gaul, he replies that Radegunda retained him there “by her prayers and vows.” It is conjectural 93 that he was first chaplain to the convent, and it is certain that then he was elevated to the rank of Bishop of Poitiers.

To this daughter of Berthar, King of the Thuringi, our troubadour now paid his devoirs. Often at “the convivial banquets of the barbarians” he had “poured forth his verses.” He was now to become the devoted cavalier of a queen and an abbess, and to furnish literature with some very unique specimens of religio-amatory verse.

The life of Radegunda, written by Fortunatus and amplified by the nun Bandonivia, furnishes many interesting facts about this holy woman. She took her final resolution to separate from her husband after he had unjustly put her brother to death. On this she went to St. Medard and declared her intention of celibacy, and thence to the church of St. Martin, at Tours, where she made her formal vows. From this she retired to her villa called Suedas, near Poitiers, which she turned into a convent. Thither in 569 the Emperor Justinus (Justin II.) sent rich presents, one being a portion of the true cross. This inspired Fortunatus with a new song, and he broke out in the Vexilla Regis, which is surely one of the most stirring strains in our hymnology.

The following version expresses literally and without modification the ideas set forth in the Latin:


The royal banners forward fly;

The cross upon them cheers the sky;

That cross whereon our Maker hung,

In human form, by anguish wrung.

For he was wounded bitterly

By that dread spear-thrust on the tree,

And there, to set us free from guilt,

His very life in blood he spilt.

Accomplished now is what was told

By David in his psalm of old,

Who saith,[5] “The heathen world shall see

God as their King upon the tree.”


O tree, renowned and shining high,

Thy crimson is a royal dye!

Elect from such a worthy root

To bear those holy limbs, thy fruit.

Blessèd upon whose branches then

Hung the great gift of God to men;

Whose price, of human life and breath,

Redeemed us from the thrall of death.

Thy bark exhales a perfume sweet

With which no nectar may compete;

And, joyful in thine ample fruit,

A noble triumph crowns thy root.

Hail, altar! and thou, Victim, hail!

Thy glorious passion shall not fail;

Whereby our life no death might lack,

And life from death be rendered back.

O Cross, our only hope, all hail!

In this the time when woes assail,

To all the pious grant thy grace,

And all the sinners’ sins efface!

At this time Fortunatus also composed a long poem of thanks to Justin and Sophia for gifts sent to himself, by which it would appear that he was tolerably well identified with the interests of Radegunda and her convent.

From this date onward his friendship with Agnes and Radegunda exposed both him and them to very considerable comment. He even refers to it in one of his poems, addressed to the abbess, in which he protests the purity of his conduct. But it is not hard to see how his expressions might be misunderstood. They are frequently fervid beyond the courtesies of compliment, and they remind us all the while of those singers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries who begin with William, Count of this very city of Poitiers (1071-1127), and who have made the name of “troubadour” synonymous with the praise of love and beauty. Fortunatus calls on Christ, and Peter, and Paul, and Mary to witness the entire propriety of his love for Agnes and Radegunda, but he follows it with lines which Bertrand de Born or Alain Chartier might have composed.

Really there is a great deal of this exuberant poetry in the worthy 95 chaplain. He wrote every sort of odd acrostic on the holy cross, reminding us in more ways than one of Damasus, or of the later cavalier poets of England. He tells Radegunda, who seems his principal star, that everything is alike when he does not see her; that although the sky is cloudless, yet, if she is absent, “the day stands without a sun.” He excuses himself in other verses for sending her violets instead of lilies and roses. Any incident in which Radegunda plays a part is enough to turn the poetic stream upon the mill-wheel of his verse. If there are flowers on the altar; if there are flowers sent by her to himself; if she has retired from the world to perform her vows; if she has returned again to the public gaze, and especially if he has been at a little dinner or has received some agreeable little dishes—then the bard strings his harp!

It is quite amusing to read some of these effusions. He advises Radegunda, as Paul did Timothy, to drink wine on occasion. And when the queen and the abbess conspire to make his life pleasant he has plenty of metrical gratitude to offer. They send him butter (butyr) in a lordly dish; they furnish chestnuts in baskets woven by their own hands; they provide milk, and prunelles, and olives, and eggs. For all these he renders thanks in kind. Never were eggs and butter sung in a loftier strain! But sometimes the poet descends a trifle from his elevated phrases. He says pathetically in one of these effusions that they sent him “various delicacies for his full stomach” (tumido ventre), and that he got asleep after it and failed to furnish the appropriate verses. He laments this in proper metre, declaring that he had opened his mouth and shut his eyes (the old gormandizer!) and had eaten on, regardless of his duty. And for this he craves forgiveness from his beata domnia [it ought to be domina] filia—his blessed queen-daughter. But be good enough to observe that his own gifts in return are very small, and that he is always apologizing and hoping that they may not be rejected. Truly this was such a man as Sir Walter Scott has sung, for

“The best of good cheer and the seat by the fire

Was the undenied right of the barefooted friar.”

Only it may be safely questioned whether our Fortunatus was any more of an ascetic than Damasus himself. One almost wishes for 96 an historical picture—and it should be a good theme, by the way—in which Fortunatus and his two friends appear. It should be that celebrated feast which he describes [J. P. Migne: Patrologia; Opera Fortunati, Lib. xi., cap. ii.], where Agnes had adorned the tables and the apartment with “every species of blossoming plant;” where the rich wines, and the generous fare, and the crystal, and the gold, and the flowers should brighten the fine hall of the chateau; and where, perhaps, the ecclesiastic should take his small harp and strike its strings with a delicate hand, while the fair face of Agnes and the darker beauty of Radegunda should inspire his song.

One traces to this mellow undercurrent of human life the swing of his best lyrics—the Pange lingua gloriosi praelium certaminis and those hymns to the Virgin of which he was the earliest promoter. No ene can doubt the influence of these women upon the Ave maris stella or the Quem terra pontus aethera. Say what we please about his piety, he has written what will live with the best. And to compare him to the melancholy Cowper, as Mrs. Charles has done, can only be characterized as a most amusing misconception.

We know nothing of him as bishop further than the fact that the office became vacant in 599, and he was an available as well as distinguished candidate. Surviving Radegunda, who passed away in 587, he died about 609, full of years and honors—the last of the classics and the first of the troubadours; the connecting link between Prudentius and the Middle Ages; the biographer of some of the saints and the interested collector of many legends of their miracles; and, finally, the first of Christian poets to begin that worship of the Virgin Mary which rose to a passion and sank to an idolatry. Venantius Fortunatus was neither a bad man nor, in the highest sense, a holy man. But he was a poet in spite of his barbaric Latin, and a writer of hymns which live to-day, long after the particulars of his career are forgotten.



The materials which are at hand for the life of Gregory the Great are, if anything, too numerous. In their original form they include all that Paul the Deacon (quoted by the Venerable Bede) and John the Deacon (quoted by everybody) have chosen to relate. And these have been so anxious to do entire justice to the great Pope that they fill their pages with miracles, wonders, and signs, as well as with the authentic facts of history. But Gregory carved for himself such a niche in the temple of fame that we are not likely to go very far astray in searching for the proper estimate of his work.

It may be safely assumed that from this pontificate dates the supremacy of the Roman see. It was Gregory whose missionary spirit opened the doors of Britain to the truth. It was he who, without asserting any superior claim, opposed successfully the encroachments of the Greek patriarchs. And it was again he who gave to the Church her sacred melodies.

He was born, says Paul the Deacon, in the city of Rome, of a father named Gordianus and a mother named Sylvia. These people were of the Anician family and were also of distinguished religious descent. Felix—fourth of the name and Pope under the title of Felix III.—was his atavus, or great-great-great-grandfather. The very name Gregorius our worthy deacon declares to be the Greek equivalent of the word “Watchful.”

The child of such a house would be well nurtured in all the learning of the time. Hence, he was trained in grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics—the ancient trivium or complete course of liberal education. Naturally, too, he became an excellent scholar. And when he grew up he was called to an important post in Roman civil affairs. He became praetor of the city—a city which was subject to Byzantium and exposed to incursions of various barbarian 98 invaders. The Lombards, indeed, attacked it during his praetorship.

At this period of his life his love for display was as remarkable as his subsequent simplicity. He delighted in rich attire and surrounded himself with the pomp and circumstance of his position. A rich man and a rich man’s son, he was thoroughly in sympathy with passing affairs, and as Rome bloomed the more vigorously above her own decay, he was himself one of those “flowers of evil” whose gaudy hues brightened the scene. But at the same time he became accustomed to the management of large affairs, and his administration secured to him the good will of his associates and subordinates. It can often be noticed that these early Fathers came to their power in the Church after having been strictly and carefully trained in the world. Hilary and Ambrose were as conspicuous examples of this foreordination as was Gregory the Great.

Not long previous to this time—for it had been about the year of Gregory’s birth—Benedict had reformed the monastic order. His work, to put it briefly, consisted in guarding the entrance to monasticism and in regulating the hours, habits, and customs of those celibates who professed such a vocation for the religious life. From his wise and systematic arrangements, which have been but little improved upon though often reinforced by “reformations,” monasticism derived that adaptation to the active and practical life of the West, which it had lacked in the preceding centuries. Indeed, he so far reacted against the contemplative idleness of the East, as to aim rather at an industrial than a learned order. But his successors corrected this defect, and gave the order the literary and educational character which has been its greatest claim to the gratitude of Christendom. Thus it came to be that the Benedictine Fathers became the order of scholars, the editors of the Fathers, of the Acta Sanctorum, and of the Histoire Litteraire de France. The permanent revenues, the fixity and quiet of these monastic lives, the slow coral-building of these unknown workers, have resulted in gathering for us all that the mediaeval historian can desire upon the religious side. And it is here that, delving amid the dust of these mountainous masses of literature, the student of Latin hymnology will find his rarest delight. For these acute scholars have literally picked up and printed, yea, and what is more to the 99 purpose, they have indexed and classified—whatever he can wish in the way of productions in prose and verse by any known author. The old MSS. are strained through into readable type. Their contents are sorted and sifted. And he who pores over these pages will rise from them at length with a profound conviction that the scholarship of the Latin Church, and particularly the Benedictine Order, deserves well from the world of letters and merits the admiration of the Church Universal.

Into such an order as this—an order of which he was to be one of the most illustrious lights—a divine impulse was pressing Gregory. He grew more closely attached to the Benedictines of Monte Cassino. His religious relatives encouraged his evident zeal. And thus after vibrating like a bee between the odorous rose and the honey-giving clover, he settled upon the humbler and sweeter flower and let the world go by.

The Arian Lombards had encamped upon that region which we after their name now call Lombardy. The Roman bishops were already the prop of the heathen state against the semi-Christian invaders; but with Lombards, and those whose religion was only a fiction, their influence was deplorably slight. Yet as Christianity increased, according to George Herbert’s simile,

“Like to those trees whom shaking fastens more,”

the Church became doubly influential through the skill of Gregory. He felt religion to be the source of the truest strength and thus he turned his wealth and his life into its treasury.

In the year 575 he took his great revenues and endowed six new monasteries in Sicily. Then he established a seventh, devoting it to the honor of St. Andrew; and this was at Rome, in his own palace on the Coelian hill. The populace who had seen him in silk and jewels now beheld him, a poor monk of the Benedictine Order, serving the beggars at the gate. In humility of demeanor and in simplicity of food he became a model to his fellow-monks. He attended the sick in his new hospital. He ate only the dried corn, or pulse, which his mother sent to him already moistened in a silver bowl. This bowl or porringer was the only relic of his departed splendor, and we are told that he did not keep even this, but gave it at last to a shipwrecked sailor for 100 whom he had no money, and who begged importunately from him when he was writing in his cell.

The intensity of his devotion led him into great austerities of fasting and prayer and study of the Scriptures. He outdid the others in his abstinence from food and ended by ruining his health, so that he entered the papacy with a broken constitution. When he most needed the support of a vigorous body it was therefore denied to him.

The history of his gradual elevation is suggestive. Pope Benedict I. made him one of the seven cardinal deacons, and gave him charge of one of the seven principal divisions of the city. Pelagius II. chose him to head an embassy to Constantinople in 578 to congratulate Tiberius on his accession to the throne. For six years he remained abroad on this and similar service, and returned to Rome to be elected abbot of St. Andrew’s monastery. Here he was perfectly happy. In his Dialogues he speaks of the serene life and death of several of his brethren, and his latest biographer (Rev. J. Barmby) is never tired of relating how the great Pope perpetually looked back with regretful love to those quiet and happy days of peace with God and man.

It was then that the famous incident occurred which has made historic his missionary zeal, and has handed down three Latin puns as a proof that a man can be witty as well as earnest.

The slave market at Rome had received some new captives—alas! when was it not the scene of fresh wretchedness in those awful times? But these were of remarkable beauty and fairness of skin, and John the Deacon shall tell us of them in his own words:[6]

“Perceiving among the rest certain boys for sale, white of body, fair in form, and handsome in face, distinguished moreover by the brightness (nitore) of their hair, he asked the merchant from what country he had brought them. He answered, ‘From the island of Britain, whose inhabitants all display a similar beauty (candore) of face.’ Gregory said, ‘Are those islanders Christians or do they yet hold to their pagan errors?’ The merchant replied, ‘They 101 are not Christians, but are entangled in their pagan delusions’ (laqueis). Then Gregory, groaning deeply, said, ‘Alas! for shame! that the prince of darkness should own those splendid faces; and that such glorious foreheads (tantaque frontis species) should express a mind vacant of the inward grace of God!’ Then he asked the name of their tribe. The merchant responded, ‘They are called Angli.’ Then he said, ‘They are well called Angli, as though they were angels (angeli) for they have angelic faces; and such as these should be fellow-citizens of the angels in heaven.’ Again, therefore, he inquired what was the name of their province. The merchant told him ‘Those provincials are called Deiri.’ Then Gregory said, ‘They are well called Deiri, for they must be snatched from wrath (de ira) and gathered to the grace of Christ. The king of that province,’ he continued, ‘how is he named?’ The merchant replied, ‘He is called Aelle.’ And Gregory, alluding to the name, said, ‘It is well that the king is called Aelle. For Alleluia in praise of the Creator must be sung in those parts.’”

Such was the commencement of that Christianizing process which eventually brought Anglo-Saxon monks to Rome for education—not that Rome was the chief source and centre from which the work of Christianizing the English was effected. That strangely organized Church, which Patrick had established in Ireland and Columcille (Columba) had propagated to Celtic Scotland, was the missionary Church of that age. Its zeal carried the faith to Scandinavia in the person of its royal converts, the two Olafs, besides Christianizing the Norsemen of Ireland and the lesser islands. Its missionaries poured southward across the lines that sundered Saxon from Celt, and co-operated mightily with the more languid efforts of the Kentish Church established by Augustine. And up to the Synod of Whitby in 664, Patrick rather than Peter was the saint who stood the highest in the esteem of English Christians.

Yet it would be unfair to rob Gregory and Augustine of the honor of having begun the work, and begun it on a higher and more permanent level than was possible to the Irish Church. After all, Rome stood for a wider conception of Church and social order and a broader Christian culture. It is to her victory that we owe Bede and the great Churchmen, who adapted the learning and lore of the Latin world to the needs of English Christendom. 102 And so in Augustine’s mission we may see the apostolic succession, in a broader sense of the word than the technical, carried to England, to be transmitted in turn to America. England acknowledged the gift in the establishment of the tax called “Peter’s Pence” for the care and support of pilgrims to Rome, and the support of clerics, who went to study in the Saxon school established in Rome. To this we may trace, perhaps, the spread of hymn-writing from Rome to England, whose results are gathered into the Missals and Breviaries of Sarum, York, and Hereford, and that elaborate compilation, “The Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church,” which Rev. J. Stevenson edited for the Surtees Society.

The mission of Augustine led to far-reaching consequences. One was that the higher classes of Great Britain turned toward Rome as the centre of the world, and one of the remoter consequences of this missionary expedition was the recognition of the papal supremacy. But in his highest flight of authority Gregory the First never assumed nor felt the consciousness of power which caused Gregory the Second to write to Leo, the Isaurian: “All the lands of the West have their eyes directed upon our humility; by them we are considered as a God upon earth.” No, nor did he press his claims as did his other successor, Gregory VII., some times known as Hildebrand.

Indeed, Gregory I. in his desire to save these beautiful captives offered himself to Pope Pelagius as a missionary, and even obtained his consent to the expedition. But we are informed that the people surrounded the pontiff on his way to St. Peter’s and begged him to recall their favorite. So that Gregory had gone but three days’ journey before he was overtaken and brought back, almost forcibly, to his monastic home. The scheme of saving Britain was thus deferred but not given up; and when the cardinal-deacon became Pope it was again revived, and with success.

In the year 590 Pelagius II. died of the plague. His chair was no sooner empty than Gregory was seen to be the choice of everyone—senate and people and clergy. He was accordingly elected, and then—for such was the feeling in those days—he resisted the honor with all his might. Like Ambrose he fled from the city; he disguised himself; he even wandered in the woods. But it was one of the old principles that the more the elect refused the more their calling and election were to be made sure to them. 103 And therefore, he was found at last, after a thorough search, and was led, literally in tears, back to Rome. He had begged the Emperor Maurice not to confirm this appointment, but it was to no effect that he pleaded for release. His quiet, peaceful days were over, and he was placed at the helm of the ship of the Church to steer her, and the commonwealth which was her freight, through floods of barbarians and into safer seas. I am using his own figure: “I am so beaten by the waves of this world,” he wrote, to his friend Leander, “that I despair of being able to guide to port this rotten old vessel with which God has charged me. I weep when I recall the peaceful shore which I have left and sigh in perceiving afar what I cannot now attain.”

He took his seat in the midst of the plague. Eighty persons in the processions which he organized at seven points in the city to pray at the church of Santa Maria-Maggiore for its cessation, died of the disease during their very progress. Each procession met the others at this church of St. Mary. One consisted of secular clergy; another of abbots and monks; a third of abbesses and nuns; a fourth of children; a fifth of laymen; a sixth of widows, and a seventh of matrons. And thus arose the story about the angel whom Gregory believed that he saw above the summit of the Mole of Hadrian, and who there stood and sheathed his sword. This legend gave to that structure the name of the Castello di San Angelo, the Castle of the Holy Angel.

The Lombards were Gregory’s first care. He corresponded with Theodolinda, their queen, and she became his constant friend and his advocate with the king. He finally obtained from King Agilulf (her second husband) a special truce for Rome and its neighboring territory—a most delightful relief from the terrors of the last thirty years.

Moreover, he directed his attention—as Hormisdas had done before him—to the struggle which was never at rest between the Greek and Roman churches. The Patriarch of Constantinople was determined to assert his own superior claims to the veneration of the faithful. Hormisdas had avowed—but never vindicated—the supremacy of the Pope. But his title of Papa was the result of mere adulation and never of general consent. And the patriarch happened to be at this time the strong-willed John the Faster—an austere and pugnacious man. It was natural therefore that 104 he should claim the title of Universal Bishop, and it was equally natural that Gregory, without demanding anything especial for himself, should resist John.

In this controversy—and in those others where his works bear testimony to his literary and political skill—we see Gregory at his best. He is not deficient in satire; occasionally he indulges in playful humor; but he never forgets principle nor flinches from the prosecution of his cause. It cannot be said of him that he proposes to overrule the civil authorities, but he unquestionably tells them some exceedingly plain truths. To the Emperor Maurice he wrote remonstrating against his refusal to allow a soldier to become a monk: “To this by me, the last of His servants and yours, will Christ reply, ‘From a notary I made thee a count of the body-guard; from a count of the body-guard I made thee a Caesar; from a Caesar I made thee an emperor; nay, more, I have made thee also a father of emperors; I have committed My priests into thy hand; and dost thou withdraw thy soldiers from My service?’ Answer thy servant, most pious lord, I pray thee, and say how thou wilt reply to thy Lord in the judgment, when He comes and thus speaks.” In this style he alternately appealed and remonstrated in his dealing with the powers that be.

To John the Faster, however, he administered gall and honey—sometimes separately and sometimes mixed together. “Your holy Fraternity,” he says, on one occasion, “has replied to me, as appears from the signature of the letter, that you were ignorant of what I had written about. At which reply I was mightily astonished, pondering with myself in silence, if what you say is true, what can be worse than that such things should be done against God’s servants and he who is over them should be ignorant?” Two monks had in fact been beaten with cudgels for heresy and finally resorted to Rome in defiance of John, where Gregory pardoned and restored them. The Pope continues: “But, if your holiness did know both what subject I wrote about and what had been done, either against John, the Presbyter, or against Athanasius, monk of Isauria and a presbyter, and have written to me, ‘I know not,’ what can I reply to this, since Scripture says, ‘The mouth that lies slays the soul?’ I ask, most holy brother, has all that great abstinence of yours come to this, that you would, 105 by denial, conceal from your brother what you know to have been done?”

If we are, in spite of this plainness, disposed to be severe upon Gregory’s subservience to the civil power of the Byzantine Court, we shall find an instance in his behavior toward Phocas. This man had murdered the Emperor Maurice, gouty and helpless as he was; and had previously put his six sons to death before his eyes. The good old emperor died like a hero, repeating the words of the psalm, “Thou, O Lord, art just, and all Thy judgments are right.” And we need only to turn to Gregory’s writings to prove that the dead man was his friend and had done him many a kindness.

Notwithstanding these gracious and excellent memories of the late emperor, the Senate and people had hailed the advent of Phocas with rapturous delight. His image and that of his wife had been sent to Rome, and now, with the uproar rising to his windows, Gregory descended to the common level of detestable approbation, and caused these images to be carried into the oratory of the Lateran palace. “This,” says one of his biographers, “is the only stain upon the life of Gregory. We do not attempt either to conceal it or to excuse it.” True, Maurice had been a vexatious old man, and his piety, while it was undeniable, was nevertheless somewhat acrid. But the Bishop of Rome should have had sufficient strength at least to repress any tumultuous joy over an act of murderous ambition and hateful selfishness. This, however, is the weakness of many a prelate. In the hour of trial he bends like a reed to the blast, when we should expect him to be an oak, and trust to his roots to grapple him safely down to the firm earth of principle. This great blot, conceded by all candid historians, remains upon his memory.

It is a better picture for us to view when, forsaking his trust in the mercy of barbarians or the senility of despotic power, Gregory looked outward to the new nations and sought to furnish the Roman Church with fresh vigor and vital help from this unwasted source of strength. He corresponded with Childebert II., the unfortunate young King of Austrasia, the son of the notorious but intellectual Brunehilda. With him and with the French bishops he labored to secure the destruction of “simony,” by which was meant the bargain and sale of ecclesiastical positions. He also strove to prevent laymen from being elevated to the episcopate, 106 though he should have remembered that Hilary of Poitiers was a notable argument against his fears.

He also attended to the religious matters of Spain. This province had ceased to be Arian in 587 with the accession of Recared; and with it and with Istria he was entirely successful in his methods of unity and peace. He also overcame the Donatist party in Africa, who had for years been ordaining their own bishops side by side with the regular succession, and sometimes in actual alternation with them.

To crown all, he organized a mission to the distant island of the fair-faced Angli in 596, the very date at which the young Childebert perished by poison in the twenty-sixth year of his age. Then it was that Augustine, after one recoil which showed that he was not quite up to the mark of Gregory’s zeal, finally set out in earnest with forty companions. The month was July. The mission was almost an embassy. It went through the intervening kingdoms endorsed to and by their kings. And it went to cheer the little feeble remnant of the Celtic Christians who had escaped the Saxon sword, and to draw from the Venerable Bede his grateful tribute to the man who had already well deserved the title of great. “For,” says Bede, “if Gregory be not to others an apostle, he is one to us, for the seal of his apostleship are we in the Lord.”

When we remember, also, his secular services in saving Rome from sack and pillage, we cannot but perceive that he was laying, broad and deep, the foundations of that temporal authority which the Pope of Rome was soon to claim. The revenues of the Roman bishop were growing enormously. He had in Sicily and elsewhere his agents and stewards (defensores). He was rapidly arising to a position of almost independent dignity. His deference to kings was only that of Christian courtesy and love. In another man some of this might have been disfigured by self-seeking and moral obliquity of purpose. In Gregory we find, throughout his career, a noble integrity which was certainly austere enough, but which was in the main pure and free from spot. His weakness was that of overconciliation, of which the case of Phocas is a flagrant example. But his strength was in his just judgment and in his masterful manipulation of the materials before him.

In his way, too, he saved Christian art as well as Christian music. He condemns the Bishop of Marseilles (Massilia) for 107 having broken some statues of the saints. And while his remonstrance may perhaps be quoted in favor of image-worship, it certainly cannot be quoted for that blind iconoclasm which would destroy pagan beauty before the shrine of Christian ugliness. In the association of his name with the Gregorian chant he did almost as great a kindness to the Church as did Ambrose when he brought to her services the Greek hymns of the East.

He was a sick man while he labored at these matters of devotion and duty. Rheumatic gout attacked him and crippled his joints. We must add to this that he was not without enemies, and not without many a little sting and thrust of vicious tongues and pens. But he endured to the end, and he probably was sincere when he wrote himself down as Servus servorum—though there have been other popes since his day to follow the custom, and who were the “servants of servants” only according to the “devil’s darling sin, the pride that apes humility.”

Thirteen years he held the keys of St. Peter. Busy until the last moment, he wrote or dictated the correspondence which was required. But the disease which was upon him steadily increased until, on March 12th, 604, he was released from suffering and from care. His portrait shows him as a man with high and wrinkled forehead; a thin beard around the cheeks and chin; large, deep-set eyes; straight and manly nose, and a singular lock—almost like that in the conventional portrait of Father Time—upon his brow. There are a great many doctors of divinity who do not a little resemble him to-day. It is a good face, but a somewhat stern and severe one—of the sort to make credible the story that he had a special whip for his choristers, and used it when it was needed.

His works fill several volumes in the Patrologia. His Morals, a commentary upon Job, is the very best of his books; but he was probably ignorant of both Hebrew and Greek, and hence his comments on Scripture are rather more homiletical and practical than scholarly. The Pastoral Rule was translated into Saxon by King Alfred, who admired its practical wisdom, and sent a copy to every bishop in his kingdom; under Charles the Great also it was much esteemed in France. His Letters are the great mine of information upon his personal opinions and methods. The Dialogues were addressed to Theodolinda, and 108 in these we find some superstition; and indeed a fondness for saints’ miracles and a weakness for relics were characteristic of his otherwise sensible conduct. He wrote but nine hymns which are authentically traceable to his pen. They are the Primo dierum omnium; the Nocte surgentes vigilemus; the Ecce jam noctis; the Lucis Creator optime; the Clarum decus jejunii; the Audi benigne Conditor; the Magno salutis gaudio, the Jam Christus astra ascenderat, and the Rex Christe, factor omnium. With a lesser degree of probability he has been named as the author of the Aeterne Rex altissime; the En more docti mystico; the Lignum crucis mirabile; the Noctis tempus jam praeterit; the Nunc tempus acceptabile; and the Summi largitor praemii.

Of these the Rex Christe, factor omnium delighted Luther so much that he declared it in his impetuous way “the best hymn ever written”—an opinion which he would find few nowadays to endorse. Gregory disliked pagan literature and cultivated the style and prosody of Ambrose. It is possible, therefore, that among the Ambrosian hymns there may be those which he has written and which are credited to an earlier date. But the cause of hymnology suffers little by the loss. He was not a poet; but as the man who made the papacy a thing and not a name—as the man who evangelized Britain—and as the man who gave the Gregorian tones to the praises of the Church, he will be held in kindly and lasting remembrance. There was in him a vein of peculiar sarcasm as well as of deep earnestness and of great sagacity, yet his literary merits are not to be weighed against those words and actions written viewlessly on the air, but which still effectually vibrate through the polity of the Roman Catholic Church.



It happened with Bede as with some other Latin hymn-writers—there were several persons who had the same name as himself. Hilary and Fortunatus and Notker are not the only cases of confusion, for there were certainly three Bedes, and they were not long removed from each other in point of time. Beda Major—the elder or greater Bede—was a presbyter and monk of Lindisfarne, commemorated by his more celebrated namesake. Another was a holy man of the time of Charles the Great. But our own Beda or Bedan was a presbyter and monk of Jarrow, and is distinguished from the rest by the title of “Venerable,” which he shares with Peter the Venerable of Cluny.

There are few finer figures in early English history. Sprung from pagan and utterly illiterate ancestry, he has taken his place as an historian, a scholar, a natural philosopher, and a poet; and in every department of this varied knowledge he has shown his ability and industry. English literature recalls him; English history praises him; English scholarship has elaborately edited his writings, and English patriotism has affectionately honored his memory.

Cuthbert, his disciple, who wrote his life, begins his narration in the following words:

“The presbyter Beda, venerable and beloved of God, was born in the province of Northumbria, in the territory of the monasteries of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which is in Wearmouth and at Jarrow, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation the six hundred and seventy-seventh, which is the second year of the solitary life of St. Cuthbert.” It also was the ninth year after the reduction of Saxon England to the Roman obedience at the Synod of Whitby.

Bede himself relates that when he was seven years of age the care of his education was committed by his relatives to the Abbot 110 Benedict and afterward to the Abbot Ceolfrid. He adds that from that date to the time at which he prepared the accompanying list of his works he had spent his days in the same place. His existence was passed in meditating upon the Holy Scriptures; and he “found it sweet,” in the midst of his observance of the conventual discipline and daily chanting in the church, “either to learn, or to teach, or to write.” The choice of this word “sweet” (dulce) is significant, for no man could more carefully have mingled the sweet with the useful. A gentle spirit breathes across his studious pages, as over the rough beards of the yellow grain a breeze moves and sways them, harsh though they are, in graceful waves. For he loved learning with a perfect avidity. His works reveal his desire to accumulate it—to teach it again in plain and simple fashions—and this benevolent desire redeems many a tedious discourse.

This life of his was devoid of personal incident. He includes nothing of his individual history in the little notices which he makes of contemporary events, and he is singularly silent even about the affairs of which we should think he would naturally speak. The light which we get upon his surroundings and circumstances we must, therefore, derive from other sources, but fortunately these are at hand. We know, for example, that Benedict Biscop, who founded those twin monasteries in which Bede dwelled all his life, was himself a remarkable person. He was of noble birth, and gave up place and ambition in the court of the king to proceed to Rome, there to be trained as a monk, and then to return and found Wearmouth in 674 and Jarrow in 682. To the second of these religious establishments, situated upon the Tyne, Bede was transferred under Ceolfrid, its first abbot, and there thenceforth he remained. We are even able to determine his usual food as a school-boy, for, says his latest biographer, Rev. G. F. Browne, “we have a colloquy in which a boy is made to describe his daily food in his monastery. He had worts (i.e., kitchen herbs), fish, cheese, butter, beans, and flesh meats. He drank ale when he could get it, and water when he could not; wine was too dear.” There is, indeed, in these Saxon monasteries the honest and hearty food which belonged to their age and people. Cedric the Saxon, in Sir Walter Scott’s novel of Ivanhoe, represents very fairly the popular feeling on the subject. 111 Chaucer, too, can be quoted upon this same profusion and the generosity of the time. Of the Franklin he says:

“It snowed in his house of meat and drink.”

With such a patron as Biscop the monasteries never lacked any good thing. He brought back from the Continent the best matters of the period—books, pictures, relics, skilled mechanics, makers of stained glass, and choir-masters. He saw before him a land in which the monk was to be the conservator and promoter of learning. And in carrying out this purpose he did more than plant a monastery, for he planted and reared a man. We have the word of that historian whose life and death so nearly approach those of his favorite author, when we declare that “prose took its first shape in the Latin history of Baeda.” For John Henry Greene closed his history of the English people much as Bede ended his own career, weary with his labor and yet completing what he had begun.

That which lies before us is what Greene finely styles “the quiet grandeur of a life consecrated to knowledge.” It was no hoarding, avaricious, trilobite life to be fossilized for future ages in the dead strata of ecclesiastical records. Instead, it concerned itself with all learning; and though it perished in the blackness of a general ignorance, it is a source of light and force to-day.

But let us return to Bede’s brief points of change. While he was still a boy, the monastery was desolated by one of the great plagues which followed the Synod of Whitby, and every monk who knew how to sing in the choir, except the Abbot and Bede, were among the victims. Unaided these two struggled with the double task of teaching the others to sing and keeping up the monastic services in the mean time. The antiphons they had to abandon, but they struggled through the Psalms, often weeping and sobbing as they sang. At nineteen—six years before the usual age—he became a deacon; at thirty he was a priest; at fifty-nine he died. He acquired his Greek through the agency of Archbishop Theodore, who had come from Paul’s city of Tarsus in Cilicia. There were many in England who actually spoke in that tongue, owing to his encouragement of it. And Bede was no mean nor small factor in its diffusion, for he taught at Jarrow a school of six hundred monks, besides an uncounted number of 112 strangers who sought his instruction. The genealogy of school masters is truly suggestive. From Bede to Alcuin, from Alcuin to Rabanus Maurus, from Rabanus and his liberal methods on to the times of Abelard and the free inquiry; so the torch of learning passes down the generations. And when we remember Alcuin’s commendation of Bede and Rabanus Maurus’s instruction by Alcuin, we cannot doubt the close connection of these three earliest names. Abelard really revived the bolder and broader style which had been opposed at first in the Abbey of Fulda.

How the monk ever found time for his accomplishment of study and writing among his constant labors—his chanting and his teaching and his frequent preparation of homilies—it is indeed hard to discover. But he wore away the thin scabbard of the body by the keen edge of his sheathed and unsheathed mind, until he died before his days were truly done. How often must we lament the incredible monotony and weary routine of these noble lives! How much more, we say to ourselves, they could have achieved under better and freer conditions! But perhaps not. Perhaps this very constriction was a source of strength; and perhaps the severe stress which finally broke this noble student was, after all, the creator of his best powers and the director of his finest energy.

Did he ever visit Rome? Monks from the Anglo-Saxon monasteries went on pilgrimage back and forth, but if he went with them neither he nor they have mentioned it. Yet there is a letter of Pope Sergius to Ceolfrid which hints at such a journey, and might easily furnish a ground for the opinion. On the whole, we must consider Bede as an unflickering light, burning itself away at Jarrow, but illuminating all England with its rays. It is not because of deficiency in acquirement that we deny these traditions. He knew all that was then current. His writings are an encyclopaedia of universal learning. Honorius of Autun says of him, scripsit infinita—he wrote incalculably much. Lanfranc cites his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. Alcuin compares him to the Younger Pliny, and quotes him with great delight as “Magister Beda.”

The hymns ascribed to the Venerable Bede, on what appears to be good authority, are the following:

Adesto, Christe, vocibus,
Apostolorum gloriam,
Emitte, Christe, Spiritum,
Hymnum canamus gloriae,
Hymnum canentes martyrum,
Illuxit alma seculis,
Nunc Andreae sollemnia,
Praecessor almus gratiae,
Praecursor altus luminis,
Primo Deus coeli globum,
Salve tropaeum gloriae.

Also, but more doubtfully:

Apostolorum passio,
Inter florigeras.

His Ascension hymn,

Hymnum canamus gloriae,

in its abbreviated form, spread beyond the bounds of English use, and found favor with the Churches of the Continent. It has simplicity and directness, if not much poetic force and is too prolix for Church use in its original form. Mrs. Charles’s version, “A hymn of glory let us sing,” is well known. Next to it stands his

Hymnum canentes martyrum,

known to English readers by the admirable version in Hymns Ancient and Modern, which begins, “A hymn for martyrs sweetly sing.” A third notable hymn is that to the Cross:

Salve tropaeum gloriae,

in which he embodies the beautiful legend of St. Andrew’s death.

The notable thing about all Bede’s hymns is the influence which the old forms of Teutonic poetry—the alliterative staff-rhyme—have exerted on their construction. We can even trace an approximation to alliteration in his verses, while rhyme is rather an accident than an object. The verses of Beowulf and of Caedmon were in his mind when he wrote. That he could use the classic metres also, we see from his poem in hexameters on the life of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, the great Scoto-Irish saint, whose deeds still filled the North with their echoes.



None of the great Latin hymns is more regarded than the Veni, Creator Spiritus. The Dies Irae may be grander; the Veni, Sancte Spiritus may be sweeter; the Ad perennis vitae fontem may be lovelier; the Stabat mater may be more pathetic, but, after all, the Veni, Creator holds a place of equal honor in the estimation of the Church. The Church of England, while rejecting every other Latin hymn from her services, nevertheless retained this in the offices for the ordering of priests and consecration of bishops. This is only the carrying out, indeed, of the account given by the famous but unknown monk of Salzburg who rendered so many of the Latin hymns into the old High-German tongue. He says, “Whoever repeats this hymn by day or by night, him shall no enemy visible or invisible assail.” This has always been the repute of the hymn, and there is no doubt that this attended it on its journey down the ages in the worship of the Church.

Its authorship, however, has been less carefully preserved than its text, which is notably free from mutilation and obscurity. It is really singular to find a hymn which has been so universally employed, and which has escaped in such a marvellous manner from the profane meddling of prosaic or bigoted revisers. Its doxologic final stanza is one which is not often to be found elsewhere—as though the hymn had taken and maintained a place apart. If it were the product of the Ambrosian age this would not be likely to have occurred, for all those doxologies are formal and interchangeable to a marked degree. But this is the appropriate conclusion of a unique ascription of praise to the third person of the Trinity.

Its date is thus, to some extent, fixed for us. We cannot refer it to the days of Ambrose, and, since it is found in nearly all the twelfth to fourteenth-century breviaries, we are unable to attribute it to the period of the Renaissance. Its very verse would prevent 115 this, if nothing else did. The word spiritalis is a barbarism—an altogether post-classical expression. The true usage is that in which the genitive case is employed, thus “spiritual delight” would be animi felicitas, not spiritalis (or spiritualis) felicitas. Perpetim is also a word which purists of the new classic revival would avoid if they could. So, too, there is a certain amount of stress to be put upon the scanning of Paraclitus—where the i is long, though Prudentius in the fifth century and Adam of St. Victor in the twelfth both make it short. It has therefore been said that the hymn was composed by a person who was skilled in the Greek language. This altogether depends on the question whether he pronounced the word by accent or by quantity. But still it is not to be denied that the prosody of the poet gives us reason to think that he did pronounce the word with the accent on the η. If this be so, it would follow that he was a man of rare and fine scholarship in comparison with the contemporaneous learning.

Another criticism is purely theological and aids in fixing the date by the history of doctrine itself. At the Council of Toledo A.D. 589, the word filioque was added to the Creed to indicate the faith of the Church in the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. This hymn preserves this point of the orthodox belief with such care that there can be no doubt of its being subsequent in time to the date of that council.

In coming more particularly to the various authors who have been credited with its composition, it may be well to attend to each claim as it is put forward in some sort of chronologic order.

George Fabricius of Chemnitz (1564) was ready enough to ascribe it to Ambrose himself. The only ground for this conjecture is the structure of the verse. And this is no more a proof of authorship than that a hymn written in what we call “long metre” must be, because of that fact alone, the production of Isaac Watts. On the other hand, it is plain that the theological allusion and the doxology, when taken together, remove the hymn far enough away from the days of the great Bishop of Milan.

In later times of more critical scholarship the learned and accurate Professor Hermann Adalbert Daniel has devoted much study to the hymn, and has reached the conclusion that it belongs to that king whom the Germans are never tired of praising—Charles the Great (Karl der Grosse), by the French called Charlemagne. 116 Led by his illustrious opinion the compilers and translators have, without another question, set it down for Charles’s work. So it has gone; the minor German collators, like Königsfeld and others, following peacefully in the rear of an original investigator. This was not true, however, of men who hunted for proof on their own account, as, for instance, Mone and Wackernagel. But it is distinctly true of the English scholars, among whom Archbishop Trench appears to carry the most prevalent influence. They usually assent without a murmur to this conjecture of Daniel indorsing Thomasius, who was, so far as can be discovered, the parent of the opinion. The only real exception is the Scotch hymnologist, Dr. H. M. MacGill, who doubts, but conforms to the opinion which is in vogue.

The grounds of this general confidence in Charles’s authorship it may be proper to mention here in brief. We know it is said that he was a patron of learning, a friend of scholars, and a devout believer in the orthodox theology. In the year 809 he took an active part in a synod at Aquisgranum which affirmed the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son. There is, furthermore, a statement, quoted by Cardinal Thomasius from the Acta Sanctorum, which goes in the direction of a positive assertion. In the life of the Blessed Notker it is said that this hymn was composed by Carolus Magnus.

Now it has never been established that Charles was even a ready writer of prose, to say nothing of verse. Berington, following Einhard, Charles’s secretary, says in his History of the Literature of the Middle Ages (1814), that Charles was not a literary man. “He seems never to have acquired the easy practice of writing,” is his strong language (p. 102). The hymn, on the contrary, bears the evident marks of accustomed skill and practice in the art of verse as well as the accuracy of a mind trained in theologic discriminations. Moreover, if Maitland (he of the Dark Ages) is to be credited, then this life of the Blessed Notker, by Ekkehard Junior, is full of errors, of ignorance, and wilful design. It naturally celebrates whatever is likely to add to the credit of St. Gall. Hence we need not be astonished when it tells us that Notker composed the sequence, Spiritus Sancti adsit nobis gratia, and sent it to Charles the Great, receiving in return his composition the Veni, Creator Spiritus. Nor should we be surprised when this turns out 117 (as it is now conceded to be) a mere legend without any historic basis. When Thomasius follows this story, and Daniel follows Thomasius, and Trench follows Daniel, and the compilers follow Trench, it really appears that but little independent judgment has been exercised on the subject.

Notker died in 912, and as Charles the Great was dead in 814, the absurd anachronism of the Ekkehard legend is clear to a glance. It should perhaps be added that Trench, although allowing Charles as author, believes the hymn to be possibly of earlier date.

Mone takes a new departure when he gives up the common opinion and announces that the hymn ought to be assigned to Gregory the Great (540-606). In his first volume he taxes Daniel with having been altogether too prompt to agree to the cardinal’s dictum. He finds no reason to give the hymn to Charles, but he regards the classical style of its composition to be very fitting to the culture and well-known powers of Gregory. He rejects the doxology Sit laus, etc., and considers, very justly, that the stanza Per te sciamus, etc., is the true conclusion of the hymn.

Wackernagel agrees with Mone. He thinks that the only way in which Charles could have secured the authorship would have been by getting the composition effected by the intervention of Alcuin. He therefore believes that Gregory was the poet of the Veni, Creator, and so publishes it in his exhaustive work upon the German church hymns. Professor March, always careful and scholarly in his assignments, adopts this opinion also.

Against the Gregorian authorship, supported as it is by such eminent and independent scholars, one must be slow to contend. But in fact there is no great similarity between the hymn before us and those of Gregory. The great Pope is not a great poet. He has not written one hymn which has really endured. The Audi benigne Conditor is quoted freely, and the Rex Christe, factor omnium received Luther’s highest approbation. But these and other hymns from his pen are imitations of Ambrose—almost slavish imitations. The lofty and grand largeness of the Veni, Creator is wanting to them all. The argument, good as it may seem, is only negative. The inference is that the hymn was written by him—nothing more. On the same grounds we might as well go back to old George Fabricius and give it into the hands of Ambrose 118 as he did. The truth is that Gregory’s writings do not contain it, and why they should not, if he were its actual author, it is hard for any one to understand.

But we are not at the end of the inquiry yet. We positively know certain facts. These are: That the earliest mention of the hymn is in the Delatio S. Marculfi, A.D. 898; that it is found in the breviaries of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries; that its author was a skilled theologian and probably a master of the Greek language; that he was a poet in the true sense and therefore quite certain to have written other hymns and poems; that it was so soon and so generally adopted as to prevent any corruption of its text; that all these ascriptions of it to this or that person are nothing but tradition; and, finally, that the hymn has such spiritual worth and power as to mark it for the production of a devout as well as scholarly mind. All these requirements are met in Rabanus Maurus, Bishop of Mainz, pupil of Alcuin, and laureate after Alcuin and Theodulphus.

There was a certain Christopher Brower, a Jesuit and a profoundly learned scholar, who was born in 1559 at Arnhem in Gelderland. In the year 1580 he went to Cologne in pursuit of his studies. Then he studied philosophy at Trier, and eventually became rector of the college at Fulda. Here he wrote four books upon antiquarian topics. His diligent, exhaustive style can be judged by the fact that he spent thirty years upon a history of Trier. His Antiquitates were printed in 1612, but in 1603 he had edited the writings of Fortunatus, and this book was reissued in 1617, the year of his death, by Joannes Volmar at Cologne. This edition has an appendix of 150 pp. 4to., in which is contained the entire series of hymns and other poetical compositions which were due to the aforesaid Bishop of Mainz, Rabanus Maurus. It was edited from a very old MS. of undoubted veracity, and it contains the Veni, Creator in the precise text which we now employ. It is to be noticed that it does not recognize the doxology Sit laus, etc., and this Mone assures us was composed at a later period by Hincmar of Rheims, and is, as we have said, unique. But it accents Paraclitus upon the second a and not upon the i.

The stanza Da gaudiorum, etc., was rejected some time ago by the best scholars. It is from a hymn of later date. And we therefore find the version which appears in Brewer’s editions of the 119 poems of Rabanus Maurus to be consonant with the most intelligent criticism of the text of the Veni, Creator.

The hymn itself we can assign with very considerable certainty to the author in whose pages it again is apparent, and we may believe in the accuracy and scholarly acuteness of the Jesuit antiquarian.

It will not be amiss if we set our reasons in order, for a long-established delusion is as hard to overthrow sometimes as the stubbornest fact. They are such as the following:

1. The hymn is found in the writings of Rabanus Maurus, in a codex which Brower calls “very ancient and well approved.”

2. It is the precise paraphrase of the learned bishop’s chapter on the Holy Spirit. Thus he begins the chapter with an assertion of the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. He then calls this Spirit donum Dei, and several times repeats the phrase. He argues that the Spirit is coequal and coeternal God. He then discusses the term Paraclete, and proceeds to speak of the septiformis nature of His power. Next follows a most significant and unusual expression—namely, that the Holy Spirit is digitus Dei—the finger of God. And the consecution and coincidence of thought is still further increased by an allusion to the grace which bestowed the gift of tongues. He then speaks of the Spirit as fire—which accords with the word accende—and then he explains the simile of water, which corresponds with the word infunde and with the previous phrase fons vivus. He also quotes from the Gospel of John to show that this “living water” means no more nor less than the Holy Spirit. These coincidences are doubly remarkable, for they not only exhibit the same ideas—some of which, by the way, are quite uncommon—but they also set them forth in the precise order in which the good bishop employs them in his hymn. It is as if, being aroused and animated by his great and noble theme, he had turned to verse as an appropriate medium of lofty praise and had sung from his heart this immortal hymn.

3. To these reasons we may add a third—that the internal structure of the hymn shows its author to have been a person of theological soundness, spiritual insight, scriptural knowledge, genuine scholarship, and a natural poetical capacity. These facts again 120 agree with what we know to have been the talents and learning of Rabanus Maurus.

4. If Gregory had written this hymn it would have appeared at an earlier date and would have been undoubtedly attributed to its illustrious author; whereas it is not in his carefully compiled writings nor is it accredited to him by Thomasius or any hymnologist before the time of Mone and Wackernagel.

5. Charles the Great had not the learning, and both he and his grandson, Charles “the Bald,” are named on the strength of a long-exploded and always anachronistic tradition.

6. Ambrose is out of the question by the theological limitation of the stanza Per te sciamus, etc.

7. Finally, we have the right to believe that a man whose other hymns have been so extensively, though anonymously, introduced into the worship of the Church, was entirely competent to frame this present hymn.

This last point is worthy of more than this terse remark. Rabanus composed the hymns, Adest dies sanctus Dei, Festum nunc celebre, Fit porta Christi pervia, Tibi Christe splendor Patris, Christe Redemptor omnium, and Jesu Salvator saeculi, all of which display great powers of sacred poetry and two of which are beyond any possible doubt his authentic productions. Of the twenty-nine hymns found in Brewer’s codex there are two which have been credited to Ambrose beside the Veni, Creator, and there are seven which are classed by Daniel and Fabricius as belonging between the tenth and fourteenth centuries and to unknown authorship. The codex adds to our previous list eight entirely new poems, and two others which raise a question on which we may pause for a moment before conceding the current opinion.

The first of these hymns is the Altus prosator, of which the codex gives us a much fuller and longer version. It is called ordinarily the “Hymn of St. Columba,” and was reprinted by Dr. Todd from the Liber Hymnorum of old Irish hymns in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Our present line of inquiry would lead us to assign it to Rabanus, and thus do away with the mere conjecture which makes Columba its author.

The second hymn is that usually credited to Elpis, the wife of Boethius. But the designation of this hymn is as fanciful as the other. Brower in his loyalty to the Church will not impugn the 121 authorship which is commonly received, but he is constrained to admit that a stanza is appended which the popular version entirely omits. It seems far more reasonable to think that Rabanus composed the whole hymn than that he only added a few verses at the end. What Rabanus Maurus really did was to construct an hymnodia which had an appropriate sacred song for every season. He was a poet and he lauded the verses of Hilary and of Ambrose. Had he intended to make selections he would not have omitted them. But he has certainly put his own compositions into this list. Therefore it follows that he may well have included more than was at first supposed. And when it is plain—for the index of hymns makes it plain—that not one single hymn of the twenty-nine is the undoubted and absolute property of any other poet, we are safe in assuming that they all are what the codex declares them to be—the actual productions of the Bishop Rabanus.

The hymn Fit porta Christi pervia occurs in the midst of the Ambrosian A solis ortus cardine, et usque, and was there inserted by the Benedictines of St. Maur. Daniel says it is an entire hymn as it stands. And so say we who find it standing alone in the codex of Brower.

At once, then, Rabanus Maurus ascends from comparative obscurity to a front rank among hymn-writers. And we are ready for all the light upon his personal history which we can obtain.


Veni, Creator Spiritus,

Mentes tuorum visita,

Imple superna gratia

Quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui Paraclitus diceris,

Donum Dei altissimi,

Fons vivus, ignis, charitas,

Et spiritalis unctio.

Tu septiformis munere,

Dextrae Dei tu digitus,

Tu rite promissum Patris,

Sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus,

Infunde amorem cordibus,

Infirma nostri corporis,

Virtute firmans perpetim.


Hostem repellas longius,

Pacemque dones protinus,

Ductore sic te praevio

Vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem

Noscamus atque Filium,

Te utriusque Spiritum,

Credamus omni tempore.

O Holy Ghost, Creator, come!

Thy people’s minds pervade;

And fill with thy supernal grace

The souls which thou hast made.

Thou who art called the Paraclete,

The gift of God most high;

Thou living fount, and fire, and love,

Our spirit’s pure ally;

Thou sevenfold Giver of all good;

Finger of God’s right hand;

Thou promise of the Father, rich

In words for every land;

Kindle our senses to a flame,

And fill our hearts with love,

And through our bodies’ weakness, still

Pour valor from above!

Drive farther off our enemy,

And straightway give us peace;

That, with thyself as such a guide,

We may from evil cease.

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.

Rabanus Maurus, teacher and Abbot of Fulda and Archbishop of Mayence (Mainz), was commonly called the “foremost German of his time.” Though the centuries have somewhat obscured the lustre of his renown, they have not deprived him of his place in history, nor have they dissociated his name from that of his instructor, prototype, and model, the great pedagogue Alcuin.

Of the birthplace of Rabanus we have no certain knowledge. Some have said that he was Scotch or English, others that he was French; but the more reliable authorities are convinced that he was a German, born either at Fulda or Mainz. The epitaph written by himself affords probably the solution of the question. It was composed at Mainz while its author was archbishop, and contains these words:

“Urbe quidem hac genitus sum, ac sacro fonte renatus,

In Fulda post haec dogma sacrum didici.”

That is, he was born at the place where he was writing these verses—most likely Mainz—and there he was baptized. Afterward he was educated in Fulda. An additional reason for this belief is that his father was of a family known in the records of Mainz.

Trithemius says that Rabanus was born in 788 quarto nonas Februarii, the second of February. Mabillon adds, “I do not know whence he got the day; the year is probably pretty close.” But the year itself, on the strength of internal evidence found in the man’s writings and in the monastic rules regarding the holding of office before the attainment of a fixed age, Mabillon places at 776. This extension of twelve years is a very important affair since it makes Rabanus a monk of thirty-three at the date of the Council of Aquisgranum (Aix-la-Chapelle or Aachen), called by Charlemagne to reannunciate the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit.

The name of Rabanus’s father was Ruthard and his mother was 123 christened Aldegunde. “She was a woman of the most honest conversation,” as Trithemius declares, the fit helpmeet of a man “rich and powerful, who for a long time served in the wars under the Frank princes.” There was a brother, doubtless an elder brother, called Tutin, a person “noble among the first,” and perhaps the father of a nephew, Gundram, whom Rabanus mentions as the royal chaplain of Lewis of Germany.

The lad Raban—“the raven”—took on his dark garments at nine years of age and went to be a little shaveling monk at Fulda. There he continued, patiently toiling on at his studies according to the methods of a benighted time, and it is plain that he progressed so well as to get the favor of his abbot, Ratgar. Since Ratgar took office in 801 or 802, and Alcuin died in May, 804, it must have been at or about the twenty-fifth year of his age that Rabanus was directed to put himself under the care of Alcuin. A record which has been preserved shows that in 801 our poet had been made a deacon at Fulda, and it is natural for us to look upon this journey to the monastic school of St. Martin at Tours as an honor given to one who had already earned some distinction in scholarship.

Be this as it may it is certain that nearly the latest work of Alcuin’s life was the preparation of the successor to his own ideas who should hold high the torch of knowledge to his land and generation. To him—though the old eyes at Tours should not see it—was to succeed Walafrid Strabo, and to Walafrid Strabo were to be added the scholars of St. Gall, and notably the marvellous cripple Herman of Reichenau. Ratgar now was busy building a great church, and architectural notions befogged his brain. But he had built better than he was aware when he sent off Rabanus and Hatto to sit at the feet of the man who had brought the system of Bede the Venerable into Gaul, and who was to commit his own enthusiasm for learning to a greater scholar than Paul Winfrid, the Deacon.

This Hatto was not the infamous bishop of the Rat Tower whom Southey has immortalized in blood-curdling verses. That notorious prelate was indeed Abbot of Fulda and Bishop of Mainz, but he died in 969 or 970, and the swarming rats which devoured him for his avarice in keeping the corn from the poor owe their original celebrity to those curious volumes, the Centuries of Magdeburg. 124 So far as we can discover, the Hatto who accompanied Rabanus became neither famous nor infamous, unless it be something to have obtained the abbacy of Fulda when his friend laid it down.

In 804 Rabanus returned to Fulda. He had profited by the instruction he had received, and was now the fittest person to be put at the head of the school in the cloisters. To his original name the old teacher had affixed the honorable title Maurus, and to this again Rabanus himself added the descriptive adjective Magnentius. So that Rabanus Maurus Magnentius is the full appellation of the man henceforth to be styled with the largest truth, Primus Germaniae preceptor. This giving of names was one of the features of those times. Alcuin was called Albinus Flaccus, Paul Winfrid was known as Bonifacius, and Ratbert, the advocate of transubstantiation, became Paschasius. Besides this, the spelling of proper names was very much at sea. Thus, to the R of Rabanus there was prefixed or suffixed a Greek “rough breathing,” making it HRabanus or Rhabanus, precisely as we some times find HLudovicus or HLotharius.

It is at this time that the true skill and ability of Rabanus appear before us. He was the first person to establish a school in Germany which had in it the promise of modern education. He allowed pupils to attend and be trained in the cloisters who had no vocation for a monastic life. In point of fact he was the real founder of the school system of Germany, and his fellow-countrymen have not been slow to accredit him with the achievement. His life and accomplishments have employed the pens of Buddeus, Schwarz, Dahl, Bach, Kunstmann, Spengler, Köhler, Richter, and other writers on the history of paedagogik.[7] It is beyond debate that the school at Fulda was a most remarkable place.

Rabanus was not the only teacher in the school. He was assisted by his faithful friend Samuel of Worms, a fellow pupil under Alcuin. Together these men developed and enlarged the minds of many of the future nobles of Germany, and laid in Bible study and in the advanced opinions which they announced, the 125 foundations for a nation the most scholarly of any on the earth. In these classes were to be seen such disciples of the new learning as Walafrid Strabo, Servatus Lupus, Einhard (who subsequently sent thither his son Wussin), and Rudolf who wrote the life of his preceptor.

Leaving the manner of that ancient school life for the present, we are struck with astonishment at the broad and liberal tone of the instruction. Rabanus followed Bede in providing an encyclopaedia of human knowledge for his pupils. He entitled it De Universis and based it on the previous work of Isidore of Seville. Additionally he abridged the grammar of Priscian, a treatise which furnished, even as late as the days of Richard Braythwaite and his Drunken Barnabee, the suggestive line,

“Fregi frontem Prisciani.”

“I’ve broke Priscian’s forehead mainly.”

He also furnished a text-book in arithmetic, drawn mostly from Boethius, and an etymology in which he depends to some extent on Isidore. He utilized Bede for chronology, and Gregory for ecclesiastical forms, and Augustine for doctrine, and Cassiodorus for commentary and exegesis.

Moreover, he was free from much of the superstition of his age. He objected to giving the liver of a mad dog to one who had been bitten by it—that being then held a perfect cure. His letters show an independent and almost an audacious mind. In all religious discussion his motto was, “When the cause is Christ’s, the opposition of the bad counts for naught.” In statecraft—for ecclesiastics were chief movers in these affairs—he held with Ludwig the Pious. He wrote a great deal in the way of Scripture commentary, and his intellect was of a mystical order. He delighted in allegories, in enshrining the bones of saints and confessors, and in making the most marvellous and intricate anagrams and arrangements of verses and letters upon the subject of the Holy Cross, whose praise he has elaborately set forth. Wimpfeling may well style this production a “wonderful and highly elaborate work.” It dates from the year 815, and no modern reader can view it without dismay at its enormous expenditure of labor.

A man like this in the teacher’s seat of Fulda would not be long 126 in obscuring by his manifest talents the feebler light of his abbot. So Ratgar found, and devoted himself and his monks with mistimed zeal to the erection of a great addition to the cloister church. He grudged the time given to the studies of the school. He would much prefer to have had the full control of all that was passing in the cloisters, but this was plainly impossible. So he devised a very satisfactory way of interrupting the success of Rabanus. He took the books from the scholars and he even forbade them to the teacher. This was the cause of some pathetic verses in which Rabanus sets forth his petition for their return. “Let thy clemency,” he exclaims, “concede me books, for the poverty of knowledge suffocates me.” One grates his teeth in reading farther on the words, “Whether you do this or not, yet let the divine power of the Omnipotent always afford you all good things and complete a good fight with an honest course, that you may ever be with Christ in the height of heaven.”

Ratgar was a tyrant; there was no doubt of that. The only question was how long this tyranny would survive the loss of students and the defection of the monks, who had already begun to complain and resist. There was not any hope, however, that this line of conduct would be materially altered, and here again we have verses of Rabanus, lamenting in moving terms the loss of scholars and the demoralization of the school. It is not at all unlikely that the praises of the Holy Cross were the solace of the poor pedagogue who had lost his favorite volumes. He could scarcely otherwise have found the leisure for this elegant trifling.

The poem just mentioned is imperfect. It breaks off abruptly and the conclusion is missing. What it may have had to do with the outcome of Ratgar’s tyranny we therefore cannot say, but the times upon which the monastery had fallen were very grievous; and in 807 there was a pestilence which depleted the list of monks from four hundred down to one hundred and fifty, and these must, of course, have been more pressed by the manual labor than ever. They toiled as did Israel in bondage, and yet the end had not come. It was a period of the worst sort of misrule, paralleled later at Cluny and not unknown in other conventual establishments. In 814 Rabanus was ordained priest on December 23d, and, as is supposed, after his withdrawal for a time from the monastery to the refuge offered by a friend’s house. From a passage 127 in one of his commentaries it has been inferred that he used this suspense of his labors to make a journey to Palestine.

In 811 there was, says Dahl, a great confusion (Verwirrung) in the cloister. A libel was sent to Charles the Great criticising the conduct of Ratgar—“libel” being used in its old sense of “little treatise.” Nothing, as it would seem, was done about this, although the ordination of Rabanus may have been a link in the chain.

But when Ludwig the Pious (Ludwig der Fromme) came to the kingdom Ratgar was summarily deposed, and Egil, a kindly, book-loving man, created abbot in his stead. This occurred in 817, three years after Ludwig began to reign. All difficulties were now over. The school was reopened with greater prosperity than before. The library was increased. The secular scholars were taught outside the walls, for the number of students surpassed the accommodation. And, in a word, Ratgar had merely held back a constantly augmenting torrent which now poured itself in in an intrepid tide. When Martin Luther, centuries later, cries out for intelligent instruction and for the extension of the school system of Germany, he is but repeating the cry which swelled in the ears of Ratgar and drove him before it with execration from his abbacy.

In 822, when Egil died, by common consent Rabanus was invested with the dignity of abbot. For a time things went smoothly enough, and such scholars as Walafrid Strabo, Servatus Lupus, and Otfried of Weissenberg were the glory of the Fulda schools. But the pendulum swung too far in the rebound from Ratgar’s illiterate policy. The monks were kept at writing and teaching with too little discrimination as to their tastes and capacities. They began to grumble that the material interests of the monastery were neglected, and that Fulda might be growing rich in books and in bookworms, but was in danger of becoming poor in everything else. The disaffection found a support in Archbishop Otgar of Mainz, a busy political prelate, who seems to have become jealous of the prominence of Rabanus. As a supporter of Lothar and of the policy of imperial unity, he was in politics on the other side from Rabanus. Our abbot was a Nationalist and a Home Ruler. He wished to foster the cultivation of the German tongue and to maintain the distinctness of the German nation. He had stood by poor, weak Ludwig the Pious, whose sorrow it was to have succeeded to the work of Charles the Great. He addressed to him a 128 letter of consolation in his troubles, and wrote a treatise: De Reverentia Filiorum erga Patres et Subditorum erga Reges, to recall his unfilial children to a sense of their duty. In Ludwig the German he recognized the most dutiful of the three. So when the Emperor Ludwig died in 840, he supported the younger Ludwig in the demand for virtual German independence against the high-handed imperialism of his elder brother Lothar. He thus shared in the triumph of the victory at Fontanetum, followed by the Compact of Verdun (843), which practically put an end to Karling imperialism, and secured the national independence of France and Germany. But in the mean time Otgar enabled the illiterate party at Fulda to drive Rabanus into exile, and when he came back he found the brethren had chosen another abbot, Hatto, in his stead. Waiving his own rights, and laying aside all grudges, he betook himself to his books in a priory or something of the sort on Mount St. Peter, not far off, and resumed the work of teaching. Here he is thought to have composed his great philosophical treatise on the All, which marks a distinct advance in the development of mediaeval metaphysics and logic. Indeed, there was but one thinker of the ninth century who surpassed him in penetration and learning—the wonderful Irish monk, John Scotus Erigena, who wrote Latin but thought in Greek and was filled with all the wisdom of the Hellenes, from Plato to Dionysius the Areopagite.

In 847 Archbishop Otgar died, and Ludwig the German elevated his friend Rabanus to the see of Mainz, the metropolitan see of Germany. Since Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon “Apostle of Germany,” who had succeeded to this dignity a century earlier, there had been no man of such eminence at the head of the German Church, nor have any of his successors surpassed him. His first care was the restoration of the discipline, which had decayed under the confusions of those dark days of civil war. A great synod met at Mainz in October, Rabanus having been consecrated in June. Besides the prelates, abbots and monks of all orders attended, and the canons adopted had reference to stricter life as the obligation of the clergy.

The year was not over before news of fresh trouble reached him. One of his own pupils at Fulda, the monk Gottschalk, a man of restless intellect, was reported as spreading an exaggerated version of Augustine’s doctrine of absolute predestination, and one which 129 threatened to overturn the very idea of human responsibility. Gottschalk evidently was one of the people who love to walk on the fence rather than in the road—to carry every principle with ruthless logic to its remotest conclusion. The first news of his extravagances reached Rabanus in a letter from Italy setting forth the doctrines his former pupil was teaching. He at once responded in a letter (or rather a treatise) taking the same ground as the semi-Pelagians had done in the controversy with the school of Augustine, ground sanctioned by Gregory the Great, Beda, and Alcuin, although thought unsafe when first defended by Gennadius and John Cassian. Gottschalk seems to have accepted the reply as a sort of challenge. The next year, 848, he made his way to Mainz, and when Rabanus called together an assembly of churchmen and laymen—not a regular synod—he appeared before it with a confession of his faith in which he replied to the arguments of Rabanus. The assembly failed to convince him of his being in error, and at the king’s suggestion a pledge was exacted of him that he would never return to Germany. Hincmar of Rheims, the metropolitan of the Church of France, made sure of his keeping this pledge. As Gottschalk was handed over to him by King Ludwig, with a letter of explanation from Rabanus, he had him condemned by the Synod of Quiercy (853) to deposition from the priesthood, corporal chastisement until he should burn his confession with his own hands, and lifelong imprisonment. So ended, in 867, this Calvinist of the ninth century, without much credit to anybody who had a hand in his fate, but with least of discredit to Rabanus.

In 852, by order of King Ludwig, another synod convened at Mainz, to discuss, it is supposed, the doctrine of transubstantiation, which Paschasius Radbertus of Corbie had been setting forth in his treatise, De Corpore et Sanguine Christi. Our Rabanus resisted the new dogma, declaring that the participation of the Lord’s body and blood in the sacrament is “not carnal but spiritual.” Nor is this the only point of his agreement with Protestant teaching. Especially in his assertion that the Bible is a book for every Christian, and clear and intelligible as a rule of faith, he anticipates Luther.

In 850 a great famine desolated Germany, in whose course people were driven to the terrible deeds which sometimes characterize 130 such times. Rabanus did his possible to relieve the terrible needs of his flock. Three hundred of these poor people were fed daily from his resources as archbishop, and his heart went out in pity to the multitudes he could not aid. Pitiful scenes he must have witnessed. One poor woman fell dead as she staggered to his threshold, with a babe at her breast. His charity was too late to save her, but her child was rescued.

He lived six years more, seeing his diocese recover from the desolation of that terrible winter, cherishing the literary and educational work of the monasteries on the lines laid down in his De Institutione Clericorum, keeping his clergy up to the ideal of the priestly life as defined in his De Disciplina Ecclesiastica, and civilizing the rude people of his great diocese. He died in 856, in his eightieth year, and was buried in St. Alban’s church in Mainz. In the era of the Reformation his bones were transferred to St. Maurice’s church in Halle. As Rome has not inscribed the opponent of transubstantiation in the list of her saints, they are allowed to rest together in peace, instead of being distributed through a long series of churches as relics.

He had composed for himself an epitaph, as was the fashion of those days, but it is pleasanter to read than some of those exaggeratedly humble and prosaic treatises concerning which we hardly know whether most to stand amazed at the badness of the Latin or the meanness of the piety. Rabanus avoids these objectionable features. His language is that of a poet and his sentiments those of a sincere Christian. Particularly there are two lines which are notable because they give us a glimpse of his personality:

“Promptus erat animus, sed tardans debile corpus;

Feci quod poteram, quodque Deus dederat.”

“Quick was my mind, but slow was my body through weakness;

That which I could I have done, and what the Lord gave me.”

One of his latest bequests was that of his books, which he devised, like a true scholar, partly to his old abbey of Fulda and partly to the monastery of St. Alban at Mainz.

John Trithemius eulogizes him in words which may, perhaps, be transferred into our pages from their original Latin as a specimen of the praise which Rabanus has always received—praise that is indeed worthy of the man who wrote the Veni, Creator.


“Rabanus was first among the Germans; a scholar universally erudite; profound in science; eloquent and strong in discourse; in life and conversation he shone as most learned, religious, and holy; he was always a prelate dignified, affable, and acceptable before God.”

This same Trithemius gives us a little notion of the bishop’s appearance. In body, he says that he was tolerably robust; of a sanguine, bilious temperament; rather fleshly in person than inclined to meagreness (macilentus); with a “courageous and great” head; and of a well-proportioned figure.

Of the other writings of Rabanus it is sufficient for us to name his compendium of the grammar of Priscian; his great work upon The Universe; his treatise upon the Praises of the Holy Cross, and his elaborate commentaries upon the various books of the Bible. He also prepared homilies and sundry compositions relative to ecclesiastical matters. In the Patrologia of Migne it requires six closely-printed volumes to cover his contributions to sacred literature. Especially we have occasion to note his theological writings, as it is in these that his spiritual character is most apparent.

His works mostly are dead enough to modern interest, but not all. German philology honors in him a great churchman who shared Charles the Great’s respect for German speech and culture, and at whose feet Otto of Weissenburg, the poet of the Krist, sat. German pedagogics recognizes in him the first Praeceptor Germaniae, who transplanted to Fulda the generous plans of education which Charles conceived, and which Alcuin executed at Tours. German philosophy recognizes in him the first forerunner of the great series of her metaphysicians. But to us he is Rabanus the poet, who acquired the art of verse under Alcuin, who used it at times to little purpose as in his De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis, but who in a happy hour wrote the Veni, Creator Spiritus.



In the life of Notker, written by Ekkehard (Eckhardt) the Younger, who was Dean of St. Gall in 1220, we have a perfect mine of garrulous gossip and of chattering, pleasant romance. It has been called “one of the most delightful of mediaeval memoirs;” though we are very little disposed to accept a large share of it as solid fact. There is in it much confusion, both of dates and names. From one of its stories came the designation of Charles the Great (“the Emperor Charles”) as the author of the Veni Creator, a point which we have treated more fully in the chapter upon Rabanus Maurus. The copyist is mainly accountable for these blunders, some of which are so grossly anachronistic as to be at once corrected by their reader; and others are so puerile that no one can easily be deceived.

Since it is to Notker that we owe the “sequence” in its full development, it may be as well for us to let Ekkehard sketch his character at full length. The biography is in one of the April volumes of the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandist Fathers—a great white-covered folio which displays the immense research of its editors. For those who are less inclined to the Latin language in its monkish form, there is the admirable abridgment by Baring-Gould, known as the Lives of the Saints—a compilation which must be always distinguished from the work of the same title by Alban Butler. From these sources a great deal of truth and falsehood, fact and fiction, real record and unreal romance, have flowed forth upon the world. We cannot but speak reverently and kindly of such noble endeavors as those of Dr. Neale, but here, at the very outset, it must be understood that he has been altogether too much swayed by peculiar opinions for his ideas upon sequences—and upon Notker also—to have the weight of absolute authority.

Notker himself is to be discriminated from another Notker of 133 the same religious house of St. Gall, who is generally known as “the Physician.” This one is Balbulus, or “the Stammerer,” who is sometimes called “Vetustior,” the Elder, to distinguish him from his nephew, Notkerus Junior. He came, Ekkehard asserts, of noble and even royal parentage, being probably born about the year 850. At an early age he entered the monastery of St. Gall, in Switzerland, which had been founded by Gallus, the Irish saint, a disciple of Columbanus, in the seventh century. This celebrated man died, A.D. 640, at the age of ninety-five, and his life was written by Walafrid Strabo in two books; the martyrology recording his death upon October 16th. St. Gall itself is now a town of some fifteen thousand inhabitants, and the capital of the canton to which it has given its own name. But the abbey was suppressed in 1805, though the library, filled with valuable manuscripts, still remains. From these ancient parchments P. Gall Morel, Librarian at Einsiedeln, has resuscitated many sequences and hymns formerly employed in their services.

The Sangallensian poets are not, however, very numerous. Hartmann was probably the earliest composer of a “sequence”—a style of sacred poem which we shall consider presently. Then came Notker Balbulus, who has the greater renown. Tutilo and Ratpert and Walafrid Strabo complete the list. St. Gall was for years a noted centre of learning. It is well situated, and from its towers the waters of the Boden-See (from which it is distant but a few miles) can be readily discerned.

Here, then, Notker began his religious life. He had probably seen the light in the green and fertile Thurgau not far away from St. Gall. And his talents were soon so noticeable that he rapidly advanced in the esteem of his associates. Meanwhile—for the Irish and Scottish monks made this a thoroughfare on their pilgrimages to Rome—there came along an Irish bishop named Mark, whose nephew, Maengal, strongly aroused the admiration of Notker. Maengal’s music especially affected him, and he devoutly prayed God to let the Irishman tarry with them at St. Gall. This indeed happened, and Maengal, rechristened Marcellus, remained in Switzerland.

This good tutor now undertook the musical training of Notker, Ratpert, and Tutilo. And from this beginning arose the choral school of St. Gall. Ekkehard’s history of it is most suggestive. 134 It was originally begun, he says, for the study of the Gregorian tones, but these Swiss people had by degrees lost the sweetness of the old Pope’s music. And he borrows the language of John the Deacon, in his life of Gregory, to satirize the “thundering voices” with which such “Alpine bodies” failed to secure the proper modulation. I borrow Baring-Gould’s idiomatic rendering of this significant passage. It runs as follows:

“The barbarous hugeness of those tippling throats, when endeavoring to utter a soft song full of inflections and diphthongs, makes a great roar, as though carts were tumbling down steps headlong; and so, instead of soothing the minds of those who listen, it agitates and exasperates them beyond endurance.”

Such was the character of church music when the song school of St. Gall was started. The monks had already been so fortunate as to secure one of the two Gregorian antiphonaries sent by Pope Adrian to the Emperor Charles the Great. The occurrence was curious enough to be chronicled, and the story merits our own repetition. Metz had been the German music centre, but when the French music clashed with that which was considered the correct and Gregorian method, Charles again solicited from the Pope two priests who were thorough musicians, and should put Metz and her school above criticism. These two men, by name Peter and Romanus, set out thereupon, but took a heavy cold between them at Lago Maggiore (aere Romanis contrario quaterentur). Peter soon recovered, but Romanus advanced from a mere cold into an actual fever, and remained at St. Gall with one of the antiphonaries, while the disgusted Peter, who claimed both copies, was forced to proceed alone and with a single manuscript to Metz.

St. Gall was sufficiently attractive to Romanus for him to make no effort to leave it when he grew convalescent. And these compositions and melodies of his were the foundation upon which, in later years, Notker and Hartmann and the others built their sequences. That which Maengal now effected was the real beginning of that system of music which is so elaborately treated by Dr. Neale in his preface to the second volume of Daniel’s Thesaurus. Perhaps more has been made of it there than it really deserves. It is certainly too far out of the line of this inquiry of ours for us to discuss the point technically. One of the best definitions of 135 the sequence is, however, that of Mabillon, who calls such compositions “rhythmical prayers” (rythmicae preces).

Notker became easily—so Ekkehard asserts—the finest musician about the abbey. He was also a bright and rather witty man. When Augustine was asked what God was doing before He created the world, he replied that He “was building hell for such vain and frivolous spirits” as that of his questioner. The chaplain of Charles the Fat put a similar inquiry to Notker, and got quite as brief a retort. He asked, “What is God doing now?” And Notker stammered out, “Just what He has always done and always will do; He is putting down the proud and exalting the humble!”

There is another of these queer anecdotes which will serve to show that the old monks were by no means destitute of a sense of humor. A certain young Salomon, son of the Count of Ramsweg, was a student of the abbey school, and something of a snob among his fellow-scholars. Notker, Ratpert, Tutilo and Hartmann were of as good family as he, and they did not enjoy his behavior. Finally, through favoritism, Salomon came to be abbot of six monasteries and Bishop of Constance in addition. But in spite of these dignities he had a singular predilection for the Abbey of St Gall, and was accustomed to put on a surplice and go about the place attending the offices like a regular monk—which, by the way, he had no right to do. His old friends found this out, and raised so much of a stir about it that he ceased from the practice. But at night he still persisted in entering the abbey and aiding in the services.

Rudiger, one of the confederates, was therefore set to watch for the coming of the intruding bishop, and when Salomon slipped along toward the church in the darkness the watcher suddenly thrust a light in his face and saw who it was. Then this valiant Rudiger swore the largest oath permitted in those sacred precincts, for he asseverated “by St. Gall” that no stranger in their conventual habit should be around the cloisters at night. Salomon offered endless apologies, and promised to secure permission from the abbot before he wore the surplice again. And he even turned his discomfiture into a partial victory by begging Rudiger to present this request in his behalf. The petition, so voiced, came duly before the “senate” of that monkish republic, which happened, 136 unfortunately for the avaricious and rapacious Salomon, to include his four opposers—“Hartmann, who composed the melody to the Sanctus humili prece; Notker the Stammerer, who made Sequences; Ratpert, who wrote Ardua spes mundi, and Tutilo, who was the author of Hodie cantandus.” These men finally allowed him to come in as usual, provided he would entirely demit his canon’s raiment, and be nothing but a Benedictine monk while within the walls.

Somehow Salomon conceded even this, and one day brought a splendid gift—a gold box encrusted with jewels and containing relics—which he offered to the abbey. All this looked in the direction that the monks feared; and they therefore rejected his present with some scorn. But it did not take long to lift Salomon the Simonist to the Abbacy of Reichenau, and then Archbishop Sfortto contrived at length to secure the wealthy St. Gall for his favorite. Thus Salomon, the detested, became, in spite of all opposition, the abbot of that celebrated cloister.

But St. Gall itself had always prospered, apparently as the sun does according to the theories of some astronomers, for it had been continually receiving cometary accessions that dropped into it unexpectedly. One such was an antiphonary, which, on the principle that “to him that hath shall be given,” fell into the hands of these musical monks through the burning of the Abbey of Jumieges in 851. This was the true origin of the “sequence.” It solved the problem of Notker in a novel manner when he finally examined it, for he had been puzzled at the immense prolongation of the final syllable ia in the Alleluia, which was sung to cover the retreat of the deacon as he ascended to the rood-loft to chant the Gospel. This Alleluia came between the Epistle and the Gospel, and as the deacon had some space to traverse, the ia was nearly interminable; for even a very few seconds became on such an occasion a most perceptible and wearisome interval of time.

This Jumieges antiphonary, in which words were fitted to the Gregorian tones, suggested another treatment of the difficulty. Notker consequently composed the Laudes Deo concinat, and afterward the Coluber Adae male suasor. Iso, his master, approved of them, and Maengal afterward gave him considerable help. The “sequence” in its standard form had a “note to each syllable,” as in modern church music. And this was the beginning of that Book 137 of Sequences perfected by him in 887, and which has gained a merited prominence for the name of Notker Balbulus.

Ekkehard tells certain legends (which may or may not be trustworthy) regarding the suggestion whence some of these sprung. The droning rotation of a slow mill-wheel gave rise, he says, to the sequence Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia; and this is far more credible than the additional information that Notker sent it to “the Emperor” Charles and got back the famous Veni Creator Spiritus—a story which Mabillon utterly confutes. This Emperor was certainly not Charles the Great—who was long ago dead—and it might have been Charles “the Bald” or Charles “the Fat” (the usurper), or Charles “the Simple,” but there seems an antecedent improbability that any such nickname could belong to the grave and great poet of that splendid hymn. And, indeed, we are now positive that it is the composition of Rabanus Maurus, Bishop of Mayence (Mainz), who died in 856.

There is probably some show of reason in the idea that the groaning machinery of a mill should have helped to originate the extended notes of the sequence. The picturesqueness of the story is really its best claim to our notice. I well remember a mill by which I used often to pause in the stillness of night, listening to the wailing protracted cadences of the huge wheel which slowly turned in its bed as the buckets successively filled from the shut, but leaky gates. Hearing this, and comparing it with the “sequence” of the Catholic service, or with the long-drawn tones of a German choral, it is impossible not to be struck by the resemblance.

Then there is another story—indeed, there are several in the Latin which could scarcely be inserted here—but there is certainly one other which both Baring-Gould and Maitland have had sufficient geniality to extract. It refers to the manner in which Notker, Ratpert, and Tutilo—“the three inseparables”—attended to the eavesdropping of one of Abbot Salomon’s spies. This spy was Sindolf, the refectorarius, or steward, a sour-visaged, crab-appleish kind of man, who was never so happy as when he had an evil speech to retail. He particularly delighted in fretting the temper of the abbot with reference to these poets and musicians, but they suspected his design and “set a watch because of him.”

One evening after “lauds” the three were in the “writing-room” 138 (scriptorium) where the manuscripts were prepared and kept, busy with their conversation and having thereto the permission of the prior. Sindolf sniffed scandal in the air, and flattened his ear against the opaque glass, where a convenient crack suffered him to listen to their words. It was night, and Tutilo, a shrewd, lively fellow (homo pervicax), was glad enough to get this occasion against the slinking traitor. In the Acta Sanctorum, and again in Mabillon, copied into the one hundred and thirty-first volume of Migne, we have old Ekkehard’s grim report of this monkish fun.

“There he is with his ear to the glass,” cried Tutilo. “Do you, Notker, because you are a timid little chap (timidulus), go away into the church. But Ratpert, my friend, take down the whip that hangs in the chimney corner and run out-doors. And then comfort my heart (cor meum confortare) by laying on to him with all your might (esto robustus). For I, when you get close enough, will throw open the window in a hurry, catch him by the hair and hang on with a will” (ad me pertractum violenter tenebo). Off went the timorous Notker; out slipped the cheerful Ratpert; open went the window, and the vigorous Tutilo clutched Sindolf by ears and hair together! Then Ratpert rained on the lashes (a dorso ingrandinat), and Sindolf twisted and howled and kicked, and lights began to fly around, and the brethren came running. But Tutilo held on and called for a light and shouted that he had caught the devil; while Ratpert vanished into the night and Notker had entirely disappeared in the church. “Where are Notker and Ratpert?” was the first question. “Oh, they smelled the devil and ran away to ask succor from heaven,” said Tutilo. “And here was I, left to do the best I could with this thing that walks in darkness. And I believe an angel has been sent to chastise him in the rear!”

The sneaky Sindolf was completely abashed, but his temper did not improve under the chastisement. Even Salomon, his patron, laughed at him along with the others, which made the matter worse. So one day, finding a beautiful copy of the Canonical Epistles in Greek which Liutward, Bishop of Vercelli, had sent as a present to Notker, what does the malicious wretch do but cut it to pieces with his knife! Ekkehard adds that the mutilated copy could still be seen in the library of St. Gall.

These two worthies, Ratpert and Tutilo, heartily deserve the 139 place which Ekkehard accords them in his life of Notker. Ratpert walked usually between Notker and Tutilo; a very punctual, studious man who “wore out two pairs of shoes in the year;” a man who seldom left the abbey walls, and who regarded “expeditions” as being to the full “as dangerous as kisses;” a negligent fellow about the offices and masses, claiming that he taught them often enough to his pupils; and finally, a composer of good litanies; dying October 25th, A.D. 900.

Tutilo was a capital companion; genial and ingenious; capable of music on all sorts of pipes and fiddles; who told a good story and made many a good joke; active and agile in his figure, and withal a fine carver, painter, and goldsmith. Some of his ivory carving still exists in the town library of St. Gall—so one historian records in a foot-note—and he was evidently a most skilful musician, whose hymn tunes, composed on the rota, or small harp (the minstrel’s instrument in those days), were always acceptable. He wrote Hodie cantandus, Omnium virtutum gemmis, and Viri Galilaei. This last he sent to “King Charles,” who himself composed a tune to which Tutilo set words called Quoniam Dominus. His royal patron liked him well. “Curse the man,” he said one day, “he is altogether too good a fellow to be a monk!” Ekkehard adds to this list of compositions the sequence Gaudete et cantate as a specimen of Tutilo’s ability in a slightly different direction of music, declaring that “any one who understands music” will notice and appreciate the distinction.

Hartmann was abbot after Salomon; a most learned man, and one who perhaps contributed more to the development of the “sequence” than we are now able to prove.

Of Notker it is only fair to say that he gave to himself the name Balbus, or Stammerer, which was changed, owing apparently to his small stature, into the diminutive, Balbulus. When Innocent III. asked Uadalric, then Abbot of St. Gall, what rank Notker had held in the convent, the abbot replied that he was only “a simple monk,” but was born of noble parents and was thoroughly holy and well educated. On which the Pope declared that they were wretched and wicked people (nequissimi), and would suffer for it (infelices eritis) if they did not celebrate the festival of this man who had been “so full of the Holy Spirit.” Julius II. commanded Hugo, Bishop of Constance, to inquire into the matter. 140 The result established him as a beatified confessor, and so distinguished him by the prefix “Blessed” from Notker “the Abbot,” who was his nephew, and died 973; Notker “the Physician,” who died 1033; Notker “of Liege,” who died 1007, and Notker “Labeo,” who died 1022. B. Notker Balbulus himself died in 912. Salomon, who was then his abbot, died in 919, and in 921 Hartmann succeeded to the dignity.

It would not be difficult to add to this account several superstitious stories; how Notker broke his staff over a dog-devil which went howling through the church; how he had some difficulty with another demon who intermeddled with pen and ink; how he severely handled a flagitious monk; and, generally, how he proved to be a moderate worker of miracles and a pleasant colleague to the other cenobites.

But we turn with a peculiar interest to that little sequence which has made his name immortal. This Media vita in morte sumus is the one which meets us in the Burial Service of the Protestant Episcopal Church:

“In the midst of life we are in death:

Of whom may we seek for succor

But of thee, O Lord,

Who for our sins art justly displeased?”

It is there found in connection with a passage from the Book of Job, and is followed by the Sancte Deus; Sancte fortis; Sancte et misericors Salvator, Amarae morti ne tradas nos; which is in our translation, “Yet, O Lord most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.” All that Notker originally composed is that which is first mentioned above. The rest came about as we shall presently see.

The Rev. F. Proctor, in his History of the Book of Common Prayer, states that this brief sequence—of which he does not appear to know the origin—“was formed from an antiphon which was sung at Compline during a part of Lent.” There is also a singular misapprehension by which the “samphire gatherers” hanging over the cliffs of England at their “dreadful trade” were credited with the suggestion. It was formerly supposed that Notker watched them during their dangerous toil, and so, by another 141 equally strange inadvertence, the fact was taken as a proof that he must have been himself a native or resident of Britain. This, like the other legend of the twenty-year debate upon sequences, proves on inquiry to have no foundation in fact. The story itself is a sufficient explanation without any coloring whatever. It reveals to us the poetic spirit of the devout man who beheld his fellow-creatures poised between life and death, and wrote this short and exquisite meditation thereon.

“The holy Notker,” says Canisius, “made the ‘prose’ of the following lament when the bridge [over the chasm] at Martinstobel was being constructed in a precipitous and most dangerous place. But who added the ‘verses’ I do not know. I have quoted it from a most ancient codex, where it is set to modern notes.” He then proceeds to give it in the ordinary form. It is, as he says, a prose, and must be distinguished from verses of regular metre:

“Media vita in morte sumus, quem quaerimus adjutorem, nisi te, Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris.”

Thus far Notker. Then occur the “verses” in three stanzas:

“Ah homo, perpende fragilis,

Mortalis, et instabilis,

Quod vitare non poteris

Mortem, quocunque ieris.

Aufert te, saepissime,

Dum vivis libentissime.

Sancte deus.

“Vae calamitas inediae,

Vermis fremit invidiae,

Dum audit flentem animam

Mortalis esse utinam!

Nec Christi fati gladius,

Transiret, et non alius,

Sancte fortis.

“Heu nil valet nobilitas

Neque sedis sublimitas,

Nil generis potentia,

Nil rerum affluentia,

Plus pura conscientia

Valet mundi scientia.

Sancte et misericors Salvator,

Amarae morti ne tradas nos.”


It is perfectly plain, then, that this “third sequence”—the Media vita being the second—is derived from the “verses” whose authorship Canisius cannot discover, and the date of which cannot be far from the fourteenth century.

But when we imagine the good monk watching the workmen from the brink of the Goldach, which hurries down through St. Gall toward the Boden-See, we can bring to mind the whole picture. The present bridge is one hundred and sixteen feet long and fully one hundred in height from the swift little stream. It is of wood, and was constructed in 1468. Here, dizzily balancing in mid-air, tradition says that a man, even as Notker gazed, lost his footing and plunged into the abyss. The eternities came together! A spark from the infinite kindled within the poet’s soul. Heaven from on high beheld this single life suddenly hurled to ruin. Earth from beneath reached up and seized upon the thing of earth. And thus it was with us every moment! In the midst of life we were in death, and from none could we seek for help save from God alone—that God, displeased at sinners, who is the sinner’s only hope!

Standing once before the graves at Gettysburg, the tall gaunt figure of Abraham Lincoln paused upon such an eternal edge. His soul took in at one sweep the heroic past and the historic future. And those words which came, so men assure us, almost without premeditation from his lips are the noblest utterance of our time. That compact, terse, brief expression is the essence of national strength. The phrases are vivid with a supernatural brightness: “Government of the people, for the people, by the people must not perish from the earth.” It was so with Notker; and now, wherever that beautiful service is uttered above the dead, the forgotten monk of St. Gall speaks with a voice which touches unaltering humanity, and utters that grave, great thought, preciously protected in its small casket of language, that death is beneath and God is above, and that all our hope must come from Him!



Among the pupils of Rabanus Maurus was a boy afflicted with strabismus. He was cross-eyed, or crooked-eyed in some manner, and this fixed upon him the name of Strabo the “squinter.” Like many another monk in that age, he has so sunk himself into his service as to have become a man without a country and almost without parentage. Some therefore contend that he was an Anglo-Saxon, once a monk in London and afterward educated at St. Gall, Reichenau, and Fulda. An obscure tradition even makes him a relative of the Venerable Bede. Another story assigns him to Haymo’s family. Now, Haymo was a monk of Fulda about 850, a man of very liberal opinions, learned, and truly catholic, especially in his denial of the universal authority of the Pope and the doctrine of transubstantiation. It is something of an honor to have been this man’s brother, and it is no discredit to have been related to Bede. At any rate these guesses—for they are little else—serve to show us the repute in which Walafrid Strabo was held.

More accurate investigation reveals a sentence in the preface to the life of St. Gall which seems conclusive. In it Walafrid speaks of “us Germans or Suabians.” Suabia is thus designated as his birthplace, and we find his name among the list of those scholars who did credit to their teacher Rabanus.

His period is the middle of the ninth century, for in 842 he became Abbot of Reichenau in the diocese of Constance, and he died in 849. Dates like these are not hard to verify, for we have many chronicles and records in which the Dark Ages laid the foundations of authentic history. Here lie away in their narrow niches of brief reference many illustrious people. And the work of the hymnologist consists often enough in the same sort of research as secular history demands. Now and then on the dead breast there is a little withered flower ready to crumble into dust.

That curious, peering Trithemius—to whom we are indebted 144 for such laborious inquiries concerning the men of this time—maintains that Walafrid was “rector” of the school in the monastery of Hirschfeld. If this be so it only confirms what we note again and again, that Alcuin and Rabanus were the real instigators of German scholarship. And the work from which we shall presently quote becomes more interesting to us for this reason.

Walafrid left a long catalogue of works behind him. He wrote a valuable antiquarian treatise on the divine offices and usages of the Church. Besides, he is accredited as the author of the lives of St. Gall, St. Othmar, St. Blaithmac, St. Mamma, and St. Leudegaris. He also composed various poems; a preface to the Life of Ludwig the Pious, and a condensation of Rabanus Maurus’s Commentary on Leviticus. He compiled the famous Glossa Ordinaria, which remained the standard commentary on the Bible throughout the Middle Ages. He began the annals of Fulda, which have since been continued by competent hands, notably those of Christopher Brower. He has been called a “pretty good poet for his age”—by which is meant that there was a scanty supply of poetry in the ninth century—a fact which no one is competent to dispute.

It goes without saying that his life was the life of an ecclesiast, restricted to a Chinese minuteness of ritual, and permitting only such visits and journeys as religious business justified. His death occurred on one of these infrequent expeditions. It was in France, whither he had gone—as we are expressly told—in order to hasten some ecclesiastical affair.

These are the meagre and unentertaining facts connected with the name of Walafrid Strabo. He would not have deserved, nor would he have received our notice if two of his hymns (the Laudem beatae martyris and the Gloriam nato cecinere) had not been preserved. These entitle him to mention, and he promptly rises to genuine importance if we can agree with Kellner (see Bibliotheca Sacra, January, 1883, p. 154), that a recently discovered “diary” is from his pen. It is probable that, whether it be authentic or not, it is strictly accurate in its relation of the studies pursued in those schools. And if we assume it to be credible we can revise our dates to correspond.

Thus his school life began in 816, and after its close he went to Fulda, thence to return to his old monastery in 842 as its abbot. 145 These dates are afforded by the document itself, which was originally published in 1857, as a part of the educational report of the Benedictine school of St. Maria of Einsiedeln in Switzerland. It appears to me that its tone and composition are not such as to justify the value which Kellner sets upon it. Walafrid’s name was a convenient one, and this is doubtless no more nor less than a clever historical romance. But it has been composed in the very neighborhood of the scenes it depicts, and the advantages of all the ancient MSS. and traditions have been incalculably great.

The narrative is introduced by a modern preface which speaks of St. Meinrad, the founder of Einsiedeln, as a contemporary of Walafrid. Then we have a statement which tersely exhibits the plan and purpose of the story:

“In the dark hour when the Roman imperial throne collapsed on which Theodoric the Goth had just seated his teacher Avitus, Manlius Boethius committed his spiritual wealth to the Goth Cassiodorus, who transmitted it to the sons of St. Benedict,” etc.

“The seed of Christian instruction had been inherited by the sons of St. Benedict from the age of martyrs and holy fathers. Great seminaries were opened at Fulda, Weissenberg in the bishopric of Speyer, St. Alban in Mainz, St. Gall, Reichenau in the bishopric of Constance, St. Maximin, and St. Matthias in Trier, etc. To these establishments the sons of the nobility resorted, while the Benedictines were their teachers and fathers. Whoever saw one of these schools saw them all as to everything essential. Accordingly, it is our purpose to describe one of them—namely, the school of Reichenau, from which came the founder of Einsiedeln, St. Meinrad, and Walafrid Strabo, who was his schoolmate in Reichenau, and who, four years after him, assumed the Benedictine dress.”

Then follows an assurance to the “intelligent reader” that this account “is not mere poetry,” but is “sustained by authoritative documents,” among which are named the writings of Walafrid himself, of Bede, Alcuin, Rabanus, and the collections of Pez, Metzler, and others. It is plain, then, that Kellner has been misled, and that Professor J. D. Butler, of Madison, Wis., who has made this clever translation from the German, has been likewise deceived. Yet the historical importance of the “diary” remains, and the writings of Alcuin, Bede, and Rabanus, with those of 146 Walafrid, give the original particulars and can be cited in proof. Professor Butler adds a few pleasant details about Reichenau. It was founded in 724, earlier than any neighboring convent except St. Gall. It is on an island in the Lake of Constance, whose lake-girt limits are about two miles by three. It became so rich that it acquired many other properties, and its abbot could journey to Rome and never sleep a night outside of his own domain. The old tower, built by Henry the Black, is still standing, and among the cherished relics of the abbey is a piece of green glass weighing twenty-eight pounds given by Charlemagne, who thought it to be an emerald. There is also a supposititious water-pot from Cana of Galilee, which evidently came from Palestine and shows the mediaeval intercourse with the Holy Land. The revenues of the abbey were not sequestrated until the year 1799. Such is a brief sketch of this religious house which we shall again encounter in the story of Hermannus Contractus.

Walafrid’s narrative begins with the year 815. He saw the vast buildings with surprise and was greeted by a throng of future schoolmates. His teacher had several boys under his care to teach them to read. This he did by the help of a wax tablet—the old Roman method. The letters were scratched on the wax and erased by the blunt end of the pointed “style.” Along with this elementary work came Latin, together with a German primer—in both of which the boys were expected to read.

At harvest time there was a short vacation. The boys rambled through the fields and picked fruit and enjoyed themselves generally.

The second year’s work was the learning of conversational Latin. This was the language of daily intercourse and was employed to express all wants. The grammar of Donatus was studied under a pupil-teacher, and the cases and tenses were rigidly committed to memory. The rod was the penalty for misbehavior. German phrases were translated into Latin and some portion of biblical history was repeated to the scholars at night, which they were obliged to tell again in the morning.

Then follows a description of the dedication of the minster and of the solemn effect of the great High Mass, at which time Walafrid resolves to become a monk.

The year 817 was occupied with grammar and orthography, and 147 the use of Latin was compulsory. Hitherto there had been a trifle of laxity and a few lapses into German were forgiven. Now there was no exception to scholars of this advancement. They wrote from dictation upon their tablets, and the Psalter was in this manner transcribed and memorized.

The fourth year (818) was signalized by the planting of the first grape-vine on the island. Doubtless the fact itself is authentic, and is here introduced owing to its date. And in this year the scholars attack prosody. They study Alcuin (who wrote many verses), and the distichs of Cato, and Bede’s De Arte Metrica. The earlier Christian poets—Prosper and Juvencus and Sedulius—are mentioned. It is strange that the author does not name Prudentius, who was far more of a classic than any or all of these three. But it is quite correct to mention Virgil as a permitted book, and the exercises in poetry in which all were engaged.

In 819, the fifth year, the boys became pupil-teachers themselves. They were further instructed in rhetoric, with illustrations from the Bible to be paralleled from Statius and Lucan, whose works they were studying. Other scholars again were set to work as scribes and copyists. The amusements were the running of foot-races, quarter-staff playing, and “dice,” by which we are probably to understand the very ancient game of backgammon. And again, it is strange that no mention is made of the games of ball, which were decidedly common in those days.

The year 820 is consumed with rhetoric—with Cicero, Quintilian, and the histories of Bede, Eusebius, Jerome, and others. The classic authors were Sallust and Livy, with Virgil and (at last) Prudentius and Fortunatus.

In 821 comes Boethius, attended by more of Cassiodorus, and the pleasant pastime of “dialectics,” or debating. In these debates the enthusiasm was kindled for future controversies. And in other lines—as, for example, in studies of the current legal codes, of the Salic and Ripuarian Franks and Lombards—those who were to be rulers were diligently trained. Here (for this is the exact account of that ancient instruction) we see how the Church held sway over her former pupils, and how the pupils became by and by the exponents of religious opinions and subservient to ecclesiastical decrees.

With 822 we have mention of rhetoric and logic, with oral and 148 written exercises, and in 823 the scholars took up and pursued the studies of geometry and geography according to the light of that period. Then came music with the various instruments, as organ, harp, flute, or trombone. Finally, Walafrid is supposed to record his initiation into the reading of Greek. From the MS. of Homer the boys were instructed, and the account closes abruptly with a reference to the study of astronomy.

Subsequent to this year, 825, Walafrid is believed to have passed considerable time at Fulda with Rabanus Maurus.

These were the ideas and educational methods of that period. Outside of the monasteries and abbeys there was nothing that went on in the way of learning. It needed special establishments, with great wealth, the protection of kings and nobles, and the indefinable terrors of religious authority to perpetuate scholarship. We may despise, as some writers freely do despise, the bigotry and intolerance which obliterated fine manuscripts of the classics to make room for monkish trifles. But we cannot fail to discover the germs of the new poetry of the Church in these unpromising times. Fortunatus and Prudentius were no bad preceptors after all. And even if Walafrid Strabo was not much of a poet, he has served our occasion as a pupil when he might not have gained notice as a writer of hymns.



One of the surprises of history is the long-delayed honor which comes to the modest and the meek. The notable and prominent attract to themselves much of the repute of any age. They even gain the credit of achievements to which they never put a finger. But by and by the “whirligig of time brings in his revenges,” and they that were last become first.

Thoughts like these are sure to come to us when we encounter such a name as this of the poor cripple of Reichenau. Whatever fame he had in his own day gradually disappeared and he has been only a shadowy figure for many years. It is true that Ersch and Gruber, in their great encyclopaedia, say of him that he is “one of the most meritorious men of the eleventh century.” It is also true that Ussermann—himself an almost forgotten authority—has labored to give Hermann his proper meed of praise; and that the Benedictines have patiently collated many little particulars concerning him. Yet he still remains locked up in Latin or in German or in French; and English readers can be pardoned for being utterly ignorant of him and of his works.

This man merits no small share of our notice. He came of good blood, for his father was the Count of Vöhringen in Suabia. He traced his kinship to the famous St. Udalric, whose sister, named Leutgarde, is mentioned (971) in the saintly bishop’s pages. Her son was Reginbald, slain in battle against the Hungarians in 955. This Reginbald had a daughter Bertha, who married Wolfrad, Count of Vöhringen, and died in 1032. Wolfrad, dying in 1010, had a son Wolfrad, who married a lady named Hiltrude and became the father of fifteen children—one of whom was Hermann. This is the simplest form of a genealogy, which the learned chronicler protracts in a marvellous manner, to the great confusion of the modern mind. I have not cared to follow him into the remoter affinities and alliances which add distinction 150 to the poor little paralytic child, who at seven years of age was carried to the great school at St. Gall.

I have said that Hermann was a cripple. He was so completely helpless, indeed, that he could not move without assistance; and his days and nights were full of pain. He was “hump-backed and bow-breasted, crippled and lame.” (Gibosus ante et retro, et contractus, claudus. Pertz: Monumenta: Scriptores: V., 268.) But his mind triumphed over these infirmities. A pathetic legend concerning him assures us that in the visions of the night the Virgin stood before him, radiant and beautiful. As in the old story about the choice of Hercules—which was probably the origin of this—she offers him strength of body combined with ignorance and weakness of mind; or wisdom and ability in a body which should be deficient and sickly to the day of his death. This “second Hercules”—as the chronicler admiringly calls him—promptly chose the last.

He had been born (for his ancestral records and his own Chronicon help us to exactness) on July 18th, 1013. He was admitted to school, probably, though not certainly, at St. Gall, on September 15th, 1020. Hitherto his education had been absolutely neglected. He could not go about alone nor even speak intelligibly (Annales Augustani [1042-55]. In Pertz: Mon. Ger., VII., 126) owing to his paralysis. But he had a devouring desire for knowledge, and rapidly mastered Latin, Greek, Arabic, and (probably) Hebrew, so that he possessed them equally well with his vernacular speech. The convent was the only place for such a poor little waif as he, and thus, within the learned cloisters of St. Gall, he followed reverently upon the shining path of Notker and Tutilo and Ratpert and Hartmann, and added his name to theirs in the development of the sequences and antiphons of the Church.

Nor was this all. He became an excellent historian, a distinguished musician, and a renowned philosopher and theologian. In mathematics he was equally skilled and ingenious. He is considered by some to have invented the astrolabe, the first instrument by which the height and distances of stars were calculated. Assuredly he wrote an exhaustive treatise upon its use, whether he originated it or not; and it is said that he added to his scientific studies the making of clocks and watches. He has left us essays 151 upon the monochord, on the squaring of the circle, on computation and physiognomy and metrical rules and astronomy. These are marked by the inferior attainments of the age, as we might expect, but they display an amount of original research for which we are unprepared.

He was also an excellent scribe, and the library of St. Gall still contains a copy of a work ascribed to Anselm of Canterbury written by him in the fulfilment of a vow. He resembled the Venerable Bede in the universality of his knowledge, and, like Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus, he is one of the great teachers of his time. Always, during these darkening years, there appears to have been some ministering priest in the temple of education—some self-devoted, God-fearing man, who patiently kept the altar-fire burning, and spent his life, to the utmost verge, in climbing those altar-steps with fresh fuel for the flame.

We do not know how much of this work was begun or completed during his life at St. Gall. We are able to say that he translated Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric from the Arabic language, and this of itself should award to him the very highest renown. It is impossible in a single sentence to do justice to this achievement and we must take it more at large.

The dictator Sylla brought the works of the great Greek philosopher, together with his library, to Rome, in the year B.C. 147. This was on the capture of Athens, and these writings were still comparatively unknown in Greece. The philosophy of the Peripatetic school was, of course, familiar to their countrymen; but it was by and through the Latin race and not the Greek, that the “Master of Syllogisms” was to become most potent. Aristotle’s was the controlling system of the Middle Ages. His rules of logic were imperative. They governed theology, and indeed every other form of metaphysics. They restrained with an iron grip the expanding ideas of men. It was against Aristotle, in the person of William of Champeaux, future Bishop of Chalons and founder of the school of St. Victor, that Peter Abelard laid his lance in rest. Even to the days of Dean Swift these ideas bore sway, and when that brilliant man sought his degree from Trinity College, Dublin, he was met by the question whether he reasoned according to Aristotle. And his reply, that he did well enough in his own fashion, was held to be little less than atheism. Nor is 152 this the only comparison which might be aptly instituted between Swift and Abelard.

So Aristotle had his authority and held his sceptre down almost to our own time. But at the commencement his writings were either used in the Greek language or in the Arabic. In the twelfth century the schools of the Moors in Spain were the true centre of philosophy. They first applied his teachings to theology, and to these schools resorted many scholars from other parts of the continent. But such translations as these travelling students brought home were probably of a sort to make intricacy and subtlety more intricate and subtle. A fog had gathered over Europe, and the Dark Ages are indeed no myth. There were few points of light anywhere, and among these few were the bright spots called St. Gall and Reichenau.

Charles Jourdain asserts that only a part of Aristotle was known before 1200 A.D., and that this was through the translation of Boethius. (See Ueberweg: Hist. Philos., I., 367.) So that if Hermannus Contractus translated Aristotle at so early a date, it shows that his rendering was in advance of most, if not of nearly all those which were used in the Western schools. He had a brother, or uncle, Manegold, who died in Palestine. He had another brother Werner, who afterward became a legate to Gregory VII. (Hildebrand) in the fierce struggle between Pope and Emperor in 1077. And he was further well placed both by his family connections and his situation at a centre of learning, to secure the best manuscripts and the best Arabic instruction. (See an elaborate dissertation in Wegelin: Thes. Rerum Suevicarum, II., p. 120.) It evinces decided wisdom and toil on his part to have undertaken and completed this translation; and there is no doubt that the humble paralytic from his bed of suffering influenced materially the scholastic movements of the coming centuries. Could he have seen the swarming thousands who built the abbey of the Paraclete; could he have witnessed in vision the uprising of such schools as St. Victor in France and Oxford in England; could he have heard Roger Bacon confess his indebtedness to those pages; could he have foreseen the infinite consequences both to the preservation and the hindrance of human thought, with what strange zeal he would have traced each painful line!

But he could not know it. He had removed at thirty years of 153 age to his perpetual celibacy at Reichenau—Augia the Rich, as it is called in the Latin tongue. It is built on an island in the western arm of the Lake of Constance. And there, with great mountains to gaze upon and fair waters to catch for him the rosy light of evening; with the brethren of the convent laboring cheerfully in their fields or toiling in their cells, Hermann of Vöhringen, Hermann of Reichenau, Hermannus Contractus, Hermann der Gebrechliche, Hermann the Cripple, spent his uneventful life.

Here he wrote the legends of some of the saints, and here he prepared his valuable compendium of universal history. He calls it a Chronicon, and condensed into its records the story of the world from A.D. 1 to the year 1054, the date of his own death. It is very brief through the first portion of its account of “the Six Ages.” Then its statements are fuller. When it reaches contemporaneous events it becomes exceedingly important to the historical student, for it is in the nature of a chronicle. Here also the man’s own personality occasionally appears. He speaks of Reichenau as Augia nostra and mentions the basilica which Henry III. (“the Black”) has erected to “our patron, St. Mark the Evangelist.” This establishes the fact that Reichenau was his true residence, and gives us the standpoint of the little isle in Lake from which to look out across the dark-green and sometimes stormy waters upon the confusions of the time. These were the days when the Truce of God (1041 A.D.) was necessary in order to prevent the bloody feuds of the barons during Advent, Lent, and from Wednesday evening of each week until the following Monday morning. Yet amid all these conflicts Hermann the Paralytic remained secure, guarded by religion and surrounded by the peaceful lake. And like that lake the Rhine stream of secular affairs flowed always through his life clear and undisturbed.

It is during these closing scenes that a touching entry is made in the pages of the Chronicon. Under the year 1052 the crippled hand slowly traces these words: “At the same time, on January 9th, my mother Hiltrude, the wife of the Count Wolfrad, a pious, meek, generous, and religious woman, and one who was as devoted to and happy in her husband and her seven surviving children as any person could be, closed the last day of her life in about the sixty-first year of her age and the forty-fourth of her marriage, and was buried at the Villa of Altshausen, in a sepulchre 154 under the chapel of St. Udalric which she had herself constructed.” And then follows a brief poem in which the merits and the love of this dear mother are affectionately told.

Hermann, on the best of testimony, was a person of just this amiable and beautiful spirit. He is called hilarissimus, as if to show his great cheerfulness. He was always a strict vegetarian in his diet. He hated injustice; scorned every sort of vice—and Heaven alone knows how much there then was of nameless wickedness!—and finally, he was thoroughly free from all envy and malice. It is a curious testimony to his breadth of mind that one of his biographers says of him (quoting the old adage), that he regarded nothing human as alien to his search.

He preserved this calmness and sweetness of temper to the farthest limit of his days. Not long before he died he said to his faithful friend, Berthold of Constance, “Do not, I say, do not ask me about this; but rather attend to what I will tell you, for in you I do not a little confide. I shall die doubtless in a very short time. I shall not live. I shall not get well.” He added that he was so “seized with an ineffable desire and delight toward that intransitory world and that eternal and immortal life,” that all things of this passing existence seemed empty and vain and dropped like motes (flocci) from him, in the breath of that heavenly air.

And then he proceeded to detail a vision in which he fancied himself reading and rereading the Hortensius of Cicero. His mind was clear; his hopes for religion and for education were high; but all was now over and he must depart. Therefore he quietly and pathetically ends by saying, “Taedet quidem me vivere”—indeed it is wearisome to me to live. And thus, on September 24th, 1054, he ceased from earth—in his forty-second year, and having carried the story of the world down to the end of his own career.

But his works follow him. I do most firmly believe him—and not Robert the Second—to have been the author of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.

The first person to attribute this hymn to the King of France is Durand, (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, Lib. IV.) His book treats of ceremonial observances and is among the rarest of printed volumes. The splendid copy upon vellum in the Astor Library 155 is not only beautiful in itself, but it is extremely valuable as the third specimen of typography in existence. Only two works—one of them the Bible and another the Psalter of Mainz—had been previously printed from movable types. I have personally verified the reference and its English rendering is as follows:

“Notker, Abbot of St. Gall, in Germany, first composed sequences with notes of his own in the Alleluia. And Nicholaus the Pope [Nicholas II., 1059-1061] granted that they should be sung at masses. But Hermannus Contractus, a German, inventor of the astrolabe, composed these sequences: Rex omnipotens and Sancti Spiritus and Ave Maria and the antiphons Alma redemptoris mater and Simon Barjona. Peter, Bishop of Compostella, made the Salve regina. And the King of France, Robert by name, composed the sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus and the hymn Chorus novae Hierusalem.”

It is hard to crowd into a paragraph more errors than are in this. Notker was not Abbot of St. Gall. Innocent III. was very severe upon Udalric of St. Gall, because such a spiritual and able man had lived and died unhonored among them; a simple monk whose labors and death received no special attention in their religious year.

Nor did Hermann write the Sancti Spiritus adsit; for this, on the best of testimony, was Notker’s. It was so sung at Rome under Innocent III.; and Ekkehard the Younger, in his history of Notker, pointedly claims it for him.

It is very doubtful whether Hermann invented the astrolabe for measuring the distances of stars. His two treatises are upon its use, and he is evidently very familiar with it. But it was first made serviceable in navigation by the Portuguese—if we are to believe Evelyn (in his Navigation)—and the study of astronomy was greatly cultivated by the Arabic schools in Spain and elsewhere about this period. J. A. Fabricius indeed mentions that the astrolabe was “commonly employed in the days of Ptolemy.”

The Ave Maria is supposed by Koch to belong to the thirteenth century and some have ascribed it to Adam of St. Victor. It is, perhaps, by Heribert of Eichstettin (died 1042). Hermann wrote the Ave praeclara maris stella, which might have been mistaken for this other.

The Salve regina is assigned by Durand to Peter of Compostella. Gerbert names several possible authors, but evidently follows the 156 leadership of Durand. (De Cantu, etc., II., 27.) And yet Trithemius, with every really critical scholar, credits it to Hermann. It is exhaustively considered by Wegelin and definitely conceded to him. (Thes. Rerum Suevicarum, II., p. 120 ff.)

Robert the Second cannot claim the Chorus novae Hierusalem. It is the production of Fulbert of Chartres (died 1029), and is included without question in every complete edition of his works.

Thus the absolute authority of Durand is much shaken. He was a lawyer in the thirteenth century, who studied at Bologna and taught at Modena; a legate of Pope Martin IV.; dean of the church at Chartres, and Bishop of Mende. The fact that he was dean of Chartres, and yet ascribes the Chorus Novae, not to Fulbert but to Hermannus, is suggestive, but not convincing.

So Durand was the first person to affix the name of Robert II. to the Veni Sancte. Trithemius comes next in order; the Abbot of Spanheim; historian and scholar; indefatigable in researches, but erratic and prejudiced; born 1462 and dying 1516. His true name is Johann von Trittenheim and we derive this, and other information about authors and their works, from his Liber de Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis—a biographical dictionary like those of Jerome, Gennadius, and Isidore, to whose works he really furnishes an Appendix. Egon (sometimes known as Ego) in his account of Reichenau’s distinguished men (De Viris illustribus Augiae divitis, quoted by Pez: Thesaurus Anecdotorum, I., 3; 68. Cf. Migne, 143) declares that Trithemius was “unjustly hostile to the monks of Reichenau” in asserting that “our Hermannus” was from St. Gall, when even Metzler conceded, on behalf of his own convent, that Hermann had changed his residence from St. Gall to Reichenau. Be this as it may, the positive statement of Trithemius, which gives the Veni Sancte to Robert II. instead of to Hermann, has been generally accepted. Cardinal Bona (1677), Louis Archon (1704-11), and others agree with him.

But there is a break in the continuity of faith. Clichtove—an authority much esteemed—expresses no opinion about the author of the Veni Sancte further than to say quisquis is fuerit—whoever he was.

Rambach, in his Anthology, comes now to the rescue. (Anthologie, I., 227.) He says it is “ganz unstreitig von Robert;” and all the German critics, with the single exception of Daniel, have followed 157 this authority blindly. Whatever the Germans said has usually been enough for the English. Therefore the Veni Sancte is in every collection attributed, without a shadow of doubt, to Robert the King.

There should have been less positiveness about this if the accurate Daniel had been noticed more carefully. He praises the language of Clichtove, who says that the author, “whoever he was,” must have been “inwardly filled with light,” and he italicizes the quisquis is fuerit. But as Robert, with only three others, appears to have escaped the wreck of the sequences in the sixteenth century, even Daniel allows the Veni Sancte to him; and Archbishop Trench finds that “there exists no good reason why we should question” that Robert wrote it.

We may dismiss any conjectures about Innocent III. having been its author, although great efforts have been made to credit this hymn to his pen. Dom Remy Cellier and Migne seem the most strongly partisan, but their remarks and references are weak. (Scriptores Ecclesiastici, vol. xiii., p. 109, note. Also Patrologia, 141; 901.)

A sample of the general looseness of citation can be found in Kehrein (No. 125), who announces that Gerbert “holds Hermannus Contractus to be the author” of the Veni Sancte. Gerbert does nothing of the kind. He names Hermann with others. It is quite true, though, that he does not name Robert.

Setting aside Innocent III. for cause—although Brander of St. Gall, in his Index Sequentiarum, grants this to him—the authorship of the hymn rests between the king and the monk. I say “for cause,” since Innocent was at the summit of temporal power, and his position was a very tempting one to posthumous flattery. He is credited with the Ave mundi spes Mariae. He did not write the Stabat Mater, nor did he compose the Veni Sancte. Let any one examine the Ave mundi and he will renounce all hope that the man who prepared this could ever have written the others, or either of them. Besides, Wrangham is likely to be correct when he assigns this latter sequence to Adam of St. Victor. It is precisely in Adam’s style of metrical composition; it is not found before the fourteenth century, and its tone is modern. It can therefore be said that Innocent deserves no place among the Latin hymn-writers.


Now, Robert II. is much in the same condition as Innocent III. His is a shining name to which to affix popular hymns. He has been credited with the Ave maris stella—the parent of all hymns to the Virgin. The sequence Sancti Spiritus adsit is not his, on the testimony already adduced; but in the year 1110 the “ancient customs of Cluny,” collected by St. Udalric (Hermann’s ancestor) gives us this “at Pentecost” (D’Achery: Spicilegium, I., 641), with the “response,” Spiritus sanctus. This would serve to show that such praise to the Holy Spirit was usual. With the Chorus Novae we have already dealt. And the Rex omnipotens belongs to Hermann though it is ascribed to Robert—another instance of inaccuracy, which casts a ray of light upon the present problem.

Those sequences of which Robert was the possible author are printed in Migne’s Patrologia (141, 959 ff.). Only one of them merits a word of notice. It is the Te lucis auctor personent. Daniel assigns this to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, but Mone and Koch to the fifth. These last are probably right. It is early found in the Anglo-Saxon Church and is among the old Vatican MSS. and the hymns collected by G. Cassander. It is scarcely possible that it comes down as late as the eleventh century.

Robert’s other sequences are six in number and of no importance. His personal history is pathetic enough. He was the son of Hugh Capet; born at Orleans in 970 and died at Melun, July 20th, 1031, having been sole king since 996, though he had been crowned in 988. His first wife was Susanne, an Italian princess; and we learn from his contemporary, Richer of Rheims, that one of his first public acts was to repudiate her on the plea that she was too old for him, and that he refused to restore her dowry. His next marriage was with his distant cousin Bertha—a cousin four times removed—the widow of the Count of Blois. This marriage was inconvenient to the Emperor Otho, as it would have brought the House of Capet into the line of succession to certain lordships in the old Kingdom of Burgundy. So Pope Gregory V., the kinsman of Otho, required Robert to give up Bertha, not because Susanne was still alive, but because the Church forbade the marriage of cousins in even the fourth degree. At first Robert refused, but when his kingdom was laid under an interdict, he showed as little manhood in standing by his second wife as he had 159 shown humanity and justice to his first. Such a ban was too severe to be borne and the king yielded, though Baronius says he tried to take back his wife Bertha in spite of it all. His life and kingship belong to French history, and can be found there. His disposition was that of a monk and not of a monarch. He founded four monasteries and built seven churches. He supported three hundred paupers entirely and a thousand in part. His reign lasted—thanks to ecclesiastical influence—for thirty-four years. It was troubled and not especially pleasant; and for his third wife the king had married the handsome shrew Constance, the daughter of William Count of Arles. Pious and excellent man that he is reputed to have been, he had a natural son, Amauri, who was great-great-grandfather to Simon de Montfort. Truly, when all is said and done, Robert II. is hardly the author in whom we would like to believe with all our hearts when we sing—

“Holy Spirit, come and shine

Sweetly in this heart of mine.”

Per contra, Hermann of Reichenau grows more interesting the more he is studied. He has been so unfortunate as to be confused with other persons in two or three cases. By Brander he is identified with Hartmann of St. Gall, and the sequence Rex omnipotens is taken from him.[8] The pretty little sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus et reple, which Königsfeld thinks to be his, is doubtless no earlier than the fourteenth century and by some anonymous composer who has merely imitated the great masters.

Beside the Rex omnipotens he composed the Ave praeclara maris stella, where his name gains another misprint and becomes “Heinricus, monachus San Gallensis.” This poem was thought worthy of the authorship of Albertus Magnus (Albert von Regensburg), and to him accordingly Wackernagel and Koch credit it. Mone has vindicated the claim of Hermann which is set forth in Migne. (Patrologia, 143; 20 ff.) So that we are again sure of a piece which has been meritorious enough to be coveted.

Then comes the antiphon Simon Barjona, which Du Meril calls 160 Simon Baronia and of which no trace remains. Two other sequences are, however, extant, and are beyond any question or debate. They are the Salve regina, which Daniel calls a “most celebrated antiphon,” and the Alma redemptoris mater, the refrain of which Chaucer used in that “Prioress’s Tale,” which Wordsworth has modernized.

In addition we must observe that the Veni Sancte is attributed to Hermann simultaneously and by the same authority as that which credits him with the other sequences. Two pieces—Vox haec melos pangat and Gratus honos hierarchia—are lost. But the Salve regina was worth contending for; and Gerbert names Gregory II., Peter of Compostella, St. Bernard, and “Adhemar, Episcopus Podiensis” (Bishop of Puy and his own candidate) together with Hermannus Contractus. Nevertheless, Trithemius, Gerbert, and, indeed, everybody are heard to declare that Hermann was “the marvel of the age,” the best man of his time in music and the author of a work on metrical rules. He is known as Doctor Egregius, and it is beyond any peradventure that he was capable of writing the Veni Sancte.

The only arguments that are employed to prove that Robert was the author are very weak. The first is that there was no sufficient competitor. But surely Hermannus Contractus is now a competitor of real merit and importance. Then, too, the king was a kind of religious pet, and such persons receive more than their due. But the second argument is weaker still. It amounts in brief to the harmony displayed in the poem between the king’s life and his lovely verses. It strikes one, however, that an invalid like Hermann might have had fully as deep a religious experience as any such king. Moreover—and this is a vital fact—the Veni Sancte is found in the German hymnaries almost exclusively. This point was insisted upon in the controversy about the Veni, Creator; and Charles the Great in this respect had the advantage over Gregory the Great, until the claim of Rabanus Maurus, another German, was thoroughly examined. But among all the sources carefully edited by Kehrein from Daniel, Mone, and elsewhere, the French collections do not present themselves. On the contrary, in this elaborate list we find St. Gall, Kreuzlingen, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Mainz, Ebersberg, Rome (1481), Venice (1497), with later examples printed at Cologne, Prague, Eichstettin, Lubeck, 161 and Basel. Brander also found the hymn in the earliest codices of the three great neighboring cloisters of St. Gall, Einsiedeln, and Reichenau. Meanwhile the only notice of it in France comes from the Paris Breviary, which is of recent date.

There is but one consideration further. I trust that I have established the perfect possibility that Hermannus Contractus might have been the author equally as well as Robert. The men lived in the same period to which, on the testimony of the best critics, the hymn is considered to belong. They were alike in possibilities of Christian experience and of musical and poetical temperament. But here they begin to diverge; and the preference is decidedly in favor of Hermann, whose hymn is found in the three oldest codices of his own neighborhood; of St. Gall, where he studied; of Einsiedeln, where it is possible that he was a resident; and of Reichenau, where he certainly lived from the age of thirty until his death. He could scarcely have gone about very much in his helpless and crippled condition; and these three conventual establishments are within a moderate distance of each other. From his seventh year he was to be discovered always somewhere in that vicinity, and the historians of St. Gall and of Reichenau positively claim the Veni Sancte as his.

It is only left for us to lay the Salve regina side by side with the Veni Sancte. A man who wrote upon metre ought to possess some excellence in the art of which he wrote, and these pieces placed together display a graceful and ingenious versification which is not at all usual in that century. It is not claimed that either Robert or Hermann wrote other hymns in the identical stanza form of the Veni Sancte. Therefore nothing is available for direct comparison. But as to the spirit of each there can be no debate. Robert never composed anything else like the Veni Sancte, and it certainly seems as if Hermann did compose a sequence which bears a passing resemblance; and which I have endeavored to translate with its occasional rhymes and assonances:

Salve regina, mater misericordiae

Vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.

Ad te clamamus exules filii Hevae.

Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.

Eia ergo advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte

Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui nobis post hoc exilium ostende,

O clemens, O pia, O dulcis virgo Maria.


Hail O queen, mother of pitifulness!

Life and delight and our confidence, hail!

To thee we exiles, children of Eve, are crying.

To thee we aspire, groaning and moaning in this the vale of our sorrow.

Lo, thou therefore, our advocate, turn upon us those pitiful eyes of thine,

And after this exile show us Jesus, the blessed fruit of thy womb,

O merciful, O pious, O sweet Virgin Maria.

This is another of his sequences, the Rex regum Dei agne, found by Brander among the antiquities of St. Gall:

King of kings, Lamb of God, mighty Lion of Judah,

The death of sin by the merit of the cross and the life of justice; giving the fruit of the tree of life for the taste of wisdom; the medicine of grace for the loss of glory,

Since thy blood restrained the might of the sword of flame, opening the garden of paradise, the seed of obedience, the medicine of grace.

This day is illustrious to the Lord; peace is on the earth, lightning to the shades below and light to the saints above; the day of the double baptism of law and gospel.

Christ is the passover to man; while the old passes the new arises; rejoice my heart, freed from ferment, full of the bread unleavened.

Since the enemy are overwhelmed, with stained door-posts eat the sacrifice on the paschal night, at home, with the bitter herb of the field,

Let your loins be girt and your shoes bound on, have the staff in the hand, and eat the head with the legs and the purtenance thereof.

Wash us this day, O Christ, cleansing us with hyssop; and make us worthy of this mystery, drying the sea, boring the jaw of Leviathan with a mighty hook.

Rejoice us with the cup and fill us; arouse us, drinking from the brook in the way, thou our propitiation, thou priest and sacrifice, thou wine-press and stone of offence and grape!

O fragrant flower of the virgin rod,

O light full of sevenfold dew,

Fairer in beauty than the juice of the grape,

The blush of the rose, the candor of the lily.

How camest thou with such pity to bend to the help of this little world; that thou mightest share our sorrows and be our Redeemer from the birthmark of sin, bearing the curse of sin?

O Lord, Kinsman of thy servants,

The hope of the first and of the last resurrection,


Confirm thy covenant to the seed of Abraham, and us, O Leader immortal, reviving with thyself, who are dead with thee to our old father Adam, strengthen, joining us to thy mightier members.

Give us the paschal feast of the life eternal, thou Paschal Lamb!

The question before us is not one of theology but of literature. Did the man who wrote those verses write these also?

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,

Et emitte coelitus

Lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum,

Veni, dator munerum,

Veni, lumen cordium;

Consolator optime,

Dulcis hospes animae,

Dulce refrigerium:

In labore requies,

In aestu temperies,

In fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima,

Reple cordis intima

Tuorum fidelium!

Sine tuo numine

Nihil est in homine,

Nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum,

Riga quod est aridum,

Sana quod est saucium;

Flecte quod est rigidum,

Fove quod est frigidum,

Rege quod est devium!

Da tuis fidelibus

In te confidentibus

Sacrum septenarium;

Da virtutis meritum,

Da salutis exitum,

Da perenne gaudium!

Come Holy Spirit,

And send forth the heavenly

Ray of thy light.

Come, Father of the poor;

Come, giver of gifts;

Come, light of hearts.

Thou best consoler,

Sweet guest of the soul,

Sweet coolness;

In labor, rest;

In heat, refreshment;

In tears, solace.

O blessedest light,

Fill the inmost parts

Of the heart of thy faithful!

Without thy divinity

Nothing is in man,

Nothing is harmless.

Wash what is base;

Bedew what is dry;

Heal what is hurt;

Bend what is harsh;

Warm what is chilled;

Rule what is astray.

Give to thy faithful,

In thee confiding,

Thy sevenfold gift.

Give the reward of virtue;

Give the death of safety;

Give eternal joy.

This very singular construction of clauses is apparent to the eye at once. Let it be remembered that Robert uses it nowhere else, and that the most of Hermann’s writings are gone. This chance for the “higher criticism” is therefore taken from us. If it could be shown, however, that this was a method employed by the monk of Reichenau in his prose works, the case might be regarded as absolutely proven, in so far as it demonstrates that the bulk of the presumptive evidence is in his favor.


But here we are at fault. We can only add probability to probability and leave all absolute demonstration alone. Pez has preserved not merely Egon’s account of Hermann’s life, but he has edited Hermann’s treatises on the astrolabe (Thes. Anecdot. Tom., III., pt. 2, p. 94) from a MS. codex in the monastery of St. Peter at Salzburg. His musical treatise is reprinted by Gerbert. (Scriptores Eccl. de Musica, vol. ii., p. 124.) The didactic poem reciting the combat of the Sheep and the Flax—always recognized as the production of Hermann—is in Migne’s Patrologia and also in Du Meril’s Poesies Populaires. Unfortunately none of these writings are of a sort to help us. We cannot by their assistance make any headway in critical analysis.

It is noticeable that J. A. Fabricius in his great work on the Middle Age and later Latin writers, allows Hermann to be the author of the Veni Sancte, following the testimony of Egon and Metzler. And it is more than noticeable that Du Meril—himself a Frenchman—should also apparently concede the hymn to this German.[9]

I have made an exhaustive search for everything bearing upon the life and writings of Hermannus Contractus. I have pursued him and Robert through the Quellen of German history; through the writings and compilations of Canisius and Despont and Urstitius and Martene and Mabillon and D’Achery and Pertz and the Monumenta Germaniae Historica of the “Society for Opening the Sources of German History.” In these and in the encyclopaedias of La Rousse and Ersch-Gruber and the great Patrologia of Migne, I have investigated every by-path and blind alley. It is abundantly clear that he was the most distinguished man of his region, and, likely, of his period. Usserman and Possevin have devoted attention to him. (Prodromus Germ. Sacr. Tom. I., p. 145 sqq., De Apparatu.) His didactic poem on the “Eight Principal Vices” is in Haupt’s Zeitschrift, vol. xiii. His lives of Conrad and of Henry III. have not been preserved. That he was a very voluminous writer is also evident. After giving the names of some 165 of his sequences Metzler adds that there were cetera mille alia—a thousand more. So also speaks Trithemius; and indeed this testimony is universal.

A single line of inquiry has been left to the American student. We have lists of the MSS. in the various libraries of Europe. If it were only possible to examine these with reference to the Veni Sancte the matter could be definitely settled. The Rheinau (Reichenau) library is rich in hymnaries. Haenel’s “No. 53”—whose library number is 91—is, for instance, a Liber hymnorum of the tenth to the twelfth centuries. There are several others—breviaries and collections of hymns—dating to the twelfth century; and one book, “No. 124” (Lib. No. 75), which is marked Sequentiae propriae, etc., and which is likely to have the Veni Sancte. In the eleventh century at St. Gall they have “No. 381” (St. Gall No. 486) which is a codex insignis—a very beautiful MS.—containing the “earliest collection of hymns and poems of writers dwelling at St. Gall.” In this same century appears the Anselm, which is noted as a codex nobiliter scriptus ab Herimanno, qui se hoc libri decus ex voto perfecisse testatur (pag. 6), a manuscript elegantly written by Hermann [“Herimann” is his own spelling of his name in the Chronicon, by the way], who says on page 6 that he has accomplished this excellent volume in pursuance of a vow. Among these St. Gall MSS. can be found the Salve regina, bearing the date 1437. If it were made a point of investigation it might be discovered that in both Reichenau and St. Gall the Veni, Sancte Spiritus is in codices which utterly remove it from the perplexity of its authorship, and positively join it to the name of Hermann.

One can sum up the whole discussion in a few sentences. Robert wrote no other valuable hymns; Hermann did write several. Robert was not specially skilled in metrical science; Hermann was the author of a treatise on the subject. Robert was a poet and a musician; Hermann was his superior in both departments. Robert had trouble and sorrow and Christian experience; Hermann must certainly have had as much as he, and more. Robert has had poems attributed to him which have failed of proof, and none of his own verses seem ever to have been misappropriated or missing; Hermann has had more taken from him than given to him.

In the matter of authority we are to note:


1. That the historians of St. Gall and of Reichenau claim for Hermann the Veni Sancte.

2. That the hymn is found in the earliest codices of both places; and of Einsiedeln, which is in the neighborhood.

3. That Clichtove is in doubt and Daniel is in doubt; that J. A. Fabricius and Du Meril incline toward Egon’s statement; that Trithemius is not entirely unprejudiced; and that Migne, gathering nearly everything (as I have verified from the originals), leaves a strong presumption in Hermann’s favor.

I may appear to make a good deal too much of this matter of mediaeval jealousy. But no student of those times needs to be told that the jealousy between the various cloisters was excessive. There is a letter of the Reichenau monk Gunzo, written in 960. (Martene, I., 296.) It is addressed to the “holy congregation at Reichenau” and describes his journey to St. Gall. The distance was great enough to exhaust the learned brother; he was lifted off of his beast and carried in by hospitable hands. Notwithstanding which he vents his indignation upon their methods and their lack of scholarship. They are self indulgent; they are a fraud on the face of the earth. Nihil inde sed fraudis molamina parabantur—they do nothing there except contrive a great mass of deception, says the angry Gunzo. They attacked him on his grammar; and he attacked them in turn on their loquacity. The epistle is grimly humorous at this distance of time; but the bitterness was altogether too genuine to be pleasant.

Far away from the most of these noises—separated by the waters of the lake from the trampling pilgrim-bands who went to and fro between the East and West—Hermann of Reichenau passed his quiet hours. His convent was rich. Its abbot was said to be able to journey to Rome and not sleep anywhere on the way except upon his own soil. It had been founded in 724 under the auspices of Charles Martel. Such was the admirable situation of this religious house—sufficient to itself in the midst of all changes.

They buried Hermann in his ancestral tomb at Altshausen. In 1631 “three bones” of him were exhumed and carried “by force” to the monastery of Ochsenhausen, but who took them and who resisted the taking of them, we are not told. These are the meagre particulars of a life gentle, patient, and unassuming—the 167 life of a scholar and of a poet—who mastered great obstacles by the genius of faith.

Three hundred years before Christ there came into Ceylon the Buddhist missionary Mahinda. The king received him kindly and built for him and his monks a convent on the hill Mihintale, to the east of the royal city. On the western face of this hill Mahinda had his own retreat cut out from the living rock. Still can be seen—though after two thousand years—this study in which the great teacher of Ceylon “sat and thought and worked through the long years of his peaceful and useful life.” Under the cool shadow of his rock, with his stone couch on which to repose, and with the busy plain, so far removed from him, sending its faint noises up from below, there wrought the sage. And there he died at last and was buried in the neighboring Dagāba. Modern times have nearly forgotten him, but no story of that valley or that island is complete without his name.

And so, in this later manner, lived and died Hermann Count of Vöhringen, who laid down earthly honors to take up the pursuit of heavenly glory; who overcame peevishness of mind and weakness of body by faith and hope and love; who looked out upon his times from this serene distance, and who went to his last sleep beneath the shadow of the rock.

Note.—I am not ignorant that Jourdain (Recherches critiques sur l’Age et l’Origine des Traductions latines d’Aristote. Paris, 1819 and 1843) has attacked the ascription of translations of Aristotle from the Arabic to our Hermann, denying that the cripple of Reichenau possessed any knowledge of that tongue. Briefly stated his arguments are these: 1. That Trithemius followed Jacobus of Bergamo in ascribing to H. Contractus a knowledge of Arabic. 2. That Metzler (whom he calls Mezler) has added the statement about the Poetics and Rhetoric. 3. That every one else has followed these two authorities. 4. That “H. Alemannus” wrote in Toledo, to which the other Hermann could not have journeyed. 5. That the translations were by this “H. Alemannus” (Hermann the German) who flourished in the first half of the thirteenth century.

It is enough of a reply to say: 1. That the concluding words 168 of a manuscript relate, not to its author, but to its transcriber. The MS. mentioned by Jourdain and the other MS. in the Bibliotheque Royale of the fifteenth century (viz., Doctrina Matumeti, quae apud Saracenos magnae auctoritatis est, ab Hermanno latine translata. Cod. MS., No. 6225) are both later than their original date. This second MS. may be by Hermann de Schildis, a monk of the thirteenth century. 2. Every one has not “followed” the authority of Metzler and Trithemius. The “Anonymus Mellicensis” (twelfth century) enumerates treatises by Hermannus Contractus upon Computation, Astronomy, Physiognomy and Poetry, which at least imply that Aristotle had largely affected his studies. 3. It is notable also to find H. Alemannus quoting Cicero in his two introductions, when we know H. Contractus to have been very fond of Cicero. 4. H. Alemannus says that he has met great “impediments” and “difficulties” in accomplishing this translation, and that the difference between Latin and Arabic poetry forbade a poetical rendering. Which would coincide with H. Contractus’s personal obstacles and with his natural desire as a poet to attempt a rendering in verse. 5. H. Alemannus refers to “Johannes Burgensis” (John of Burgau, in Suabia) as a bishop and the king’s chancellor and his personal friend and the promoter of this work. I cannot find “John of Burgau;” but H. Contractus was a Suabian, and Suabia is very near to Reichenau. H. Contractus was also closely associated with Conrad and Henry III., whose lives he wrote.

It is a curious question this. It is only another proof of the neglect into which a great man has fallen. For Hermann is called “nostri miraculum seculi” by the next generation who came after him. And there is no absolute proof that, “without lexicon or grammar” (for so Jourdain puts it), he could not have mastered Arabic. Observing the topics of his other writings cognate to those of Aristotle, I am therefore not in the least inclined to yield to even M. Charles Jourdain.



It is not every poet who begins by keeping the swine and ends by wearing the red hat and purple robe of a cardinal-bishop. Nor is it every poet who commences as a forlorn and deserted foundling, to whom it is a great mercy to have even swine to keep by way of getting his daily bread. But all this and more befell Damiani.

We are not informed about his parentage, except that he had a mother who abandoned him, and a brother (or, more probably, an uncle) who took pity on him. He was born in Ravenna. Some authorities say it was in 988; others that it was in 1007. A modern hymnologist, anxious to be right (though he is frequently wrong), sets it at 1002. But 1007 has the greatest weight of evidence.

This brother, or uncle, had compassion on the lad, and poor little outcast Peter was sent by him “into his fields to feed swine,” a much more honorable employment of course in Italy than in Palestine, and one which he shared with Nicholas Brakespeare, the English pope, Hadrian IV. What was his previous history we cannot discover, though the Acta Sanctorum for February 23d is full of legendary accounts. We only know that his natural abilities attracted the notice of another relative (brother, some say), who was an archdeacon at Ravenna. He it was who advanced Peter to the opportunities of education, and who proved so fast a friend that the boy took his patron’s name for his own. As Eusebius called himself Eusebius Pamphili (Pamphilus’s Eusebius), so Peter became Peter Damiani, “Damian’s Peter,” and this designation has adhered to him ever since. It is amusing to read now and then of Peter Damianus, as if Damiani were an Italian nominative case instead of a Latin genitive.

His birth was too obscure to lead any person to interfere with him. He therefore quietly studied and improved, to the edification 170 of his fellow-pupils and the admiration of his teachers. His school-training was, first of all, in Faenza. Thence he was sent to Parma, and eventually he returned to Ravenna, where he taught with distinction and popular approval, until he was nearly or quite thirty years old.

The age was barbarous and good professors were scarce. It seems to have been expected that brilliant minds would go on shining like those exhaustless lamps which are fabled to have been found in the tombs of the old magicians. If such was the case, with the intense intellect of Damiani he must have tapped some source of real spiritual power early in his course, for he burns brightly even now as we read his vivid truthfulness and peruse some of his lovely verses, out from which leap, nevertheless, tongues of flaming scorn for hypocrites and simonists.

Yes, the age was barbarous, and therefore Peter Damiani was soon a professor, with many students and an abundance of fees. Knowledge in those days not only meant power but wealth, and he was fast growing rich in Ravenna. It was a delightful life, but it did not suit him. He was, in fact, the “spiritual kinsman, and in many respects the pioneer” of Gregory VII. Hildebrand came to be, after awhile, his personal friend, his sanctus Sathanas, his Mephistopheles, his instigator and stimulant. Of a sudden, then, he departed from Ravenna to take up his abode with the hermits of Fonte Avellana, near Gubbio. Here he was known by the name of Frater Honestus, and surely he deserved the title, for he was a swift witness against every sort of sin. Guy, the abbot, persuaded him to undertake the instruction of the brethren, and thus he found himself back at his old work of teaching once more.

It was not long before the new monk became prior of the convent. Then, in 1041, he rose to be abbot. And then, in 1047, he indited to Pope Leo IX. his famous Liber Gomorrhianus. This Gomorrah Book is just what its name implies. It is one of the earliest protests uttered within the Church against the awful wickedness which was everywhere prevalent.

The subject is far too unpleasant for me to deal with it at any length. And yet this disagreeable topic forces itself upon the notice of the student of that period wherever he may turn. Most ingenious and sophistical distinctions were made in those days relative to sin. This thing, for instance, was wrong; but that 171 other was not half so wrong as this was. Such an offence was to be condoned by a trifling penance, and such another was to be only met by years of contrition. Against all this hypocritical nastiness Damiani set his pen. No more scathing book was ever written. And the only wonder is that it has evaded the vigilance of the men who suffered by it, and has made its escape into type, never again to be in peril of its existence. Bayle—who may be safely accounted unapproachable in such abstruse inquiries—has given us the whole story of this book. It was a terrible scourge to the vices of the clergy, and even Baronius allows that it was not written one moment too soon.

The pope to whom this remarkable document was addressed was a man of appropriate spirit. He was the third in the series of five able German popes, who labored so hard in the cause of disciplinary reform. At Hildebrand’s advice, he had laid aside the papal insignia, which he donned at his election, and came to Rome as a barefooted pilgrim in 1048. He aimed to put down simony, to stop the barter and sale of benefices, and to secure the celibacy of the clergy. To this end he used the synods with vigor, and was ready for almost any proposed reform which fell in with his line of operations. He was of the German, not the ultramontane party, and therefore was quite liberal in his construction of the great text, “Thou art Peter,” and went so far as to say that the Church should first of all be built upon the true rock, which was Christ. To him, then, the Gomorrah Book went, and it made a stir.

The next four popes occupied among them no longer period of ecclesiastical rule than from the year 1054 to the year 1061. Matters were unsettled. No one continued in office. But the finger of Hildebrand the cardinal was mightier than the hand of any pope. Nicholas II. was guided by him, and Alexander II., who came forward in 1061, was unquestionably under his control. And when Alexander appeared, it seemed that the Gomorrah Book was still an element of unrest and disturbance, at a time when the claims of an Antipope (Honorius II.) had been set up by the Imperialist party, and it was necessary for even Hildebrand’s friends to give as little offence as possible to the clergy. For the election of Alexander was clearly irregular, because it was in defiance of the rules laid down by Nicholas II. at a Lateran Synod in 1059. With a genial and suave manner the new pontiff 172 now borrowed the work for the ostensible purpose of having it copied by the help of the Abbot of St. Saviour. That was the last that Damiani saw of it for some little while.

If Alexander thought that the hermit abbot of Fonte Avellana would submit to this method of suppression he flattered his soul in vain. Damiani, after a reasonable delay, appealed to his friend Hildebrand. The book was like a part of himself, and he had no desire to have it treated with neglect. One cannot here follow the windings of the story further than to say that Damiani got his book again, and now we have it too.

I am surprised at the blindness which prevents some writers from seeing in this Peter de Honestis a most noble and consistent character. Morheim only pays him a merited compliment when he says that his “genius, candor, integrity, and writings of various kinds, entitle him to rank among the first men of the age, although he was not free from the faults of the times.” But how could one easily avoid the extreme of severity who was confronted by the grossest sins that ever carried a hissing sibilant in front of their names! Flagellation was a natural reaction from those fleshly lusts that warred against the soul.

Somehow Hildebrand took a great fancy to this genuine reformer. His own great schemes were ripening, and Damiani was just the man to be made of value in the office of cardinal. In 1057, then, the abbot had been created cardinal-bishop of Ostia by Pope Nicholas II., and in the year following deacon of the holy college. At first he strenuously resisted the honor, but was forced to assume it by the Pope’s command. In 1059 he had acted as papal legate to the semi-independent Ambrosian Church of Milan. Here he obtained pledges from them that they would conduct their affairs with purity and agree to receive the authority of the Roman pontiff.

He did not remain among the cardinals very long. His convent allured him, and the display requisite to his proper duties was both irksome and repugnant to him. Therefore he went home again, ardently devoted to Hildebrand, but devoid of all ambition, and ready to denounce the Pope or anybody else when it appeared that the rights of the Church were infringed.

In 1062 Alexander II. found use for him as legate to France, and he influenced Cluny in favor of Alexander II. In 1068-69 we 173 find him again a legate in Germany, impressing on young Henry IV. the importance of submission to Rome. This, too, he effected; and in 1072—the last year of his life—he appears in the same capacity at the age of sixty six, busy with the reform of the Church in his native Ravenna.

This is the outline of his story, and it bears no great marks of difference from others which have been commemorated in ecclesiastical history. Upon these services, and upon his relations to Hildebrand, a claim to considerable repute might be established for him. These facts, however, would not keep him in mind to-day so well as his doctrine of flagellation and the melody of his two grand hymns.

This matter of flagellation was older than Damiani’s time. It was permitted in the convents to give five “disciplinary strokes.” Starting at this point Peter the Honest asks, “Why may we not give the sixth, for the same reason?” If these five have been inflicted on the unwilling victim, why should he not secure some credit to himself by taking a sixth, a seventh, an eighth? The ice once broken, it is easy to see how the new custom would be seized upon by the ascetic hermits of Fonte Avellana. The argument is curious, as a specimen of that specious reasoning to which the ecclesiastic mind was tending, and which, later on, comes into full bloom among the Jesuit fathers.

Damiani inquires “if our Saviour was not beaten; if Paul did not receive, on several occasions, forty stripes save one; if all the apostles were not scourged; and whether the martyrs had not received the same punishment. Did not St. Jerome say that these were scourged by order of God? And who dares deny that they were scourged for others and not for themselves? Hence, if one undertakes this discipline, willingly, for himself, he must be doing a good thing.” (See Fleury: Hist. Ecclesiastique, XII., p. 107, Anno 1062.) He then adds the example of Guy, his predecessor, who died 1046, and of Poppo, a contemporary, who had died in 1048. The date of his own advocacy of this doctrine is about 1056.

Monte Cassino took up the practice with vigor; but in Peter’s own convent the most consummate example of flagellation was speedily developed, and his disciple, Dominic of the Cuirass (Dominicus Loricatus), carries off the palm from all posterity. The 174 method proposed by Damiani was that the psalter should be recited to the accompaniment of the blows of the scourge. Every psalm called for one hundred strokes; the whole psalter for fifteen thousand. By this spiritual arithmetic three thousand equalled one year of purgatory, and therefore the complete psalter answered for five years of purgation removed from either one’s self or one’s neighbor. But Dominic was an inebriate in his flogging and set himself tasks of stupendous size. He also improved the art in several respects. He used both hands with dreadful facility, and frequently lashed his face until it was covered with blood, singing his psalms the while in a harsh, cracked, and terrible voice. In the forty days of one Lent he recited the psalter two hundred times, and inflicted what one reckless calculator calls “sixty million stripes” upon himself. The true number is three million, which is clearly sufficient.

At another occasion he literally flogged himself “against time,” apparently just to see what could be done by a determined man in twenty-four hours. At the end of that period he had gone through the psalter twelve times and a fraction over, and had given himself one hundred and eighty-three thousand stripes, working away with both hands (as a caustic writer suggests) “in the interest of the great sinking fund of the Catholic Church.”

Flagellation, like the dancing mania and the strange parades of the Turlepins and Anabaptists in the Middle Ages, has its root in nervous excitement and morbid devotion. Under Anthony of Padua, about 1210, all Perugia lashed themselves through the streets. Justin of Padua relates that great disorders and indecency attended the processions. The madness spread like wildfire through Rome and Italy. In 1260 and in 1261 the custom was again revived after some decadence, in the same town of Perugia and under one Rainer. And at this date thousands went out into Germany led by priests with banners and crosses. Again fading from public notice, the flagellants reappeared during the progress of the plague in 1349. Hecker and Cooper supplement the account given by Boileau. The affair was itself an epidemic. The company marched and sang hymns—among which was the Stabat Mater—and bore tapers and magnificent banners. They finally became a regular nomadic tribe, separating into two portions, one of which went to the south and the other to the north. 175 The Church was powerless, and those pro and anti flagellationists, who happened to be in ecclesiastical authority, solemnly excommunicated each other!

The wild license of these scenes was far from aiding either morality or religion. Clement VI. (1332-52) issued his bull against them. And, inasmuch as these fanatics had failed to restore a dead child to life in Strasburg, the malediction of Rome had some effect, and once more the harsh custom died out.

Then there was another upheaval under Venturinus, a Dominican of Bergamo, and ten thousand persons joined the order. Like a perennial plant it again perished and again sprang up in 1414, when these awful orgies were renewed under the leadership of a person named Conrad. But now the Inquisition interfered, and among the testimony taken to show the lengths to which the fanaticism went is the sworn evidence of a citizen of Nordhausen who, in 1446, asserted that his wife wanted to have the children scourged just as soon as they had been baptized!

Once more, in the sixteenth century the Black and Gray Penitents appeared in France. In 1574 the Queen-mother put herself at the head of the black band in Avignon, and the disorders, indecency, and general depravity of manners which followed would scarcely be believed even if it was proper to mention them.

From that date to the present time more or less of this old insanity occasionally reappears. It affords a singular commentary on our boasted advance beyond those dark ages, for us to know that the Penitentes of our own Californian coast do precisely every year what Dominic of the Cuirass and Anthony of Padua and Conrad and Rainer all did centuries ago.

And this frightful enginery of fanaticism was set in motion by the man who wrote one of the loveliest hymns in the Latin language!

I make no attempt to analyze the feelings that have prompted this strange austerity. Isaac Taylor has already done this in a most masterly fashion in his Fanaticism. But the essence of it is that wild delusion which leads men (and even women) to fancy that they can vicariously atone for others’ sins and “make merit,” as the heathen do, for those who are less bold than themselves. They have fastened themselves down like the poor wretched geese doomed to furnish pattes-de-fois-gras. They are before the hot 176 fire of zeal and gorged upon indigestible dogmas. Hence their charity becomes as abnormal as the livers of the geese, and the moral epicure, alas, finds in them dainties suitable for his depraved taste!

It would be a grievous injustice to a good man if Damiani should only bear with us the character of an ardent zealot and not of a Christian poet. In this last guise he is at his best. Doubtless he often offends by his Mariolatry, but he will as often charm by the music of his verse. He may serve also as a convenient example of this worship of Mary, for in one of his prayers he has given us the pith and core of that peculiar devotion. It runs thus:

“O queen of the world, stairs of heaven, throne of God, gate of paradise, hear the prayers of the poor and despise not the groans of the wretched. By thee our vows and sighs are borne to the presence of the Redeemer, that whatsoever things are forbidden to our merits may obtain, through thee, place in the ears of divine piety. Erase sins, relieve crimes, raise the fallen, and release the entangled. Through thee the thorns and shoots of vice are cut down, and the flowers and ornaments of virtue appear. Appease with prayers the Judge, the Saviour, whom thou didst produce in unique childbirth, that He who through thee has become partaker of our humanity, through thee may also make us partakers of His divinity. Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.”

I have given this as an example of his prose. Here is a petition “against a stormy time,” composed in that “leonine and tailed rhyme” in which Bernard of Cluny, a century later, wrote the De Contemptu mundi. It commences,

O miseratrix, O dominatrix, praecipe dictu!

O thou that pitiest, O thou the mightiest, hark to our crying;

Lest we be beaten down, lest we be smitten down when hail is flying.

Thine is a priestly breast, O thou that succorest, mother eternal

Therefore we pray to thee, lest we be stayed from thee, by storm infernal.

Quiet the tempest-wrack! Give us the sunshine back for our fair weather!

Lend us clear light again, make the stars bright again where the clouds feather!


Virgin, oh cherish thy friends lest we perish by sickness or anger;

Drive all these ills away, thou whose love stills away thunder’s mad clangor!”

By far the greater part of his hymns are addressed to the Virgin and to the saints, but there are some others—the Paule doctor Egregie, the Paschalis festi gaudium, the Christe sanctorum gloria, and the two powerful judgment hymns, Gravi me terrore and O Quam dira, quam horrenda—which are worthy of note. This Gravi me terrore of the eleventh century ranks with the Apparebit repentina of the seventh century. These, together with the Dies Irae of the fourteenth century, form the great judgment triad of Latin psalmody.

Yet of all the hymns of that or any later time, nothing approaches the beauty of the Ad perennis vitae fontem, of which this Peter Damiani sings. It is born of Augustine’s thoughts and dreams of the heavenly land, and some of its phrases are exquisite beyond the possibility of translation. When Frater Honestus on February 23d, 1072, forever left that convent of Fonte Avellana, whither Dante went upon his last recorded journey, then that noble landscape might preserve these sixty-one lines of Latin verse among the choicest treasures of its dell and grove. This was no lark that sang against the sun with clarion notes calling us to such praise as rings through the ancient morning hymn of Hilary. It was the nightingale of Faenza, sending out those thrilling tones from the midst of the walls which beheld the eager scholar and to which the weary cardinal had returned to die. Upon his fame it is set therefore not like the lark’s song, but the nightingale’s, not as the flashing diamond, but (in Daniel’s very words) “as a precious pearl for our treasury.” Mrs. Charles has rendered it into English with grace and success. Mr. Morgan appends this autograph note to the version in the copy of his book which is in my possession: “N. B.—This hymn was printed without revision. If reprinted the metres will be made equal.” He has not attempted to follow the versification of the original. I know of no other translation except that of R. F. Littledale in Lyra Mystica.

Another beautiful hymn which was suggested by the prose of Augustine, and is ascribed to Peter Damiani by Anselm of Canterbury, who was his younger contemporary, is the Quid tyranne, quid minaris. It is commonly called



What are threats of thine, O tyrant,

How can any torture move,

When, for all of thy contriving,

Nothing yet can equal love.

Sweet it is to suffer sorrow,

Futile is the force of pain;

I had sooner die than borrow

Any spot that love to stain.

Heap the fagots as thou pleasest,

Do what evil hearts approve,

Add the sword and cross together,

Nothing yet can equal love.

Pain itself is quite too gentle,

One poor death too brief must be,

I would suffer thousand tortures—

Every woe is light to me!



Those who love the “Golden Legend” of Longfellow will remember how effectively he has there used the Latin songs and hymns. Friar Paul is so very like the famous Friar John of Rabelais, that he is probably copied from that worthy. Indeed his Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum, with its dog-Latin and its broad satire on the habits of the monks, was a most effective weapon in the hands of the reformers. There were a great many learned men who were by no means equally as pious, and who found their bodily contentment in the cloister. Against these and all like them came the constant shafts of ridicule or reproach.

But now, when this same Friar Paul “tunes his mellow pipe” to a bacchanalian solo in the refectory, we can almost forgive him, forasmuch as he sings in such capital measure. There is a Gaudiolum—a regular merry-making of monks—down in the cellar; in which, by the way, Lucifer, disguised in the gray habit, takes his appropriate place. And when Friar Paul begins on the praise of good liquor, he parodies the metre and rhyme of the current religious sequences. Listen to him:

“Felix venter quem intrabis,

Felix guttur quod rigabis,

Felix os quod tu lavabis,

Et beata labia!”

Or, as we may express it in our own language:

“Blessed stomach which thou warmest,

Blessed throat which thou reformest,

Blessed mouth whose thirst thou stormest,

Blessed lips to taste of thee!”

Here and there Professor Longfellow introduces also into this “Golden Legend” his own renderings from the Latin, in little transcriptions which are exquisitely felicitous. But presently, in sharp contrast to the ribald Paul and the dissolute Cuthbert and 180 the rest of the noisy crew in the refectory, he allows us to hear the song of the pilgrims. They are chanting the Hymn of Hildebert of Lavardin, Archbishop of Tours:

Me receptet Sion illa,

Sion David, urbs tranquilla,

Cujus faber auctor lucis,

Cujus portae lignum crucis,

Cujus claves lingua Petri,

Cujus cives semper laeti,

Cujus muri lapis vivus,

Cujus custos Rex festivus.”

It is the hope of the Holy City of which they are telling:

“Me, that Sion soon shall pity—

David’s Sion, peaceful city!

Whose designer made the morning;

Whose are gates, the cross adorning;

Whose keys are to Peter given;

Whose glad throng are saints in heaven;

Whose are walls of living splendor;

Whose a royal, true Defender!”

These pilgrims, every now and then, break in with some snatch of melody from this fine old anthem. And yet there are doubtless those who never have gone back to see for themselves whence all this beauty has been taken. But the Hymn of Hildebert would well repay them if they did.

It is the composition of a man who was the Admirable Crichton of his time—Hildebert of Lavardin, a student under Berenger and Hugo of Cluny. This is the same poet who, with Wichard of Lyons, is mentioned by Bernard of Cluny in his preface to the Hora Novissima. He says there, that even these eminent versifiers had never dared to attempt the measure of his own three thousand lines. And we have abundant other testimony that Hildebert was an accomplished orator, a successful controversialist, a brilliant rhetorician, a poet of ten thousand lines, and the author of this majestic and beautiful composition. He was born in the year 1057 (or 1055) at Lavardin, near Vendôme, in France, was first head-master of a school, then an archdeacon, then instructor in theology and Bishop of Le Mans (1097), and finally (1125), Archbishop of Tours, from which he derives his name of “Turonensis.” 181 He was of humble origin and not connected with the celebrated family of Lavardia, except through the accident of his birthplace being in their vicinity.

Perhaps—if we follow one scurrilous old biographer—we may fancy the holy Hildebert to have been very little of a saint in his early days. Baronius indeed lends color to the assertion (made originally by Godfrey, the Dean of Le Mans) that the vices which Hildebert afterward attacked were matters of personal experience with himself. A certain coarse assault was undoubtedly made upon him; but envy and malignity went even to greater lengths then than now—and they are not noticeably moderate or truthful at present. He was a “wise and gentle prelate,” says Trench, “although not wanting in courage to dare, and fortitude to endure, when the cause of truth required it.” Neander’s estimate of his character (The Life of St. Bernard) is also kind. I doubt, therefore, whether any such statements can be maintained. But we all know too well what that age was, for us to be over-enthusiastic in the defence of our favorites. And still it can truly be said that Hildebert established his innocence there and then. He finally died in 1134, and his works, with those of Marbod, were collected and published in Paris by the Benedictines, at the comparatively recent date of 1708. His hymn, Oratio devotissima ad tres Personas Sanctissimae Trinitatis, first appeared in the Appendix to Archbishop Ussher’s De Symbolis (1660), and again was published by the Norman Jacques Hommey in 1684.

The poem is, as Chancellor Benedict has well said, almost epic in its completeness. And I can do no better than to summarize it in his own words—for he linked his name to it by a translation which he published in 1867: “Its beginning [is] the knowledge of God—Fides orthodoxa—the true creed, as to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, exhibiting their attributes as the foundation of the Christian character; its middle, the weakness, the trials, and the temptations of the Christian life, in its progress to perfect trust and confidence in God and assurance of His final grace; its end, the joys and glories of the heavenly home of the blessed.” It has been greatly neglected, as any one will find who looks for it outside of the most recent collections of sacred Latin poetry. Why this has been so, except because the praise of Mary and of the saints was more congenial to collectors than a lofty and pure 182 spiritual fervor, it is not easy to discern. Hugo of St. Victor—Hildebert’s contemporary—does actually quote six lines, but calls the author quidam, or, as we would say, “somebody,” in referring to these half dozen verses extracted to give point to his own discourse. Yet Hildebert was in his day a most important personage, not below the persecution of a king of England, and not above a quarrel with a king of France. But he and the king were reconciled at last, and with honor.

That Professor Longfellow is not indebted to Trench’s text for his little quotations, is shown by a curious fact. The Sacred Latin Poetry of Archbishop (then Dean) Trench was first published in 1849, and the “Golden Legend” appeared in Boston in 1851—the time seeming to indicate that the poet had been reading in the small book of the prelate. But Professor March has very acutely noticed that the Church of England, in the person of its editor, did a great deal of expurgation, and that the lines

“Cujus claves lingua Petri,

Cujus cives semper laeti,”

are not included by Trench at all! It was not proper, the Dean thought, to encourage Romish superstitions, and so Peter and his keys were omitted. It is not impossible that Longfellow took his text from a little volume published at Auburn, N. Y., in 1844, which contains “The Hymn of Hildebert and the Ode of Xavier, with English Versions,” probably by Dr. Henry Mills, professor in the Theological Seminary at Auburn, who also published a volume of translations of German hymns (1845 and 1856). Dr. Mills reprints the entire hymn from Ussher, but ignores in his translation the lines

Deus pater tantum Dei

Virgo mater est, sed Dei.

The book is memorable as the first American publication in this field. Besides the American translations by Dr. Mills and Chancellor Benedict, there are English versions by Crashaw, by John Mason Neale, and, best of all, by Herbert Kynaston in the Lyra Mystica (London, 1869), copied from his Occasional Hymns.

Further to speak of Hildebert, it can be said that he, like others, took his share of imprisonments, confiscations, and exiles.


Trench quotes from his poetry two compositions in hexameter and pentameter—classic in language, but not always classic in prosody; and two complete poems, one of which is the famous hymn, and which commences

A et Ω magne Deus.

The other is a vision and lament over the Church of Poitiers. Of this the editor says: “I know of no nobler piece of versification, nor more skilful management of rhyme in the whole circle of Latin rhymed poetry.” It begins

Nocte quadam, via fessus”—

an important hint for a person who wishes to find anything in the German anthologies, where, as a rule, the indexing is hideous and the arrangement is heartrending, and the poems are designated, hit-or-miss, by their initial line.

The poem De Exilio Suo, beginning

Nuper eram locuples, multisque beatus amicis,”

is an example of the classic measures into which I have tried to shape my own rendering, although I have copied Hildebert even in his inaccuracies and repetitions:


Once I was rich and blessed with friends beyond measure,

And, for awhile, Fortune was prosperous too.

You would have said that the gods had heard my petition,

And that success had taught me to conquer anew.

Often I said to myself: “What means this wealthy condition?

What does it claim, this swift great store of my gain?”—

Woe to myself! for faith and confidence perish;

Even my property teaches how I have heaped it in vain!

Lightly the wing sweeps men and the things that they cherish,

And from the highest station ruin pours down to the plain.

What you possess to-day, perchance you will lose by to-morrow,

Or, indeed, as you speak, it ceases perhaps to be yours.

These are the tricks of our fate; and haughtiest kings to their sorrow,

And humblest slaves shall find that no future endures.

Lo, what is Man! and what has he right to inherit?

What is the thing that his wretchedness claims as its own?

This, this only is man; the years press down on his spirit

Always in saddest condition to utter his final groan.


It is man’s lot to have nothing—in nakedness coming; and going

Back to his mother’s breast to bear her no riches again.

It is man’s lot to decay, his dust on the desert bestowing,

And by sad steps to climb to the pyre of his pain.

Such is his heirship of good, and here upon earth he may gather

Nothing more certain than these, the spoils of a vanishing fate.

Riches and honor may greet him, yea, be his servants the rather;

Wealthy at morn though his station, poor shall at night be his state.

Nor can a man discern the permanent law of possession

Save as he seeks to discover the nature of mortal affairs.

Yet does God give them their law, conferring them through his concession

Unto the weak by his grace; and their going and coming he shares.

He by himself alone provides for and manages solely,

Nor does he doubt to provide nor vary in management still.

For what he sees to be done he does, and his ruling is wholly

Laborless, fixing the form and the time and the bounds of his will.

Yea, through his zeal for our growth he places our limits and changes

These by his occult laws, himself remaining the same.

Himself remaining the same, while sickness and health he arranges,

Swaying the world and showing how hope must be set on his name.

If it be right to trust thee, then, all that thou doest or takest

He is behind it, O Fortune, and he is the source of thy strength.

Nay, I affirm, O Fortune, however thou fixest or shakest

Thou canst not grieve me, nor overmuch cheer me at length.

He is almighty and tender, the concord and trust of my treasure;

I shall be his forever, when all his purpose is through!

It may perhaps be well for us to observe the characteristics of Hildebert as we discover them in his hymn. They will be found to be those of an oratorical repetition, and indeed of that “fatal octosyllabic” fluency, demonstrated in later times by Skelton, by Butler, and by Scott. To a certain degree the verse is incapable of anything large or exultant. But it is admirable for the purpose to which he puts it. Indeed, I knew no better way, when Hildebert’s best admirer passed from this to a nobler world, than to express my own sadness in similar Latin; and I venture to close this chapter with the closing lines of that tribute. Mr. E. C. Benedict made it his happiest recreation to turn the strains of these ancient singers into modern verse. And it seemed fitting that he should be commemorated in the very rhythm he loved so well:

“Vir honeste, vir praeclare!

Tibi quidvis possim dare

His versiculis confeci;

Hic, coronam superjeci.


Autem, illic, lux perennis

Proferet floresque pennis

Aves pictis puro die;—

Nihil deest, O tu pie!

Tu qui terra serus abis

Christum unice laudabis.

Vale! quia non moraris;

Ave! quia nunc laetaris!”

“Unto thee sincere and worthy

Here I bring a tribute earthy.

In these verses I have pressed it;

Here upon thy tomb I rest it.

But thyself, in light eternal

Seest flowers; and birds supernal

Brightly flit through sunny portals—

Thou dost lack no joy of mortals!

Thou who late from us dost sever

There shall praise the Lord forever!

Farewell! for thou wilt not linger;

Hail! for thou art there a singer!”

Yes, when once these old monks “soared beyond chains and prison”—when they dreamed by night and talked by day of the land that is very far off—they drew to them all loving hearts from the most distant ages. Doubtless Hildebert knew—and rejoiced in knowing—that his aspirations had been caught in a modern city and by a weary lawyer, who found rest and peace in their strain. And doubtless in the perfectness of the present rejoicing they both see and love what they once sighed to obtain.



There is no lack of material for a copious account of Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a man to become distinguished in any age of the world, and he took and maintained the highest place of his time. His faults are as patent as his virtues. But, if he had not these faults, he would never have enjoyed certain kinds of success. His very austerity was a merit when it held his keen intellect steadily to its mark. And his intolerance, narrowness, ambition, and love of dialectics, were themselves a part of the great demand which his generation made upon him.

I shall be responsible here simply for a condensation and compilation of facts, a very different proceeding from that which is usually needed. In the case of almost all these hymn-writers the materials are so slight and meagre as to require large research; in this case one is overwhelmed with riches. I do not profess to say how many lives of Bernard have been written, but I know of a goodly number; and no history of his time has failed to give attention to so prominent a figure in religion and in statecraft.

He was singularly situated in point of time and place. Born in Burgundy, not far from Dijon, of a fighting family, who owned a castle and were well represented in the wars, he saw the light in 1091. His father Tesselin was a man who had learned in the school of Christ to be more careful not to wrong his neighbor than not to be wronged by him. His mother Alith was the model chatelaine of the times, full of kindness to the poor and helpfulness to the needy. He was born at the omphalos and centre of the Middle Ages. Peter the Hermit whirled along his wild battalions almost beside his very cradle. The little lad of four years must have seen the strange excited throngs, with their red crosses and their banners, and in the dust of their passing and in the chants of their praise, he must have been conscious of a certain enthusiasm which was to run throughout his life.


For several years this news was to men the staple of all conversation. The body of their own duke was finally brought back from Palestine to his ancient heritage, and laid, by his own desire, in the cemetery of the poor monks of Citeaux. There, in this comparatively recent monastery near Dijon, he had selected his last home, in preference to many more opulent and renowned establishments. The son of Burgundy’s vassal Tesselin beheld this and other incidents. His brothers went to the wars with the next duke, but he himself grew less and less inclined toward such pursuits. Books formed his world. His cell was afterward said to be stored with them; and he obtained easily the credit of being the best instructed person of his time in the Bible and in the works of the fathers of the Church.

And already these tendencies were aroused in the youth of eighteen or nineteen years who had begun the old-fashioned austerities on his own account. We are not surprised to find him neck-deep in ice-water; stung into intellectual vigor by the recent victory of Abelard over William of Champeaux; aroused into an actual preaching fervor, in which he denounces the sins of the age; continually mindful of his dead mother Alith’s prayers, and finally resolved upon entering the monastic order and upon carrying all his friends and relations with him.

That singular mastery of other minds, which was his at every period henceforth, now displayed itself. It did not matter that his brother Guido had a wife and family; nor that his brother Gerard loved to fight a good deal better than he loved to pray. Into the cloister they must go! Gerard indeed was something after the manner of Lot’s wife, disposed to look back. But his brother touched him on the side, and by some strange prescience or happy guess, predicted to him a spear-wound, which actually happened. On being thus remarkably warned, the soldier relented as they carried him wounded off the field, and cried, “I turn monk, monk of Citeaux.” This was the Gerard over whom, long afterward, Bernard delivered that touching sermon, where he branched out from the Song of Solomon (1:5) to declare that this body “is not the mansion of the citizen, nor the house of the native, but either the soldier’s tent or the traveller’s inn;” and then poured forth his full heart in a tide of uncontrollable and lofty grief.


So the youth marched into the poor monastery of Citeaux, where scanty food, rough clothing, harsh surroundings and occasional epidemic disorders had nearly disheartened and broken up the company of monks. Stephen Harding, their English abbot, was proudly indifferent to all patronage; but he was not so blind as not to perceive that Bernard, with thirty captives of the bow and spear of his eloquence, was a valuable addition to a depleted community.

These Cistercians, then and always, were rigidists. Up they got at two in the morning to prayer and “matins;” and for full two hours were busy, in a cold dark chapel, over them. Then, with the first dawn of light, out again to “lauds.” Before this service, and after it, the monk’s time was fairly his own; but at two o’clock he dined, at nightfall he had “vespers,” and at six or eight (according to the season) came “compline,” and then immediately the dormitory and bed. Such was the life, with a little more of it on Sundays, and with sermons interspersed at intervals. There is no mention of breakfast or supper!

And in such a life the ecstatic, mystical character of Bernard rose into visions and prophecies. His body was nearly subjugated, and his taste, and, indeed, all his senses, appeared to have deserted him. He watched, he dug, he hewed and carried wood; he kept the very letter, and more than the letter of his monastic rule. And yet, as Morison acutely observes, this very abstraction from people and things gave him that delight in nature from which, so often in the future, he was to catch the illustration or the inspiration of his discourse. “Beeches and oaks,” he said, “had ever been his best teachers in the Word of God.”

But now Citeaux (suddenly become prosperous) must colonize; and who so fit to lead the swarm from the gates and found the new hive as this same Bernard? Into his hands Abbot Stephen puts the cross, and he and his twelve companions march solemnly across the interdicted boundaries of their little Cistercian home, and nearly a hundred miles to the northward. There he chooses a place which exhibits, as Bernard’s actions generally do, the far-sighted sagacity which takes mean and worthless matters and makes them what, with right handling, they are able to become. It is a valley—the “Valley of Wormwood.” It is grown up with underbrush 189 and is a haunt of robbers. But here, with the river Aube winding down between the hills, with the hills themselves capable of culture, and with the future of this little vale revealed to his prophetic eye, he sets his cloister and calls it Clairvaux—“Fair Valley,” or “Brightdale.”

I wish that I could quote the beautiful picture that Vaughan (Hours with the Mystics, Book V., chap. 1) has given of this fine enterprise. We should see Bernard and his monks chopping and binding fagots; planting vines and trees of goodly fruit; rearing their cloistral buildings, when the time arrived, out of the very materials about them, and so steadily transforming purgatory into paradise. There should we see the river bending its great shoulders to the wheels that drive fulling-mill and grist-mill; or toiling for them in their tannery, or filling their caldarium. We should see the monks at vintage or at harvest; pressing the clusters from yonder hill, or gathering the hay from yonder meadow. And everywhere throughout this busy, energetic life, we should behold the wasted figure of their chief—austere, sincere, severe. And we should feel that unaccountable personality—that intrinsic, magnetic, controlling quality which made this the man above all others to be the opposer of schismatics, the counsellor of kings, the establisher of popes, and the preacher of the Second Crusade. Clairvaux was his kingdom, and from Clairvaux he ruled the mediaeval world.

His personal appearance was in keeping with this idea—it was the evident cause of an evident effect. He was taller than the middle height and exceedingly thin. His complexion was “clear, transparent, red-and-white;” and always he had some color in his wasted face. His beard was reddish, and—according to his ancestral derivation, called Sorus or “yellow-haired”—his own hair was light and perhaps tawny. This beard grows whiter in the course of years, and these hollow cheeks glow with the enthusiasm of the orator as he speaks. Then he is at his best! He flings aside all feebleness; he disregards every consideration except the truth; he flashes and glitters as the tremendous squadrons of his brilliant logic, or still more brilliant exhortation, press down upon the listening soul. He had indeed a perfect confidence in himself, in his methods, and in his ultimate success. He was like a modern ocean steamer, iron-hulled, steam-driven, sharp-prowed, 190 cutting through all storms without detention, and riding the wildest waves in his triumphant course to victory.

There is in Bernard of Clairvaux a most singular combination of the dreamer and the man of affairs. Vaughan has too admirably condensed the story of these interruptions and occupations, for me to avoid quoting, at least this much, from his capital monograph:

“Struggling Christendom,” he says, “sent incessant monks and priests, couriers and men-at-arms to knock and blow horns at the gate of Clairvaux Abbey; for Bernard, and none but he, must come out and fight that audacious Abelard; Bernard must decide between rival popes, and cross the Alps, time after time, to quiet tossing Italy; Bernard alone is the hope of fugitive Pope and trembling Church; he only can win back turbulent nobles, alienated people, recreant priests, when Arnold of Brescia is in arms at Rome, and when Catharists, Petrobrusians, Waldenses and heretics of every shade, threaten the hierarchy on either side the Alps; and at the preaching of Bernard the Christian world pours out to meet the disaster of a new crusade.”

Yet with all this he is a profound scholar, and his comments on Scripture are of a mystical, and often of a serenely spiritual and thoughtful kind, as though no intrusion could jar the harmony and poise of his soul. His was that strange contradiction of nature which found its calm in tumult and its ecstasy in conflict. Obstructions pass away.

Like that later mystic, Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), there are no hindrances in his communion with the unseen world; he could, perhaps, do as Novalis did when Sophie Kühn died. For the poor fellow records in his diary: “Much noise in the house. I went to her grave and had a few wild moments of joy.” And of him also Just declares: “No spirit-dream was too high, no business detail too low;” for Novalis in 1799 was “Assessor and Law-adviser to the Salt Mines of Thuringia.” Pegasus in harness appears no worse a contradiction than a mystic in a salt-pan, or a Bernard epistolizing the Count of Champagne about a drove of stolen pigs.

Prose and poetry, poetry and prose! And yet the brain and soul that can do good work in the one are by no means disqualified for the other; and your truest mystics are not likely to wear 191 long hair and talk raving nonsense among impractical neologists. For Bernard, even though he made converts wherever he went, and drew increasing numbers into cloister walls, exerted a potent and prevalent influence upon his time. He is one of the lighthouses, as we sail down the coast of the Middle Ages; and not until we pass him and his compeers, do the real darkness and the dull ignorance, the shoals and the unmarked rocks appear, ready to wreck the ventures of the mind. How gladly one would linger over these fascinating incidents in this remarkable career! The man’s life was expressed in some of his own aphorisms. They are such as these:

“There is no truer wretchedness than a false joy.” “He does not please who pleases not himself.” “You will give to your voice the voice of virtue if you have first persuaded yourself of what you would persuade others.” “Hold the middle line unless you wish to miss the true method.”

These are the maxims of an orator as well as of a statesman. And the junction of imagination, analysis, logic, fervor, and faith, made this man what he was. Already he had tried his wings in preaching to his own monks at morning and evening; and they had listened to him as though he had come from another world. He dealt with the great and vital questions of the moral nature. Like the best of our modern preachers, he aimed to sustain the soul, to arouse and to cheer it, and to bid it press forward to a victory which he himself foresaw. He might have said of such aspiring saints as surrounded him what Roscoe says:

“I see, or the glory blinds me

Of a soul divinely fair,

Peace after great tribulation

And victory hung in the air.”

He felt, with Lacordaire, that the Gospel had a new meaning, when he discovered that it was intended for the comfort of the human heart. He was at one with his monks; and as he reached out toward the social life about him, and toward the turbid torrents of politics and ecclesiasticism over which he must throw the bridge of charity or of faith, he simply transferred the Clairvaux method into the affairs of men.

It was an age of destruction, and into it he was casting the salt 192 of the Gospel, hoping at least to make it salvable. Around his life needless legends and superstitious traditions have combined to cluster, but the real Bernard is distinct from both. He never relaxed his grip upon himself or upon others. And while this is not yet the place to speak of the famous controversy with Abelard, it may be properly said that Bernard saw tendencies in that philosophy which were genuinely dangerous; and that he defeated them because truth (however narrow and selfishly employed) is always stronger than error. Such was also his power in preaching the crusade in 1145, when he was about fifty-five years of age. It sprang from the quenchless fire of his zeal, as when at Vezelai, standing by the side of Louis VII., he caused such enthusiasm in the crowd beneath, that he did nothing so long as he remained in the town but make crosses for them to wear in sign of their holy purpose.

He had lived to see the Knights Templars, which had received his own especial approval, become one of the most famous orders on the globe. The Knights Hospitallers had been incorporated in 1113, and the Templars were founded in 1118 by Hugo de Paganis and others. But in 1128, at the Council of Troyes, there were but nine of them, all told, to keep their vow of “chastity, obedience, and poverty,” to “guard the passes and roads against robbers,” and to “watch over the safety of pilgrims.” Hugo then appealed to Bernard, and by his influence the council recognized this weak thing, destined so soon to be a mighty force, and which combined two of the strongest of our instincts—that to fight and that to pray. And now as in his old age he saw the corruption which was creeping into it and into other agencies on which his heart had been set, he relaxed no atom of his vigilance. He had seen the failure of his crusade, but it did not much affect him. His thoughts were now of heaven, and his watching was that he might be prepared to enter its gates. His principal friends had all died; Suger, in 1150, Theobald of Champagne, in 1152, and Pope Eugenius, his loved disciple, in 1153.

It was in this year that Bernard also made himself ready to go. On January 12th he said the Lord’s Prayer, and then, raising up what his admirers were wont to call his “dove-like” eyes, he prayed that God’s will might be done. And so, quietly and peacefully, he passed away. He has left behind him much as an 193 ecclesiast, but more as a poet. I hold Bernard to be the real author of the modern hymn—the hymn of faith and worship. The poetry of Faber, which is now so near to the heart of the Church, is peculiarly in this key. The Salve Caput cruentatum came to us through Paul Gerhardt, and has become (through the translation of Dr. J. W. Alexander, a man of kindred spirit with Bernard) our

“O sacred head, now wounded.”

Gerhardt’s own hymn-writing—the most efficient, except Luther’s, in the German tongue—is wonderfully affected by Bernard. The Jesu dulcis memoria was rendered by Count Zinzendorf and became famous among those spiritual souls, the Moravians. And Edward Caswell’s translations—as I have already noticed—are supremely fine in spirit and in expression. I shall not attempt here what has been so capitally done already. The Church universal has made Bernard her own; and the very translations of his verses have been half-inspired. And while we sing,

“Jesus, the very thought of thee

With sweetness fills my breast,”

we shall sing “with the spirit and with the understanding,” the very strain that the Abbot of Clairvaux was sent on earth to teach! They canonized him in 1174—but it is better to have written a song for all saints than to be found in any breviary.



From the foreground of the waving banners and the flashing arms of the Crusaders, of the dark throng of the chanting monks, and of feudal pageantry and glitter—and from that background of dead uniformity which equally characterized those mediaeval times—emerges a figure unique and notable. It is that of a man in the prime and pride of life—lofty in stature, handsome in face, captivating in address. He is already a tried debater and an unsurpassed logician. He has Aristotle at the tip of his tongue; he has read much and thought a little, and his ambition is great.

Such a man came one day into the lecture hall of William of Champeaux at Paris. It was in the early part of the twelfth century, and William was the most celebrated teacher of the period, his “doctrine of universals” being accepted almost as though it were inspired. But this morning, while the master lectured and the disciples drank in his words without criticism or debate, the visitor stirred uneasily in his place. When the lecture closed he availed himself of the usual freedom to ask some questions. To William’s dogmatic answers the stranger in his turn proposed shrewd difficulties. It was no longer the harmony of teacher and taught, but the clash of two rival minds maintaining opposite systems of logic. And in that short struggle William the Archdeacon went down before the free lance of Peter Abelard, the rustic challenger from Palais (Le Pallet) in Brittany. And from that agitation went out the widening circles whose story we are now to note, and whose latest ripples break faintly on a tomb in Père-la-Chaise visited by thousands of modern tourists. Few tales are sadder or more suggestive.

The name of Abelard is variously spelled. It appears in divers authorities as Abelard, Abaelard, Abaielardus, Abailard, Abaillard, Abelhardus, and Abeillard. The true name (on the authority of Ch. de Rémusat) was, however, not Abelard, but Beranger or 195 Berenger; and the future controversialist was christened Pierre or Peter. His birthplace is near Nantes, the house being represented a few years ago by a square brier-grown ruin back of the church. The date of his birth is given as 1079—a period when the world was feudal and military. But this lad was born for debate and not for battle. It may even be seriously doubted if he ever possessed much physical courage of a sort to stand the rough shock of actual warfare. He preferred the method of those who intermeddle among metaphysical subtleties to those who must keep sword edges sharp and armor furbished. His delight was to dispute, to be engaged in undertakings

“Whose chief devotion lies

In odd perverse antipathies;

In falling out with that or this

And finding somewhat still amiss.”

In those days not to be a warrior was to be—almost of compulsion—a monk. But Abelard’s independence forbade the second as his disputatious spirit had forbidden the first. He would neither risk his neck in the wars nor his opinions in the cloister. Instead of these he preferred the irregular combats of the scholar, and Bayle—with a touch of poetry—beholds him as he comes shining out of Brittany “darting syllogisms on every side.” Such was Peter Abelard—vain, handsome, opinionated, bound to swear by no master, a mighty voice crying in the desert of the Dark Ages for “free speech and free thought.”

The expedition to Paris hurt neither his reputation nor his purse. He arrived at perihelion as quickly as a comet. William of Champeaux—having first pushed him off and forced him to lecture on his own account at Melun and Corbeil—found that he returned like a cork thrust under water. The man’s buoyant, aggressive self-reliance, not to say self-conceit, was never contented with an inferior place. And while Alberic and Littulf and some of the older and more staid of his pupils held with William, it was plain that the popular favor inclined to the other side. The younger men were all for Abelard. The “doctrine of universals” was exploded as if with some of Friar Bacon’s “villainous saltpetre,” and doubtless the loss was small enough to mankind. His principal fort being taken, there was nothing left for the opposing general 196 but a masterly retreat. Hence, by a convenient arrangement, combining several advantages, Guillaume des Champeaux became Bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne. And it was, of course, beneath the dignity of a bishop to hold lectures or to engage in logical controversies!

But, as generally happens, a sand-bag substitute was put in the bishop’s place; and Abelard came back to open a school on Mt. St. Genevieve and to bombard this professor. The battle was short and decisive, for the next we learn of this nameless champion of a defeated cause, he is absolutely enrolled as a humble follower of the great logician. This is but a fair sample of the general success which attended the new ideas. Everywhere they gained currency, attracting inquiry, arousing envy, awaking ecclesiastical suspicion, and inflaming the hatred of his defeated opponents.

About this time of inception and premonition, say 1113, Abelard undertook to examine the instruction given by William’s teacher, Anselm of Laon, who there vegetated as dean of the cathedral church. We must not confuse his name with that of the great Archbishop of Canterbury, whose method and science have outlasted the most of his contemporaries, and whom Neander styles “the Augustine of the twelfth century.” Had he been the teacher and Abelard the pupil, history might have made a different record. A profounder and a more reverent line of thought might have affected the acute and daring mind of the rising dialectician. And, above every other consideration, the new philosophy might have contained those elements of religion whose absence neutralized for centuries that wholesome independence which held mere dogmatism cheap as compared to the sacred light of truth. It would, indeed, have been well if such an Anselm had been at Laon, but the dean was a weak and futile person. And so it was inevitable that Abelard should again be in trouble and almost in disgrace, but even in his pathetic Historia Calamitatum the pupil did not forget to satirize his master. “He was that sort of a man,” he says, “that if any went to him being uncertain he returned more uncertain still.... When he lit a fire he filled his house with smoke, but he did not brighten it with light.” He adds, sarcastically, that Anselm’s philosophy always suggested to his mind the story of the fig-tree that our Lord cursed because it bore plenty of leaves and no fruit.


Abelard himself, however, was a genuine educator, and many bishops and other ecclesiastics, with nineteen cardinals and two popes, came from the ranks of his pupils. He loved liberty, although he loved it to that extent to which his own will—and no other authority, human or divine—restricted it. In this he differed from Anselm of Canterbury, who loved liberty, not according to license but according to law. Mere freedom to inquire, to complain, or to theorize, does not invariably carry with it profitable results. And Abelard—whose very freedom was in itself a noble revelation to the shackled intellects of his age—committed the grave error of supposing that the sweep of a free hand would certainly give lines of beauty and forms of grace. Something deeper than the mere distaste of false opinions is needful for this. Art, meditation, truth—all must lie beneath the O of Giotto or the masterly strokes of Apelles. And our rhetorician would have done well to have confined himself to the Trivium—grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics. When he undertook theology he first quarrelled with Anselm of Laon, and next he encountered all Christendom and Bernard of Clairvaux. His was the fatal blunder of every “free inquirer” who forgets reverence, and who, in his pride of intellect, may likely fall as the angels fell. Surely no Lucifer ever plunged more swiftly down from heaven’s battlements than did poor Peter Abelard from the dizzy height of his sudden success.

This is no place to criticise his “system,” if system it can be properly called. The Sic et Non—“Yes and No”—his most famous work, is really a mere challenge. He quotes the Bible against the Fathers and the Fathers against the Bible, touching on deep tideways and bogs and quicksands which he never attempts to ford, fathom, or bridge. The Arians, Sabellians, Nestorians and Pelagians are resuscitated in these pages. He flings their doubts before us like a gauntlet cast into the arena of debate. One may choose which side he will take. Such a man, arising in the nineteenth century and claiming sympathy with Christianity, would be by some suspected as a secret enemy and his vanity would loosen his armor for the entrance of many a venomed shaft. His genuine ardor would be misunderstood and his opinions would be heavily attacked before they could deploy at their full strength. If this be true to-day how infinitely more true 198 must it have been of an age narrower, more illiterate, and with an arm which wielded not in vain the sword of excision against heretics!

This, then, was the man who in the prime of manhood and at the topmost peak of prosperity found himself with money in his pocket, in Paris, and his own master. He had not yet said of the dogmas of Mother Church as Luther said of Tetzel, “By God’s help I will go down and beat a hole in your drum.” Hitherto he had safely kept to Aristotle—at once the blessing and the bane of Middle-Age reasoners—and he had the vainglorious sense that five thousand students hung breathless on his words. He considered himself upon the firmest footing that one could desire, and behold, he fell!

The “damned spot” of Abelard’s character is that which, after all, has insured his fame. And, since it is indispensable, a few sentences must exhibit it in its repulsive ugliness. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we do not need the help of any other biographer than his own bitter soul. His Historia Calamitatum is the sufficient history. In this he tells us that his life had been previously irreproachable and of the strictest moral correctness. Now, however, he began to “let himself go”—how far, or how fast, it is of no use for us to investigate. But Fulbert, the Canon of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, had a perfect Hypatia for a niece, and to this lady Abelard’s gaze was turned.

She was eighteen, and there was an irresistible charm about her, as of some fragrant white lily. She was a woman fit to lend grace and beauty to prosaic surroundings. And Abelard has the unspeakable audacity to declare that he, a man of thirty-eight, deliberately selected this pure and perfect flower and meant to take it for himself. Not to marry; for the truth demands that we should perceive his own thorough appreciation of the fact that marriage would sink him out of the ranks of scholars into those of tradesmen and would be the death-blow to his ambition. Not to marry; for it was a bad age, and sin sometimes clothed itself in the cowl of the monk and the robe of the prelate, and such a sin was better forgiven than such a blunder. Let all contemporaneous history bear witness! For every account of the lives of Heloise and Abelard reveals the impossibility of passing these unpleasant facts without notice or comment. On this pivot turns the golden world of that deathless love.


So the avaricious Fulbert took Abelard to dwell in his own house, and gave his niece’s education entirely into his care, and, as her teacher himself expresses it, delivered her “like a lamb to a hungry wolf.”

Heloise was probably the better educated of the two. She was the child of unknown parents. Bayle asserts that she was the daughter of a priest, and his facilities and laboriousness respecting such abstruse particulars no one will question. The authority from which he is possibly quoting, says that this priest was John “Somebody” (nescio cujus) and a canon of the same cathedral with Fulbert at Paris. Doubtless the trace of her ancestry is utterly lost to us beyond these meagre items. Even Fulbert’s alleged relationship has been questioned. But the scholarship of Heloise speaks for itself in a terse, sparkling Latin style, which is as pleasant beside Abelard’s lumbering sentences as a bright mountain brook beside a turbid and turbulent stream. Count de Bussy-Rabutin—no mean critic—has put on record that he never read more elegant Latin. She also understood Greek and Hebrew, with neither of which, strange to say, was Abelard acquainted. And at first blush it would seem that the teacher should have been the pupil.

Absolute justice requires that the ugly and disgraceful slurs in the Historia Calamitatum, and even in the correspondence, should not be overlooked. Here is what will serve for a fair example. He says of her, Quae cum per faciem non esset infima, per abundantiam litterarum erat suprema—while she was not exactly the worst-looking of them, she was the best educated; and therefore he selected her! The spretae injuria formae never went further than this. But this is by no means the solitary instance of that low snarl in which the currish nature of the Breton rustic now and then indulged.

What, then, could have been the spell by which this charming woman drew Christendom after her? Popes and bishops called her “beloved daughter,” priests entitled her “sister,” and all laymen laid claim to her as “mother.” If she were not so beautiful as some authorities positively state, she must certainly have been marvellously captivating. But chiefest of her many graces was her crowning loyalty and love. It showed itself in perfect sympathy, in entire self-devotion. Michelet, indeed, has observed 200 that the legend of Abelard and Heloise is all that has survived in France out of the story of the Middle Ages.

Nor has the unanimity of literary judgment upon these lovers been less remarkable than the interest which they have inspired. With one voice Abelard is condemned and with one voice Heloise is extolled. “She was,” says a brilliant writer, “a great, heroic woman, one of those formed out of the finest clay of humanity.” “With the Grecian fire,” says another, “she had the Roman firmness.” And even the rude picture which the mechanical touch of Alexander Pope has painted, leaves to us in the “Epistle of Heloise” a trace of the same beauty, and affords one line—

“And graft my love immortal on thy fame”—

which only needs to be reversed in order to be prophetic. Morison’s tribute is both nobler and more acute, for he testifies, “She walked through life with ever-reverted glances on the glory of her girlish love.” It was the same thought which Dante—after Boethius—puts into the lips of Francesca—

“There is no greater sorrow

Than to be mindful of the happy time

In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.”

Nay, it is even the very cameo out of Tennyson:

“As when a soul laments, which hath been blessed,

Desiring what is mingled with past years,

In yearnings that can never be expressed

By sighs, or groans, or tears.”

This is the heart which Abelard won. Winning it he won, and forever held, the woman whose it was. From that moment she merged her whole existence in his with a complete and utter abandonment of self, to the perfectness of which let her epistles from the Paraclete bear testimony. Across this story of undeviating devotion Abelard’s vanity, pride, and coarseness are written with smears and stains, like an illiterate monk who blots his comments upon a precious missal full of saints and angels. For, first of his offences, he revealed this love of his by really becoming a troubadour. He composed verses in the Romance tongue, recounting their loves, and set them to such stirring tunes that all the world was soon singing them. Hence grew the legend that 201 the “Romance of the Rose” (Roman de la Rose) was his composition. It undoubtedly contains their story, but it was not his work; it belongs to William de Loris and Jean de Meung. But, as for Heloise, she was delighted. What would have been a crown of sorrow to other women was to her a crown of joy. She even announced to Abelard “with the utmost exultation” the advent of that unhappy being christened Astrolabe and destined to pass his forsaken and lonely existence shut up in a cloister. That people sang of this love; that it went to the ends of the earth; that nothing could prevent its being known—these were the happinesses of Heloise. Of the merit of the songs we cannot ourselves decide. They were originally anonymous, and only those familiar with the crabbed French of that period may hope to find them again.

Meanwhile, though the lectures suffered, and the students saw, and all Paris smiled, Fulbert was totally in the dark. This condition of affairs was predestined to come to an end, and it came in storm and anger. Abelard saw himself forced, against his will, to marry secretly. It was a sting to his egotism that ever rankled. It served, though, to pacify Fulbert and the rest of the relations; and being too glad and too loose-tongued to keep this handsome alliance from the public they presently told everybody. Heloise, thereupon, fearing for Abelard’s ambitious schemes, did not shrink from a point-blank falsehood. She denied the marriage. She had been in Brittany and was now at Argenteuil, of which she was by and by to become the abbess. And she added to her denial the self-abnegating sentiment that Abelard, who was created for all mankind, ought not to be sacrificed by “bondage to a woman.” It was worthy of her who so admired the “philosophic Aspasia,” and whose tutor and lover had done what he could to make her as “free from superstition” as himself. Her moral ideas were what he taught her, and he could not unteach them.

Among the complaisant and agreeable nuns of Argenteuil she now resided. It was but a few miles from Paris. Her husband frequently went thither, and in a short time thereafter she was enrolled as a novice. The fact aroused her relatives, and their mutterings became ominous; Fulbert, especially, taking this act in high dudgeon, as though it meant the premeditated repudiation of his niece. Their anger did not stop at words, but, knowing 202 Abelard’s popularity, and fearing to attack him during the day, they bribed his valet and assaulted him by night in his own apartment.

It was this blow which flung Abelard from heaven to hell. His hitherto impregnable attitude; his fierce zeal for his opinions; his hopes of a new philosophy which should make his name immortal, all vanished before it as spider-webs break before a sword. And when, conscious that he was no more a god and a hero, but an insulted and defeated man, he rose from his bed of pain, the prospect was not improved. The outpoured indignation of bishops and canons and clergy—the lamentations of the women and the students—did not appease him. A whisper was in his soul like that of Haman’s wife. Mordecai, the despised, was coming to the kingdom and the Agagite was doomed.

There were reasons which led him to think of seeking aid from the Pope against his enemies. But Fulk of Deuil, his good friend, advised him not to try it. “You have no money,” said honest, plain spoken Fulk, “and what can you do at Rome without money?” It was bitter truth. Yet the Abbé Migne, forgetting the much worse things Bernard had said of the Roman Curia in the treatise De Consideratione, exscinds the passage from Fulk’s letter on the ground that it would cause “scandal to Catholic ears.” Edification first, truth afterward, if at all!

Therefore, with a poisoned soul, he sought the Abbey of St. Denis to hide himself from the gaze of the world. To a man so proud a life without imperial power was a living death. Yet from those walls he issues his edict that Heloise shall take the veil. His vanity led him to carry out the original cause of hostility even to its unalterable result. But Heloise, whatever she might have thought or felt, marched with lofty resignation to her fate. Quoting aloud—as his confession pitifully recalls—the words of Cornelia to Pompey from the “Pharsalia” of Lucan, she takes the vows. Never was there less of religion in such a ceremony! Henceforth she walks like the moon in distant brightness, coming to meet us down the ages as comes the Queen Louise of Gustav Richter’s superb picture. She is transfigured by her self-forgetting love, and “all that is left of her,” in the best and truest sense, is now “pure womanly.”

For Abelard at St. Denis the case was different. He found 203 the monks worldly and dissolute and he reproved them. The effect was similar to the case of Lot—the reformer departed with all his belongings. He then renewed his old lectures. His scholars followed him to Maisoncelle, where, in their avidity of knowledge, they overcrowded every resource of shelter and food. He offered them that fascinating combination, dialectics and divinity. Like the saltpetre and the charcoal these were harmless when apart and explosive when together, particularly if you add the sulphurous heart which now smoked in his bosom. A harsh and vindictive tone was given to his disposition, and it was natural that he should be, at least tentatively, a heretic. These moral bruises are worse than any or all physical injuries; the man who has felt them can never be again what he was before. And now Anselm and William and Fulbert and everybody that he had bullied or taunted or threatened turned upon him. The gates to the black cavern of the winds were open and the blasts of fate were icy cold.

The papal legate Conan held a council at Soissons in 1121. The opinions of Abelard were received with disfavor. They humiliated the poor wretch among them and made him burn his own book, and then mumble through a credo amid his “sobs and sighs and tears.” These words are his own, and his is also the statement that he was put into the custody of the Abbot of St. Medard and there he was lectured, and even lashed by the convent whip, until he exhibited proper submission. Poetical justice had befallen him. For he confesses, to his shame, that he had coerced and even struck Heloise. Now he, too, was coerced, and he, too, was struck.

Then back again to St. Denis, with more hatred and hard speeches than ever. But Suger, the new abbot, an easy-going lover of bric-à-brac and good living, set him free, a “masterless man” past forty years of age, with Heloise out of reach and the spears of exultant enemies bristling in every hedge. Is it a wonder that he took to the banks of the Ardusson near Troyes, wattled himself a rude hut and resolved to be a hermit? But even there in the desert the people thronged him and built a village of huts about his own. His misfortunes became a portion of his strength. And there they erected for him a church and a cloister which he dedicated to the Paraclete, a daring innovation, since it was then 204 considered highly heterodox thus to distinguish one person of the Trinity from the other two.

Under such storms and heat the nature of the man had been seriously warped. He became suspicious, gloomy, and weakly unstable. His correspondence with Heloise had been completely broken off. He went into the monotonous Champagne, then out into the bleak Brittany, and finally (1125) he received the abbacy of St. Gildas. His friends, perhaps, desired to save him from homelessness and so from the dangers which the relentless malice of his old enemies was constantly piling up. But their choice of a refuge reveals how little their ecclesiastical influence was worth. The monks of St. Gildas lived in open sin, and the people around the cloister were semi-barbarians. It may be that they were ready to welcome Abelard because they supposed he would be charitable to their peccadilloes, but if they fancied this, their mistake was great. He really measured himself against their vices and suffered a predestined defeat. At St. Gildas he touched the nadir of his fate as at Paris he had reached its zenith. The monks conspired against him. They sought to poison him, contaminating with their drugs even the cup of the Eucharist. When his life was not fear it was horror, and when it was not horror it was despair.

At this time, too, for calamity never comes singly, Suger had succeeded in routing from Argenteuil the Abbess Heloise with all her nuns. He had complained to Rome that the lands of Argenteuil were the chartered right of St. Denis and that the nuns were very scandalous. So Abelard roused himself sufficiently to hand the deserted abbey of the Paraclete over to his wife; to confirm it by every possible act and deed against invasion; and to secure, in the despite of Bernard of Clairvaux, who was his presumptive enemy, a special bull of Innocent II. to make all this permanent. To these walls Heloise therefore removed. They were doubly dear to her for Abelard’s sake. She had no true “vocation” for her office, but the Pope called her and her sisterhood his “dear daughters,” and it was the best that they could do. Abelard prepared their forms of service for them, and thus again, after all these years, communication existed and letters passed between them.

These forms brought on a controversy with Bernard, who did 205 not like them. The letters also are still extant, often translated, but never in anything except the original Latin, speaking out the real nature of the writers. On the part of Heloise they reveal the depth of an unending love. On the part of Abelard they are as cold and occasionally as cruel as anything to which a translator can turn his pen. After a careful survey of their contents the conclusion is irresistible that Heloise is a woman whose lofty love carries with it unhesitatingly the mind, the will, the senses—everything. Her faults are the faults of her time and of her teaching, not of her soul. But, by the survival of its most forcible elements, Abelard’s character has been developed into a selfish coldness both unnatural and ungrateful. As a man, at this stage of his career, one abhors and pities him.

Presently upon the dead colorlessness of this “burned-out crater healed with snow,” the red light of a new controversy is cast. In this final struggle the redoubtable force of the splendid debater flashed up once more. But he was defeated by Bernard at Sens (1140), and whether this defeat was by fair logic or by the hostile spirit of the age it does not matter. Defeated he was, and he rushed out declaring that he would appeal to Rome. Happily his way led him through Cluny, and there good, large-hearted, and large-bodied Peter the Venerable took him in. For the first time, perhaps, in all his life he came into close relations with a man genuinely great. And Peter of Cluny himself wrote to the Pope; detaining Abelard meanwhile by kind assiduities, in that genial cloister whose humanity cherished neither bigotry nor license. Later he even reconciled the two disputants, and the broken and weary debater died at last (April 21st, 1142) at St. Marcel, whither he had been sent for change of climate by the care of his hospitable friend.

There is a painting—a true artist’s conception, but a mere daub in fact—which hangs in a New York village and which represents a dead knight stretched upon the ground. He lies upon his back on the sodden earth in the melting snow. The sky above him is of a dull and awful gray, and the carrion birds are flying in a long, hurrying line to join those already at the feast. A broken sword is strained in his right hand, his armor is hacked and darkly spotted with mire and blood, and his feet have fallen into a little stream. So would have fallen Abelard but for the charity and 206 mercy of Peter the Venerable. Remembering all that he had been it is somewhat comforting to read of his last days. For certain letters passed between Peter of Cluny and Heloise, and these, too, are extant and accessible.

The abbot says to her, after describing the daily life of Abelard, “How holily, how devoutly, in what a catholic spirit he made confession, first of his faith and then of his sins! ... Thus Master Peter finished his days, and he who for his knowledge was famed throughout the world, in the discipleship of Him who said, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,’ persevered, in meekness and humility, and, as we may believe, passed to the Lord.” It is in such language that this benevolent man addresses his “venerable and very dear sister,” concerning, as he tenderly puts it, her “first husband in the Lord.” And doubtless this same Abelard became, at the last, a little child, who through much tribulation had unlearned his haughty and selfish temper, and had gone back from subtleties and logic to say in all simplicity, Abba, Father! And it is not less interesting for us to discover in the second epistle of Heloise to Peter of Cluny, that the mother’s heart yearns over her boy, and that she commends Astrolabe to the care and protection of his father’s benefactor, a trust which, in his next letter, Peter accepts and promises to discharge.

Of the poetry of Abelard much has unquestionably been lost. His troubadour ballads may have been conveniently suppressed; it is often the fate of wise men’s lighter productions. And his hymns were for long years untraced, except in the instance of the Mittit ad virginem and of another upon the Trinity, which was ascribed to him, but is now accredited to Hildebert. A very pretty poem, Ornarunt terram germina, preserved by Du Meril (Poesies Populaires Lat., p. 444) is given in the collection of Archbishop Trench and again in that of Professor March. Even in English its grace and daintiness do not entirely escape us, and they show how possible it was for him to have written the love-songs which celebrated Heloise.

The earth is green with grasses;

The sky is filled with lights—

Sun, moon, and stars. There passes

Vast use through days and nights.


On either hand upbuilded,

Arouse, O man, and see!

Those heavenly realms are gilded

By help which shines for thee.

The suns of winter cheer thee

For lack of fire below;

While the bright moon draws near thee,

With stars, thy path to show!

Leave pride her ivory spaces;

The poor man on the grass

Looks up, from fragrant places

By which the song-birds pass.

The rich, with wasteful labor,

(For vaulted domes shall fall,)

Mocking his poorer neighbor,

Paints heaven within his hall.

But in that open chamber

Where all things fairest are,

Let the poor man remember

How God paints sun and star.

So vast a work and splendid

Is nature’s more than man’s!

No pains nor cost attended

Those age-enduring plans!

The rich man keeps his servant,

An angel guards the poor,

And God sends stars observant

To watch above his door!

At length the adage of Buddha was fulfilled that “Hatred does not cease by hatred; hatred ceaseth by love.” This is an old rule. For in 1836 his romantic story secured an editor for the scholar’s works in the person of Monsieur Victor Cousin, who at that date, and again in 1849, republished them. They had been issued in 1616 by Francis d’Amboise at Paris, and the city of his fame and sorrow appropriately witnessed their reappearance. But even then there were no more verses, and the editors of the twelfth volume of the Histoire Litteraire de la France also regarded those productions as hopelessly lost. Yet they had been in Paris, and 208 when the Patrologia of Migne reached “Tom. 178” they had been actually recovered. The story is of the same pattern as the author’s life—the man and his works had infinite vicissitudes.

When Belgium was occupied by the French, these ninety-three hymns, written for the abbey of the Paraclete between 1125 and 1134, were lying hid in codice quincunciali, whatever this may mean. The account seems to require a box of about five inches in height, rather than an ordinary codex or bound volume. This codex was brought to Paris and there remained during the days of Napoleon Bonaparte. When his Empire fell, the box and its contents returned to Belgium. They bore the seals of the Republic and of the Empire and they also had the stamp of the Royal Library of Brussels. They were indeed a catalogued part of that library’s treasures, but their value was unguessed. One day, after their return, a German student named Oehler, while rummaging through the codex found in it the libellus, or little book, which contained these three series of hymns. Like the “hymnarium” of Hilary they were known to have been in existence, and hence he immediately inferred their authorship. They embraced, to his delight, a complete collection for all the religious hours and for the principal festivals of the Church.

It is strikingly characteristic of the superficial nature of many studies in Latin hymnology, that Oehler apparently thought of nothing else that might be in the codex, but proceeded at once to publish eight of the recovered hymns. These, attracting the notice of Monsieur Cousin, he purchased a full transcript of the libellus at a “fair price” from the discoverer. It was, however, reserved for Émile Gachet, a Belgian, to “give a not unlucky day to paleography” in the course of which he lighted upon this same codex and found it still to contain the larger part of an epistle treating of Latin hymnology, addressed to Heloise, and announcing the hymns of which it was the preface. Thus the identification was perfect, and the introductions and the hymns are again joined with the other works of their authors. In 1838 a set of Planctus—“Lamentations”—had been found in the Vatican Library. They are moderate in merit, and these new pieces were therefore invaluable in determining Abelard’s rank as a poet. In the main, his hymns are didactic and cold. But there is at least one which has held its place anonymously in the service of the Church and 209 upon this his reputation may safely rest. It was translated by Dr. Neale from the imperfect text of a Toledo breviary, and it can be found in Hymns, Ancient and Modern (No. 343), and in Mone (Lat. Hym. des Mittelalters, I., 382). In the Paraclete Breviary it is “xxviii., Ad Vesperas.”

O quanta, qualia sunt illa sabbata,

Quae semper celebrat superna curia!

Quae fessis requies, quae merces fortibus,

Cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus.

Vere Jherusalem illic est civitas

Cujus pax jugis est summa jucunditas,

Ubi non praevenit rem desiderium,

Nec desiderio nimis est praemium.

Quis rex! quae curia! quale palatium!

Quae pax! quae requies! quod illud gaudium!

Hujus participes exponant gloriae

Si, quantum sentiunt, possint exprimere.

Nostrum est interim mentem erigere,

Et totis patriam votis appetere,

Et ad Jherusalem a Babilonia,

Post longa regredi tandem exilia.

Illic, molestiis finitis omnibus,

Securi cantica Syon cantabimus,

Et juges gratias de donis gratiae

Beata referet plebs tibi, Domine.

Illic ex sabbato succedet sabbatum,

Perpes laetitia sabbatizantium,

Nec ineffabiles cessabunt jubili,

Quos decantabimus et nos et angeli.

Oh what shall be, oh when shall be, that holy Sabbath day,

Which heavenly care shall ever keep and celebrate alway;

When rest is found for weary limbs, when labor hath reward,

When everything, forevermore, is joyful in the Lord?

The true Jerusalem above, the holy town, is there,

Whose duties are so full of joy, whose joy so free from care;

Where disappointment cometh not to check the longing heart,

And where the soul in ecstasy hath gained her better part.


O glorious King, O happy state, O palace of the blest!

O sacred peace and holy joy and perfect heavenly rest.

To thee aspire thy citizens in glory’s bright array,

And what they feel and what they know they strive in vain to say.

For while we wait and long for home, it shall be ours to raise

Our songs and chants, and vows and prayers, in that dear country’s praise;

And from these Babylonian streams to lift our weary eyes,

And view the city that we love descending from the skies.

There, there, secure from every ill, in freedom we shall sing

The songs of Zion, hindered here by days of suffering,

And unto thee, our gracious Lord, our praises shall confess

That all our sorrow hath been good, and thou by pain canst bless.

There Sabbath day to Sabbath day sheds on a ceaseless light,

Eternal pleasure of the saints who keep that Sabbath bright;

Nor shall the chant ineffable decline, nor ever cease,

Which we with all the angels sing in that sweet realm of peace.

The rhythm of the Trinity, previously mentioned, is so good that it is usually, and, it may be, correctly, ascribed to Hildebert of Lavardin; and the Planctus Varii have really something more than that “inconsiderable merit” which Archbishop Trench allows to them. They are irregular in form and metre, and their subjects (which evidently reflect their author’s feelings) are: The Wail of Dinah; Jacob’s Lament over Joseph and Benjamin; The Sorrow of the Virgins over Jephthah’s Daughter; The Israelites’ Dirge over Samson; The Grief of David over Abner and his Elegy upon Saul and Jonathan. Abelard also composed a long poem to Astrolabe, giving him plenty of good counsel in fair pentameter, but in rather prosaic phrases. Some of it sounds like Lord Chesterfield’s worldly wisdom, and there are portions of the production which are plainly affected by the soured and saddened spirit of the author. “There is nothing,” he tells the poor, forsaken lad, “better than a good woman, and nothing worse than a bad one,” and, “as in all species of rapacious birds,” the female is the most to be dreaded!

Thus the poems which we possess number one hundred and two all told. But for ordinary readers not more than five—if we exclude the present correct Latin form of the O quanta qualia—are 211 available in the original, and these are scattered through three or four collections. An unkind fate has still pursued these poor relics of the man who took shelter under the broad wing of Peter the Venerable, and who, by having escaped into such sanctuary, has barred out from thenceforth all uncharitable thoughts. It may be added that of Heloise also we have a reputed hymn, Requiescat a labore, but Königsfeld and Daniel both deny the authorship. In this they are doubtless correct.

We may best remember the great controversialist when he is lying dead in his new-found peace and childlikeness. At the request of Heloise, Peter of Cluny delivered up his body to be buried within the walls of the Paraclete, in defiance of any misconstruction or of any sneer. He accompanied the act with the absolution which she asked. It reads thus:

“I, Peter, Abbot of Cluny, who received Peter Abelard as a Cluniac monk, and who have granted his body to be delivered secretly [furtim delatum, wrote the big-hearted bishop] to Heloise, the abbess, and to the nuns of the Paraclete, by the authority of the Omnipotent God and of all saints, do absolve him in virtue of my office from all his sins.” This was to have been engraved upon a metal plate and fastened above the tomb of the dead rhetorician, but for some reason—perhaps connected with the furtim delatum—the plan was never carried out. But the absolution was probably attached to the tomb for a short time in order to make it effective.

“Women,” says Mrs. Browning, “are knights-errant to the last.” For a score of years, Heloise went each evening to that tomb to weep and pray. She remembered and observed nothing of those unpleasant traits which later times have noticed. If she ever cursed any one it must have been Fulbert, or others of the dead man’s enemies, and

“A curse from the depths of womanhood

Is very salt and bitter and good.”

At length, like every watching and every waiting, this, too, came to an end, and she died on May 17th, 1164, precisely at his age of sixty-three years. And they laid her beside him in the same grave, as was meet and right.

But evil fate still flapped a raven wing above the pair. Even in 212 death they have scarcely rested in peace. In 1497 the tomb was opened from religious motives and the bodies were removed and placed in separate vaults. In 1630 the Abbess Marie de Rochefoucauld placed them in the chapel of the Trinity. In 1792 they were again removed to Nogent, near Paris. In 1800, by order of Lucien Bonaparte, they were transferred to the garden of the “Musée des Monumens Français.” This being destroyed in 1815, they were again entombed in Père-la-Chaise. M. Lenoir, keeper of the Museum, had constructed the present Gothic sepulchre out of the ruins of the abbey of the Paraclete, uniting with these an ancient tomb from St. Marcel in which Abelard had at first been laid. Pugin says that this was transferred from the Musée grounds. The monument reared at the Paraclete and ornamented with a figure of the Trinity, perished in 1794 during the confusion of the Revolution. General Pajol, the subsequent owner of the grounds, placed a marble pillar above the stone sarcophagus which yet existed, but the lead coffin had already been taken to Paris. The tomb in Père-la-Chaise has been recently repaired, and there the sentimental of all nations have brought flowers and scrawled names and scribbled verses. Even at the present day a curious collection of wire crosses, immortelles, and visiting-cards can be seen constantly upon it.

The principal inscription was composed by the Academie des Inscriptions in 1766, at the instance of Marie de Roucy de Rochefoucauld, Abbess of the Paraclete, like her namesake of 1497; and it was carved at her cost upon the stone.

Nor is this all. The story of Abelard and Heloise has a literature of its own. We have no authentic portraits, if we except the fine pictures of Robert Léfèbvre engraved by Desnoyers, which rest upon I know not what of possible likeness. But the Englishman, Berington; the Germans, Brucker and Carriere and Fessler and Schlosser and Feuerbach; the Frenchmen, De Rémusat and Cousin and Guizot and Delepierre and Lamartine and Dom Gervaise; the Italian, Tòsti; the Americans, W. W. Newton, Wight, and Abby Sage Richardson, and a host of other authors and essayists and reviewers, have in one form or another told the sad, sweet legend of this love. It has never lacked its audience, and its perpetual charm has been the character of Heloise. Like the fair and unfortunate maid of Astolat, who so pathetically 213 loved Launcelot, it may be said of her devotion that she “gave such attendance upon him, there was never a woman did more kindlyer for man than shee did.” It was a rare exhibition of that precious jewel, an unselfish, loyal, and flawless heart!



It serves to illustrate the meshes which held the highest men of the twelfth century together, when we encounter Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny. His true name was Pierre Maurice de Montboisier and he was from Auvergne—“one of the noblest and most genial natures,” says Morison, “to be met with in this or in any time.” What a fine old man he was! Under him as abbot, Bernard of Cluny was prior, and the loving care of Peter prepared an epitaph for that bravest and sweetest of singers. It was he who bearded the other Bernard in his very den, and who came out of many contests against that almost invincible ecclesiast with more honor than before. Few could say this of a battle with the Abbot of Clairvaux; and to no one but Peter does Morison, the biographer of Bernard, concede any such victory.

It was also this admirable Peter who took Peter Abelard under his protection. With a large and patient generosity he developed the better nature of that headstrong, conceited, unhappy man; and when Abelard died he wrote to Heloise the really warmhearted and tender letter, with a great deal of humanity about it, which I have quoted already. And thus, to whomsoever it may fall to consider the history of France in the twelfth century; or of Abelard and the new philosophy; or of Bernard and ecclesiastical polity; or of the other Bernard and the Latin hymns, it is inevitable that the name of Peter the Venerable shall arise and stand high above the throng of those by which he is surrounded.

His mother’s name was Raingarde, and her death, long after he had attained his wide reputation, was deeply felt by him as that of one of the best of women and dearest of mothers. For Pierre de Montboisier, in those days when the stagnation and corruption of thought and morals were not felt as they were felt later on, was a man as well as a monk. But when, at last, the religious people became monks and not men; when they were stupid, uninteresting, 215 fat-fleshed and gross in life; when they had no courage or piety; then they neither did the world any good nor made their own souls ripe for heaven. And as sportsmen tell us that the mellow “bob-o-link” ceases to sing and is only fit for slaughter when he becomes the “rice bird” of the South, so it was with them. Latin hymnology almost ceases to be interesting after this century. And Peter the Venerable, while he wrote but little himself, is too fine a factor in the arousing of others for us to forget him and his work.

He must have been born in 1092 or 1094—the earlier date being more probable; and when he was sixteen or seventeen (1109) he became a monk of Cluny. These were the “black” monks;—as the Cistercians of Citeaux and Clairvaux were the “white.” He had six brothers, most of whom took similar vows. What else indeed was there to do? You must either hack and hew your way with a battle-axe, and risk your neck and your castle, or you must become a monk. There was no middle course. Peace-loving, studious people—those who aimed to help the world up toward God—had no other choice. Nowadays we should find plenty of room for Peter; but he did what was then best, and entered Cluny.

At thirty years of age he was its abbot. This was in 1122. It happened by reason of Pontius, the former abbot, a self-sufficient and imperious man, being forced to resign his office and go on pilgrimage to Palestine; he even promised not to come back at all. Then the monks of Cluny elected another abbot; and as he died almost immediately, they were compelled to choose a third, namely Peter. But it was in a hard seat that they placed him; he had a mismanaged property, and a body of men who needed a good deal of attention.

Let us picture him to us in the fashion and habit of his appearance. He had a “happy face,” a “majestic figure,” and “plenty of those other unfailing signs of virtues” which justified his name “The Venerable.” It was such a big-hearted, big-bodied style of man who now undertook this reformation. By the help of Matthew, Prior of St. Martin in the Fields, near Paris, he effected it in about three months. Then there was a period of peace. But, all of a sudden, here comes Pontius, with soldiers at his heels, when Peter is absent, wanting his old place 216 again. He bursts in the gates, forces the monks who remain to swear allegiance, carries off crosses and candlesticks and whatever was worth anything for melting down into money, and plays robber-baron over all the neighborhood. Peter himself tells the story: “He came in my absence.... With a motley crowd of soldiers and women rushing in together, he marched into the cloisters. He turned his hand to the sacred things.... He raided the villages and castles around the abbey, and, trying to subdue the religious places in a barbaric way, he wasted with fire and sword all that he could.” It was certainly a very serious matter.

Peter did the best he could with it—this resulting in Honorius II. despatching a legate from Rome with a great curse, ready-baked and smoking-hot, for the soul’s benefit of that “sacrilegious, schismatic, and excommunicate usurper,” Pontius. I have not read the curse; but I am positively certain that Pontius and Pontius Pilate must have been elaborately compared in its sentences. Such anathemas were supposed to dry the blood and wither the brain. Pontius trembled and restored his ill gotten gains and vanished to his own place. And Peter had peace at last.

There had already been a controversy with St. Bernard about Robert, Bernard’s cousin, who liked the cordiality of Cluny a good deal better than the thin-visaged and almost fierce zeal of Clairvaux. For this reason he changed his allegiance. Consequently Bernard wanted him sent home. And by this time he was, according to strict rule, actually restored. However, Clairvaux chuckled very much at the confusion in Cluny; and Bernard was ungenerous enough to take this time, of all others, to publish quite an elaborate and even brilliant disparagement of the Cluniac rule. I shall let this also pass for the present, for it will meet us again, only saying that Peter seems to have gone on wisely about his own business and avoided any reply—a quite unusual proceeding in a controversial age. In 1126 he had taken up again his previous line of administration; and when this “apology” came out in 1127 he was practically meeting its objections in the best manner. As Frederick Maurice says of him, “The Abbot of Cluny would have wished the monk to be rather an example to men of the world of what they might become, than the type of a kind of life which was in opposition to theirs. He feared that a 217 grievously stringent rule would lead ultimately to a terrible laxity.”

In 1130 Pope Honorius died. Pierre de Leon (Peter Leonis), calling himself Anacletus, got himself illegally elected, and seized the control at Rome. Cardinal Gregory of San Angelo, who was the rightful but weaker claimant, assumed the title of Innocent II., and forthwith set out to secure the help of the great abbeys of France. Now Anacletus had been a Cluniac; and Bernard, Peter’s and Cluny’s opponent, favored Innocent. But when Innocent, in 1132, appeared at Cluny, he was hailed as the true and genuine Pope—a piece of magnanimity which he had no right to expect.

And from this time Peter’s allegiance was undoubted; although, like a great many persons in the world, Innocent II. conceded more to the stern will of Bernard than to the generous conduct of the Abbot of Cluny. Indeed, he did but very little in the way of privilege for Peter’s abbey; and he turned nearly all his gifts and favors toward Bernard. This so exalted the Cistercians that Peter protested. It is a blot upon Innocent that such a protest was needed. For Peter had been the first to welcome him, sending him “sixty horses and mules, with everything which could be wanted by a pope in distress.”

Many a man would have wheeled around and left the ingrate. But Peter’s revenge was handsome and characteristic. He summoned a general chapter of his order; and it was held at the time that Innocent, recognized at length, was going away to Rome. There were “two hundred priors and a thousand ecclesiasts,” delegates from France, England, Spain, Germany, and Italy. These cheerfully and promptly agreed to accept a more stringent rule in all their religious houses. And thus Innocent, and his Warwick of a Bernard, could see for themselves the strength and the charity, and the sincere purpose of the man whom they were setting aside. I feel that I must here add the exact words in which Morison, St. Bernard’s best biographer, justifies this estimate of the character of Peter the Venerable. “The relations between Peter and Bernard throughout their lives,” he says (p. 222, note), “give rise to contrasts little favorable to the latter. Peter nearly always is gentle, conciliating, and careful not to give offence, even when as here (in the case of the Bishop of Langres) 218 sorely provoked. Bernard too often made return by hard and even violent language and conduct.”

With such a stately and well-balanced person in our mind’s eye, we cannot be surprised to find that he had plenty of solid pluck, that he was “mild as he was game, and game as he was mild.” In 1134, returning from the Council of Pisa against Anacletus, he and his followers were attacked by robbers. The abbot tucked up his sleeves, and took the sword of the Church militant on the spot. Perhaps he was glad to let his big thews and sinews have full play. At all events he so dashed and smote these ungodly men, that he beat them actually back, and had therefrom considerable glory. I never read that he or his abbey was much meddled with afterward.

About this date his visits to Spain drew his attention to the Koran. He was struck by the religious efficiency of it, and in order to meet it better he prepared for a full translation of it. Peter of Toledo, Hermann of Dalmatia, and an Englishman named Robert Kennet, or perhaps (says the Histoire Litteraire) de Retines, were selected for this duty. To them were added an Arab scholar and Peter of Poitiers, the abbot’s favorite private secretary. They were to render the Koran into Latin directly; and at it they went, accomplishing their task between 1141 and 1144, at the time of an epidemic in the monastery. Then Peter himself joined with them in a refutation of its errors—albeit his Latinity was not first-rate, being rather that of a man of affairs than of a student. There was another Latin refutation of the Koran by Brother Richard, a Dominican who lived in the thirteenth and into the fourteenth century. Luther translated that into German in 1542.

What a warm-blooded, good, hearty fellow Peter must have been! He had only found three hundred monks at Cluny in 1122; but Hugo of Cluny, his successor, was entitled to take rule, there and elsewhere, over ten thousand. Mount Tabor, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and Constantinople were among the places where the “black” monks were well established. And a large share of this was due to the sagacity and statesmanship of Peter. In proof of this fine humanity, take his behavior to Abelard. The full story comes properly in another place; for Abelard himself was a writer of hymns, and worthy of more than transient reference. But when poor Abelard was repudiated, disgraced, shamefully 219 mutilated, and nearly at despair’s edge, wearied out with St. Gildas and his refractory monks, and finally defeated by the purer and higher logic of Bernard, then, indeed, do we see Peter of Cluny at his best. He received the disappointed and broken man with “the welcome of an unutterably guileless and sympathetic heart.” Cluny’s gates opened wide to take him in. Cluny’s genial, restful spirit closed in about his own like the feathers of the mother bird around her callow, shivering brood.

And when he dies, it is Cluny’s abbot who details with the loving particularity, which would most help the sore heart of Heloise, all his last doings. He speaks even to the kinship of every age when, after this long and tender letter, whose Latin glows with a deep fervency, he closes in this wise: “May God, in your stead, comfort him in his bosom; comfort him as another you; and guard him till through grace he is restored to you at the coming of the Lord, with the shout of the archangel and the trump of God descending from the heavens.”

It is time that we speak of his writings, of which a full edition was published at Paris in 1522, one of the Cluniac monks being its compiler. Frequently, during the next two hundred years, they are republished in whole or in part. They are thus by no means inaccessible, though their merit is not so great. One of the important works is directed against the Jews, for whom he had a most pious dislike. Others are in the nature of epistles or of controversial replies, valuable only for their time and their spirit.

Of his verse, however, we have left us but about fourteen specimens. One of these is against the detractors of the poetry of Peter of Poitiers, who were nearer right than he supposed them to be. Another is a rhymed epistle to a certain Raimond, of some sixty-four lines. Then we have a “prose,” the word being cognate to prosody, in honor of Jesus Christ. Its structure, except for the additional short syllable, is identical with the “leonine and tailed rhyme” of Bernard of Morlaix, his prior:

“A patre mittitur, in terris nascitur, Deus de virgine

Humana patitur, docet et moritur, libens pro homine.”

It celebrates Him, sent from the Father, born on the earth, God from a virgin, wearing our mortal shape, teaching and tarrying 220 with us, and atoning for our sins. The best, perhaps, of all his poems is what Trench and March quote:

“Mortis portis fractis, fortis

Fortior vim sustulit,”—

the real original of those splendid lines:

“Now broken are the bars of Death,

And crushed thy sting, Despair!”—

which we find in Bishop Heber’s resurrection hymn, commencing, “God is gone up with a merry noise.” There is a life to these verses which one must understand their author in order to appreciate. They follow, in the best attire that I can give them. They are exultant rather than illustrious. It is the man and not his measures whom we celebrate! Daniel does not think it worth his while to include him at all. Archbishop Trench takes his own text from the Bibliotheca Cluniacense, Paris, 1614:


The gates of death are broken through,

The strength of hell is tamed,

And by the holy cross anew

Its cruel king is shamed.

A clearer light has spread its ray

Across the land of gloom

When he who made the primal day

Restores it from the tomb.

For so the true Creator died

That sinners might not die,

And so he has been crucified

That we might rise on high.

For Satan then was beaten back

Where he, our Victor stood;

And that to him was deathly black

Which was our vital good.

For Satan, capturing, is caught,

And as he strikes he dies.

Thus calmly and with mighty thought

The King defeats his lies,

Arising whence he had been brought,

At once, to seek the skies.


Thus God ascended, and returned

Again to visit man;

For having made him first, he yearned

To carry out his plan.

To that lost realm our Saviour flew,

The earliest pioneer,

To people Paradise anew

And give our souls good cheer.

Peter the Venerable died on December 25th, 1156; but how or with what surroundings we are not told. He was buried beside his old comrade, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, within the walls of the church which Innocent II. consecrated upon his memorable visit to Cluny. And the Histoire Litteraire breaks out into an unusual eulogy; and declares that in his case the title of “Venerable” was no less honorable than that of “Saint.” They did not make “saints” out of such men as Peter—and I don’t quite see why they should. There was too much flesh-and-blood reality about him, too little of musty theology and altogether too little bigotry. But somehow the broad-faced happy sun proves himself to be the “greater light;” while the moon goes palely on, a ghost in an unaccustomed sky.



In the twelfth century—the time of the great Crusades—we find the noblest and purest of Latin hymns. It is the age of Hildebert, Abelard, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter of Cluny, and Adam of St. Victor. But among them all I find no one who has inspired a deeper and more lovely desire for the heavenly land than Bernard of Cluny.

The information about him is very meagre. He was born at Morlaix in Brittany, of English parents. He seems to have attained to no ecclesiastical dignity—such men seldom care for baubles and trinkets. But his is as true a soul as ever burned like a star on a summer night, against the warm, obscure, palpitating heaven of eternal hope. The date of his prominence is fixed by the fact that Peter the Venerable was his abbot, and it is therefore included between 1122 and 1156. I have (in The Heavenly Land) myself assigned the Laus Patriae Coelestis—his famous and only poem, which is addressed to Abbot Peter, to 1145 or thereabouts.

His single up-gush of melody is a lamentation over the evil condition of the times in which he lives. They were indeed days to sadden the soul of the saint; and he called his poem De Contemptu Mundi; for he despised the immundus mundus—the foul world in which he was forced to remain. It consists of some three thousand lines of dactylic hexameter, and was first published (so says Trench, who is its step-parent) by Matthias Flacius Illyricus in his scarce and little known supplement to the Catalogus Testium Veritatis. In this “Catalogue of Witnesses to the Truth” he gathers all those who have testified against the papacy, and the supplement, Varia doctorum piorumque Virorum de Corrupto Ecclesiae Statu Poemata (1556), is made up of hymns and poems in which the pious within the Church, as well as without her walls, sorrowed over her corruption.


Bernard’s poem is sometimes known, therefore, by his own title, De Contemptu Mundi, and sometimes by that given by Trench to his cento of about one hundred lines, Laus Patriae Coelestis, the “Praise of the Heavenly Land.” From this cento one would derive altogether an erroneous idea of the whole; but Dr. Neale, who wrote with the full text before him, although he paraphrased but part of it, tells us that the poem, in great part, is a bitter satire on the fearful wickedness of the times. It was the part Trench passed by for which Matthias Flacius Illyricus, its first editor, cared the most. The sins and greediness of the Court of Rome are the theme of the eighty-five lines he has embodied in the text of the Catalogus itself. By both that and the poems of his supplement, he sought to justify the Protestant Reformation on the side of Christian discipline and morals.[10]


The translators have had a hard problem in Bernard’s poem, and but few have attempted to “bend the bow of Ulysses.” Dr. Neale has achieved the most popular and useful result, in the version from which “Jerusalem the Golden” has been extracted, but he does not pretend to literalness. “My own translation,” he says, “is so free as to be little more than an imitation.” Dr. Coles has gone straight away from the dactyls and made a version in anapests—a metre which does not do justice to Bernard. Archbishop Trench has rendered a few lines in the same measure as the original. I have myself followed (in 1867) the exact metre and rhyme of the original poem; but such a version is rather curious than useful. The translation signed by “O. A. M., Cherry Valley,” is in its typography, while fine and clear, affectedly antique. The metrical power of this version is inferior. It is dactylic but not fluent, and does not at all represent the original. That by Mr. Gerard Moultrie is praised by Dr. Trench as metrically close and poetically beautiful. I have no hesitation in saying it is the best version which has appeared in English. It seems to keep both to the spirit and the letter of the original, and is in all respects a remarkable achievement. It, however, omits the double rhyme, and thus avoids the chief difficulty of a reproduction of the form of the original. That by Rev. Jackson Mason (1880) will not stand a comparison with Mr. Moultrie’s, as it halts and breaks in its measure and produces an effect on the ear far from pleasant.

The difficulty of translation is due entirely to the character of the verse. Bernard himself declares “unless that spirit of wisdom and understanding had been with me, and flowed in upon so difficult a metre, I could not have composed so long a work.” Not that this form of verse was original with him. Peter Damiani has used it in one of his hymns to our Lord’s mother:

“O miseratrix, O dominatrix, praecipe dictu

Ne devastemur, ne lapidemur, grandinis ictu.”

And, to go farther back still, a certain Theodulus, who lived in the reign of the Emperor Zeno (474-91) wrote a poem of nine hundred lines on Bernard’s own theme, De Contemptu Mundi, in the same metre:

“Pauper amabalis et venerabilis est benedictus

Dives inutilis insatiabilis, est maledictus.


Qui bona negligit et mala diligit intrat abyssum;

Nulla pecunia, nulla potentia liberat ipsum.”

A glance will show the nature of this trouble which the patient Bernard encountered. Take the two lines:

“Hora novíssima, tempora péssima sunt, vigilémus!

Ecce minaciter, imminet árbiter, ille suprémus.”

That is:

“These are the látter times,

These are not bétter times,

Let us stand waiting!

Lo, how with áwfulness,

He, first in láwfulness,

Comes, arbitrating!

Of course it is infinitely harder to the translator who is restricted, than to the composer who can eddy around his subject—led by the rhyme as much and as freely as he will. And this is what Bernard always does. His verses are ejaculations, desires, lamentations, longings—measured out by the “leonine hexameter” which he employs. To show the beauty still untranslated, as well as to exhibit more of the structure of the poem, I append four of these lines:

“Pax ibi florida, pascua vivida, viva medulla,

Nulla molestia, nulla tragoedia, lacryma nulla.

O sacra potio, sacra refectio, pax animarum

O pius, O bonus, O placidus sonus, hymnus earum.”

Thus Englished, closely:

“Peace is there flourishing,

Pasture-land nourishing,

Fruitful forever.

There is no aching breast,

There is no breaking rest,

Tears are seen never.

O sacred draught of bliss!

Peace, like a waft of bliss!

Sustenance holy!

O dear and best of sounds,

Heard in the rest of sounds,

Hymned by the lowly!”


Or thus, less closely and more according to the spirit of the poem:

“Peace doth abide in thee;

None hath denied to thee

Fruitage undying.

Thou hast no weariness;

Naught of uncheeriness

Moves thee to sighing.

Draught of the stream of life,

Joy of the dream of life,

Peace of the spirit!

Sacred and holy hymns,

Placid and lowly hymns,

Thou dost inherit!”

So strange and subtle is the charm of this marvellous poem, with its abrupt and startling rhythm, that it affects me even yet, though I have but swept my fingers lightly over a single chord. I seem to myself to have again taken into my hand the old familiar harp, whose strings I have often struck in times of darkness or of depression of soul, and to be tuning it once more to the heavenly harmony which the old monk tried to catch. Perhaps some day, when the clouds are removed, I shall see him, and understand even better than now the glory that lit his lonely cell, and made him feel that

“Earth looks so little and so low

When faith shines full and bright.”



The school of St. Victor, in Paris, was founded by William of Champeaux, the teacher and rival of Abelard, at the commencement of the twelfth century. It is known to history as having been the abode of three distinguished scholars, Hugo, Richard, and Adam. Hugo and Richard of St. Victor were mystics, and Vaughan, in Hours with the Mystics, has set them before us. From this and other sources, we grow more and more amazed to find the immense influence of such a school. A century from its foundation showed St. Victor to be the parent of thirty abbeys and of more than eighty priories. Here in these cells, like bees in a hive, the busy monks were laying up the only honey of the Dark Ages—multiplying manuscripts, delving into remote philosophies, muddling their brains over abstruse questions, but now and then leaving behind them something to benefit mankind. Theology and dialectics were their great and indeed their only pursuits. Like the swirls of a sluggish stream beneath its banks, they occasionally caught and kept fresh some broken flower from the shore. Thus, one may, for example’s sake, put a certain pretty idea of Hugo of St. Victor into modern verse:

“Hugo, St. Victor’s prior—a man

Gentle and sweet, contemplative and wise,

Makes mention in his fine and mystic plan

Of three great steps by which our spirits rise:

First, Cogitation—when we turned our eyes;

Then, Meditation—when our minds began

With hovering wing the kindled thought to scan;

Last, Contemplation—which all doubt defies.

Yea, and he saith that, in the greenest wood

Of stubborn souls, this glory kindleth so

That the pure flame against the sap will glow

And be by nothing finally withstood—

The smoke itself be parted to and fro,

Until clear light shall shine in constant good.”


Richard was the disciple and successor of this gentle-spirited Hugo. In 1114 the priory became an abbacy, and when Richard was prior in 1162, he had for abbot no very godly person, since under Ervisius all discipline was relaxed, and scandal and sensuality began to rule. But Richard stood out stoutly and with good judgment; and he lived to see the old harmony and glory return again. In his day and in that of Adam, which was contemporaneous with his, the school represented the dialectical and theologic, rather than the spiritual and mystical side of religion; and yet it did good work, as a peacemaker, for the truth. It gives us little enough, however, with which to fall in love. Massive it may be, and intricate in its curious ability respecting useless pieces of chop-logic, but the profound piety which belongs to every age and clime did not find much to comfort it at St. Victor. These men dug shafts and tunnels, they did not open foundations and sink wells down to living streams.

Adam of St. Victor, as I have said, lived in those days, and they produced their natural effect upon his mind and upon his writings. He died somewhere between 1172 and 1192; and while he was celebrated as the expositor of St. Jerome’s prefaces to the books of the Bible, and was known as the composer of “sequences, rhythms, and other writings,” his fame rests upon his modern rediscovery by Monsieur Gautier. The history of the preservation of his hymns is itself a suggestive commentary on the difficulties of Latin hymnology, and so I give it entire.

Clichtove, a Flemish theologian of the period between 1500 and 1550, undertook to help his brethren to comprehend the offices of the Church. His Elucidatorium Ecclesiasticum was first published in Paris in 1515, and then at Basle in 1517 and 1519. There were four subsequent editions—that of Paris (1556) being the best, and that of Cologne (1732) being the latest. Now this book was the great mine for Latin hymns before Daniel, Trench, Mone, Königsfeld, March, and others made them accessible. And of Adam of St. Victor he gives thirty-six specimens, which were supposed to be all that had remained, with one or two possible exceptions.

In 1855 J. P. Migne published in his Patrologiae Cursus, in volume 196, these thirty-six hymns of Adam of St. Victor. Archbishop Trench, who is such an admirer of our poet, has doubtless 229 been indebted to the many helpful Latin notes, with which the excellent editor of the Patrologia has enriched the obscurity of his author. At least so it seems to a person who compares Trench’s own notes with that Latin.

Monsieur Gautier, however, determined to look further, the result being that he published the Oeuvres Poetiques d’ Adam de St. Victor in 1858 at Paris. This gives us one hundred and six hymns—of which Trench says that some of them were well known but anonymous; and others are strictly new, and fully equal to his best compositions. From this source, then, the two great admirers of Adam of St. Victor—Archbishop Trench and Dr. Neale—have drawn their originals.

I am not surprised that theologians should enjoy such a poet as Adam. He is so terse, so dialectically subtle, so metaphysically accurate, so allegorically copious. In a line he often makes a reference which his editor struggles to catch in a foot-note a page long. And you must comprehend the reference in order to comprehend the poem! As I read the eulogy of Trench, I find him saying that when we remember Adam of St. Victor’s theologic lore, his frequent and admirable use of Scripture, his art and variety in versification, his “skill in conducting a story,” and his own personal feeling which permeates his poems, we must put him “foremost among the sacred Latin poets of the Middle Ages.” Dr. Neale, too, calls him “the greatest of mediaeval poets.” And so, “what shall he do that cometh after the King?” For, in spite of this mighty commendation, and in spite of the praise which these didactic hymns have obtained, we cannot and do not sing any of them. Even Dr. Neale cannot make them singable, though he would probably do it if he could.

I must confess—and take the risk of being charged with stupidity and ignorance—that I cannot place Adam of St. Victor where they have set him. Southey’s ballads and poems are legion, as we know, and they are learned beyond all cavilling; but they will not live like the two or three little things of Motherwell. And Adam’s vast congeries of sequences, composed for all the saints and festivals of the calendar, cannot stand an instant against the sweetness of Bernard of Clairvaux, or the grandeur of Peter Damiani’s judgment hymn. These others, it is true, wrote less, but they wrote subjectively, and hence they appealed to the heart of the Christian 230 in every age. For verse alone, however skilful, is not poetry; and the celebration of saints and angels, however beautifully accomplished, ministers nothing to “a mind diseased.” We need to feel a genius which kindles its watch-fire in the line of signal—as did Helena’s watchers between Jerusalem and Constantinople. Then, as this flame flares up into the night, we know that it speaks to us of the discovery of the true cross.

I am thus compelled to dissent from the cultus which has grown up about this brilliant, epigrammatic, and altogether admirable Adam. For he attracts by his obscurity and he surprises by his intricacy; and the interest excited is that of the scholar and of the translator, rather than that of the popular approval of the Christians of to-day. And I am glad to support this opinion, not merely by the rather caustic comment of Professor March, but by the word of Mrs. Charles, where she speaks of “his elaborate system of Scriptural types occasionally chilling the genuine fire of his verse into a catalogue of images.” And I must add, for my own justification, that this “fire” is the fire of the orator, and not altogether that of the poet. It is objective and not subjective; for though there be two kinds of poetry in the world, we cannot doubt which kind it is that “permanently pleases and takes commonly with all classes of men”—for this was Aristotle’s unequalled definition.

It is time that we should take a glance at this laureate of St. Victor, whose monumental plate of copper remained, down to the date of the first Revolution, near the door of the choir in that ancient cloister. The epitaph upon it was mainly drawn from his own work. It breathes the same contempt of earth and derision of its vanities, which we find so common in that age.

“Vana salus hominis, vanus decor, omnia vana;

Inter vana nihil vanius est homine.”

“Vain is the welfare of man and his fashion, for all things are vanity;

And, in the midst of vanity, nothing is vainer than man.”

It was a later hand than his own which, after selecting those ten lines from Adam’s own writings, added four very inferior verses to complete the inscription. These state that:

“I who lie here, the unfortunate and wretched (miser et miserabilis) Adam, ask one prayer as my highest reward: I have sinned; I confess; 231 I seek pardon; spare the contrite. Spare me, father; spare me, brethren; spare me, God.”

He was born in Brittany, to the best of our information. He studied in Paris, and finally entered the walls of St. Victor, never to leave it. It is a very brief record, but it illustrates the monotony and dead sameness of that mediaeval monastic life. The Dark Ages were mud-flats, from which the tide had gone out. And yet I think that Adam of St. Victor had another side to him, which Trench and Neale might well have developed—a power of livelier rhythm than is often suspected. The little stranded fish perchance gambolled a trifle in its small sea-water pool.

The poem which I quote is found in Migne and Gautier. It differs from another sequence upon a similar theme—one which Dr. Neale has translated. It is “The Praise of the Cross.”

This poem, it will be seen, is abrupt, irregular, and altogether inferior, in some features, to the usually finished and elegant diction of its author. For this very reason I have selected it; it exhibits Adam of St. Victor when he dashes off the stanzas without revision, fired by the glow of his theme. Only on this account do I render it, trying merely to carry its dash and spirit into the English version.

Salve, Crux, arbor

Vitae praeclara.

Vexillum Christi,

Thronus et ara.

O Crux, profanis

Terror et ruina,

Tu Christianis

Virtus es divina

Salus et victoria.

Tu properantis

Contra Maxentium

Tu praeliantis

Juxta Danubium

Constantini gloria.

Favens Heraclio

Perdis cum filio

Chosroe profanum.

In hoc salutari

Ligno gloriari

Decet Christianum.

Crucis longum, latum,

Sublimè, profundum,

Sanctis propalatum

Quadrum salvat mundum

Sub quadri figura

Medicina vera.

Christus in statera

Crucis est distractus,

Pretiumque factus,

Solvit mortis jura.

Crux est nostrae

Libra justitiae

Sceptrum regis,

Virga potentiae.

Crux, coelestis

Signum victoriae.

Belli robur

Et palma gloriae.

Tu scala, tu vatis

Tu crux desperatis

Tabula suprema.

Tu de membris Christi

Decorem traxisti

Regum diadema.

Ter te nobis Crux beata

Crux, cruore consecrata

Sempiterna gaudia

Det superna gratia.



Hail, thou Cross, splendid

Tree, of life’s own place;

Christ’s very standard,

Altar and throne-place.

Thou to the heathen

Ruin and terror;

Thou to the Christian

Bringing joy nearer—

Health and success!

Thou when Maxentius

Swiftly defied—

Thou when the Danube

Flowed at his side—

Gavest to Constantine

Glory no less!

Yea, and Heraclius’

Fight thou hast won

When the proud Chosroes

Fell, with his son.

So should a Christian tongue

Boast of the worth

Of this most wonderful

Tree of the earth.

This the true medicine

Of the whole land

Four-square and perfect

As it shall stand;

Four-square in breadth and height,

Depth and length, ever;

Shown to the saints of God,

Cure for life’s fever.

Christ in such balances,

Poised on the cross,

Maketh death lightest,

Saveth from loss!

Yea, the cross truly—

Justest of scales!—

For a king’s sceptre

And priest’s rod avails.

Cross thou art surely

Our heavenly sign,

Strength of our battle

And guerdon divine.

Ladder and life-raft

And plank on the wave—

Those that are drowning,

O cross, thou canst save!

Thou that hast carried

The Saviour of men,

Hadst the best honor

Of royalty, then.

Blessed cross, may there be given,

Through that blood, our way to heaven—

Unto us eternal place

Unto us celestial grace!

Adam’s peculiarities are very marked in this production. He alludes, as you perceive, to the Cross in the air which Constantine took as his sign in which to conquer. He refers to Chosroes, King of Persia, who, after great successes and the conquest of Jerusalem itself, was finally overcome by Heraclius, the Eastern Emperor, about 622-29 A.D.; and he also drags in a piece of mystical imagery about the “four-squareness” of the earth, which is hard enough to understand without a key. The key is one with many wards. It includes the “breadth, depth, length, and height” of the love of Christ; it suggests the appearance of the heavenly city of John’s vision; it reminds us of the temple in Ezekiel’s prophecy, and of the account of the actual structure in 1 Kings; it recalls the classical geographers’ notions about the shape of the earth and about the “four quarters,” which we still call east, west, north, south; it finally symbolizes all these things by the four arms of the Cross! Is it any wonder that Adam of St. Victor is a difficult poet to translate, and that his verses are not fitted to be sung?


Yet it must not be forgotten that the Heri mundus exultavit (St. Stephen’s Day) and the Veni, Creator Spiritus, Spiritus Recreator, are both his. Nor must it escape notice that Dr. Neale’s Mediaeval Hymns contains eleven versions of Adam of St. Victor; while Dr. Washburn, Chancellor Benedict, and other translators have quite made the old schoolman’s “sequences” and “proses” familiar to the most careless eye. Recently also we have the three volumes of Mr. Digby S. Wrangham (London, 1881) in which our poet is translated entire, the Latin and English being placed upon opposite pages. He has attained such an eminence as Drummond of Hawthornden, who has come back to us because he knew Ben Jonson and had kept and stratified the spirit of his age.

To me the man is always fascinating, always suggestive. He appears to challenge the best that we moderns can do. His very terseness is a defiance. And here, in this strange symmetry, I fancy that I see the alertness and skill of that wise insect which takes hold with her hands in kings’ palaces. The web of this precise and unvarying artisan often sparkles with the morning dew of a pure devotion. The lines and stays and braces and fashioning of these illustrious verses are as accurate as the spider’s spinning. I look up toward the light and, yonder, upon some Corinthian capital of the song of songs—or over there in a corner of the gate called Beautiful through which Ezekiel walks—or again, high amid the wisdom of that Solomon’s Porch of the Apocalypse where stands the serene John—there I see how Adam of St. Victor has stretched his web. And if, now and then, some dead fly of an obscure allusion, or some desiccated bit of monasticism, offends the sight, I strive to think only of the art that has spread the fabric—and God’s glorious sunshine brightens, upon His own temple, His little creature’s toil!


He, the Word of God, the fated

Son, unmade and uncreated

Came from heaven to be with men.

John beheld him, touched him truly,

Brought him in this gospel newly

Back to dwell with us again.


Where those early streams were flowing,

Purely from pure fountains going,

John breaks forth in fuller tides,

Pouring for the thirsty nations

Those life-giving, sweet libations

Which the throne of God provides.

Heaven he trod, wherein the golden

Sun of truth by him beholden

Filled his soul’s most secret space.

Dreaming, with his spirit lifted

To the seraphim, whose shifted

Wings revealed God’s very face.

There he heard in circle seated

Harpers harp their oft-repeated

Praise, with elders near the throne:

By the seal of Godhead placing

On our very speech the tracing

Of the thoughts of God alone.

As an eagle, unmolested

Where each seer and prophet rested,

Far he flies above them all:

Never yet was mortal smitten

By such secret truths unwritten,

Truths which never fail or fall.

There the King, in vesture splendid

Seen, but yet uncomprehended,

Passes to his palace gate;

To his bride, from his dominion,

He has sent on eagle’s pinion

Tidings of that mystic state.

Speak thou then her bridegroom’s splendor,

Tell of rest most deep and tender,

Bear thy message to the bride.

Tell what angels’ food resembles,

At what feasts all heaven assembles,

Where their King shall still abide.

Tell again what bread is given,

Purchased by that side once riven—

Christ’s own bread, himself alone.

How that company upraises

To the Lamb its lofty praises,

When we sing before the throne.



Single in essential place,

But of sevenfold power and grace,

May the Spirit shine on us:

May the light divinely shown

For all gloom of heart atone,

And temptations perilous.

Law in symbols went before us,

Dark with threats of judgment o’er us,

Ere we saw the gospel rays:

May the spirit of the sages

Hidden in their lettered pages

Venture forth in open ways!

Law, men heard from mountain peaks;

Unto few the New Grace speaks

Softly, in a room above:

Thus the spot itself is teaching

Which are best within our reaching—

Works of law or words of love.

Flame and trumpet sounding loud

Thunder through the smoky shroud:

Sudden-flashing lightnings—those

Strike a terror to the soul;

Nourishing no sweet control

Which the Spirit’s gift bestows.

Thus the sundered

Sinai thundered,

Fixing law and guilty man.

Law most fearful

And uncheerful,

Crushing sin by rigid plan.

But the fathers long selected,

And to power divine directed

How they loose the bonds of sin!

Words refreshing, threats astounding

Through new tongues in concord sounding

Thus their miracles begin.

Showing care for them that languish,

Sparing man they spare not anguish

In pursuit of evil things.


Smiting sinners, and reminding,

Only loosing, only binding

By the power which freedom brings.

Type of Jubilee returning

Is that day (if thou art learning

Mysteries of holy time)

On the which three thousand hearing,

Came in faith, no longer fearing,

And the Church sprang up sublime.

Jubilee, for so they knew it,

Who were changed and succored through it,

Since it freely called unto it

Debts and doubts, and set them right.

May the loving kindness spoken

Unto us distressed and broken,

Give release, and as a token

Make us worthy of the light.


Purge away the ancient leaven,

Let a paschal joy be given,

For our Lord is risen again.

This the day of better vision,

This the day of vast decision,

By the Word of God to men.

This despoiled Egyptian spoilers,

This set free the Hebrew toilers

From the bonds in which they lay,

Where, in iron furnace fastened,

Tyrants all their labor hastened

In cement and straw and clay.

Now in praise of holy living,

Holy triumph, godlike giving,

Let the free voice sound its strain.

This the day the Lord created,

This our grief has terminated,

Comfort bringing to our pain.

Things to come let law betoken,

Christ shows promises unbroken,

Still appearing all in all.


Through his blood the sword though awful

Blunted droops—our way is lawful,

And the prohibitions fall.

He who gave us cause of laughter,

(Since the rescue followed after)

Glad of heart is Isaac still;

Joseph from the pit is lifted,

As from death our Lord, through rifted

Clouds that veiled the heavenly will.

Thus that serpent-rod, surprising

Malice in its worst devising,

Swallowed all the other rods.

Thus the brazen serpent vying

With the poison, when the dying

Trusted God instead of gods.

Through the jaw, with hook and cable

Christ to seize the foe is able;

On the cockatrice’s den

He, the weanèd child, is sitting,

While afar in fear is flitting

That old enemy of men.

They who laughed at good Elias

Feel the cursing of the pious

Struck by vengeance undeferred;

While King David feigning madness,

And the goat that bears our sadness

Flee as does the sacred bird.

Samson with a jawbone merely

Slays a thousand foes, and clearly

Spurns alliance to their name.

Samson breaking Gaza’s portal,

Bears it off, as life immortal

Bursts the gate of deathly shame.

Thus does Judah’s Lion ever

Burst the bonds that none may sever,

When the third day glimmers on;

At his Father’s voice awaking,

To the Church’s bosom taking

Many a dear and ransomed son.


Jonah stayed when he was flying—

This true Jonah signifying—

Marks a day when safe, through dying,

Christ from depth of earth arose.

Now the cypress blossom brightens,

Now the cluster spreads and heightens,

Now the churchly lily whitens,

Waving over Jewish foes.

Death and life together striving

Hinder not the Christ reviving,

And with him are saints deriving

Resurrection through his blood.

Morning new and full of gladness,

How it cheers our every sadness;

God hath conquered Satan’s madness

In this time of joy and good!

Jesus, victor, who hast given

Life; our Only Way to heaven;

Who by death our death hast shriven,

Bid us to thy feast, nay, even

Grant us faith with which to come.

Living bread, fount unabated,

Vine of truth, with fruit unsated,

Feed thou us thy new-created,

That from death reanimated

By thy grace we gain our home!


(Translated by Dr. A. R. Thompson.)

With abounding joy applauding,

Now, the men our songs are lauding,

Who rung out the gospel sound.

Like the sun’s outstreaming glory

Chasing night away, their story

Carries life the world around.

For his flock the Shepherd careth,

And his law for them prepareth,

In a fourfold gift of love.

All the world shall know the healing

Of his law of life, revealing

Strength and beauty from above.


Toward the truth, complete in splendor,

Each a service has to render,

Given to him specially.

This is shown from forms created,

As it were anticipated

In a vivid prophecy.

Piercing through the clouds low lying,

John, upon an eagle flying,

Looks the very sun upon.

Rising to the height of heaven,

In the Father’s bosom even,

He beholds the Eternal One.

Face and form of man betoken

Matthew, for by him are spoken

Words, which tell that to our race

God himself has now descended,

And the God and Man, now blended,

Takes in David’s line his place.

Ox with open mouth, assigns he

Unto Luke, by him designs he

Christ a Victim to display.

Cross for altar he receiveth,

There our peace his death achieveth,

Olden rites have passed away.

Face of rugged, roused up lion

Is for Mark—’tis his to cry on

With an all-pervading sound,

Of the Christ, raised up victorious

By the Father’s power all-glorious,

With immortal splendor crowned.

In this fourfold way of wonder

To the world God cometh; under

Vestments such the ark is borne.

Forth from paradise are flowing

These new streams of mercy, going

To refresh the world forlorn.

Never will the house fall, surely,

Built on fourfold wall securely,

Thus the house of God doth rest.

In this house, oh wondrous story!

Dwells the Blessed in his glory,

God with man in union blessed.



Hymnologists have their favorites among the sacred singers of the Middle Ages, but all concede the first place to the poet who gave the world the Dies Irae, the great sequence or “prose” sung in the service for the dead of the Latin Church. It has attracted more attention than any other single hymn. Whole books have been written about it. It is indissolubly associated in the history of music with Mozart’s wonderful “Requiem,” and in that of literature with the concluding scenes of the first part of “Faust.” More translations have been made of it than of any other poem in the Latin language, or perhaps in any language. All Christendom rejoices in it as a common treasure, the gift of God through a devout Italian monk of the thirteenth century.

It was in an age full of vitality that this “hymn of the giants” was written—the most interesting century in the history of Christendom, Matthew Arnold says. In all directions we encounter the play or collision of great forces. The Papacy, the Empire, the Crusades, the Mendicant Orders, and even, in its way, the Inquisition, give evidence of the working of a spirit of energy and movement, which places the century in sharp contrast to the less explicit development which had preceded, and the age of comparative exhaustion which followed. Nowhere was this more visible than in the characters of the great Churchmen of the thirteenth century. Popes like Innocent III. and Gregory IX., founders of orders like Dominic and Francis, theologians like Aquinas and Bonaventura, may excite our admiration or our censure, but they are men of such magnitude as are not to be found in other centuries in the same number. They were live men, and they have made a lasting impression upon the world by the force of their vitality.

Two of these, Aquinas and Bonaventura, we shall meet again as hymn-writers. But first we have to deal with one whose chief 241 claim to recollection is a single great hymn. Thomas of Celano was an Italian at a time when Italy was stirred by the great battle of Pope with Emperor into an intellectual life, which was to culminate in Dante at the close of the century. Exactly in its last year the writing of the Divina Commedia was to begin. The troubles of his time must have come very close to Thomas. His native city of Celano, a town of the old Marsians, was one of the first to suffer under the hand of Frederick II. In 1223 it was forced to capitulate by the Count of Acerra, Thomas of Aquinas, the warlike uncle and namesake of the great theologian. The inhabitants were compelled to leave their houses, taking all their movables, and the place was burned to the ground, only the church of St John being left standing among the ruins. The people, to punish their disloyalty to the Emperor, were transported to Sicily, Malta, and Calabria, whence they returned to rebuild their town after their enemy’s death. How old Thomas was at the time of this calamity, and whether it had anything to do with his becoming a monk of the Order of Francis of Assisi, we do not know. But certainly it is not impossible that the spectacle of this dies irae, when the sanctities of his boyhood’s home were left desolate, or even the news of its occurrence in his absence, may have left a permanent impression upon his mind, and may have suggested more or less directly his great hymn.

Celano lay in the northern end of the Kingdom of Naples, as it was afterward called, across the Apennines from Rome and slightly north of it. It was not far from the northern boundary of Frederick’s hereditary dominions, across which lay the Umbrian region, where Assisi is situated. At some time and in some way Thomas made his way to Assisi, and came under the influence of the wonderful man whose personality has made the mountain town a place of pilgrimage even for those who are not of the Latin communion.

Francis of Assisi is one of the strangest, if also one of the most beautiful figures in the history of Christendom. Protestants vie with Catholics, Karl Hase and Margaret Oliphant with Frederic Ozanam and Joseph Goerres, in depicting this devout and childlike spirit, who took poverty for his bride and set himself to realize in the utmost literalness the command to go forth to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, taking neither scrip nor purse, 242 and possessing no more than the absolute necessaries of human existence. At first he had no thought of founding an order, but only of helping the poor and the suffering for Christ’s sweet sake. But the divine fire of loving humility and childlike simplicity in the man drew others inevitably to his side, until there arose in his mind the sense of a great vocation to gather men into a new form of brotherhood. “Fear not,” he said to his earliest disciples, “in that ye seem few and simple-minded. Preach repentance to the world, trusting in Him who hath overcome the world, that His Spirit speaks through you. You will find some to receive you and your word with joy, if still more to resist and mock you. Bear all that with patience and meekness. Take no heed for your simplicity or mine. In a short time the wise and the noble will come to preach with you before princes and people, and many will be turned to the Lord. He has shown it to me, and in mine ears there is a sound of the multitude of disciples who are to come to us out of every people. The French are on the way; the Spaniards are hurrying; the Germans and English run; and a multitude of other tongues hasten hither.” So Thomas of Celano records his words in his biography of the saint, which is the freest from exaggerations and the most trustworthy of them all.

As Thomas survived Francis some thirty years, there is no reason to regard him as one of the group of the first disciples who began to gather around the founder as early as 1209. He is not named among “the twelve apostles” who came first. But the relation between the two men seems to have been more than usually close and intimate. Perhaps it was the more so as being founded on contrasts rather than on resemblances in their characters. For Francis was distinguished from other teachers of his age by the bright and cheerful views he entertained of God and His love to mankind. This was the theme of his sayings and his songs; this he preached to the poor when they streamed out of the Italian cities to welcome him as one who brought comfort and joy to the downcast. They emphasized their sense of the difference between him and the ordinary preachers by saying, “He hears those whom even God will not hear!” Thomas, on the other hand, seems to have been constitutionally predisposed to look at the darker side of things, to sing of judgment rather than of mercy. But he, too, found comfort in the heart-sunshine of his master. “His words 243 were like fire,” he says, “penetrating the heart.” “How lovely, splendid, glorious he appeared in innocence of life, in simplicity of speech, in purity of heart, in divine delight, in brotherly love, in constant obedience, in loving harmony, in angelic aspect.” He found in Francis the most perfect realization of the Christian ideal that he or his century could conceive of; and shall we not admit with George Macdonald that a perfect monk is a very fine thing in his way, although much less so than a perfect man?

Their sympathies as poets must have drawn them together. Francis, as Joseph Goerres well says, was a troubadour as well as a saint. In his youth he had won distinction as a singer of worldly songs in the provençal French, which was then the language of literature in Northern Italy. After his conversion he burst out singing the praises of God in this same foreign and exotic tongue. But as he became more directly interested in the welfare of his fellow-men, he began to use his gift of song in his native Italian. How many of the poems that are printed under his name are really his own, and how many are the work of his disciple, Jacopone da Todi, is matter of dispute. But even Father Affo (1777), the most negative of critics on this point, does not deny his authorship of the wonderful “Song of the Sun,” also called the “Song of the Creatures,” in which the childlike delight of the saint in God’s works finds such charming expression, that Matthew Arnold has singled it out as the utterance of what is most exquisite in the spirit of his century. Thomas, too, it was known, had the poetic gift, and indeed was recognized by his brethren as the man of most literary power in the order. Upon him they laid the duty of compiling the founder’s biography, and of writing the “legend” of his life, which should be read in the breviary service on the day of his commemoration.

Yet he also was recognized as possessing practical gifts. The order had spread into Germany as well as in the other directions of which Francis had prophesied. The first attempts to establish it north of the Alps, made in 1216, were not happy. The Italians sent on this mission knew only one German word, “Ja!” “Are you heretics?” (Sind Sie Ketzer?) was the first question put to them on Teutonic soil; and knowing nothing else to say, they said “Ja!” So they were marched across the frontier again in disgrace. But brethren better provided in the matter of their 244 Ollendorff had been sent five years later, and now Thomas of Celano was one of those who had been selected for the German mission, to give stability and unity to the work there. He was made “custos” of the monasteries at Mainz, Worms and Koeln (Cologne), and even took charge of the whole province when its head returned to Assisi. We find Thomas himself back in Assisi by 1230, where Jordan, the “custos” of the Thuringian monasteries, came to see him.

Francis had died in 1226, but whether Thomas was actual witness of his last days, or derived his knowledge of them from others, his is recognized as the authentic account of the saint’s departure. His own death is said to have occurred in 1255, but what events filled up the meantime, besides the biographic labors we have mentioned, is not known. Perhaps it was in those years that he composed his great sequence, as his mind, when less directly brightened by the influence of his master, would be more likely to revert to those trains of thought which corresponded to his natural disposition. Possibly it was as his own life was drawing to a close, and the shadows of the Great Day gathered nearer him, that he poured out his soul in his great hymn—the greatest of all hymns, unless we except the Te Deum.

Besides the Dies Irae, there are ascribed to Thomas two other sequences—

Fregit victor virtualis


Sanctitatis nova signa,

both in commemoration of Francis. As the founder of the Minor Friars was canonized two years after his death by Gregory IX., there was a demand very early for the hymns of this character. And as there was no one better fitted to write them than the poet who had known Francis so well, and whom the Pope had directed to prepare a life of the saint, there is no inherent improbability in the tradition which ascribes them to him. But they do not take rank beside the Dies Irae. They are poems written to order, not the spontaneous outpouring of the mind of the singer in the presence of the overwhelming realities of the spiritual universe.

There are no less than nine persons for whom the honor of the authorship of the Dies Irae has been claimed. Two of these are excluded as having lived too early to have written a poem of its 245 structure and metrical character; they are Gregory the Great and Bernard of Clairvaux. Two others, Augustinus Bugellensis (ob. 1490) and Felix Hammerlein (ob. 1457) are excluded by the fact that the hymn is mentioned in a work written in 1285. This leaves four rivals to Thomas of Celano in his own century, viz., John Bonaventura (ob. 1274), his brother Cardinal, Latino Frangipani, a Dominican (ob. 1294), Humbert, a French Franciscan, who became the fifth general of his order (ob. 1277), and Matthew of Acqua-Sparta in Umbria, a Franciscan, who became Bishop of Albano and cardinal (ob. 1302). But it is to be noticed that for not one of these is there a witness earlier than the sixteenth century. The first and last are named as having had the authorship ascribed to them by Luke Wadding, the historian of the Franciscans in 1625; but he ascribes it to Thomas of Celano. The other two are named by the Jesuit, Antonio Possevino (1534-1611) and the Dominican, Leandro Alberti (1479-1552), the latter, of course, claiming the hymn for the Dominican cardinal, as to whom there is not the smallest evidence that he ever wrote any poetry whatever. Besides this, the Dies Irae is a Franciscan, not a Dominican poem. It deals with the practical and the devotional, not the doctrinal elements in religion. Had a Dominican written it, he would have been anxious only for correct doctrinal statement.

Thomas’s claim to its authorship does not rest on the weakness of rival pretensions. In the year 1285, when Thomas had been dead about thirty years and Dante was twenty years old, the Franciscan Bartholomew of Pisa wrote his Liber Conformitatum, in which he drew a labored parallel between the life of Francis of Assisi and that of our Lord. Having occasion to speak of Celano in this work, he goes on to describe it as “the place whence came Brother Thomas, who by order of the Pope wrote in polished speech the first legend of St. Francis, and is said to have composed the prose which is sung in the Mass for the Dead: Dies irae, dies illa.”[11] This testimony out of Thomas’s own century is confirmed 246 by parallel evidence. Wadding, whose big folios in clumsy Latin give us the tradition which prevailed within the order, says: “Brother Thomas of Celano sang that once celebrated sequence, Sanctitatis nova signa, which now has gone out of use, whose work also is that solemn one for the dead, Dies irae, dies illa, although others wish to ascribe it to Brother Matthew of Acqua-Sparta, a cardinal taken from among the Minorites.” Elsewhere Wadding says: “Thomas of Celano, of the province of Penna, a disciple and companion of St. Francis, published ... a book about the Life and Miracles of St. Francis ... commonly called by the brethren the Old Legend. Another shorter legend he had published previously which used to be read in the choir...; three sequences, or rhythmic proses, of which the first, in praise of St. Francis, begins, Fregit victor virtualis. The second begins, Sanctitatis nova signa. The third concerning the dead, adopted by the Church, Dies irae, dies illa. And this Benedict Gonon, the Coelestine [in 1625] rendered into French verse and ascribed to St. Bonaventura. Others ascribe it to Brother Matthew, of Acqua-Sparta, the cardinal; and others yet to other authors.”[12]

These direct testimonies are confirmed by local tradition in the province of Abruzzi, in which Celano is situated, and the Franciscan origin of the hymn by its existence as an inscription on a marble tablet in the church of St. Francis at Mantua, where it was seen by David Chytraeus, a German Lutheran, who visited Italy 247 in 1565. That the author was an Italian is indicated by the peculiar three-line stanza, which approximates to the terza-rima structure of their poetry, but is not found in poetry of the Northern nations, except in later imitations.

The statement of Bartholomew of Pisa, that already in 1285 the Dies Irae was employed in the service for the dead, shows how early it made its way into church use. In earlier times there was no sequence in that service, for the reason that the “Hallelujah,” which the sequence always followed, being a song of rejoicing, was not sung in the funeral service. This enables us to form an opinion on the controversy as to whether it was written directly for church use, or adapted for that after being written as a meditation on the Day of Judgment for private edification. It would seem most probable that it was the wonderful beauty and power of the hymn which led the Church to break through its rule as to the sequence following a Hallelujah necessarily. The Dies Irae was not written to fill a place, but when written it made a place for itself.

This controversy connects itself with another as to the genuineness of certain verses which are prefixed or added to the eighteen of the text in the Missal. There are, in fact, three texts of the hymn: (1) That of the Missal, which is generally followed, and will be found at the end of this chapter. (2) That of the Mantuan marble tablet, which prefixes four verses:

1. Cogita, anima fidelis,

Ad quid respondere velis

Christo venture de coelis.

2. Cum deposcit rationem

Ob boni omissionem,

Ob mali commissionem.

3. Dies illa, dies irae,

Quam conemur praevenire

Obviamque Deo ire.

4. Seria contritione,

Gratiae apprehensione,

Vitae emendatione.

After these come in the Mantuan text the first sixteen verses of the Missal text, with slight and unimportant variations, but the 248 seventeenth and eighteenth are omitted, and the following conclusion substituted:

17. Consors ut beatitatis

Vivam cum justificatis,

In aevum aeternitatis. Amen.

(3) The Hammerlein text, so called because found among the manuscripts of Felix Hammerlein after his death, which occurred about 1457. This also contains the first sixteen verses of the Missal text, but with far more variations than the Mantuan text shows, although not such as commend themselves by their merits. Then it proceeds, altering and expanding the seventeenth and eighteenth into three and adding five more:

17. Oro supplex a ruinis,

Cor contritum quasi cinis;

Gere curam mei finis.

18. Lacrymosa die illa,

Cum resurget ex favilla

Tanquam ignis ex scintilla,

19. Judicandus homo reus,—

Hinc ergo parce Deus,

Esto semper adjutor meus.

20. Quando coeli sunt movendi,

Dies adsunt tunc tremendi,

Nullum tempus poenitendi.

21. Sed salvatis laeta dies;

Et damnatis nulla quies,

Sed daemonum effigies.

22. O tu Deus majestatis,

Alme candor Trinitatis,

Nunc conjunge cum beatis.

23. Vitam meam fac felicem,

Propter tuam genetricem,

Jesse florem et radicem.

24. Praesta nobis tunc levamen,

Dulce nostrum fac certamen,

Ut clamemus omnes: Amen!


That neither of these additions at the beginning and end are parts of the original sequence, will be evident to any one who feels the terseness and power of the original. They are feeble, lumbering excrescences, and are fastened to it in such an external way as to destroy the unity of the poem, if left as they stand. The text in the Missal gives us a new conception of the powers of the Latin tongue. Its wonderful wedding of sense to sound—the u assonance in the second stanza, the o assonance in the third, and the a and i assonances in the fourth, for instance—the sense of organ music that runs through the hymn, even unaccompanied, as distinctly as through the opening verses of Lowell’s “Vision of Sir Launfal,” and the transitions as clearly marked in sound as in meaning from lofty adoration to pathetic entreaty, impart a grandeur and dignity to the Dies Irae which are unique in this kind of writing. Then the wonderful adaptation of the triple-rhyme to the theme—like blow following blow of hammer upon anvil, as Daniel says—impresses every reader. But to all this the supplementary verses add nothing.

Of the use of the hymn in literature I have spoken already. Sir Walter Scott introduces a vigorous and characteristic version of a portion into his “Lay of the Last Minstrel” (1805). Lockhart, writing of the great Wizard’s death-bed, says of his unconscious and wandering utterances: “Whatever we could follow him in was some fragment of the Bible, or some petition of the Litany, or a verse of some psalm in the old Scotch metrical version, or some of the magnificent hymns of the Romish ritual. We very often heard distinctly the cadence of the Dies Irae.” So the Earl of Roscommon, in the previous century, died repeating his own version of the seventeenth stanza:

“Prostrate, my contrite heart I rend;

My God, my Father, and my Friend,

Do not forsake me in my end!”

Dr. Samuel Johnson never could repeat the tenth stanza without being moved to tears—the stanza Dean Stanley quotes in his description of Jacob’s Well. Goethe makes Gretchen in “Faust” faint with dismay and horror as she hears it sung in the cathedral, and from that moment of salutary pain she becomes another woman. Meinhold in his “Amber-Witch” (Die Bernsteinhexe), 250 represents the very same verses as bringing comfort and assurance to a more stainless heroine in the hour of her sorest distress. Carlyle shows us the Romanticist tragedian Werner quoting the eighth stanza in his strange “last testament,” as his reason for having written neither a defence nor an accusation of his life: “With trembling I reflect that I myself shall first learn in its whole terrific compass what I properly was, when these lines shall be read by men; that is to say, in a point of time which for me will be no time; in a condition in which all experience will for me be too late:

‘Rex tremendae majestatis,

Qui salvandos salvas gratis,

Salva me, fons pietatis!!!’”

Justus Kerner, in his Wahnsinnige Brüder, depicts the overwhelming power of the hymn upon minds hardened by long continuance in sin, but suddenly awakened to reflection by its thunders of the Day of Reckoning. Daniel well compares it to the picture of the Day of Judgment, which was the means of converting the King of the Bulgars to Christianity.

The translations of our hymn into modern languages, especially into German and English, have been numbered by the hundred. Partly no doubt this is due to the entirely Evangelical type of its doctrine, its freedom from Mariolatry, its exaltation of divine mercy above human merit, and its picture of the soul’s free access to God without the intervention of Church and priest. Lisco (1840 and 1843) was able to specify eighty-seven German versions. Michael (1866) brought this number up to ninety, of which sixty-two are both complete and exact; and Dr. Philip Schaff says he can increase the list beyond a hundred without exhausting the number. Among the German translators are Andreas Gryphius (1650), A. W. Schlegel (1802), J. G. Fichte (1813), A. L. Follen (1819), J. F. von Meyer (1824), Claus Harms (1828), J. Emmanuel Veith (1829), C. J. C. Bunsen (1833), H. A. Daniel (1839), F. G. Lisco (1840), besides partial versions by J. G. von Herder (1802) and J. H. von Wessenberg (1820).

The translations into English begin with one by Joshua Sylvester in 1621, that of Richard Crashaw in 1646 coming second. There are four of that century and two of the next, the most notable being the Earl of Roscommon’s in 1717. In the first thirty years 251 of the nineteenth century there are but four, the notable being the partial version by Sir Walter Scott in 1805, and Macaulay’s in 1826. Since Isaac Williams published his in 1831, there has been a steady succession of versions, bringing the number for the United Kingdom in this century up to fifty-one. Of these the most noteworthy are by John Chandler (1837), Henry Alford (1844), Richard C. Trench (1844), William J. Irons (1848), Edward Caswall (1849), Frederick G. Lee (1851), John Mason Neale (1851), William Bright (1858), Elizabeth R. Charles (1858), Herbert Kynaston (1862), Richard H. Hutton (1868), Dean Stanley (1868), William C. Dix (1871), and Hamilton McGill (1876).

In point of numbers at least America surpasses England and approaches Germany. Since 1841, when two anonymous versions appeared in this country, there have been at least ninety-six complete versions by American translators, bringing the total of enumerated versions in the language up to one hundred and fifty-four. Of American translators may be named William R. Williams (1843), H. H. Brownell (1847), Abraham Coles (1847 and later), William G. Dix (1852), S. Dryden Phelps (1855), John A. Dix (1863 and 1875), Marshall H. Bright (1866), Edward Slosson (1866), E. C. Benedict (1867), Margaret J. Preston (1868), Philip Schaff (1868), Samuel W. Duffield (1870 and later), John Anketell (1873), Charles W. Elliot (1881), Henry C. Lea (1882), M. W. Stryker (1883), H. L. Hastings (1886), and W. S. McKenzie (1887). This certainly, both by the length of the list and the weight of many of the names, constitutes a tribute to the power of the Dies Irae such as never has been offered to any other hymn! Only Luther’s Ein’ feste Burg, of which there are eighty-one versions in English alone, can compare with it.[13]


Of these English versions, those by Rev. W. J. Irons and Dean Stanley in England, and those of General John A. Dix and Mr. Edward Slosson in America, have enjoyed the most popularity. They certainly are excellent, but every translator seems somewhere to fail of complete success. Nor do those who have returned again and again to the attempt seem to accomplish their own ideal of a perfect translation. Dr. Abraham Coles, who has made some sixteen or seventeen renderings, is no better off than when he began. Nor do I think my own sixth version has carried me one inch beyond my first. The truth is that not even the Pange lingua gloriosi, which Dr. Neale calls the most difficult of poems, is in this respect the equal of this alluring and baffling hymn. But the reader, who has had no access to the hymn except through the poorest version, has the means to discern the fact that in it a great mind utters itself worthily on one of the greatest of themes.

It happened to me once to enter a crowded church, where presently a distinguished German divine arose to speak. Others had addressed the audience in English; but he, turning to his fellow-countrymen, began to pour forth a trumpet-strain of lofty eloquence in his native tongue. He spoke of the “better valley,” of a happy and peaceful land. He seemed to see its broad and gentle river and to hear the chiming of its Sabbath bells. He peopled the air with its lovely citizens and created about us the presence of its glorious joy. Faintly and brokenly, as now and then he uttered some familiar words, I could catch glimpses of that besseres Thal, and its brightness and beauty, and the awe of 253 its holy calmness came upon me—upon me, the stranger and the foreigner, in whose speech no word was said.

But they who were of the lip and lineage of the land, they whose country was brought so near and whose hopes were raised on such strong and familiar wings—they truly were moved to the soul. I saw tears in their eyes; I heard their suppressed and laboring breath; I beheld their eager faces; and the glory of that land fell on them even as I gazed. So, though we cannot here perceive the fulness of the Franciscan’s hymn, yet do we discern the stately splendor of Messiah’s throne, and

“Catch betimes, with wakeful eyes and clear

Some radiant vista of the realm before us.”

This alone can justify another attempt—the resultant of four previous versions—to express something of the grandeur of this majestic hymn:

1. Dies irae, dies illa

Solvet saeclum in favilla,

Teste David cum Sybilla.

2. Quantus tremor est futurus,

Quando judex est venturus,

Cuncta stricte discussurus!

3. Tuba mirum sparget sonum

Per sepulcra regionum,

Coget omnes ante thronum.

4. Mors stupebit et natura,

Quum resurget creatura,

Judicanti responsura.

5. Liber scriptus proferetur,

In quo totum continetur,

Unde mundus judicetur.

6. Judex ergo cum sedebit,

Quidquid latet, apparebit,

Nil inultum remanebit.

7. Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,

Que, patronum rogaturus,

Dum vix justus sit securus?

8. Rex tremendae majestatis,

Qui salvandos salvas gratis,

Salva me, fons pietatis!

9. Recordare, Jesu pie,

Quod sum causa tuae viae;

Ne me perdas illâ die!

10. Quaerens me sedisti lassus,

Redemisti cruce passus:

Tantus labor non sit cassus!

11. Juste judex ultionis,

Donum fac remissionis

Ante diem rationis!

12. Ingemisco tanquam reus,

Culpa rubet vultus meus:

Supplicanti parce, Deus!

13. Qui Mariam absolvisti,

Et latronem exaudisti,

Mihi quoque spem dedisti

14. Preces meae non sunt dignae.

Sed tu bonus fac benigne,

Ne perenni cremer igne.

15. Inter oves locum praesta,

Et ab haedis me sequestra,

Statuens in parte dextrâ.

16. Confutatis maledictis,

Flammis acribus addictis,

Voca me cum benedictis.

17. Oro supplex et acclinis,

Cor contritum quasi cinis,

Gere curam mei finis.

18. Lachrymosa dies illa,

Qua resurget ex favilla

Judicandus homo reus;

Huic ergo parce, Deus!


1. Day of wrath, thy fiery morning

Earth consumes, no longer scorning

David’s and the Sibyl’s warning.

2. Then what terror of each nation

When the Judge shall take his station

Strictly trying his creation!

3. When that trumpet tone amazing,

Through the tombs its message phrasing,

All before the throne is raising.

4. Death and Nature he surprises

Who, a creature, yet arises

Unto those most dread assizes.

5. There a written book remaineth

Whose sure registry containeth

That which all the world arraigneth.

6. Therefore when the Judge is seated

Each deceit shall be defeated,

Vengeance due shall then be meted.

7. With what answer shall I meet him,

By what advocate entreat him,

When the just may scarcely greet him?

8. King of majesty appalling,

Who dost save the elect from falling,

Save me! on thy pity calling.

9. Be thou mindful, Lord most lowly,

That for me thou diedst solely;

Leave me not to perish wholly!

10. Seeking me thy love outwore thee,

And the cross, my ransom, bore thee;

Let not this seem light before thee!

11. Righteous Judge of my condition,

Grant me, for my sins, remission

Ere the day which ends contrition.

12. In my guilt for pity yearning,

With my shame my face is burning—

Spare me, Lord, to thee returning!

13. Mary’s sin thou hast remitted

And the dying thief acquitted;

To my heart this hope is fitted.

14. Poorly are my prayers ascending

But do thou, in mercy bending,

Leave me not to flames unending!

15. Give me with thy sheep a station

Far from goats in separation—

On the right my habitation.

16. When the wicked meet conviction

Doomed to fires of sharp affliction,

Call me forth with benediction.

17. Prone and suppliant I sorrow,

Ashes for my heart I borrow;

Guard me on that awful morrow!

18. O, that day so full of weeping

When, in dust no longer sleeping,

Man must face his worst behavior!

Therefore spare me, God and Saviour!



In Southern Italy, about midway between Rome and Naples, the road which connects these two cities passes near the site of the ancient city of Aquinum. It was a stronghold of the Volscians, although not mentioned in the account of their wars with the Romans. As a Roman municipality it rose to greater importance than the other cities of the district, and became the birthplace of the satirist Juvenal and other eminent men. But in the seventh century it was destroyed by the Lombards, and the site never re-occupied. What were left of its inhabitants found another site, more capable of defence in those wild days, and built Aquino on a mountain slope. It runs along the cliff in a single street, like our own Mauch Chunk, and the remains of its oldest buildings show that its mediaeval architects drew freely upon still earlier structures for their materials.

In one of these old structures, still known as the Casa Reale or royal house, lived the noble family who were the lords of Aquino. Here Thomas Aquinas was born in the year 1225, being one of the five children of Count Landulf of Aquino, and his wife, Theodora Caraccioli, Countess of Teano. The family was not a royal house, but it was connected by intermarriage with the royal caste of Europe. It is said, but I have not been able to verify the statement, that Thomas’s grandfather had married a sister of the Emperor Barbarossa. His mother was descended from the Tancred of Hauteville, whose sons, Roger and Robert Guiscard, effected the Norman conquest of the two Sicilies. Sibylla, Queen of the Tancred who ended the first line of Norman sovereigns, is said to have been a daughter of the family. But the real importance of the lords of Aquino was due to their strategic position on the northern frontier of Apulia and to their military spirit. Richard of Aquino, the grandfather of Thomas, was the mainstay of Tancred’s cause on the mainland of Italy, and merited, by his 256 treachery and barbarity, the cruel death the Emperor Henry VI. inflicted on him after the final conquest of the two Sicilies. His father, Landulf, seems to have been a man of less warlike character; but his uncle, Thomas of Aquinas, who succeeded Richard in the countship of Acerra, was the ablest of the Ghibelline chiefs of Southern Italy, and one of Frederic the Second’s most trusted captains. That emperor enlarged the dominions of the family, and gave ample scope to their fighting propensities in his wars with the popes. And Thomas’s two brothers, who were older than himself, embraced the opportunity of a military life. His sisters formed illustrious alliances with the noble families of Southern Italy. Pope Honorius III. is said to have been his godfather.

Thomas’s youth seems to have been uneventful, with the exception of the calamity by which he lost a younger sister, who was killed by lightning while sleeping by his side. In his fifth year his education began. Less than five miles away, as the bird flies, lay the Monte Casino, the greatest and first of the monasteries of the Benedictine order. Here it was that Benedict of Nursia in 529 laid the foundation of the first great order of Western Christendom. And although Monte Casino had shared in the calamity of Aquino at the hands of the Lombards, and had lain desolate for a hundred and fifty years, it had been rebuilt with new splendor, and was at this time the grandest ecclesiastical establishment outside the city of Rome. And here, in 1227, Landulf Sinibald, himself of the Aquino family, had become abbot, thus attaining one of the highest dignities open to a Churchman. To his care the young Thomas was intrusted, and on Monte Casino he spent the next seven years of his life, undergoing the discipline and receiving the instruction for which the schools of the Benedictine fathers had always been famous. Probably it was the hope of the family of Aquino that the young man would enter the order and rise to the same dignity as his uncle, becoming a prince of the Church, and thus more powerful and wealthy than any of his uncles or brothers.

In 1239 the second outbreak of hostilities between the Pope and the Emperor led to the conversion of Monte Casino into a great fortress, in which were left but eight monks to carry on the routine of monastic services. The rest found a home in other Benedictine houses, the schools were suspended, and Thomas returned home. But the same year he seems to have proceeded to Naples to study 257 in the university which Frederic had established in 1224, and amply endowed with wealth and privileges, and had revived in 1234, after its suspension during his first war with the papacy. He had forbidden his Italian subjects to leave the kingdom to attend foreign universities, and he had used every available means to make them contented with that of Naples, one of these being the employment of the ablest teachers he could secure in all the sciences then recognized as belonging to the higher education. We are told that Thomas pursued his studies two years in Naples, when the influence of his Dominican teachers led him to form the purpose to become a Dominican friar,[14] and to put on the garb of a novice. This step was a most momentous one. Whether his family looked forward to his becoming a Benedictine monk and abbot, or contemplated his embracing the offers of promotion in the civil service of the kingdom, which Frederic II. had held out 258 to the graduates of his pet university, they could not but regard his adoption of the life of a mendicant friar with indignation and disgust. To be a Benedictine Pater was to be a gentleman and a scholar, to have a share in the influence, wealth, and power of the order, and possibly to rise to the dignity of the Dux et Princeps omnium Abbatum et Religiosorum, the Abbot of Monte Casino. But the Mendicant orders were affairs of yesterday, with all the rawness if also the effusive enthusiasm of youth. Francis of Assisi died within a year of Thomas’s birth; Dominic, five years earlier. And the mendicant mode of life was most offensive to the proud Italian nobles, who must have recoiled from the idea that one of their race should carry the beggar’s wallet in his turn, and live always upon alms. In this respect the requirements of the orders were far stricter and more humiliating than in later times, when the practice, if not the rule, was relaxed. Those who were unaffected by their enthusiasm thought of the Mendicants as the average man thinks of the Salvation Army, or thought of the Methodists at the middle of the last century.

No notice was sent to Aquino of the step Thomas had taken. The monks always had their share of the wisdom of the serpent, and they were to show it in this case. But some of the vassals of the family had recognized the young novice under his Dominican garb on the streets of Naples or in the church; and through them the news reached his family. Landulf seems to have been dead; I can find no mention of him later than 1229. But the Countess Theodora hastened, with all a man’s energy, to rescue her son from the career of a mendicant. The friars learned of her coming and hurried their novice off to Rome, and to Rome his mother pursued him. To avoid her he was sent forward to France, but he had to pass the lines of the imperial army then engaged in the war with the Lombards. The influence of the powerful Ghibelline family roused the vigilance of the imperial authorities. At Acquapendente, on the frontiers of Tuscany, Thomas and the friars who escorted him were arrested, and the young noble was sent back to his family at Aquino.

Every means, foul as well as fair, seems to have been used to break him from his purpose to join the Dominicans, while he remained a prisoner at Aquino, or in some of the mountain castles of the family. But Thomas was assured of his vocation, and he 259 had a fund of obstinacy in his character which showed to good purpose. It is said that the Pope interfered in his behalf, but this is hardly probable, as the Pope was waging war at the time on the Emperor and his vassals, the Lords of Aquino. At last the countess and her children abandoned the attempt to influence him, and at least connived at his escape to Naples, where he took the vows of obedience, celibacy, and poverty, which sealed his connection with the Dominican order, in 1243.

We have looked at this step through the eyes of his family, and seen its offensiveness. But if we regard it more impartially, we are impressed with its wisdom. It was among the Dominicans, not the Benedictines, that Thomas could serve his day and generation the best. The Benedictines, in the new age which the era of the Crusades opened to Europe, had fallen behind the times. It was because of this that that century saw the rise of the two great orders founded by Dominic and by Francis, and their rapid growth, until “a handful of corn on the top of the mountains” shook like the forests which clothe Lebanon. The Dominican order was still in the blossom of youth; the Benedictine had rather “gone to seed.” Thomas felt the difference when he met the Dominicans as professors of theology in the Studium at Naples. Scholarship rather than thought had been the strong point with the Benedictines. They would be apt to meet the questions which welled up in the mind of the eager youth by an inapposite quotation from some Church father, or to repress them altogether, as tending to vanity. What, indeed, could Abbot Landulf and his brethren on the hill-top do with a deep-eyed boy, who went from one to another with the question, “What is God?” But at Naples, and in contact with the more lively intellectual life of his age, his acute and alert intellect found a satisfaction and an encouragement which the Benedictines could not give him. He was encouraged to ask questions instead of being snubbed. There were opened to him vistas of research and speculation, which could not but attract a hungry and active mind like his. The Dominicans were the order which had undertaken to face and answer the questions of the age, and in Thomas these questions were craving a solution. What wonder if he fell in love with the preachers, and they with him! They discovered what capacity lay in the young noble, and knew that they had better use for him than his hum-drum 260 uncle on the hills and among the hawks. And any scruples as to his admission to the novitiate without the consent or against the will of his family were set aside by the belief that his “vocation” was directly from God, and therefore set aside all merely human authority.

Having secured their prize, the Dominicans showed that they knew how to use it. The order was, on one side of it, a great educational institution to select and train young men to fight the intellectual battles of the Church. The young Dominican at once put on the yoke of the “course of study” (Ordo Studiorum), which had been prescribed by the General Chapter, and proceeded as far toward the highest dignities and responsibilities of learning as his abilities were thought to warrant. The decision on this point rested with the General of the Order, who at this time was John of Germany, the fourth in the succession begun by Dominic. He selected for Thomas as his best teacher, Albert of Bollstadt, better known as Albert the Great (Magnus), who was teaching in the monastic school at Koeln (Cologne), and who had the reputation of having absorbed all that Aristotle knew, and worked up his teaching into a harmony of Christian theology with Greek philosophy. According to his biographers generally, Thomas was sent at once to Koeln in 1245, and accompanied Albert when he proceeded to Paris in that same year to take his degree as Doctor of Theology, returning with him in 1248. Dr. Heinrich Denifle, however, assigns 1248 as the year when Thomas came to Koeln from Italy, and limits their intercourse as master and scholar to the two years required by the rules of the order. Whether their relations as such extended over five years or were limited to two, they were enough for the formation of a life-long friendship based on mutual respect and admiration. Strangely enough the young Italian from the garrulous South was noted more for silence than for speech among the students at Koeln. He had found a teacher whom he thought worth hearing in silence, and he heard to better purpose than his associates. Bos mutus, a dumb ox, they called him. Albert foretold that “the sound of his bellowing in doctrine would yet go through the whole world.”

In 1250, the year when Frederic II. died, Thomas proceeded to Paris by direction of the General of the Order. In that mother university of Christendom the Dominicans were allowed by their 261 rule to receive the doctorate—in that and no other. For one year the candidate must hear and dispute in the Dominican school on St. Jacques Street; for another he must teach, but without ascending the cathedra, from which authoritative decisions were expected. But in Thomas’s case these two years of his Parisian apprenticeship were prolonged to seven. The university quarrelled with the representatives of the Mendicant orders just as Thomas was about to take his degree, and in the five years’ struggle which ensued all ordinary relations and procedures were suspended. For some time, indeed, the university itself was dissolved, to evade the bull of excommunication which the Pope aimed at it in the interest of the Mendicants.

In 1656 William of St. Amour sent the Pope his treatise Concerning the Dangers of these Last Times (De Periculis Novissimorum Temporum), in which he pleaded the cause of the university against the Mendicants, and told some home-truths about the greediness, the lawlessness, and the encroachments of the friars, but in an angry and excited tone, which harmed his cause. Both the assailed orders put forward their ablest men to make answer. For the Franciscans spoke John Fidanza, better known as John Bonaventura, who had come to Paris in the heat of the conflict, and had been delayed, as Thomas was, in obtaining his degree.

John was older than Thomas by several years, having been born in 1221. He had been recovered from an apparently mortal illness through the prayers of Francis of Assisi in his third year, and then received the name Bonaventura from the good man’s own lips. He entered the order in his twenty-second year, and studied in Paris under Alexander of Hales and John of Rochelle. The devout humility of the man, and his purity of character, produced as deep an impression upon his teachers as Thomas had produced upon his by the force and keenness of his intellect. Alexander used to say that “in Brother Bonaventura Adam seems not to have sinned.” John was probably the most perfect exemplar of the spirit of Francis of Assisi that was to be seen in the second generation of the order. Not by intellectual force, but by humble ministry to the commonest human needs, by the infection of an all-embracing love and the close imitation of our Lord’s humanity, he would save the world from its wanderings. Thomas and he were the best possible representatives of their respective 262 orders, and it speaks well for both men that their differences only bound them more intimately in friendship. Each reverenced what was strongest in the other. When Thomas asked to see the books by whose help John had acquired his Christian erudition, the Franciscan pointed him to a crucifix, and said that from that he had learned all that he ever knew.

Their answers to William of St. Amour reflect the character of the men. Bonaventura defended the mendicant form of the monastic life as an ideal; but without admitting the truth of the dark picture William had drawn, he conceded that serious abuses had crept in, and that already there was need of a reformation unless matters were to be let grow worse. Thomas makes no concessions whatever. He entitles his book Against those who Assail the Worship of God and the Monastic Life (Contra Impugnantes Dei Cultum et Religionem). William and all who hold with him are the enemies of God and of His Church. The critics of the Mendicant rule are standing in the way of the forces which are sent of God to win the world to Christ. The monk, and especially the mendicant friar, is the only thorough Christian who keeps to the “counsels of perfection” our Lord gave His disciples, as well as to the precepts of obedience obligatory upon all. William uttered false and damnable doctrine when he tried to limit them to a purely ascetic life. They have the right to teach as well as to pray and mourn, and the Pope has power to open to them the doors of every secular college by his mandate.

The controversy was brought to an end in 1257, when Pope Alexander IV. at Anagni formally condemned the book of William of St. Amour, and bound the plenipotentiaries of the university by an oath to admit the Mendicants to their former footing in the university. And to signalize the victory of the friars, Thomas and Bonaventura were admitted to the doctorate on the same day, October 23d, 1257.

From the masters the head of the school in St. Jacques Street was chosen by the General of the Order, and naturally the choice fell on Thomas. Usually the place was held for a year only, and its occupant then transferred to some other field of labor. Thomas held it for four years, lecturing, preaching at least every Lent in the adjacent church, and exercising the discipline of the order over its students. The number who heard his lectures must have 263 been great. The school at Paris, unlike that at Koeln, being a branch of the university, its lectures were open to all comers, and the renown of the Italian who had been more than a match for the ablest of the secular doctors would draw hearers. And those who came once, if they had any love for the play of pure intelligence and the fearless handling of great questions, would come again. Thomas, with all his orthodoxy, was a pretty thorough rationalist. He had full faith in the capacity of the human understanding to deal fruitfully and safely with the deepest mysteries. If his conclusions always are with the Church, it is not because he has shrunk from attending to, and even suggesting, what might be said against the doctrine under consideration. It is because he has satisfied himself that the balance of logical argument, after all objections have been weighed, is on the side of orthodoxy. In this respect his writings represent the highest point reached by the rationalistic tendency in the Middle Ages, just as Abelard represents its initiation. We find Duns Scotus, his great Franciscan rival, shrinking from his rationalism, and removing some of the mysteries of theology out of the field of logical discussion.

Of course, his most devoted hearers were the young men of the order. Of these some ninety were sent up every year from the schools in the provinces outside France; and in addition to these picked men, who came for the master’s degree, Paris had the training of all the students of Northern France. Some of the former were from Spain, where the order was engaged in combatting the Mohammedan doctors. Their needs drew Thomas’s attention to the subject of his first systematic work, the Summa contra Gentiles. Thomas puts himself upon the level of one who has no Christian convictions, but argues simply from principles of philosophic truth and of natural religion accepted by both parties. Besides these and other literary labors he attended the annual General Chapters of his order at Valenciennes in 1259, where he and Albrecht drew up the new order of studies for the young Dominicans.

In 1261 Michael Palaeologus, the Greek Emperor of Nicea, conquered Constantinople, and thus put an end to the Latin Empire established by the Fourth Crusade. But the wily Greek feared a general movement in Latin Christendom to recover the city from him, and to gain time by diplomacy he opened negotiations for the reconciliation of Eastern and Western Christendom 264 with Urban IV., then newly chosen to the papacy. The Pope summoned Thomas Aquinas from Paris to Rome, to aid in these negotiations by his erudition and acuteness. The subject was one into which his previous studies had not conducted him, but a scholastic philosopher must be prepared to write on any topic. De omni scibili was his scope. So Thomas wrote his Treatise against the Errors of the Greeks (Opusculum contra Errores Graecorum) by the papal order. In its preparation he became at once the victim and the instrument of one of the most memorable forgeries in ecclesiastical literature. The Dominicans had followed the Latin Empire into the East, but found themselves at a loss for authorities to prove to the Greeks that the autocratic papacy was a venerable, much less a primitive institution, of the Christian Church. One of them conceived the bright thought of manufacturing a supply. So he sent to Urban IV. a long catena of quotations from the Greek fathers, especially the two Cyrils and the Council of Chalcedon, in which the papal authority and infallibility were set forth with a boldness never used even in the West. The Pope fully believed in their genuineness and handed them over to Thomas, who incorporated many of them into his opusculum, besides using them in his greater work. He knew too much about the teachings of the Greek fathers not to be staggered by the quotations as to the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and he expressed his doubts in a letter to Urban. But he was not staggered by the forger’s showing that the Greeks accepted the universal jurisdiction and infallible authority of the papacy. In this way the notion of a universal episcopate and an infallibility in the Bishop of Rome, from being the audacious whim of a few canonists, passed into the dogmatic theology of the Church, and came to be made an article of faith in our own time. (See Acton-Döllinger-Huber’s book, Janus, or the Pope and the Council, chap, iii., section 18.)

Urban IV. having brought Thomas to Italy, Clemens IV. kept him there as long as he lived, making him a professor in the university established by Innocent IV. within the Roman Curia, and as such carried him about from city to city as the Papal Court removed, and had him lecture on theology wherever the Court was staying. He also set him to the work of writing commentaries on part of the Scripture: Job, the Psalms, Canticles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and 265 Paul’s Epistles, besides his catena of comments on the Gospels gathered from the Latin fathers. Most important of all for our purposes, he asked him to prepare the service for Corpus Christi Day—a festival established in 1264. It was for this that Thomas wrote four of the hymns which have given him his place in the annals of hymnology, and those are his finest. And it is said that he also began his Summa in these years, but that I doubt. But in 1269 Clemens died, and it was two years before another Pope was elected. Thomas took the opportunity to escape out of the throng and noise of the Curia, and made his way back to France and to his old manner of life. He came back to Paris and lectured in St. Jacques Street, but not as the head of the school. At Paris he now found critics as well as admirers. His doctrine that individuality is dependent upon matter was censured as involving a denial of immortality, and in 1269 he wrote a treatise, Contra Averroistas, to show that this was not a necessary or even a fair inference. In the same year we find him in London attending a Chapter General of his order.

In 1271 the vacancy in the papacy ended with the selection of Gregory X., one of the best of the popes. Thomas was recalled to Italy and offered the Archbishopric of Naples, doubtless at the suggestion of Charles of Anjou, whose hands were red with the blood of the young Conradin. Thomas wisely declined it, and when, in 1272, he agreed to go to Naples as a teacher of theology, it was with the reservation that this should not bring him into close relations with the Court. Enough of his Ghibelline traditions clung to him to make him abhor the murderer of his kinsman. So in Naples he taught, and wrote at his Summa, and prayed and saw visions—his biographers say—until one day the Pope summoned him to a General Council at Lyons, with the view of proclaiming a new crusade. He obeyed the summons, but when he reached the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova, on the hills above the Pontine Marshes, below Rome, he fell ill and died, March 7th, 1274. Of course the Italians knew he was poisoned, and even Dante countenances the report. The Pontine Marshes in spring are so wholesome that no other hypothesis could account for his death! His friend Bonaventura reached Lyons, but died during the sessions of the council. His earlier friend and master, Albert the Great, although his senior by thirty years, outlived him by six, dying in 1280.


The position of Thomas Aquinas in history is determined by the fact that he is the greatest of the scholastic philosophers. What his master and other earlier thinkers had attempted, he more nearly did than ever has been done by any one else. He took the two great bodies of knowledge, secular and sacred, and fused them into a system more nearly consistent with itself than any other. On the one side was the encylopaedic philosophy of Aristotle, and the parallel but less perfect tradition of Platonic speculation; on the other the Scriptures, the dogmatic decisions of the councils and popes, and the teachings of the recognized authorities among the ecclesiastical writers, especially as these had been summarized by Peter Lombard. To blend these into one great system of theology, to subsidize the weapons of the Greek philosophy in defence of Christian truth, and to draw the line with accuracy between what reason can prove and faith accepts without proof—this was what he undertook in the Summa. And never was a more acute intellect employed on the great task of reconciling faith with reason. If he failed, it is not because he shrank from anticipating any and every kind of objection to the truths he was defending; his works are a perfect storehouse of such objections. If he failed, it was not from any want of confidence in the powers of the human mind to deal with the highest subjects of thought. No modern rationalist ever surpassed him in that respect. He failed because neither then nor now do the materials exist for such a work, and because his truths lost and his errors gained force by being worked into a system.

It would take a whole chapter even to describe the Summa. Of its three parts, the first, concerning God, and the second concerning man, were completed in the four years he gave to the work. In the third, which treats of the God-Man, he got no farther than the ninetieth question, and the discussion was completed by extracts from his commentary on Peter Lombard. But the completed part contains nearly two million Latin words, or with the supplement, two million one hundred thousand. It is six times as large as Calvin’s Institutio, or four times as large as the Latin Bible! And the Summa fills only two of the seventeen folios of his works, all written within the space of twenty-six years by a man actively engaged in teaching, lecturing, and advising popes and princes.


That so much of the formative period of his life was spent in a controversy, in which he was the applauded spokesman of a party whose cause he regarded as the cause of God, could not but affect his intellectual character. Professor Maurice thinks the delay in obtaining the master’s degree worked in the same direction. The master in those days was expected to pronounce decisions; those who had not attained that rank were occupied in disputations only. “Thus our author was a trained arguer,” and “the old habits remained with him when his decisions were most accepted as authorities. From first to last he was thinking of all that could be said on both sides of the question he was discussing.” I believe that he was conscious of the narrowing and dwarfing tendency of this habit of mind, even though he did not detect the source of the evil. We read of his seeking to prepare himself for his work by humble devotion. But to the last line of his last work the controversial habit and attitude of mind clings to him. It is only in his catechetical expositions, written before he left Koeln for Paris, that you find a different atmosphere, and escape the heretic-crushing Aristotelian dialectic of the scholastic disputant.

Even in his few hymns, which constitute his title to rank among the sacred poets, he is the great scholastic doctor, with his eye on the heresies which may distract the believer. He writes with the full panoply under his singing robes. All his hymns are concerned with the greatest of the Christian sacraments. It was in 1215, a year before the confirmation of the Dominican Order, and twelve years before Thomas was born, that the fourth Lateran Council made the transubstantiation of the elements into the body and blood of Christ an article of faith. But a Belgian ecstatic, Juliana of Liege, had a vision which called for a special annual festival in honor of the mystery. Urban IV. complied with this request in 1261, by requiring that the Thursday next after Trinity Sunday should be observed as Corpus Christi Day. This involved the preparation of an additional services for the Missal and Breviary, with suitable prayers and hymns, and the work was laid upon Thomas. For the Missal he wrote the sequence

Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem;

and for the Breviary the three hymns

Pange, lingua, gloriosi Corporis mysterium,
Sacris solemniis juncta sint gaudia,


Verbum supernum prodiens, Nec Patris.

The Paris Breviary connects a fifth hymn of his with the same festival, the

Adoro Te devote, latens Deitas,

assigning it for late (serotinas) services in the octave of Corpus Christi. So Newman; but Daniel declares he finds it in none of the breviaries of modern use, and in the missals only as a part of the priest’s private preparation for saying Mass. Even this rank has not been attained by the sixth hymn ascribed to him, the beautiful

O Esca viatorum,

which Dr. Ray Palmer has made familiar to American worshippers by his exquisite version, first published in the Andover Sabbath Hymn-Book:

O Bread to pilgrims given.

Moll denies that Thomas wrote this, and says it is by a Jesuit poet, which is most probable. March calls it “a happy echo” of the undisputed hymns of Thomas Aquinas. But the echo is softened; the hymn is less masculine. Lympha fons alone would serve as a note to show that Aquinas never wrote it.

It has been said by Dr. Neale that the

Pange, lingua, gloriosi

“contests the second place among those of the Western Church, with the Vexilla Regis, the Stabat Mater, the Jesu dulcis memoria, the Ad Regias Agni Dapes, the Ad Supernam, and one or two others, leaving the Dies Irae in its unapproachable glory.” But this judgment is the prejudiced one of a High Churchman, sufficiently in sympathy with the Roman doctrine of the sacraments to relish keenly Thomas’s concise and vigorous statement of that doctrine, and to mistake the relish for critical appreciation of the poetry. Dr. Neale even praises Thomas’s treatise On the Venerable Sacrament of the Altar as the finest devotional treatise of the Middle Ages, finer therefore than the Imitation itself! A calmer 269 estimate will put the hymn decidedly below Bernard’s exquisite Jesu dulcia memoria, or the Veni, Creator Spiritus of Rabanus Maurus, or the Veni, Sancte Spiritus of Hermann Contractus. It is true that it excels all these in its peculiar qualities, its logical neatness, dogmatic precision, and force of almost argumentative statement; but these qualities are not poetical. In this respect it is not altogether unlike Toplady’s “Rock of Ages,” a hymn in which the intellect has cut a channel for the emotions to flow. That was written as a tail-piece to a controversial article in which Toplady discussed John Wesley’s doctrines in the matter of faith and works, and is a terse statement of theological discriminations on that point.

The Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem, as it is a much longer hymn, gives more scope for the exposition of the Roman doctrine. For this reason Martin Luther abhorred it, probably also because he had no good opinion of Thomas himself. He accuses him of perverting the Scripture in this hymn, “as though he were the worst enemy of God, or else an idiot.” But this harsh judgment did not succeed in expelling the hymn from the use of the Lutheran churches, and since the Oxford revival it has found its way into other Protestant churches. But the sixth, seventh and eighth verses express the doctrine of transubstantiation so distinctly, that one must have gone as far as Dr. Pusey, who avowed that he held “all Roman doctrine,” before using their words in any but a non-natural sense. In the fine version made by Dr. A. R. Thompson, first published in the Sunday-School Times in 1883, and included in Dr. Robinson’s Laudes Domini, only half the hymn is given, those verses being taken which deflect least from the general current of Christian thought about the sacrament. By the author’s kind permission, we give it here with his latest revision:

“Sion, to thy Saviour singing,

To thy Prince and Shepherd bringing

Sweetest hymns of love and praise,

Thou wilt never reach the measure

Of his worth, by all the treasure

Of thy most ecstatic lays.

“Of all wonders that can thrill thee,

And with adoration fill thee,

What than this can greater be,


That himself to thee he giveth?—

He that eateth, ever liveth—

For the bread of life is he.

“Fill thy lips to overflowing

With sweet praise, his mercy showing,

Who this heavenly table spread.

On this day so glad and holy,

To each longing spirit lowly

Giveth he the living Bread.

“Here the King hath spread his table,

Whereon eyes of faith are able

Christ our Passover to trace.

Shadows of the law are going,

Light and life and truth inflowing,

Night to day is giving place.

* * * * *

“Lo, this angels’ food descending

Heavenly love is hither sending,

Hungry lips on earth to feed!

So the paschal lamb was given,

So the manna came from heaven,

Isaac was his type indeed.

“O good Shepherd, Bread life-giving,

Us, thy grace and life receiving,

Feed and shelter evermore!

Thou on earth our weakness guiding,

We in heaven with thee abiding,

With all saints will thee adore.”

Thomas’s Franciscan friend, John Fidenza, better known by his nickname of John Bonaventura, was a hymn-writer also, but he did a good many other things better. To many Protestants his name has been made offensive through its association with the Psalter of Our Lady, a travesty of the Book of Psalms, with which he had nothing to do, and which was made in a later century. Indeed, as Martin Chemnitz pointed out three centuries ago, Bonaventura protested against the excessive reverence for the Virgin, which had already become common, as likely to lead to idolatry. That he was called the Seraphic Doctor shows that men felt in him a warmth of heart and a tenderness of devotion, which they missed in his greater contemporary, Thomas Aquinas, the Angelical 271 Doctor. Indeed he was the incarnation of the Franciscan spirit of love and helpfulness, as Thomas of the Dominican spirit of theological research and orthodox defence. Yet Bonaventura’s Breviloquium has been praised by good judges as the best compend of Christian doctrine that the Middle Ages have left us.

Bonaventura’s Latin poems are rather devout meditations than hymns. They are not the voice of the Christian congregation in song, but of the monk meditating before his crucifix. To him is sometimes ascribed the Christmas hymn,

Adeste fideles,

but not on sufficient authority. His best known hymns are the

Christum Ducem, qui per crucem,


Recordare sanctae crucis,

of which latter we have English versions by Dr. Henry Harbaugh, Dr. J. W. Alexander, and E. C. Benedict. Five other hymns are ascribed to him in the collections. They all have the Franciscan note; they turn on our Lord’s human sympathy and sufferings. This explains the ascription to him of a long hymn on the members of our Lord’s body as affected by the passion, which is found in Mone (I., 171-74), but which is more frequently and quite as erroneously ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux. It is not worthy of either, although Mone thinks the ascription to Bonaventura “worthy of attention.” The hymn furnishes the point of contact of the Latin hymnology with that of the later Moravians, the Franciscans of Protestantism.

So we leave the two great scholars, thinkers, doctors, and poets, each representing one of the two chief streams of spiritual influence in the Church of the thirteenth century. “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death they were not divided.”



Jacoponus, known to us sometimes as Jacobus de Benedictis, and sometimes as Jacopo di Benedetto, or as Giacopone da Todi from his Italian birthplace, is a most quaint and singular singer. The name Jacoponus is a mere title of reproach, and signifies either “Big James” or “Silly James.” It was called after him on the street and he adopted it in a spirit of humility and as a badge of self abnegation. The man himself was an Italian jurist and nobleman, who lived in the thirteenth century. He led a wild life, lost his property, and eventually regained it by industry and ability. Evidently he neither cared nor scrupled about his ways of making money. A crisis came in his life in consequence of his wife’s sudden death. She was killed at the city games of Todi in the year of grace 1268, where with other women she had been watching the sports from a scaffold of wood. It was insecure and fell, killing her instantly. Poor Benedetto, on hurrying to the spot, found that beneath her garments she had been wearing a hair girdle next to the skin—according to the harsh custom of the time—and he was deeply affected by this evidence of her anxiety to please God. In those days such an action spoke volumes for the victim’s piety, and no one was more open to conviction than this erratic, sensitive, and brilliant man.

But it would seem that for a long time he struggled against his feelings, since we have a record that by 1298 he had been a religious person about twenty years. Indeed, there is a story that he was not received at once by the Minorites, and that he finally produced certain poems before they grew satisfied to take him in. However, when he was fairly within their walls he outdid all the other Franciscans in austerity. He had given up his position as Doctor of Laws and had surrendered his property; now it would 273 appear that he was determined to advance beyond the rest in ascetic devotion. His penances and prayers were greatly in excess of prescribed rules, and he must have proved as sore a trial to any easy-going brother, as Simeon Stylites was when he too led the whole convent to denounce his ascetic habits. There is small doubt that the brain of Jacoponus was decidedly off its balance, even in these earliest days, and his subsequent conduct gave full evidence of his insanity. Still, we find in this self-abasement of his nothing that looks like pride or egotism. Where others display a complacency which is very Pharisaic, he only shows the monomania of a gifted soul. Some of his expressions are remarkable for their spiritual depth and power. Thus when he was pressed to explain how a Christian can be sure that he loves God, he replied, “I have the sign of charity; if I ask God for something, and He refuses me, I love Him notwithstanding; and when He opposes me I love Him twice as much.” “I would,” he says, “for the love of Christ, suffer with a perfect resignation all the toils of this life, every grief, anguish, pain, which word can express or thought conceive. I would also readily consent that, on leaving life, the demons should bear my soul into the place of tortures, there to endure all the torments due to my sins; to those of the just who suffer in purgatory, and even of the reprobates and demons if this could be; and that until the day of the last judgment, and longer still, according to the good pleasure of the Divine Majesty. And, above all, it would be to me a great pleasure and supreme satisfaction that all those for whom I should have suffered should enter heaven before me, and, finally, if I came after them that all should agree to declare to me that they owe me nothing.” Surely no modern theologian has ever stated the doctrine of “self-emptiness” in any shape which at all compares with this!

Nor was he deficient in wit. “I enjoy the realm of France,” he once said, “more than does the King of France; for I take part in all the happiness that comes to him and I haven’t the care of his business.” At another time he entered the market-place on all fours naked, a saddle on his back and a bit between his teeth, for what symbolic purpose no one has ever explained. Again, he literally tarred and feathered himself, covering his body with a sticky oil and then rolling in feathers of various colors and kinds. 274 In this elegant wedding attire he made his appearance at his brother’s house to honor the marriage of his niece. The guests, as might be expected, departed in confusion and disgust. But to all remonstrances upon his conduct he retorted, “My brother thinks to illumine our name by his magnificence; I shall do it by my folly.” He was really a leaf taken out of Rabelais or Boccaccio—a jester whose folly and wisdom were mingled unequally, much in the fashion of that Wamba son of Witless, immortalized for us in the pages of Ivanhoe.

The man’s great mind had doubtless been shaken by his affliction and by the gloomy theology of his time. Otherwise these performances, so inconsistent with his genius, could never have taken place. The irregularity of his productions, sometimes delicate as the most graceful stanzas of the troubadours, and some times as coarse and rough as Villon at his worst, are in exact proof of this assertion.

In theology he was, to quote Ozanam, “no longer a dogmatic but a mystic.” He really became the leader of a band of pure and elevated minds which continued, by direct genealogy, through Hugo and Richard of St. Victor, and Tauler down to St. Theresa, Madame Guyon, Fénelon, and our own Thomas C. Upham. It is an honor of no slight consequence to have inspired so much of the spirit of the Apostle John into that turbid current of mediaeval religion. And it does not surprise us, therefore, to find the Cur mundus militat of Jacoponus credited to Bernard of Clairvaux, nor the Jesu, dulcis memoria of Bernard attributed to Jacoponus. The two men were very similar, but the opportunities of the French abbot were infinitely superior to those of the Italian monk. And after a very careful inquiry I remain convinced, like other hymnologists, that these two great hymns have already been properly assigned. It is certainly a staggering piece of testimony when the latter is found in an old MS. of Jacoponus’s poems, precisely in the form in which it appears in the most critical edition of the writings of Bernard. And it is equally unsettling for us to come upon the Cur mundus militat in the works of the saint, when we know, on no doubtful evidence, that this was the passport of the sinner into his Franciscan convent. Once more it is worth our while to repeat the warning that any positive designation of Latin hymns by their authors’ names must rest upon a firmer foundation 275 than the mere fact that they can be discovered in this man’s or that man’s printed works.

Jacoponus also interests us in view of his Protestant spirit. He never fancied Boniface VIII., and when that pope had a dream in which he saw a great bell without a tongue, and consulted the keen-witted friar upon its meaning, he received the reproof valiant, “Know, your holiness,” said the undaunted monk, “that the great size of the bell signifies the pontifical power which embraces the world. But take heed lest the tongue be that good example which you will not give.” For this and other liberties which he took it is no wonder that he presently found himself in prison, where he suffered everything patiently, and announced that he would go out when Boniface was ready to come in. And this, indeed, actually occurred. He was excommunicated, too, but from this sentence Benedict XI. released him on December 23d, 1303.

I cannot refrain from quoting some more of his religious aphorisms and meditations which instinctively suggest to us the pious musings of À Kempis. Here is one: “I have always thought, and I think now, that it is a great thing to know how to enjoy God. Why? Because in these hours of joy, humility is exercised with respect. But I have thought, and I think now, that the greatest thing is to know how to rest deprived of God. Why? Because in these hours of trial, faith is exercised without evidence, hope without attempt at fulfilment, and charity without any sign of the divine benevolence.” And here is a fragment from his last poem: “Love, I see that thou art transfiguring me, and making me become Love like thee, so that I dwell no longer in my own heart and that I know no longer how to find myself again. If I perceive in a man any evil, or vice, or temptation, I am transformed and I enter into him; I am penetrated with his pain.”

It must not be supposed that these poems were in the Latin language in every instance. Very few of the entire number are truly within our own sphere of research, and all those composed in Italian are accessible to us only through a French prose translation. But his “Praise of Poverty” deserves a place even in these pages, for it reveals the nature of the poet and helps us to 276 comprehend the pathos and tenderness of his unregulated genius:

“Sweet Poverty, how much in truth

Should we love thee!

For, child, thou hast a sister named


A common bowl, for food and drink,

Is all thy need;

Bread, water, and a few poor herbs,

Suffice indeed.

“And, if a guest should come, she adds

A pinch of salt;

She travels fearless, and no foe

Can bid her halt;

Thieves do not plunder her; she dies

At length in peace;

She makes no will; no grasping hands

Clutch her increase.

“Poor little thing! Behold thou art

Heaven’s citizen;

No vulgar earthly wishes draw

Thee down to men;

Thine is the greatest sceptre, thine

The kingdom here,

For what thou carest not to seek

Still crowdeth near.

“O science most profound and deep!

For thus we rise,

And gain our freedom by the things

We most despise!

O gracious Poverty, supplied

With joy and rest,

Thine is the plenty of the heart,

And that is best!”

It is strangely incongruous with this almost idyllic gentleness for us to find such a man hanging a coveted bit of meat in his cell until the odor of its putrefaction disgusted the rest of the monks, as well as put an end to his own craving for the forbidden dainty. Then, too, we have several other anecdotes of his grim humor and bold denunciation of sin. Take, for example, the story told of his peculiar half-satirical conduct in an instance which Wadding, the historian of the Franciscan Order, relates with great gusto. A 277 citizen of Todi, a relative of the poet, had bought a pair of chickens, and not wishing to be inconvenienced by them, he said to Jacoponus, “Take them and carry them for me, if you please; I don’t care to burden myself with them.” To which Jacoponus answered, “Trust me! I’ll carry your chickens home.” He then went direct to the church of Fortunatus, in which his own monument was afterward placed, and pulling up a gravestone he thrust the chickens in and replaced the slab. The worthy citizen on his return of course found no chickens, and therefore at once hunted out Jacoponus in the public square and reproached him. “I took them to your house,” retorted the Franciscan. “But I have just come from it and my wife says she has not seen you,” the Tudescan asserted. Thereupon Jacoponus took him to the church and having removed the stone, said to him: “Friend, isn’t that your home?” The citizen, says Wadding, took his chickens, being a man evidently of frugal mind, and, “not without fear, went his way absorbed in thought.”

This mad Solomon is at times so keen in his denunciations of the corruption of the Church, and so evidently sincere in his own religion, that more than one hymnologist has thought that his folly was largely assumed as a guise under which he had greater freedom. The court fool was a “chartered libertine” as to his language, and when we read the epitaph of Jacoponus it seems as if he had reversed the saying of Shakespeare and had stolen Satan’s livery to serve Heaven in. There is no question but that this satirical freedom actually cost the poor jester some considerable share of imprisonment, and this heightens the likelihood that he was playing Brutus in order to abolish Caesar. Boniface VIII., whom he had very plainly rebuked, was the one who imprisoned him, and he was not released before the case—as he had indeed predicted—was precisely reversed. Let me record my own conviction, based upon the poem of which I append a translation, and upon the other facts of his life, that this view of his career has much in its favor. Those days and these are not to be compared in respect to liberty. Where Bernard of Cluny swung his sling about his head and let the pebbles fly to right and left with no very tangible result, Jacoponus took bow and arrows and drove his shaft into the target. No one meddled with Bernard; but Jacoponus, a century later, was a Tell for the ecclesiastical Gessler.


Of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa, carried by the Flagellants into every corner of Europe as they flogged themselves in public to its anthem, it can be said that it is one of the very greatest hymns—if not actually the greatest—of the Roman Catholic Church. The Dies Irae, the Veni, Sancte Spiritus, and the Hymn of Bernard of Cluny, are catholic rather than Roman. This is Roman rather than catholic. It is full of Mariolatry. Take a stanza from a prose translation by way of example:

“Virgin of virgins, illustrious, be not now bitter to me, make me mourn with thee, make me carry about the death of Christ, make me a sharer in His passion, adoring His suffering.” And again: “O Christ, when I go hence, give me, through Thy mother, to attain the palm of victory,” etc.

For this reason the Protestant metrical versions of the Stabat Mater are few in number and generally accompanied by disclaimers of one kind or another. Of course the music, on whose wings the hymn has now flown world-wide, will need no word of mine. If the Stabat Mater itself receives commonly the second rank among hymns, it follows that Rossini, Pergolesi, Palestrina and Haydn have not detracted from its glory. And though in the terse language of one of our best hymnologists, we say, “It is simple Mariolatry, most of it,” the human pathos of the verses appeals strongly to those who refuse the added errors of the poem.

Of the Stabat Mater Speciosa I confess to a decided doubt. It is in the nature of a paraphrase, almost of a parody. It is unworthy of the brain that formed the Mater Dolorosa, and the jester must have gone beyond common folly if he descended to this imitation of himself. It is more likely—and there is good ground for the opinion—that it is the work of some later hand. Archbishop Trench, by the way, will not include either of them in his collection.

Of the other writings of Jacoponus it may be interesting to say that he composed hymns and satires in great abundance, both in Latin and in Italian, which were collected by Franciscus Tressatus, a Minorite brother, and published in seven books. The Cur mundus militat (which Wadding quotes at length) meets this editor’s highest praise. Of the Italian poems we can say that they are now regarded by Symonds and others as the fountain-head of Italian literature, and that they contained many of the crude expressions 279 of the common people mixed with an elegance of phraseology to which Dante and Petrarch were accustoming their mother tongue. Indeed, I know no other similar poet, unless it be John Skelton, rector of “gloomy Dis” in England, who about a century later shot the same kind of shafts at the same manner of target and with much the same bitter, gibing wit.

But of all the compositions of our mad monk which I have seen, I am most especially interested in this Cur mundus militat. Its attractiveness consists, first of all, in its dactylic measure and in its singular adaptation to the character of Jacoponus. It is hard, in the translation, to catch that strange jingle of the cap and bells and that tossing of the fool’s bauble which accompany the exhortation. Only in the last stanza does it appear as if he deigned to be serious. All that precedes this is the quaint world-weariness of the man too wise for his time, and who is therefore well pleased to be stultus propter Christum—a “fool for Christ’s sake.”


Why should this world of ours strive to be glorious

Since its prosperity is not victorious?

Swiftly its power and its beauty are perishing

Like to frail vases which once we were cherishing.

Trust more to letters carved fair on some frostiness

Than to this brittle world’s empty untrustiness.

False in her honors, in semblance of purity,

Never as yet had she time for security.

More should be trusted to glass, which is treacherous,

Than to Earth’s happiness wretched and venturous—

Filled with false vanities, lured by false madnesses,

Worn with false knowledges, sick of false gladnesses.

Where now is Solomon, once so pre-eminent?

Where is that Samson, so valiantly prominent?

Where the fair Absalom, stalwart and beautiful?

Where the sweet Jonathan, lovely and dutiful?

Whither went Caesar, that monarch illustrious?

Or the proud Dives, at table industrious?

Tell me of Tullius, lofty in eloquence;

Or Aristoteles, first in grandiloquence.


So many heroes, such spacious activity,

Dancers and mountebanks, kingdoms and levity;

Rulers of earth who were tyrannous o’er us all—

Swift as a glance they are gone from before us all!

What a short holiday this of Earth’s best estate!

Joys, which to man are like dreams that attest his fate;

Which, the rewards of eternity banishing,

Lead him through paths where his comfort is vanishing.

Food of the worm thou art—clod of the common clay!

O dew! O vanity! Why praise thy common way?

Thou who art ignorant whether the morrow come!

Do good to all ere the time of thy sorrow come.

Much though we value this glory of earthiness,

Scripture declareth, as grass, its unworthiness;

Like the light leaf, by the mighty wind hurried off,

So is this life, by the darkness soon carried off.

Nothing is thine which thy spirit may lose again—

What this world gave it intendeth to choose again;

Lift up thy thought where the heart hath its treasure-house—

Happy art thou to despise this Earth’s pleasure-house!

We are not to imagine that these stirring verses, whether in Latin or in Italian, went unnoticed. In the various productions of his muse the humble monk enjoyed a popularity like that of Abelard. Numerous manuscripts of his writings were scattered through Italy, France, and Spain, and translations in these different languages helped to increase his fame. Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries at least eight editions appeared. But for critical purposes they are not so valuable as might be supposed, since there are interpolations by other hands which confuse and deter the investigator. They were supplemented in 1819 by the publication of a number hitherto unknown, which were edited by Alessandro da Mortara.

Of the Latin poetry ascribed to him the Jesu dulcis memoria is certainly Bernard’s, for Morel discovered it in an Einsiedeln MS. “older than 1288.” There are two hymns—Crux te, te volo conqueri and Ave regis angelorum—of which we merely know the opening lines and have no accessible originals. The Verbum caro factum est, the Ave fuit prima salus, and the Cur mundus militat are 281 doubtless his own. The Mater Speciosa I take the liberty to discredit because of its gross Latinity—a point which Ozanam concedes in spite of his belief in its genuine character. The Mater Dolorosa itself has not escaped question, for Benedict XIV. declared it to be the work of Innocent III., to whom, with about the same amount of truth, has also been attributed the Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

In the year 1306, after imprisonment and excommunication had both passed over his head and spent their force harmlessly, the aged Jacoponus drew near his end. His companions urged him to ask for the final sacrament, but he was in no haste. He would wait, he said, for John of Alvernia, his true friend, and from his hands only would he receive it. They considered this another proof of his untamed and rebellious nature, and loudly lamented around his bed. But the dying man gave no heed to their weakness. He raised himself upon his arm and with lifted face began to chant the Anima benedetta—the song of a blessed soul. Scarcely had his voice uttered the closing words ere two men were seen hastening across the field. One was that very John of Alvernia, moved by some strange presentiment to visit his friend. He entered the room and greeted Jacoponus with a kiss of peace. Then he administered the sacrament of the Eucharist. And thereupon the failing singer, his desire being at last fulfilled, sang the Jesu nostra fidanza and relapsed into silence for a time. Then he exhorted those about him to live holy lives, and, lifting his hands toward heaven, gently expired. It was on Christmas eve and, in the neighboring church, the choir had just begun to chant the Gloria in Excelsis.

Two hundred and ninety years after his death his tombstone and its inscription were placed. The words, when rendered from Latin into English, are these:

“The bones of the blessed Jacoponus de Benedictis of Todi, who, a fool for Christ’s sake, deluded the world by a new art and took heaven by force.”

There is in the Lenox Gallery a small picture by Zamacois, which represents a jester leaning against a head of Pan. The rude, broken bust stands on an antique pedestal, its mouth, in its half-tragic, half-comic curves, appearing to whisper into the ear of its companion. He, scarlet-clad and with his bauble swinging idly 282 in his hands, inclines his head toward it and seems in a sad gravity to listen to its words. There, indeed, do I see Jacoponus! The eager heart of the great misunderstood, inconsistent, vain, and empty World tells him of its nothingness—a broken and abandoned deity deserted in its garden of Eden. An inexpressible sadness comes over me. Quietly I put by the Stabat Mater; I do not love it!—but I close the page softly over the poor mad prophet who rests his weary head on the steps of Solomon’s throne.



The contributions of Holland to the devotional poetry of Christendom have not been extensive; but in the Middle Ages she could show several Latin hymn-writers. The best known of these, however, is by far more famous for his prose works. Thomas Hemerken, called afterward Thomas à Kempis, was not by birth a Hollander. He was born in 1379 or 1380 at Kempen, a small city in the diocese of Koeln (Cologne), not far from what became the boundary line between the two nations. But in those days, and, indeed, until the Peace of Westphalia, Holland, like Switzerland, was reckoned a part of Germany. His father, John Hemerken, was an artisan of the poorer class, probably a silversmith; and both his parents were devout and God-fearing people. His elder brother John had gone to Deventer to obtain an education, after the fashion of the times, when boys wandered from city to city in search of instruction, and supported themselves by singing, begging, and sometimes by thieving. But at Deventer John had fallen in with some good people who had pity upon these wandering scholars, and had made arrangements to furnish them lodgings and copying-work in addition to what they would earn by singing in the choir.

The chief person in this group was Gerard Groote, a man of wealthy family and some strange vicissitudes in life. He had studied at the universities of Paris and Prague, and had taken minor orders to qualify himself to hold the two canonries family influence secured to him, but without giving any indication of a vocation to the sacred office. He seems even to have led a dissolute life. Then a great change came over him, chiefly through the influence of a friend of his youth named Henry Eger, now the prior of a Cistercian convent at Munkhuisen. Gerard resigned his benefices, and spent five years in a monastic retreat, from which he emerged as a zealous preacher of the Gospel to the clergy and 284 people of what now is Holland, using both Latin and Dutch as occasion served. He especially dwelt on the utter worldliness of that dreary time, when priests, nobles, and tradesmen alike had lost all idea of serving God and men, and had set up gain and pleasure as the recognized ends of life. His sharp rebukes, and his exaltation of humility, simplicity, and poverty, attracted the lower classes, but roused the opposition of both the burghers and the Mendicants against him. After a brief and stormy career he was silenced by the Archbishop of Utrecht, and was obliged to find vent for his zeal in some other channel.

His purity and unworldliness had gathered around him, in his native Deventer, men and women like-minded with him, who, according to the tendency of the time, drifted naturally into a kind of monastic life. Brother-houses and sister-houses were organized, and they became known as the Brethren and Sisters of the Common Life. They took no vows, and yet practised celibacy, common ownership and labor, and obedience to the rector of the house. They adopted no common dress, but came to wear the simplest gray robe of the same cut. Both laymen and clergy lived together in the brother-houses, and each took his turn in the common services of the brotherhood. They observed no canonical hours beyond what the Church exacted of the priests among them. They assumed none of the professions of the monks, and yet they realized the monkish ideal better than did the monks themselves. The four principles which governed Gerard’s own life and became the four corner-stones of this fraternity, were “contempt of the world and of self, imitation of the lowly life of Christ, good-will, and the grace of devoutness” (contemptus mundi et sui ipsius, imitatio humilis vitae Christi, bona voluntas, gratia devotionis). All this was summed up in the phrase moderna devotio, used both by the brethren and the outside world to designate the distinctive character of the order.

The experience Christendom had had of the results of mendicancy led Groote and his associates to base the new brotherhood on honest labor. The shape this took reflects his own character. He was a great book-lover—semper avarus et peravarus librorum, he says himself. When in peril of his life in a storm by sea, he managed to save the six books he had with him. He possessed a considerable library, and when the brotherhood came to adopt the 285 principle of community of goods, he and the rest put their books into the common stock. And all who were able to write were to labor in copying books for sale—the clergy in Latin, the laymen in Dutch. It was this employment he extended to the poor scholars of the Deventer school. Indeed, it seems not improbable that he began it with them, and that the first brotherhood was composed of young friends of this class, who had grown to manhood in this employment. It is certain that in Deventer, in Zwolle, and for all we know in the other cities where the brotherhood took root, near by the brother-house stood a poor-scholars’ house, in which the boys attending the school of the city were lodged, kept under discipline, and to some degree given work also. But the Brethren of the Common Life were not an educating body, as has been very generally supposed. They aimed only at saving boys from the moral injury which too often attended their homeless life, at keeping good discipline over them, and at imparting moral and religious training. They aimed to do for the school-boys what the founders of colleges in the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris tried to do for the myriads of students who lived like vagrants in those seats of learning.

But before Gerard Groote died the question was raised whether it would not be advisable to establish a strictly monastic order of life for those of the brethren who felt a vocation to it. To this he agreed, but dissuaded his friends from adopting the severe rules of the Cistercians and the Carthusians for the new order. Rather he suggested that of the Canons Regular under the rule of St. Augustine as preferable, since it would be more in keeping with the spirit of the brotherhood, and would bind on no one too heavy burdens. This advice marks an advance upon Dominic, Francis, and the “reformers” of the Benedictine and Mendicant orders, in an evangelical direction. They all sought progress to perfection in deeper austerity. In his case the preference perhaps was caused by his friendship for the monastery of Canons Regular at Groenendal, in Flanders, whose prior was Jan Rusbroek, the great Flemish mystic. Gerard made several visits to Groenendal after his conversion, and translated two of his friend’s books into Latin.

Gerard Groote was carried off by the great pestilence of 1384, in his forty-fourth year. But he left the work in good hands, for a 286 Deventer priest named Florens Radewinzoon succeeded him as rector of the brother-house, and proceeded with the building of the new monastery at Windesheim, near Deventer. It was opened in 1386, and John à Kempis, who had become a member of the brotherhood, was one of the six who first assumed the monastic vows.

It was six years later, in 1392, that Thomas set out to seek his brother at Deventer; for although the distance was not much over a hundred miles, he had heard nothing of John’s profession at Windesheim, so uncertain and irregular were the means of communication. On learning what had happened, he proceeded to Windesheim, where his brother welcomed him warmly. But there was no school at Windesheim, and John advised him to return to Deventer to attend the city school and place himself under the care of Florens. He did so and became an inmate of the poor-scholars’ house, which had been given to the brotherhood by a devout matron of the city. Here he lived for six years, attending school under Master Johann Boehme, singing in the choir of the church of which Florens was vicar, and earning a little money by copying books for him. The good rector showed him very great kindness, and in 1398, when his school studies were complete, he received him into the brotherhood. The year before this another pestilence had visited Deventer, carrying off Johann Kessel, the saintly cook of the brother-house, and prostrating Thomas himself, who recovered with difficulty. Indeed, it seemed as though the brotherhood would become extinct, and Florens and six others withdrew for a time from the plague-smitten city to guard against this catastrophe.

In 1399 Thomas, at Florens’s instance, decided to assume the monastic vows. A second house of the order had been established at Agnietenberg (or Mount St. Agnes) near the city of Zwolle. Of this John à Kempis had been made the second prior in 1398, and held that office until 1408. Thither Thomas proceeded in 1399, stopping at Zwolle to obtain the indulgence lately proclaimed by the Pope for the benefit of a new church in that city. After a novitiate of seven years he took the vows in 1406, and in 1414 was ordained to the priesthood.

The monastic life is studiously and intentionally monotonous. It aims at the exclusion of all that gives zest and interest to ordinary 287 existence, and at the reduction of life’s employments to a routine. Its variety and color are to be sought in the inner life of its members, and that of Thomas was not wanting in these elements. If his inner experience be reflected in his Soliloquy of the Soul, he passed through those shifting seasons of gloom and gladness which characterize the experience of an introverted religion. His religious character was formed on the lines of the modern devotion, as defined by Gerard Groote, and as reflected in the lives and the writings of Florens Radewinzoon, Gerard Zerbolt, Johann Mande, Gerlach Peterszoon, and Johann Brinckerinck, the earlier notable men of the brotherhood or of the Windesheim congregation. His was not a bold and originative mind to strike out new paths for himself. He had not even those gifts of practical administration for which Florens, John à Kempis, and others of the order were notable. Even when he had attained recognition as the most eminent man at Agnietenberg, his brethren twice passed him by in selecting their prior, and never gave him any dignity higher than the sub-priorate, which probably was a sinecure. An early biographer goes so far as to describe him as sitting silent whenever ordinary and worldly matters were discussed, because of his ignorance of the very terms used at such times. But this is an exaggeration. His Chronicle of the Monastery of Mt. St. Agnes shows him taking a mild and not unintelligent interest in the secular side of the monastic life, and sharing the joy of his brethren in the fine apple-crop or the large take of fish, and the like. But this Chronicle shows how limited his range of vision and interest. He lived through the Papal Schism, the Asiatic conquests of Timour, the Council of Constance, the Hussite wars, Henry the Fifth’s invasion of France, the exploits of Jeanne d’Arc, the Council of Basle, the rise of the Medici in Florence, and of the Duchy of Burgundy, the Council of Florence, the exploits of Scanderberg and Hunyadi Janos, the Wars of the Roses, the revival of letters, the invention of printing, the fall of Constantinople, the Florentine Academy, the Portuguese discoveries in the Atlantic, and much more that might be thought likely to be discussed even within the walls of a Dutch monastery. But the record is silent as to all these things; for the most part they are part of the doings of that “world” which the disciples of the modern devotion trained themselves to despise.


No doubt the great question of the Papal Schism was of interest at Agnietenberg, and also the two great councils which brought it to an end. At the Council of Constance the Brethren of the Common Life were arraigned by a zealous Mendicant as violating Church law by observing the three rules of the monastic life without belonging to any recognized order. But this Mendicant notion was declared heretical, thanks to two great French doctors, Pierre d’Ailly and John Gerson, the second of whom was to be associated so closely with Thomas in a famous controversy.

In 1427 the troubles of the outside world did reach the convent at Agnietenberg and its associates. There had been a disputed election to the princely diocese of Utrecht, then one of the largest and wealthiest in Latin Christendom. The Pope recognized one candidate and the people of the cities another. To break down their obstinacy the diocese was laid under an interdict, which put an end to every act of public worship. Thereupon the brotherhood and the order were given their choice by the citizens, either to go on with their services as usual in church and chapel, or to leave the diocese. With one consent they chose the latter alternative, and in 1429 they distributed themselves among the associated brother-houses and monasteries outside the diocese. The twenty-four clerical and lay brethren of Agnietenberg found a home at Luvenkerk in Friesland, in a disordered monastery which had been placed under the rule of the Windesheim congregation, and which they used this opportunity to reform. After three years of exile they were allowed to return, a new Pope having yielded to the people. But Thomas did not return so soon, for he had been called away to Arnheim to the death-bed of his brother John, the brother he had found at Windesheim instead of Deventer, and under whose priorship at Agnietenberg he took the vows.

In 1451 Deventer was visited by a great Churchman and notable thinker, the Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa, who, like Thomas, was born east of what is now the German frontier, but had received his schooling in Deventer, where he learned to love and honor the Brethren of the Common Life. He came now as papal legate to reform the abuses which had arisen in the churches of Germany during the great schism; and when he came to his loved Deventer he hastened to indicate his especial regard for his old friends. He granted a special indulgence to both the brotherhood and the 289 order, and permitted the Windesheim congregation to establish a second congregation, with equal privileges, to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of convents of Canons Regular.

Thomas survived his brother by nearly forty years. His cloister life moved on through three decades with the external monotony of an existence subjected to rule. Five years of the forty were years of pestilence and popular distress, which he duly chronicles. But the only real interruption of his routine which still has a living interest was his acquaintance with young Johan Wessel, who came to pursue his studies in Zwolle, being drawn by the charm of the Imitation into the neighborhood of its author. This probably was about 1460, when he sought and made Thomas’s acquaintance, and often conversed with him upon the greatest of themes. But the earliest biography of Wessel belongs to the next century, and is by a Protestant pastor in Bremen; so the statements that Wessel found Thomas and his brother monks all too superstitious, and rebuked the Mariolatry of the author of the Imitation, are open to doubt. That Wessel, the forerunner of Luther, influenced Thomas in the writing of the Imitation is a palpable absurdity.

For a short time he was procurator or steward of the monastery, a task which must have been uncongenial to him, but which he would discharge with his best diligence, as his first biographer, Jodocus Badius Ascensius, says he did. Then he was sub-prior a second time in 1448.

The chronicle of Mount St. Agnes ends with January 17th, 1471; its author died July 26th of the same year. His health had been singularly good, but toward the close of his life he suffered from dropsy. His eyesight never failed him, and he retained all his faculties in full vigor to the last. As the end drew near, the sense of all he had been to his brethren as a friend and counsellor deepened in them at the prospect of losing him. All that their love could do and his ascetic principles would permit, they did to lighten the burdens and relieve the pains of his illness. He died in his ninety-second year, after having been sixty-three years in the order and fifty-eight in the priesthood.

He was buried within the cloisters of the monastery. There his bones continued to rest even after the dissolution of the monastery at the Reformation in 1573, and thence they were disinterred in 1672 and placed in a shrine. But no miracles were wrought at his 290 grave or by his bones. Whatever the faults of the Brethren of the Common Life, it was not in the atmosphere of the modern devotion that men learned to crave after such evidence of sanctity in the servants of God. So the brotherhood and its affiliated order have made no contributions to the list of Roman Catholic saints. There is room in that long and motley list for Giovanni da Capistrano, the cruel and implacable inquisitor, whose path across Europe was marked with blood and fire. But none has been found for the gentle and loving Thomas à Kempis, who has wooed millions of souls to a closer communion with his Master, and whose own life preached humility, patience, gentleness, renunciation of the world, conformity to the will of God, and likeness to Christ, as distinctly as does his great book. Well, he is content. Ama nesciri—love to be unknown—was a precept often on his lips and illustrated in his life. Of small matter to him would have been the attempt to deny his authorship of the Imitation, and the controversy of two centuries’ duration it provoked. Of no greater moment the refusal of the name of saint to one whose only miracles were wrought upon the spirits of his brethren. But the Church catholic says of him, “Surely this was a holy man of God.”

While the copying of books was the general employment of the brotherhood and of the order, there was from the first a good deal of independent authorship among them, and always on the lines of the “modern devotion.” Groote himself labored chiefly by preaching and correspondence. But some of his letters are tracts in that form, and had a wide circulation as such. Florens was not much even of a letter-writer, but he wrote one devotional tract which has been discovered. It was in Gerard Zerbolt of Zutphen, his altera manus, that he found a fit organ for the expression of his ideas in writing. To us Protestants Zerbolt is memorable as the author of a treatise asserting the right and duty of unlearned men to have good books—the Bible and their prayer-books included—in their own tongue. But he was much better known by his writing certain widely circulated books of devotion—modern, of course. Hendrik Mande, the Seer, was a Windesheim monk whose mysticism took the bolder and more ecstatic flight of Rusbroek, and like Rusbroek he found his native tongue more suitable 291 than Latin. Lastly, Gerlach Peterszoon, sometimes called “the second Thomas à Kempis,” although he died in 1411, before Thomas himself had become an author, wrote in both Latin and Dutch sundry works, one of which still is reprinted for edification even by Protestants. Through all this literature runs the same strain of thought and feeling, in spite of personal differences. They all insist on a deeper renunciation of the world than is satisfied by any external monastic compliances. They all hold forth the imitation of Christ’s humility and meekness as the essence of the Christian life. They all insist on devotion to the will of God and good-will to men as the two essential channels in which the Christian life must run.

Thomas à Kempis’s works as a whole fit into the writings of this group of disciples of Gerard Groote, just as his Imitation of Christ fits into the rest of his works. He simply is the best writer they had, as the Imitation is the best thing he ever wrote. If none of the many manuscripts of the Imitation bore his name, as nearly all of them do; and if none of the contemporaries who knew him had certified to his authorship of it, as so many of them do; and if none of the printed editions bore his name, as twenty-one of the fifteenth century and forty of the sixteenth do, we still would have been obliged to ascribe it to him. No other century than his could have produced it. It reflects the ideas of no other group than that of the disciples of Gerard and Florens. The very title, De Imitatione Christi, et de Contemptu Omnium Vanitatum Mundi, expresses the twofold aspect of the moderna devotio of which Gerard and Florens were the sponsors. Among those disciples there is no one but the author of the Soliloquy of the Soul and the Valley of Lilies, to whom we could give it. It differs no more in point of worth from Thomas’s other books than does the Pilgrim’s Progress from Bunyan’s other writings, Grace Abounding always excepted.

While it is by his formal hymns Thomas à Kempis acquires his right to a place here, it is true at the same time that the Imitation itself is a great Christian poem, not only in substance but in form. A Belgian, who was his contemporary, says he had written the book metrice, or in rhythm and rhyme. As it was printed always as prose until our own times, this statement was somewhat puzzling, as was the title, Musica Ecclesiastica, found in some of the manuscripts. 292 But Rev. Karl Hirsche, Lutheran pastor in Hamburg, has vindicated both expressions by showing that Thomas has followed such models as the sequence, Victimae paschali, in the composition of his work. And he has given us an edition based on Thomas’s autograph of the year 1441, in which this peculiarity is made visible.[15] It is true that this way of writing what we may call rhymed and rhythmical prose is not confined to Thomas or to the Imitation among his works. Among others Jan van Schoonhooven, a Belgian disciple of Jan Rusbroek’s, uses this form frequently; and Pastor Hirsche has pointed out its frequency in others of Thomas’s works. But in no other book approaching the Imitation in length is the restriction of rhythm and rhyme so steadily accepted. As an instance, take this brief passage from the fifth chapter of the third book:

“Amans volat, currit, et laetatur;

Liber est, et non tenetur

Dat omnia pro omnibus,

Et habet omnia in omnibus;

Quia in uno summo super omnia quiescit

Ex quo omne bonum fluit et procedit.

Non respecit ad dona

Sed ad donantem se convertit super omnia bona.

Amor modo saepe nescit,

Sed super omnem modum fervescit.

Amor onus non sentit,

Labores non reputat;

Plus affectat quam valet;

De impossibilitate non causatur

Quia cuncta sibi posse et licere arbitrator.”


Or in Rev. W. Benham’s admirable version: “He who loveth flyeth, runneth, and is glad; he is free and not hindered. He giveth all things for all things, and has all things in all things, because he resteth in One who is high above all, from whom every good floweth and proceedeth. He looketh not for gifts, but turneth himself to the Giver, above all good things. Love oftentimes knoweth no measure, but breaketh out above all measure; love feeleth no burden, reckoneth not labors, striveth after more than it is able to do, pleadeth not impossibility, because it judgeth all things which are lawful for it to be possible.”[16]

The Imitation has obtained a place next to the Bible in the devotional literature of Christendom. The fact that the author was a Roman Catholic and that the fourth book is a preparation for the devout reception of the Eucharist in accordance with the Roman Catholic theory of its nature, has not prevented stanch Protestants from translating and commending it. Dr. Chalmers wrote a commendatory preface to a Scotch reprint of John Payne’s translation. And in Germany, Holland, and England the Protestant versions have far exceeded those made by Roman Catholics. The first Protestant version was that from the mediaeval into Ciceronian Latin, by Sebastian Castellio (Basle, 1556); the second was into German by the great and good John Arndt. But the book has achieved a still more notable conquest than this. In Corneille’s metrical version (1651) it was a favorite with Auguste Comte, who recommended it to the Benthamist, Sir William Molesworth, as well worth reading. It has obtained a sort of recognition among Comtists as a canonical work, and selections from it often are read at the Positivist services. And English readers will remember the passage in which George Eliot, writing in Comte’s spirit, describes its effect on the sensitive spirit of Maggie Tulliver:

“She knew nothing of doctrines and systems—of mysticism or quietism; but this voice out of the far-off Middle Ages was the direct human communication of a human soul’s belief and experience, and came to Maggie as an unquestioned message.


“I suppose that is the reason why the small, old-fashioned book, for which you need pay only sixpence at a book-stall, works miracles to this day, turning bitter waters into sweetness, while expensive sermons and treatises, newly issued, leave all things as they were before. It was written down by a hand that waited for the heart’s prompting; it is the chronicle of a solitary hidden anguish, struggle, trust, and triumph—not written on velvet cushions to teach endurance to those who are treading with bleeding feet on the stones. And so it remains to all time a lasting record of human needs and consolations; the voice of a brother who, ages ago, felt and suffered and renounced, in the cloister, perhaps, with serge gown and tonsured head, with much chanting and long fasts, and with a fashion of speech different from ours, but under the same silent, far-off heavens, and with the same passionate desires, and with the same strivings, the same failures, the same weariness.”—The Mill on the Floss, Book IV., chap. 3.

All true; but less than the truth; for Thomas’s power lies not in these negations, but in his personal relation to “the supreme, invisible Teacher, the pattern of sorrow, the source of all strength,” from whom Marian Evans turned away to fill up her life with “yearnings and strivings and failures,” while her only comfort was in the consideration that she had stilled her pain by no “false anodynes.”

It is a little uncertain at what time the Imitation was written. It seems not improbable that it was begun in Thomas’s youth, when he had assumed or was about to assume the responsibilities of the priesthood. A lofty regard for the sanctity of that office was one of the traditions of the brotherhood. Groote himself, in view of the stains of his earlier life, never would assume it, although his ordination would have enabled him to resume his work of preaching through the Archdiocese of Utrecht. He never was more than deacon, and the order which silenced him merely forbade deacons to preach without especial permission. It is not impossible that in the case of Thomas, as in that of Luther, the responsibility seemed greater than he could bear, and that it drove him into a closer and more consecrated fellowship with his Master, which bore fruit in the first book of this wonderful manual. He was ordained priest in 1414; there seems good reason to believe that this first book—the Imitation proper—was known and read at 295 Windesheim, and even translated into Dutch by Jan Scutken, as early as the year 1420; and that the other three were written, each as an independent work, before 1425, and then united as one manual of devotion.[17] The oldest manuscript of the Latin still in existence bears the date 1425, and testifies to his authorship. The oldest in Thomas’s own handwriting was made in 1441, and forms part of a series of his works, which he then collected probably for the first time.

Of Thomas’s purely poetical works, besides a few hortatory poems and anagrams on the names of the saints, there were known until recently sixteen Cantica Spiritualia, to wit:

Adversa mundi tolera,
Agnetis Christi virginis,
Ama Jesum cum Agnete,
Ave florens rosa,
Christe Redemptor omnium, Vere salus,
Christe sanctorum gloria, Et piorum,
Cives coeli attendite,
En virginis Caeciliae,
Gaude, mater Ecclesia, De praecursoris,
Jesu Salvador seculi,
O dulcissime Jesu,
O Jesu mi dulcissime, Spes et solamen,
O qualis quantaque laetitia,
O vera summa Trinitas,
Tota vita Jesu Christi,
Vitam Jesu stude imitari.

In 1882 Father O. A. Spitzen found in a manuscript in Zwolle ten other Cantica Spiritualia, which he published that year as the work of Thomas à Kempis, to wit:

Angelorum si haberem,
Creaturarum omnium merita,
Cum sub cruce sedet moerens,
Jerusalem gloriosa,
Mirum est si non lugeat,
Nec quisquam oculis vidit,
O quid laudis, quis honoris,
Quanta Mihi cura de te,
Serve meus noli metuere,
Ubi modo est Jesus, ubi est Maria.

Six of these had already appeared in Mone’s collection, and credited to a fifteenth century manuscript found at Carlsruhe, a fact which does not militate against Spitzen’s view of their authorship. The latter found them along with the hymns generally ascribed to Thomas in a MS. which had belonged to the brother-house in Zwolle, and had been written in the latter half of that century, probably between 1477 and 1483. Most of them bear the ear-marks of Thomas’s style, and have a congruity with the matter of his works which lends probability to Father Spitzen’s conjecture.

Of all these hymns two only have attained any recognition as contributions to the sacred songs of Christendom. These two are the

Adversa mundi tolera,

which is rather an exhortation in the tone of the Imitation than a hymn; and the

O qualis quantaque laetitia,

better known, through the general omission of its first verse, as the

Adstant angelorum chori.

Dr. Trench well says that the whole of our author’s poetry will not yield a second passage at all to be compared in beauty with this. Indeed, most of Thomas’s poetry lacks the inspiration which characterizes his best prose. He is a poet in prose and a prosy poet, and writes in verse because he has been required to fill up some empty place in the hymn-list of his monastery. His acquaintance with the hymn-writer’s art is bounded by his daily familiarity with the hymns of his breviary, and he betrays the fact 297 by starting from the first lines of well-known hymns in his own work. But in this hymn on the joys of heaven he for once struck the right key, although even here he shows some stiffness of the joints, like a monk more used to a seat in the Scriptorium than to the saddle of Pegasus. The hymn is known to English readers by the admirable version of Mrs. Charles:

“High the angel choirs are raising

Heart and voice in harmony.”



No man, since the days of the Apostles, has been more commended for his zeal than Xavier. He has been the moon of that “Society of Jesus” of which Ignatius Loyola was the guiding sun. His privations, heroism, and success have been the constant theme of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is impossible to study his life without a conviction that there was in it a devout and gallant purpose to bless the world.

Our limits and our line of thought alike demand of us that we shall not attempt, in any exhaustive form, to treat of Francis Xavier from the theologic or controversial side. He interests us, apart from his personal character, simply because two Latin hymns have been accredited to his pen. These have the same opening line,

O Deus ego amo Te,”

but, after this exordium, they proceed quite differently. The second of them, as we find it placed in Daniel’s collection, has received the greatest share of esteem, and is known to the entire world of English-speaking Christians by the admirable translation of Mr. Caswall:

“My God, I love thee, not because

I seek for heaven thereby,” etc.

There is good reason to discredit its authorship, if this be a question of accuracy with us. Schlosser’s language (Vol. i., p. 407) would indicate that he regarded it as “generally conceded” to be the “love-sigh [Liebesseufzer] of the holy Francis Xavier.” But no proof has yet been offered which positively identifies this hymn with its reputed composer. Its spirit—and that of its companion lyric—is precisely his own. But so, it may be added, is the spirit of that touching poem,

“I am old and blind—

Men point to me as stricken by God’s frown,”


the same as that of John Milton, its once reputed author. No true student of Milton’s times or of Milton’s language was ever deceived by it; and the innocent and amiable Quaker lady of our own century, who wrote it, was perfectly guileless in this impersonation of his grief. But, nevertheless, it passed current for a long time on the strength of some one’s literary sagacity.

This species of argument is a very common inheritance to the editors of Latin hymns, from Thomasius and Clichtove downward. But it is quite as unsafe as to assign

“I am dying, Egypt, dying,”

to the actual Mark Antony when we know it to have been written by William Henry Lytle, an American, born in 1829 and dying in 1863. Therefore, it is scarcely proper authoritatively to accredit these hymns to Xavier, or, indeed, to any other poet. The utmost that we can say for them is that no one can prove the converse of the proposition, and that their style and form are appropriate to the period at which he lived. He is not known to have written other verses. These may have been the only exudations of that bruised and wounded spirit which have hardened into amber and thus have become precious to us. And we would prefer to believe that he truly appears in these lines in such an exquisite mystic apotheosis rather than to intermeddle with lower questions, and so, perhaps, prevent any discussion of himself in these pages at all.

We have been prohibited by much the same destructive analysis from treating of Augustine, who never wrote a hymn, and to whom the Ad perennis vitae fontem has been wrongly ascribed, for we know it now to be the undoubted composition of St. Peter Damiani. In this and in other similar cases where there is any literary question concerned, it may be worth our while to investigate with great carefulness. As a rule, however, the internal evidence offered in the hymns themselves will set us on the true path. They range in structure from the lowest corundum up to the choicest diamond, and are as various as any gems in their prosodic form and spiritual color. Like these gems, also, they are notable for varieties of crystallization—the Dark Ages showing imperfect angles and crude attempts, and the Renaissance exhibiting again the old sharp-cut classicism of a time anterior even to Hilary and Ambrose.


From the higher critical standpoint, then, these hymns are not unacceptable as Xavier’s own work. They feel as if they belonged to his age and to his life. They are transfused and shot through by a personal sense of absorption into the divine love, which has fused and crystallized them in its fiercest heat. It is proper to inquire, moreover, if Xavier did not write them, who did? Their author must have been as much superior to his own circumstances and surroundings as Xavier was to his; and he must also have been as much possessed by this same holy zeal. It is absolutely incredible that, with these qualities given, he should not have been known to us in other relations, and, sooner or later, identified as the true source of their being. The sixteenth century was a time when literary knowledge was closer and keener than it had been in the twelfth, and a hymn of that period could not be attributed to Heloise without exposing its own fallacy; for in the Requiescat a labore we have such a comparatively modern lyric, which Daniel rightly tests and finds wanting. “It seems to me,” he says, “that this song is the production of a later age.” And he might well say it, for its crystallization, so to speak, is too accurate, too many-sided, for it to belong in the twelfth century and to the sad Abbess of the Paraclete.

One cannot, however, declare this so positively of Xavier’s two hymns. In style and composition the first is inferior to the second; but both have a simplicity and directness of utterance which may easily secure that pardon which their rhythm is faulty enough to require. If one were to assign any special date to them, it would naturally be in the neighborhood of that pathetic little petition which comes from the prayer-book of Mary Queen of Scots. The Domine Deus, speravi in Te is pitched in the same key with these. And as Mary lived from 1542 to 1587, and Xavier from 1506 to 1552, there is certainly room for these two compositions to have been prepared by another hand, in the days of enthusiasm over his triumphant successes and of sorrow over his early death.

With these arguments for and against the authenticity of the hymns, we must rest content. Bartoli and Maffei, in their Life of Xavier, are silent upon the subject; and the careful Königsfeld enters the better hymn in his collection as anonymous. If we retain the reputed authorship ourselves, it must be, therefore, rather as Christians than as scholars.


But, having done so, we are entitled to speak of Francis Xavier, and of his life and his work. The date of his birth is apparently fixed by a manuscript note in Spanish in a family record possessed by the Xaviers, which places it upon April 7th, 1506. His father was Don John Giasso, a man of legal acquirements and of good social position. He was at one time auditor of the royal council under King John III. For a wife he chose Donna Maria d’Azpilqueta y Xavier, and the child Francis was born at the castle of Xavier, a few miles distant from Pampeluna in Navarre, on the southern slope of the Pyrenees. He was the youngest of a large family, and the castle where he saw the light gave to him the patronymic by which he is always known. The family were originally called Asuarez, but altered their name to Xavier when King Theobald gave them this property. The mother’s title was thus perpetuated in one of her sons, but there seems to be some confusion still remaining, for a brother of the missionary was Captain John Azpilqueta, who also apparently had exchanged his father’s name of Giasso for one of the designations borne by his mother.

The biographies of Francis Xavier are naturally of a kind to excite the critical instincts of a scholar. They are, from the original life by Torsellini, to the latest Jesuit compilation, remarkable for their enthusiasm and unlimited credulity. It is only in such calmer treatises as those of Nicolini, Stephen, Venn, and others, that we get the more just conception of his character. But to be entirely fair to him we should take him from the picture painted by his co-religionists, refusing only those things which are manifestly incongruous or absurd. The work of Bartoli and Maffei may, for example, be regarded as entirely safe in its general statements.

From the portraits left to us and preserved in the pages of Nicolini and Mrs. Jameson, we derive a vivid impression of the man’s personal intensity. His eyes are deep and thoughtful; his nose strong, rather blunt, and withal sagacious; and his face is that of a mystic. He is usually represented as gazing upward in religious rapture and his lips are parted. His features are more rugged and forcible than refined. They indicate a rude strength of body and of will rather than a delicate and sensitive nature. Should we have met him personally, he would have given us the impression of an enthusiast, deeply affectionate and profoundly 302 loyal to anything like a military organization. These opinions would have been approved by the fact.

We read that his parents desired to educate him as a cavalier, and that he was at first instructed at home in the usual topics. But as he showed zeal and intelligence he was sent, in his eighteenth year, to the College of Ste. Barbe at Paris. Here he completed the study of philosophy, received the degree of Master, and began to give instruction to others. His most intimate friend was Peter Faber, afterward to become one of the earliest adherents of Ignatius Loyola. And the biographers are unwearied in their eulogy of Xavier’s and Faber’s purity of life and morals in the midst of the great temptations of a corrupt city.

To these two young men, ardent of mind and eager in their ambition, now enters the influence which shapes their destiny. Faber was a Savoyard, poor and of humble birth, while Xavier was well-to-do and possessed the haughty spirit of a Spanish grandee. They were, however, kindling each other up to some scheme of future glory when Ignatius Loyola made his way to Paris. He had been converted a few years before this and had already begun to gather proselytes to his opinions. His purpose in visiting Paris was not merely to avail himself of better facilities for study, but also to secure more followers. It is not strange to us that Loyola, with his great sagacity, should have singled out the two companions and have set himself to win them. Faber’s allegiance, indeed, it was an easy matter to obtain. But Xavier did not so readily fall in with the wishes of the great general of the Jesuits.

Faber’s conversion was rapidly accomplished. He was supplied with the Spiritual Exercises, which is, of all books, the best adapted to produce the proper self-abandonment and plastic condition of soul which befit the neophyte of the Society of Jesus. And this work, composed, say the Roman Catholic authorities, in the cavern of Manresa with the help of the Virgin Mary, may be regarded as the keenest instrument by which men’s lives were ever carved into the patterns designed by a superior will. We have no space for a discussion of Jesuitism further than to indicate its methods when they affect the subject before us, but Faber’s behavior undoubtedly had its weight upon Xavier. The Savoyard took to fasting with a perfect fury. In his debilitated condition he was the fit vehicle for spiritual impressions, for ecstasies, and 303 for mystical dreams. He would kneel in the open court in the snow, and sometimes allow himself to be covered with icicles. His bundle of fuel he made into a bed and slept upon it for the few hours of what one biography “scarcely knows whether to call torture or repose.” In fact, he so outran the instruction of Loyola, that that keen observer checked him and prevented what would have reacted against his own designs. “For,” saith quaint Matthew Henry, speaking of another subject, “there is a great deal of doing which, by overdoing, is altogether undone.”

Xavier was, however, more important to Loyola than Faber. And Xavier was of tougher material and harder to reach. Upon him the intense Loyola bent the blow-pipe flame of his own spirit. He had failed to touch him by texts or by austerities. He therefore changed his tactics altogether and began to soften him by praise, by judicious cultivation of his sympathies, by procuring new scholars for him, and even by attending his lectures and feigning a deep interest in whatever he did. In short, he applied flattery and deference in such a way that he insinuated himself very soon into the confidence of Xavier, and allowed the haughty Don to recognize the high birth and good breeding which he could also claim. This was a master stroke. Faber was after all only a Savoyard; but Loyola was born in a castle, had been a page at the court of Ferdinand, and had led soldiers into the deadliest places of battle. He had also the advantage of being Xavier’s senior by fully fourteen years, for his birth had been contemporaneous with Columbus’s expedition in search of the new world.

Here, then, the influence of this strong, undaunted, unflinching spirit began to focus itself upon the young teacher of philosophy. “Resistance to praise,” says the bitter La Rochefoucauld, “is a desire to be praised twice.” And to so acute a student of human nature as Loyola it soon grew evident that he was making progress. This was proved even by the modesty of Xavier. Therefore he redoubled his energies and utilized that marvellous power of adaptation, which was his chief legacy to his order, in obtaining a definite result. He gained ground so fast that Michael Navarro, a faithful servant of the young scholar, became determined to break off this dangerous fascination, and even attempted to kill Loyola in his private apartments. But he, too, was dealing with a brain which never relaxed its vigilance and with a magnetic personality 304 which felt a danger, and moved safely, cat-like, through the dark. He was halted and challenged by the man he came to kill, and being crushed down in confusion was thereupon treated with magnanimity, and went away revolving many things in his mind.

This was the power of Loyola—a power which sprang, first of all, from his peculiar constitution, and, second, from his fanatical ambition. It has been the key by which the Jesuit has ever since unlocked the doors of palaces and contrived to whisper in the ears of kings. Its extent has been that of the civilized and uncivilized world. In the matter of organization no human fraternity has ever equalled the Society of Jesus. The germs which we behold at Ste. Barbe in Paris have grown into a tree whose roots have taken hold on every soil, and whose fruit has dropped in every clime. The order has invariably employed strategy, intrigue, ingenuity, and perfect combination to secure its ends. It is, as a system, far from being either dead or insignificant. And its real vitality has always sprung from its maxim that its associated members, vowed to celibacy and to the accomplishment of its purposes, should be Perinde ac si cadavera—absolutely subordinate and dead to any other will—in the hands of the “general” who is at the head of its affairs. It has worked, first for itself, second for the Roman Catholic Church, and third for the proselytizing of the heathen and the heretics. It has never neglected to procure in every manner the information it needed to the full extent or to employ its principle that the end to be gained justifies the means that are taken to gain it. Thus it is the legitimate outgrowth of the soldier-courtier-fanatic mind of its founder. And this was the mind which was now spending its splendid resources upon Xavier, playing with him like a trout upon the hook, until it should land him, a completely surrendered man, within its own control.

In another sphere and under other influences, Xavier might have been a far different person. He, at least, was sincere in his devotion to the cause. He identified Jesuitism with Christianity and Loyola with Jesus Himself. Hence his character and labors have blinded many persons to the methods which he used and to the results which he sought.

It must be sufficient for us that Ignatius Loyola had now gotten the mastery of Francis Xavier so perfectly that he could be “applied 305 to the Spiritual Exercises, the furnace in which he [Loyola] was accustomed to refine and purify his chosen vessels.” A sister of the future missionary had become one of the Barefooted Clares, and had aided in dissuading her father from interference. And now we behold Xavier praying with hands and feet tightly bound by cords; or journeying with similar cords about his arms and the calves of his legs until inflammation and ulceration ensued. There were now nine of these converts, but this man outdid the others in his austerities, and finally travelled on foot with them to meet Loyola at Venice in 1537. The society had really been formed on August 15th, 1534, at Montmartre near Paris, and this was but its natural outward movement.

At Venice, on January 8th, 1537, they again met their leader and were assigned for duty to the two hospitals of the city. That of the “Incurables” fell to Xavier’s share, and we read that with the morbid devotion characteristic of a devout student of the Exercises, he determined now to conquer his natural repugnance to disease. In the course of his duties he had an unusually hideous ulcer to dress for one of the patients. And the authentic history relates that “encouraging himself to the utmost, he stooped down, kissed the pestilent cancer, licked it several times with his tongue, and finally sucked out the virulent matter to the last drop.” (Bartoli and Maffei, p. 35.) There could be nothing worse than that certainly. And a man who had resolutely sounded this deepest abyss of self-abandonment was marked for the highest honor that the new society could bestow. We cannot doubt Xavier’s sincerity, but the gigantic horror of this performance is of a sort to place the man who has achieved it upon an eminence apart from less daring minds. It was Loyola’s way of facing human nature and forcing it to concede the supreme self-devotion of his followers. The world looks with amazement upon such actions, but when it sees them, it yields a kind of stupefied allegiance to those who have thus rushed beyond the bounds. And to a close analysis there is as much concealed spiritual pride about this nastiness as there is an unnecessary shock given to the sense of decency. Thus, as Mozoomdar says, in his Oriental Christ, “Instead of abasing self, in many cases it serves the opposite end.” It “imposes a sort of indebtedness upon Heaven” (p. 66). Yet the poor wretch who felt those lips upon his awful 306 wound could not but worship the frightful hero who plunged into such nauseous contact with his loathsomeness.

Yes, this was and is the power of it all. It was and it is the key-note of much that is potent with the world. When Victor Hugo pictures Jean Valjean in the toils of the Thenardiers laying that white, hot, hissing bar of iron upon his arm and calmly standing before them while they shrink—ogres as they are—from the stench and the sight, he merely uses this same element. Whatever, in short, among us brings out the old savage nature; whatever plunges outside of the conventionalities, the proprieties, or even the common decencies of life; whatever defies the lightning, or dares the volcano, or tramples upon the coiled serpent, that is the thing which controls the world.

It is worthy of note that this is not a Christian but a Jesuit act. It is born of that exaggerated sentimentalism which chooses to go beyond Christ and His apostles in its fallacious abnegation of self. But wherever such acts are performed they rank as the marks of saintship and as the stigmata of a crucifixion which proudly places itself on the same Golgotha with another and nobler cross. The records, not merely of Xavier’s life, but of the lives of the saints, swarm with these creeping, slimy frogs of Egypt, raised up by enchanters of the human mind to make Pharaoh believe them to be equal to a far higher Providence. And if we say little in these pages about such strange developments and morbid growths of piety, it need not be forgotten that they existed, and that they have been fostered and encouraged by the Roman Church. The Breviary, for instance, commends a roll of self-flagellators who used the whip upon their naked backs, and Xavier heads the list with his iron flail. Cardinal Damiani, who wrote one of our loveliest hymns, introduced this fashion of scourging in 1056, and the holy nun, St. Theresa, after such exercises and an additional repose upon a bed of thorns, was “accustomed to converse with God.” [Aliquando inter spinas volutaret sic Deum alloqui solita.] This topic, with its allied suggestions, is altogether out of our present scope; but in order to see Xavier as he was, we must appreciate to what extent his spirit was subdued before his belief.

This was the man, tested and edged and tempered, to whom was now committed the “salvation of the Indies.” It was during the papacy of Paul III., the same Pope who excommunicated 307 Henry VIII. of England. And Xavier, who had practised many austerities both in life and in behavior, was at first sent to Bologna, while Loyola, with Faber and Laynez, went to Rome. It was subsequently at Rome that Xavier had his famous vision, in which he awoke crying, “Yet more, O Lord, yet more!” for he fancied that—as the Apostle Paul once did—he had beheld his future career and was glorying in trials and persecutions. Especially did he often have a dream in which he seemed to be carrying an Indian on his shoulders and toiling with him over the roughest and hardest roads. And when at last Govea, the Rector of the College of Ste. Barbe, happened to be in Rome, Ignatius and his companions were brought by him to the notice of John III. of Portugal, and the king desired to have six of them for use in India. The Pope did not show any special desire to secure their services, and when the question came up he referred it to Ignatius to decide it as he pleased. That sagacious general objected to taking six from ten and leaving only four to the rest of the world, for his ambition now extended to the orb of the earth. He accordingly chose Rodriguez and Bobadilla for India, men who were evidently well selected, for the first became a great propagandist in Portugal, and the other was a decided obstacle to the Reformation in Germany. When Rodriguez, however, fell ill with an intermittent fever Xavier naturally occurred to Loyola as the proper substitute. He therefore commissioned him for the service, and the worn and wasted ascetic patched up his old coat, said farewell to his friends, and having craved the Pope’s blessing, set off from Rome with the Portuguese Ambassador, Mascarenhas, on March 16th, 1540. He started in such poverty that Loyola took his own waistcoat and put it upon him, and he left behind him a written paper of consecration to the society, expressing in it his desire that Loyola should be its head, with Faber as alternate, and in which he took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the order under whose auspices he was going forth.

At the Portuguese Court in Lisbon, both Xavier and his companion were diligent in their religious work. The morals of the capital were quite reformed, and when it came time for the ships to sail to the East the king would only spare Xavier and detained Rodriguez, by the advice of Loyola, further to improve the affairs at home.


Xavier now sailed as Nuncio with papal commendation and with a poverty of outfit which had its due effect upon his companions on board the ship. The vessel itself was one of those great galleons of Spanish or Portuguese origin, carrying often a thousand persons, and having from four to seven decks. They were huge, unwieldy constructions and were generally freighted with large amounts of rich merchandise. The course was that pursued by Vasco da Gama—around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean—and the voyage often lasted beyond eight months. It is quaintly related of travellers by these precarious sea-paths that they used to take their shrouds and winding-sheets with them in case they died by the way.

The company on shipboard was as bad as the provisions, which were often execrable. The peninsular sailors never had the art either of discipline or of storing a ship and supplying what was needful for a voyage, as the English sea-kings had it. Hence their vessels were great floating caravansaries of human beings, full of the scum and offscouring of society—with lords and ladies on the quarter-deck, and robbers and murderers, harlots and gamblers down below. The crew was as prompt as that of Jonah’s ship to cry upon their gods whenever the wind blew. Such inventions as the ship’s pump, the chain-cable, and the bowsprit were not known to them. And when we see Sir Richard Grenville in the little Revenge fighting fifteen great Dons for as many hours, or Sir John Hawkins beating his way out of the harbor of Vera Cruz when the Jesus of Lubec was lost by Spanish treachery, we see how utterly cumbrous and awkward these galleons were when compared with English vessels.

Sickness also, in the form of fevers and scurvy, was very frequent. And there was such laxity of discipline that a six months’ voyage generally turned the great hulk into a hell of misery and riot. Here, therefore, Xavier was in his element. He slept on the deck; he begged his own bread, and the delicacies pressed upon him by the captain he divided among the neediest of the poor sufferers; he invented games to amuse those who were inclined toward amusement; and by degrees he commingled his sympathy and friendly offices with the necessities of the crew and passengers until they called him the “holy father.” He constantly preached, taught, and labored in this manner until he finally succumbed 309 to an epidemic fever which broke out when they were not far from Mozambique. Here he was landed and for a time was in hospital, at length completing his voyage to India in a different ship from that in which he had first embarked.

Scattered through his story, both then and afterward, we have accounts of various miracles, of his exhibition of a spirit of prophecy, and eventually of his raising the dead. These demand a moment’s consideration. He is said, for instance, to have predicted the loss of the San Jago, in which he sailed from Portugal and which was wrecked after he left her. He did the same with one or two other vessels and assured several persons of their own impending death or misfortune. Sometimes he was observed to speak as though he were holding conversation with unseen companions, and he was apparently conscious of events which were afterward found to have occurred at the very time in distant places. There is also a series of phenomena connected with the “gift of tongues” in his case, by which this power appears to have been intermittent, or at least dependent to a great degree upon a remarkable intensity of scholarship and keenness of analysis combined with a powerful memory. It is not claimed that he exercised this gift in such a manner as “to converse in a foreign tongue the moment he landed in this foreign country.” And then there is a further class of remarkable experiences connected with fevers and diseases and the raising of the dead.

Of these latter miracles it may be well to treat first. He is said to have raised up Anthony Miranda, an Indian, who had been bitten by a cobra; to have restored four dead persons at Travancore; to have resuscitated a young girl in Japan and a child in Malacca, and to have actually brought to the ship, alive and well, a lad who had fallen overboard and been apparently lost. These incidents are related with great gravity by the biographers and are accepted by the faithful as being strictly true. To impugn them is as if one impugned the Scriptures. Nevertheless there is an opening for scepticism in sundry cases, and it may be that we shall do well to agree with the saint’s own statement made to Doctor Diego Borba. “Ah, my Jesus!” he answered, “can it be said that such a wretch as I have been able to raise the dead? Surely, my dear Diego, you have not believed such folly? They brought a young man to me whom they supposed to be dead; I 310 commanded him to arise, and the common people, who make a miracle of everything, gave out the report that a dead man had been raised to life.” For the rest, we may well believe that the same exaggeration and lack of scientific attention to details have accompanied the various accounts, in some such manner as appears in the little sketch of his personal characteristics which a young Coquimban named Vaz has given to us. This enthusiastic admirer describes his going afoot with a patched and faded garment and an old black cloth hat. He took nothing from the rich or great unless he applied it to the uses of the poor. He spoke languages fluently without having learned them, and the crowds which flocked to hear him often amounted to five or six thousand persons. He celebrated Mass in the open air and preached from the branches of a tree when he had no other pulpit. But of this healing of the sick and raising of the dead we are not offered any better testimonials than the “Acts of his Canonization.” Moreover, in a manner quite contrary to the experiences recorded in the Gospels, these various miracles seem to be looked upon as the decisive stroke of Christian policy. Upon their occurrence tribes and kingdoms bow before the truth—a thing which did not happen at the tomb of Lazarus, or before the walls of Nain, or within the house of Jairus. In those cases the evangelists are content to tell us that the influence was limited and confined to a very moderate area.

Yet when we come to the cures of sick people, to the singular predictions, and to the exalted condition into which Xavier must often have been lifted, we must allow to the man a very high degree of mystical and mesmeric and even clairvoyant power. We are wise enough nowadays to observe the influence of a devoted personality, as when Florence Nightingale traverses the hospital wards at Scutari, or David Livingstone moves through savage tribes, to his dying hour at Lake Lincoln. And when profound Church historians will not altogether discredit the miracles of the Nicene Age which Ambrose and Augustine relate, it causes us to be charitable even toward the miracles of Bernard of Clairvaux, who recorded at large his own sense of uneasiness respecting his power of curing the sick. But it somewhat relieves the mind when the very chapters which relate these experiences of St. Francis Xavier, mention also that a crab came out of the sea and brought 311 him his lost crucifix, and that after he had lived in a certain house two children and a woman fell out of the window at different times and received not so much as a single bruise, though they dropped from an immense height upon the sea-wall. The credulity which includes such palpable absurdities must surely have exposed itself to misstatements and exaggerations in other directions.

It is far pleasanter for us to follow Xavier from his arrival at Goa, May 6th, 1542, to the fisheries of Cape Comorin; thence to Malacca, and so to the Banda Islands, Amboyna, and the Moluccas in 1546; again to Malacca in 1547; to Ceylon and back to Goa in 1548, and finally to Japan. In 1551 he planned a visit to China, but was disappointed, and at the moment when he was hoping to accomplish a great purpose he died on the island of San Chan, December 22d, 1552, at the early age of forty-six years.

Closely studying himself and his methods we find him greatly and always devout, his breviary, however, being his Bible. He prayed much and labored incessantly. His charity to small and great was untiring. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and calling people to come to religious worship, being frequently attended by a throng of children who seem to have loved him and been beloved by him. He had noble and sweet and modest traits in his character. But we often notice the reliance he places on baptism—sometimes conferring this rite until his arm dropped from weariness. And we observe how much of the wisdom of the serpent can be discerned in his ways with the people whom he desired to secure.

The indefatigable exertions of Xavier are above all praise. He never appears to have slackened in his zeal, nor does he ever show hesitation, doubt, or uncertainty of any kind. On one occasion when roused by a great crisis he displayed a military authority worthy of Loyola himself. He stood once in front of an invading host of Badages and forbade them to attack the Paravans, shouting to them, “In the name of the living God I command you to return whence you came.” No wonder that the semi-barbarous people were affected by this fearless and singular presence, and spoke of Xavier as a person of gigantic stature dressed in black and whose flashing eyes dazzled and daunted them.

But upon other occasions he was gentle and amenable to every agreeable trait in his companions. He could even take the cards 312 from a broken gamester, shuffle them to give him good fortune, and send him back to try his luck with fifty reals borrowed from another passenger. The man’s success is thereupon made a basis for his penitence. And so with the wicked cavalier of Meliapore, whose friendship he gained by being unconscious of his vices until the time for exhortation arrived. In these and similar instances we cannot fail to observe a thorough knowledge of human nature, and a Jesuit’s keen power of using it for his own purposes.

He was not always prospered in his enterprises. Once at least he literally shook off the dust from his shoes against an offending tribe. At another time he was wounded by an arrow. But, as a rule, he had a complete moral victory in whatever he undertook. In one of his letters he speaks of the people being maliciously disposed and ready to poison both food and drink. But he will take no antidotes with him, and is determined to avoid all human remedies whatsoever. It is in such superb examples of his absolute trust in God that he presents to us the really grand side of his character. He did not know what fear was, and as for death, he was too familiar with daily dying to be concerned at it. His personal faith was such as to beget faith in others, as when an earthquake interrupted his preaching upon St. Michael’s Day, and he announced that the archangel was then driving the devils of that unhappy country back to the pit. This was said so earnestly as to produce a profound conviction of its truth and to remove all alarm from his audience.

But when we are asked to believe that the two Pereiras ever beheld him elevated from the earth and actually transfigured, or when it is stated that he lifted a great beam as though it had been a lath, we must be excused for being doubtful of the statement. There is nothing more destructive of religion than superstition, and nothing which kills faith like credulity. Xavier, with all his false notions, was a most sincere and even majestic figure—a hero of the faith, who shows us the power of a thoroughly devoted spirit unencumbered by any earthly tie and unobstructed by any earthly want. The entire self-immolation of this career constitutes its amazing power. It is the missionary spirit carried to its loftiest height.

Perhaps one of his most ingenious ways to secure the good-will of his companions was by endeavoring to excite their benevolence. 313 He would encourage them to little acts of kindness and would repay these by similar favors and services. Particularly he used persuasion rather than denunciation, and personal efforts rather than general harangues. He was “all things to all men,” going “privately to those of reputation,” as Paul, his great model, was wont to do. He once wrote: “It is better to do a little with peace than a great deal with turbulence and scandal.”

On April 14th, 1552, he set sail from Goa for Malacca where a pestilence was raging. This delayed him awhile from China, and he was held back still longer by the envious quarrellings of those who aspired to the honor of attending him on his voyage. Xavier was reduced to the necessity of producing the papal authority which constituted him Nuncio, and of threatening with excommunication Don Alvaro Ataïde, the most troublesome person. In addition to this difficulty he found himself insulted and reviled in the open street, but accepted everything with meekness and patience; which, however, did not prevent his finally excommunicating Ataïde in the regular form. The vessel on which he embarked was manned mostly by those in the pay of Ataïde, but he did not shrink from the voyage. The voyage itself is decorated with many legends, as might be expected. The saint is reported to have changed salt water into fresh; to have rescued a child from death in a miraculous manner, and to have become suddenly so much taller and larger than those about him as to have been compelled to lower his arms when he baptized the converts. They sailed from Chinchoo to San Chan, an island in which the Portuguese had some trading privileges. It was here that Xavier uttered a prediction which may serve to explain other singular occurrences. He would seem to have possessed more than an ordinary amount of medical skill in diagnosis, and looking earnestly upon an old friend named Vellio, he bade him prepare for death whenever the wine he drank tasted bitter. This might easily be from either of two causes—poison, or a disorganized state of the system. And it is recorded that the result fulfilled the prophecy. Nor is there much doubt that Vellio’s entire faith in the prediction helped on his death.

From San Chan Xavier now proposed to cross to China. He arranged to be smuggled thither in a small boat, but the residents of San Chan, English as well as Portuguese, became alarmed at the 314 consequences which they foresaw from this desperate scheme of intrusion into the forbidden empire. And to crown all his woes he fell sick with a fever, from which, however, he convalesced in a fortnight. He was now more anxious than ever to go on with his project. But all the Portuguese ships had sailed back again except the Santa Cruz, on which he had arrived. And now he was truly deserted and neglected. He had scarcely the bare necessaries of life, sometimes being deprived entirely of food. The sailors were mostly in Ataïde’s pay and inimical to his purpose. At length he became convinced that he would himself soon die, and so would often walk in meditation and prayer by the seashore gazing toward the prohibited coast.

At this time the young Chinese Anthony was his only hope as an interpreter; and he was now deprived of the services of the merchant and his son who had agreed to row him over to Canton. They had deserted him, and only Anthony and one more young lad remained true to the dying missionary. On November 20th the fever again seized him after he had celebrated Mass. He was taken to a floating hospital, but being disturbed by its motion he begged to be landed. This was done and he was left upon the beach in the bleak wind. A poor Portuguese named George Alvarez then took pity on him and removed him to his own hut of boughs and straw. Rude medical care was given him, but on December 2d, about two o’clock in the afternoon, he had reached the limit of his life. His latest words were, In te, Domine, speravi—non confundar in aeternum—O Lord, I have trusted in Thee, I shall never be confounded, world without end.

Thus died Francis Xavier, for ten years and seven months a missionary in the most dangerous and deadly regions of the earth. At the date of his death he was of full and robust figure in spite of his privations, with eyes of a bluish-gray, and hair that had changed its dark chestnut color somewhat through his toils and sufferings. His forehead was broad, his nose good, and his expression pleasant and affable. His beard, like his hair, was thick, and his temperament was nearly a pure sanguine.

They buried him first at San Chan, then removed him to Goa, where in solemn procession they conducted his mortal body to its final rest. But his right arm was taken off and it is to be observed that “the saint seems not to have been pleased at the amputation 315 of his arm,” which, however, did not prevent the Jesuit, General Claude Acquaviva, from insisting upon the mutilation.

Down to the present time his memory has received many honors. Churches have been erected, prayers have been offered, and much religious worship has been transacted in his name. But to us who are looking upon him from another angle altogether, there are apparent in him a piety, a zeal, a courage, and a “hot-hearted prudence” (to quote F. W. Faber’s words) which arouse our admiration. And in the two hymns which bear his name we are able to discover that fine attar which is the precious residuum of many crushed and fragrant aspirations, which grew above the thorns of sharp trial and were strewn at last upon the wind-swept beach of that poor Pisgah island from which he truly beheld the distant Land.


O Lord, I love thee, for of old

Thy love hath reached to me.

Lo, I would lay my freedom by

And freely follow thee!

Let memory never have a thought

Thy glory cannot claim,

Nor let the mind be wise at all

Unless she seek thy name.

For nothing further do I wish

Except as thou dost will;

What things thy gift allows as mine

My gift shall give thee still.

Receive what I have had from thee

And guide me in thy way,

And govern as thou knowest best,

Who lovest me each day.

Give unto me thy love alone,

That I may love thee too,

For other things are dreams; but this

Embraceth all things true.



There are three principal liturgical books in use in the Roman Catholic Church. Originally there were two: the Ritual, which contained all the sacramental offices, and the Breviary, which contained the rest. But for convenience the eucharistic office in its various forms now has a book to itself called the Missal, and the other six sacraments recognized in the Church of Rome make up the Ritual.

It is with the Breviary, however, that hymnology is especially concerned, as it is in it that the hymns of the Church are mostly to be found, while the sequences belong to the Missal. It contains the prayers said in the Church’s behalf every day at the canonical hours by the priests and the members of the religious orders. Originally there were only three of these canonical hours, and they were based on Old Testament usage. These were at the third, sixth, and ninth hour of the Scriptures (nine o’clock, noon, and three in the afternoon), and in the Western Church are called Tierce, Sext, and Nones, for that reason. The number afterward was increased to five and then to seven. To these three day hours were added three night hours, with two at the transition from night to day (Prime), and from day to night (Vespers). But to get up thrice in the night was too much for even monastic discipline, so they said two night services together at midnight, and then they slept till dawn. As this daily service differs in its contents according to the seasons of the Church year, and also is adapted to the commemoration of the saints of the Calendar, the Breviary is the most voluminous prayer-book known to Christendom. It generally is published in four substantial volumes, one each for the four natural seasons. It is used in such public services as are not accompanied by a celebration of any sacrament and in the choir service of the religious houses. In theory, however, the Church is present even at the solitary recitation of the hours by a 317 secular priest; and when two say them in company they must say them aloud.

Hymns were not in the services of the Breviary from the beginning. As late as the sixth century there was a controversy as to admitting anything but the words of Scripture to be sung. We find a Gallic synod sanctioning their use, and a Spanish synod taking common ground with our Psalm-singing Presbyterians. But in the next century even Spain, through the Council of Toledo (A.D. 633), appeals to early precedent in behalf of hymns, and decides that if people may use uninspired words in prayer, they may do the same in their praises—Sicut ergo orationes, ita et hymnos in laudem Dei compositos nullus vestrum ulterius improbet—which went to the core of the question and silenced the exclusive Psalm-singers. Twenty years later another Council of Toledo required of candidates for orders that they should know both the Psalter and the hymns by heart. Yet in the Roman Breviary no hymns were introduced before the thirteenth century, when Haymo, the General of the Franciscan Order, reformed it in 1244 with the sanction of Gregory IX. and Nicholas III.

In the view of Roman Catholic liturgists, the Psalms set forth the praise of God in general, while hymns are written and used with reference to some single mystery of the faith, or the commemoration of some saint. This harmonizes with their use in the Breviary, and their division into hymns de tempore for the festivals of the Church year, or the days of the week, or the hours of the day; and hymns de sanctis for the days of commemoration in the Church Calendar. Even when the same hymn is used on a series of days, its conclusion is altered to give it a special adaptation to each of these days. This classification, of course, does not describe the whole body of the Latin hymns. Some few even of those in the Breviary, as, for instance, the Te Deum, have to be classed as psalms, and are called Canticles (Cantica); and many outside it will not fit into any such definition of what a hymn is. But it illustrates the general character and purpose of the hymns of the Roman and other breviaries, as designed for a special temporal or personal application by way of supplement to the Psalter.

At present the Roman Breviary, prepared with the sanction of the Council of Trent, has driven nearly all the others out of use. But at the era of the Reformation there was a great number of 318 breviaries, every diocese and religious order having a right to its own. Panzer enumerates no less than seventy-one which were printed before 1536, some of them in several editions.[18] Even now the Roman Breviary is supplemented by special services in honor of the saints of each order or country, and by services of a more general kind which are peculiar to some localities. But in Luther’s time the endless variety in breviaries and missals formed a striking feature of the confusion which to his mind characterized the Church of Rome.

With the development of a more fastidious taste, through the study of the Latin classics as literary models, there arose in the sixteenth century, and even before the Reformation, a demand for a reformation of the Breviary. Besides its defects of form, such as violations of Latin grammar, the constant use of terms which grated on the ears of the humanists, and the use of hymns in which rhyme rather added to the offence of want of correct metre, the contents of the Breviary were found faulty by a critical age. The selections from the Fathers to be read by way of homily were in some cases from spurious works; and the narratives of saints’ lives for the days dedicated to them were not always edifying, and in some cases palpably untrue. It became a proverbial saying that a person lied like the second nocturn office of the Breviary, that being the service in which these legends are found. But the badness of the Latin and the metrical faults of the hymns counted for quite as much with the critics of that day. We hear of a cardinal warning a young cleric not to be too constant in reading his Breviary, if he wished to preserve his ear for correct Latinity.

As might have been expected, it was the elegant Medicean Pope Leo X. who first put his hand to the work of reform. He selected for this purpose Zacharia Ferreri, Bishop of Guarda-Alfieri, a man of fine Latin scholarship and some ability as a poet. By 1525 Ferreri had the hymns for a new Breviary ready, and published them with the promise of the Breviary itself on the title-page.[19] 319 Clement VII., also of the house of Medici, was Pope when the book appeared, and he authorized the substitution of these new hymns for the old, but did not command this.

The book is furnished with an introduction by Marino Becichemi, a forgotten humanist, who was then professor of eloquence at Padua. It is worth quoting as exhibiting the attitude of the Renaissance to the earlier Christian literature. He praises Ferreri as a shining light in every kind of science, human and divine, prosaic and poetical. He cannot say too much of the beauty of his style, its gravity and dignity, its purity, its spontaneity and freedom from artificiality. “That his hymns and odes, beyond all doubt, will secure him immortality, I need not conceal. Certainly I have read nothing in Christian poets sweeter, purer, terser, or brighter. How brief and how copious, each in its place—how polished! Everywhere the stream flows in full channel with that antique Roman mode of speech, except where of full purpose it turns in another direction.” That means how Ciceronian Ferreri’s speech, except where he remembers that he is a Christian poet and bishop writing for Christian worshippers. “More than once have I exhorted him that it belonged to the duty and dignity of his episcopal (pontificii) office to make public these Church hymns.”

“You know, my reader, what hymns they sing everywhere in the temples, that they are almost all faulty, silly, full of barbarism, and composed without reference to the number of feet or the quantity of the syllables, so as to excite educated persons to laughter, and to bring priests, if they are men of letters, to despise the services of the Church. I say men of letters. As for those who are not, and who are the gluttons of the Roman curia, or who have no wisdom, it is enough for them to stand like dragons close by the sacred ark, or to drift about like the clouds, to live like idle bellies, given over to the pursuit of sleep, good living, sensual pleasures, and to gather up the money by which they make themselves hucksters in religion and plunderers of the Christian people and practice their deceits upon both gods and men equally, until the vine of the Lord degenerates into a wild plant.”


The Italianized Greek would see no difference between a Tetzel and a Ferreri. But there still were sincerely good people who relished the old hymns better than the polished paganism of the Bishop of Guarda-Alfieri. Ferreri’s hymns struck no root in spite of the favor of two Medicean popes. They seem never to have reached a second edition. Their frankly pagan vocabulary for the expression of Christian ideas seems to have been too much for even the humanists.

Bishop Ferreri does not seem to have lived to prepare his shorter and easier Breviary after the same elegant but unsuitable fashion as his hymns. So Clement VII. put the preparation of a new Breviary into the hands of another and a better man, Cardinal Francesco de Quiñonez. He was a Spanish Franciscan, had been general of his order, and was made Cardinal by Clement in acknowledgment of diplomatic services. He enjoyed the confidence of the Emperor Charles V., and used it to rescue the Pope from his detention in the Castle of San Angelo, when he was besieged there after the taking of Rome by the Imperial troops in 1529. This is hardly the kind of record which would lead us to look for a reformer under the red hat of our cardinal. But, so far as the Breviary was concerned, he proved himself too rigorous a reformer, if anything. His work was governed by two leading principles. The first was to simplify the services by dropping out those parts which had been added last. The second was to use the space thus obtained to insert ampler Scripture lessons and more Psalms, so that, as in earlier times, the Bible might be read through once a year and the Psalter once a week. It is this last feature which has elicited the praise of Protestant liturgists, and it is known that the Breviary of Quiñonez furnished the basis for the services of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, excepting, of course, the Communion Service. But unfortunately hymnologists are not able to join in this praise. To get the Psalms said or sung through once a week, he dealt nearly as ruthlessly with the hymns as if he were a Seceder.

His Breviary appeared in 1535,[20] and for thirty-three years its 321 use was permitted to ecclesiastics in their private recitation of the hours. It appeared in a large number of editions in different parts of Europe, so that its use must have been extensive. But it did not pass unchallenged. The doctors of the Sorbonne at Paris hurried into the arena with their condemnation of it before the ink was fully dry on the first copies. They declared it a thing unheard of to introduce into Church use a book which was the production of a single author, and he—as they wrongly alleged—not even a member of any religious order. Furthermore, he had so shortened and eviscerated the legends for the saints’ days, besides omitting many, that nobody could tell what virtues and what miracles entitled them to commemoration. Above all he had omitted Peter Damiani’s Little Office of the Blessed Virgin! Much better founded was the objection to the omission of parts long established in use, such as the antiphons and many of the hymns. Here we must side with the Sorbonne against Quiñonez.

It was not until 1568 that the present Roman Breviary appeared. When the Council of Trent met in its final session in 1562, the first drafts of a reformed Breviary and Missal were transmitted to the Fathers by Pius IV.; but they were too busy with questions of discipline to do more than return these with their approbation. The work was published by Pius V. in July, 1568, and its use was made obligatory upon all dioceses which had not had a Breviary of their own in use for two hundred years previously. This is in substance the Breviary now in use throughout the Roman Catholic Church. It underwent, however, two further revisions. That under Clement VIII., finished in 1602, was by a commission in which Cardinals Bellarmine, Baronius, and Silvius Antonianus were members. That under Urban VIII., completed in 1631, concerns us more directly, and especially the part of it which was effected by three learned Jesuits: Famiano Strada, Hieronimo Petrucci, and Tarquinio Galucci, who had in their hands the revision of the hymns.


The three revisers, all of them poets of some distinction, and the first famous for his history of the wars in the Low Countries, had to steer a middle course in the matter of revision. None of them were radical humanists after the fashion of Zacharia Ferreri; that fashion, indeed, had gone out with the rise of the counter-reformation and of the great order to which they belonged. Yet in the matter of “metre and Latinity,” of which Ferreri boasted on his title page a hundred years before, the revival of classical scholarship had established a standard to which the old hymns even of the Ambrosian period did not conform. The revisers profess their anxiety to make as few changes as possible; but Pope Urban, in his bull Psalmodiam sanctam prefixed to the book, announces that all the hymns—except the very few which made no pretension to metrical form—had been conformed to the laws of prosody and of the Latin tongue, those which could not be amended in any milder way being rewritten throughout. Bartolomeo Gavanti, a member of the Commission of Revision, but laboring in another department, tells us that more than nine hundred alterations were made for the sake of correct metre, with the result of changing the first lines of more than thirty of the ninety-six hymns the Breviary then contained; that the three by Aquinas on the sacrament, the Ave Maris stella, the Custodes hominum, and a very few others, were left as they were.

This, then, is the genesis of the class of hymns designated in the collections as traceable no farther back than the Roman Breviary. Some of them are original, being the work of Silvius Antonianus, Bellarmine, or Urban VIII. himself, or of authors of that age whose authorship has not been traced. But the greater part are recasts of ancient hymns to meet the demands of the humanist standards of metre and Latinity.

It is not easy to give a merely English reader any adequate idea of the sort of changes by which Strada and his associates adapted the old hymns to modern use. But for those who can read Latin some specimens are worth giving. Take first the great sacramental hymn of the eighth or ninth century:

Ad coenam Agni providi

Et stolis albis candidi,

Post transitum maris Rubri

Christo canamus principi,

Cujus corpus sanctissimum

In ara crucis torridum,

Cruore ejus roseo

Gustando vivimus Deo

Protecti paschae vespero

A devastante angelo

Erepti de durissimo

Pharaonis imperio.

Jam pascha nostrum Christus est

Qui immolatus agnus est,

Sinceritatis azyma

Caro ejus oblata est.

O vera digna hostia

Per quam fracta sunt tartara

Redempta plebs captivata,

Reddita vitae praemia

Cum surgit Christus tumulo

Victor redit de barathro,

Tyrannum trudens vinculo,

Et reserans paradisum

Quaesumus, auctor omnium

In hoc paschali gaudio:

Ab omni mortis impetu

Tuum defende populum.


Ad regias Agni dapes

Stolis amicti candidis

Post transitum maris Rubri

Christo canamus principi:

Divina cujus charitas

Sacrum propinat sanguinem,

Almique membra corporis

Amor sacerdos immolat

Sparsum cruorem postibus

Vastator horret angelus:

Fugitque divisum mare

Merguntur hostes fluctibus.

Jam Pascha nostrum Christus est

Paschalis idem victima,

Et pura puris mentibus

Sinceritatis azyma

O vera coeli victima

Subjecta cui sunt tartara,

Soluta mortis vincula,

Recepta vitae praemia

Victor subactis inferis

Trophaea Christus explicat,

Coeloque aperto, subditum

Regem tenebrarum trahit.

Ut sis perenne mentibus

Paschale, Jesu, gaudium:

A morte dira criminum

Vitae renatos libera.

Now it is impossible to deny to the revised version merits of its own. Not only does it use the Latin words which classic usage requires—as dapes in poetry for coena, recepta for reddita, inferis for barathro—but it brings into clearer view the facts of the Old Testament story which the hymn treats as typical of the Christian passover. The (imperfect) rhyme of the original is everywhere sacrificed to the demands of metre, which probably is no loss. But the gain is not in simplicity, vigor, and freshness. In these the old hymn is much superior. The last verse but one, for instance, presents in the old hymn a distinct and living picture—the picture Luther tells us he delighted in when a boy chorister singing the Easter songs of the Church. But in the recast the vividness 324 is blurred, and classic reminiscence takes the place of the simple and direct speech the early Church made for itself out of the Latin tongue.

Take again the first part of the dedication hymn, of which Angulare fundamentum is the conclusion:

Urbs beata Hierusalem

Dicta pacis visio

Quae construitur in coelis

Vivis ex lapidibus

Et angelis coronata

Ut sponsata comite

Nova veniens e coelo

Nuptiali thalamo

Praeparata, ut sponsata

Copulatur domino,

Plateae et muri ejus

Ex auro purissimo

Portae nitent margaritis

Adytis patentibus,

Et virtute meritorum

Illuc introducitur

Omnis, qui pro Christi nomine

Hoc in mundo premitur

Tunsionibus, pressuris

Expoliti lapides

Suis coaptantur locis

Per manum artificis,

Disponuntur permansuri

Sacris aedificiis.

Coelestis urbs Jerusalem

Beata pacis visio

Quae celsa de viventibus

Saxis ad astra tolleris,

Sponsaeque ritu cingeris

Mille angelorum millibus.

O sorte nupta prospera,

Dotata Patris gloria,

Respersa Sponsi gratia

Regina formosissima,

Christo jugata principi

Coelo corusca civitas.

Hic margaritis emicant

Patentque cunctis ostia,

Virtute namque praevia

Mortalis illuc ducitur

Amore Christi percitus

Tormenta quisquis sustinent.

Scalpri salubris ictibus

Et tunsione plurima,

Fabri polita malleo

Hanc saxa molem construunt,

Aptisque juncta nexibus

Locantur in fastidia.

Daniel in his first volume prints fifty-five of these recasts in parallel columns with the originals, and to that we will refer our readers for further specimens. It is gratifying to know that not all the scholarship of that age was insensible to the qualities which the revisers sacrificed. Henry Valesius, although only a layman and a lover of good Latin—as his versions of the historians of the early Church show—uttered a fierce but ineffectual protest in favor of the early and mediaeval hymns. And the Marquis of Bute, a convert to Catholicism, who published an English translation 325 of the Breviary in 1879, says that the revisers of 1602 “with deplorable taste made a series of changes in the texts of the hymns, which has been disastrous both to the literary merit and the historical interest of the poems.” He hopes for a further revision which shall undo this mischief, but in other respects return to the type furnished by the Breviary of Quiñonez.

The translations from the hymns of the Roman Breviary have been very abundant. Those by Protestants have been due to the fact that the texts even of ancient hymns were so much more accessible in their Breviary version than in their original form. Among Roman Catholics, of course, other considerations have weight; and in Mr. Edward Caswall’s Lyra Catholica and Mr. Orby Shipley’s Annus Sanctus will be found some very admirable versions. The latter book is an anthology from the Roman Catholic translators from John Dryden to John Henry Newman.

From the Breviary text Mr. Duffield has made the following translations of two hymns by Gregory the Great:


Now with the risen star of dawn,

To God as suppliants we pray,

That he may keep us free from harm,

And guide us through an active day.

May he, restraining, guard the tongue,

Lest it be found to strive and cry,

And, lest it drink in vanities,

May he protect the wayward eye.

Let all our inmost thoughts be pure,

And heedlessness of heart be gone;

Let self-denying drink and food

Hold pride and flesh securely down,

That when the day at length is past,

And night in turn has come to men,

Through abstinence from earth, we may

Give thee the only glory then.

To God the Father be the praise,

And to his sole-begotten Son,

And to the Holy Paraclete,

Now and until all time be done.



Lo, now, the shadows of the night are breaking,

While in the east the rising daylight brightens,

Therefore with praises will we all adore thee,

Lord God Almighty!

How doth our God, commiserating mortals,

Drive away sorrow, offering them safety,

Since he shall give us, through paternal kindness,

Rule in the heavens!

This let the blessed Deity afford us,

Father and Son and equal Holy Spirit,

Whose through the earth be glory in all places

Ever resounding.

Also this translation of the Breviary recast of the Urbs beata Hierusalem of the seventh or eighth century:


O heavenly town, Jerusalem,

Thou blessed dawn of peace,

How lofty from the living rock

Thy starry walls increase,

Where thousand, thousand angels stand,

And praises never cease.

O bride, whose lot is aye serene,

The Father’s state is thine;

Thou art the ever-fairest queen

Adorned with grace divine;

United unto Christ, thy Head,

Thy heavenly form doth shine.

How softly gleam thy pearly gates

Which open wide to all,

Here virtue entered long ago,

And unto men doth call,

Who loved the Lord through mortal pain,

And fought and did not fall.

Thy beauty came by chisel stroke

And many a hammer-blow;

The workman’s hammer wrought the stone

Which buildeth thee below;

And joined with bonds of aptest skill

Thy splendid turrets glow.


Then honor unto God most high

As it was due of yore;

And thus the Father’s only Son

And Spirit we adore,

To whom be glory, power, and praise

Through ages evermore.

To these Dr. A. R. Thompson permits us to add, as a specimen of the later hymns of the Latin Church, his translation of


O God, why didst thou put aside

For this vile earth thy heaven above?

Didst thou expect there would betide

Thee here the ministry of love?

That earth had honor, Lord, for thee?

Honor and love! nay, verily,

Lying in wickedness, earth knows

Not how to love thee, but thy foes.

Bethlehem proved what love for thee

This present evil world hath, when

She shut against thee cruelly

The doors left wide for other men,

And forced thee to the hovel, where—

Wide open to the winter air—

The very beasts could scarcely live;

No other shelter would she give.

Come, Jesus, from that hovel cold,

Exposed to all the winds that blow,

Chilled by discomfort manifold,

From the poor couch all wet with snow.

My all a couch for thee I make,

My heart the shelter thou shall take.

I give it all, I give my best,

That were for thee a better rest.

My heart to love thee, Lord, desires,

And, loving, proffers love’s warm kiss.

The kiss, to give which she aspires,

Honor and adoration is.

Take thou from me this honor true;

Take thou the love which is thy due;

For this, my loyal offering,

Out of my very heart I bring.


My heart, all burning with the fire

Of love to thee, would cherish thine;

But thou that love canst kindle higher,

And thou wilt rather cherish mine.

For thou art Love, and canst inflame

The hearts of them that love thy name

With thine own self, and not with wood;

Thou art the very Fire of God.

Come, then, O Fire of God, to me!

Come, Love, and never more depart!

Enter the place prepared for thee,

The shelter of my loving heart!

I’ll spread thee there a couch of rest,

And deem myself supremely blest,

If I may evermore abide

Loving, belovèd, at thy side.

While we have to treat rather of hymns than of hymn-writers in dealing with the Roman Breviary, there is much of personal interest attaching to the Breviary of Paris, its great rival in hymnological interest. A slight revision of the hymns of this Breviary was effected in 1527—of which the Urbs Jerusalem beata is a type—and only with the idea of correcting corruptions of the text. But the Roman revision of 1568-1631 affected the Gallican Church’s services very slightly. In no part of the Roman Catholic world were the rights of the national Church guarded so carefully as in France, until Napoleon bargained them away by the Concordat of 1801. The French bishops and monastic orders continued to retain their old service-books long after uniformity had been established, under plea of unity, in other parts of the Church; and they made such alterations in them as they thought necessary to the edification of their people.

It was the Order of Cluny which first took steps toward the substitution of new hymns for those whose use had been sanctioned by long tradition. The general chapter of that branch of the great Benedictine family in 1676-78 charged Paul Rabusson and Claude de Vert with the preparation of a new Breviary. On Rabusson, who was teaching theology in the monastery of St. Martin des Champs in Paris, the labor chiefly fell. He applied to Claude Santeul, a pensioner of the ecclesiastical seminary attached to the Abbey of St. Magloire, asking him to prepare the 329 new hymns. Claude Santeul (Santolius Maglorianus) agreed to do so, and made some progress in the work. He finished six hymns, which were inserted in the new Breviary, and at his death (1684) he left two manuscript volumes of unfinished hymns among his papers. But he found that his being selected had excited the jealousy of his younger brother, Jean Santeul, a canon of the monastery of St. Victor (Santolius Victorinus), who already was recognized as the finest, but by no means the most edifying of the Latin poets of the France of his time.

Claude gladly gave place to his brother—who was accepted by the Cluny Fathers—in the hope that the work of writing hymns would divert him from the pagan poetizing, which was regarded as unbecoming to his cloth. Jean Santeul is the oddest figure in the annals of Latin hymnology, which is saying a good deal. He is “a man of whom it is hard to speak without falling into caricature,” Sainte-Beuve says (Causeries de Lundi, XII., 20-56). He combined the talent of a poet of nature’s making with the simplicity of a child and the vanity and wit of a genuine Frenchman. He recalls La Fontaine by many of his traits, and, under the name of “Theodas,” he has furnished La Bruyère with the materials for one of the cleverest portraits in the Caractères (1687). His mode of life was a scandal to De Rance and other severe Churchmen, who were laboring for the restoration of strict monastic discipline. His love of good living and the charm of his society and his talk carried him off from his monastery and his hours, sometimes for weeks together. His Latin inscriptions, which adorned the fountains, bridges, and public monuments of Paris, at once gave him recognition as the poet laureate and pensioner of the grande monarque, and as a priest whose poetry dealt more in the pagan deities than in any distinctively Christian references. He was not an immoral man in any gross sense. Even as a bon vivant, he does not seem to have transgressed what were recognized as the bounds of sobriety, and his poetry is as free as was his life from licentiousness. But he was frivolous, gay, reckless, and as worldly as was consistent with his being a grown-up child. Everybody, even severe and silent De Rance at La Trappe, liked him, but everybody shook his head over the inconsistency of his life with his monastic vocation, and none more sorrowfully than his good brother Claude at St. Magloire.


Now at last there seemed to be the opportunity to reclaim him by occupying his mind and his art with serious subjects, and by bringing him into edifying associations with good men. That he was not enough of a theologian to discharge the task satisfactorily of himself, was rather an advantage from this point of view. The eloquent and learned Jansenist, Nicolas le Tourneux, undertook the work of coaching him. The partnership worked reasonably well. Of course hymns produced by this kind of division of labor, in which one took care of the sense and another of the expression, have the defects of their method. But Le Tourneux was as careful of the poet as of his verse. His severe eye detected the play of Santeul’s vanity even in the work of writing hymns. “Reflect, my dear brother,” he wrote, “that while in the visible and militant Church one may sing the praises of God with an impure heart and defiled lips, it will not be so in heaven. You have burnt incense in your verse, but there was strange fire in the censer. Vanity furnishes your motive where it ought to be charity.” He objects to Santeul’s calling himself “the poet of Jesus Christ,” while he admits that vain glory leads him to write hymns. “If you and I were all we ought to be,” wrote the severe Jansenist, “we would quake with fear at having dared, you to sing and I to preach of the holiness of God, without a right sense of it. We shall be only too happy if He pardon our sermons and our verses.” Perhaps the severity was needed and did good.

So Le Tourneux suggested and all but wrote the prayer in which Santeul dedicated his hymns to our Lord: “Receive what is Thine; forgive what is mine. Thine is whatever I have uttered that is good and holy. Mine that I have handled Thy good things unworthily, and not from desire to please Thee, but from an undue pride of poetry, of which I am ashamed. Thou hast given me songs to praise Thee. Give me prayers, give me tears to wash away the stains of a life less than Christian.”

His hymns must have circulated in manuscript before their publication, for we find De Rance in 1683 praising those in commemoration of St. Bernard, while noticing that the old hymns, if less excellent as literature, had a more reverential spirit. In 1685, a year in advance of the new Breviary, Santeul published them in the first collection he made of them.[21] Their merits made a much 331 deeper impression than their defects. Scholars and Churchmen alike were struck by their rhetorical vigor, the frequent boldness of their conception, the beautiful succession of sentiments and images, the exquisite clearness of the sense, and not by the factitious character of their enthusiasm, as Sainte-Beuve puts it, or the frequent monotony in the treatment of cognate themes. The Breviary, in fact, had ceased to be the voice of the Christian congregation. The supersession of Latin by the national languages of Western Europe had made it the prayer-book of a class educated to relish only the classic forms of Latin verse, and to regard the simplicity of the early hymn-writers as barbarous. Santeul wrote for priests whose tastes had been formed on Horace and Virgil, and he brought into these rigid forms as much of genuine Christian feeling and doctrine as the age required. He was all the happier in these respects, as Le Tourneux, who himself contributed to the new Breviary, was of that Jansenist school in which religion, belittled by the pettiness and the casuistry of the Jesuits, once more presented itself in its grandeur and its severity.

The excellence of Santeul’s hymns at once created a demand for their introduction in other churches and dioceses, and for his services as a hymn-writer. Several of the best were introduced by Archbishop Harlay into the later editions of his revised Paris Breviary, which had appeared in 1680. So the bishops of many other French dioceses—Rouen, Sens, Narbonne, Massillon of Clermont, and others—adopted his hymns into their breviaries after his death. And as he gallantly said, he had the pleasure while still living of hearing them “sung by the angels at Port Royal.” Other orders begged him to commemorate their founders and their especial saints; dioceses and churches in other parts of 332 France invoked his good offices. Hence it is that of his two hundred and twenty-eight hymns not one in five is occupied with the great festivals of the Church year, but are specific or general hymns to the honor of the saints, martyrs, and doctors of the Church of France especially.

The rush of popularity—not unaccompanied by solid rewards, for the good fathers of the Cluny Order gave him a pension—seems to have turned Santeul’s not very well-balanced head. Le Tourneux’s admonitions were forgotten. He ran from church to church to hear his hymns sung, and scandalized congregations by his demonstrations of delight or disgust as the music was appropriate or otherwise; he declaimed them in all sorts of places, suitable and unsuitable, to extort the admiration he loved so dearly. He did not forget to tell that even the severe De Rance had written from La Trappe to thank him for his hymn on St. Bernard, but that for his own part he valued the general hymn on the Doctors of the Church above any other. Naturally he had little good to say of the hymns his were to displace. If anything could make a pagan of him, it would be the bad grammar of those old monkish poets, who sacrificed sense and grammar alike to their stupid rhymes. And so he would run on by the hour to anybody who would listen, with an egotism whose very childishness and frankness made it inoffensive.

Of course he claimed the distinction of being the best Latin poet in France. French poetry he despised, as being written in a language incapable of the terse elegance of Latin. But in Latin verse he would hear of no rival. Du Périer, who had quite as much vanity, with only a fraction of his genius, challenged his pretensions. The two poets wrote verses on the same theme, and then set out to find an arbiter. The first friend to whom they appealed was Ménage, who evaded the responsibility by declaring them equally excellent. The next they met was Racine. He first got possession of the stakes and deposited them in the poor’s box at the door of a church near by, and then gave the poets a round scolding for their absurd rivalry!

The hymns of Santeul are best known to English readers through Hymns Ancient and Modern, which contain some very fine versions, original and selected. Not included there is that which Sainte Beuve pronounces his finest hymn, and for whose retention 333 in the Breviary he pleads against the crusaders, who in the name of antiquity insist on replacing Santeul and Coffin by Strada and Galucci. Out of respect for the greatest of modern critics, we reprint it, with a translation from the pen of Dr. A. R. Thompson. It commemorates the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple.

Stupete gentes, fit Deus hostia:

Se sponte legi Legifer obligat:

Orbis Redemptor nunc redemptus:

Seque piat sine labe mater.

De more matrum, Virgo puerpera

Templo statutos abstinuit dies.

Intrare sanctam quid pavebas,

Facta Dei prius ipsa templum?

Ara sub una se vovit hostia

Triplex: honorem virgineum immolat

Virgo sacerdos, parva mollis

Membra puer, seniorque vitam.

Eheu! quot enses transadigent tuum

Pectus! quot altis nata doloribus,

O Virgo! Quem gestas, cruentam

Imbuet hic sacer Agnus aram.

Christus futuro, corpus adhuc tener,

Praeludit insons victima funeri:

Crescet; profuso vir cruore,

Omne scelus moriens piabit.

Sit summa Patri, summaque Filio,

Sanctoque compar gloria Flamini:

Sanctae litemus Trinitati

Perpetuo pia corda cultu.

Wonder, ye nations! divine is the sacrifice.

Lo, his own law the Lawgiver obeys!

Now the Redeemer redeemed is, and purifies

Herself the mother pure. Look with amaze!

All the days set by the law for a mother,

She from the temple of God hath delayed.

Why should she stay without, as might another,

She who the temple of God hath been made?


At the one altar threefold is the sacrifice.

Mother, who offers her pure virgin heart;

Babe, his fair body that in her fond arms lies;

Aged saint, life, ready now to depart.

Oh but what sword through her heart shall be going!

Oh to what sorrow is born her fair child!

Over what altar his blood will be flowing!

He whom she bears, the Lamb holy and mild.

Christ, in his infantile body so tender,

Spotless in purity, here hath foreshown,

Sign of the sacrifice he shall yet render,

Dying the sin of the world to atone.

Now to the Father in glory supernal,

Now to the Son, and the Spirit above,

Now to the Triune, all holy, eternal,

Worship be ever in faith and in love!

As a poet Santeul fell from grace in 1689, when he fell back on his pagan divinities in a poem addressed to the keeper of the royal gardens. Bossuet made a great ado over it, but Fénelon and others judged him more gently. Next year he goes to see La Trappe, and writes a fine poem on Holy Solitude (Sancta Solitudo), which extorted fresh praise from De Rance, and afterward from Sainte-Beuve. But four years later he got into the worst scrape of his life by a flattering epitaph on the great Arnauld, who died in 1694. Santeul always had been more or less associated with the Jansenist party, a fact which was not forgotten when his hymns were expelled from the churches of France in our own century. There is preserved an account of a visit he paid to Port Royal, in which he chattered to the nuns with equal freedom of his own hymns and of their virtues. But he was not of the stuff of which martyrs are made. The Jesuits had the king’s ear, and he was a pensioner of the king’s bounty. They assailed him for his eulogy of the arch-Jansenist, and threatened him with the disfavor of Louis XIV.; and he hastened to make amends in a poetical epistle, of which he made two copies. By the adroit change of the tense of a single word he made the copy for the Jesuits retract his praises of his great friend, while that for the general public did nothing of the sort. As a consequence he came off with no credit 335 on either side. Both Jesuits and Jansenists resented his duplicity, and a fine shower of squibs and pamphlets fell on him from both the hostile forces, until he was forced to cry for quarter, and Bourdaloue made his peace.

He died in 1697 in Burgundy, whither he had accompanied the younger Condé to the meeting of the Estates. St. Simon has told a very unpleasant story of the cause of his death. He ascribes it to Condé’s having made him drink a bowl of wine into which he had emptied his snuff-box, “just to see what would come of it.” But the prince of scandalmongers has been disproven on this point. Santeul’s death was due to no such cause, but to an inflammation of the bowels and to the malpractice of his doctors, who gave him emetics under the false impression that he was suffering from a surfeit. He made a good end, dying with resignation, and begging pardon for the scandal his life had caused.

His hymns were not without their critics in his own age. Jean Baptiste Thiers, a parish priest of great learning and bad temper, assailed the Breviary of Cluny (in his Commentarii de novo Breviario Cluniacensi, Brussels, 1702), and did not spare Santeul’s hymns, which he declared to be much inferior to those which had come down from the earlier days of the Church. He declared that Santeul had a greater abundance of words than of sense, that he had almost no powers of thought, and that some of his images, such as that in which he wreathes a garland of stones for the martyr Stephen, were simply ridiculous. He was answered not by Rabusson, but by his associate, Claude de Vert, after what fashion I do not know.

It was in 1736 that the Breviary of the Diocese of Paris was published in its third and final revision by a commission of three ecclesiastics: François-Antoine Vigier, François-Philippe Mesengui, and Charles Coffin. It is a significant fact that the second belonged to that Jansenist party in the Church which the relentless efforts of the Pope, the hierarchy, and the kings of France had not been able to exterminate. Archbishop de Vintimille was as eager to accomplish that as his predecessors had been, and he was ably seconded by that pious and orthodox prince, Louis XV. But this revision, like that of 1670-80, was a concession to the historical criticism which the Jansenists had brought to bear upon the 336 Church books both as to the legends of the saints and the extravagances of the growing devotion to the Mother of our Lord. Mesengui had been dismissed from the post Coffin had given him in the University of Paris for his opposition to the bull Unigenitus, which condemned Quesnel’s Jansenist Reflections on the New Testament. Coffin’s sympathies lay in the same direction.

Charles Coffin is the man of the three who chiefly concerns us here. Born at Buzancy, hard by Rheims, in 1676, he very early distinguished himself as a Latin poet and an educator. He graduated at Paris in 1701, and became a teacher in the College of Dormans-Beauvais, and then its principal in 1713. Five years later he was chosen to succeed Rollin as Rector of the University of Paris. He at once showed his force of character by revolutionizing the relation of the university to the public through abolishing the fees exacted of the students. To replace them he extended and developed the system of posts and messages, which the university had established in the thirteenth century and which coexisted with the post-office system of the government, of which it was the forerunner. He devoted its revenues to the support of the colleges. He must have been a character of great administrative capacity, as his plans had entire success, and probably did much to foster the development of the post-office system of France. After remaining rector for three years, he went back to his place at the head of the Dormans-Beauvais College, and remained there till his death.

It was in 1727 that Charles Coffin published his first volume of Latin poetry. The most notable piece in the collection was a fine ode in praise of Champagne. So much were the people of the Champagne country pleased with it, that they sent him a hamper of every vintage as long as he lived, which was twenty-two years. He also had a hand in carrying Cardinal de Polignac’s great poem, Anti-Lucretius, to the state of completeness in which it was given to the public in 1745, three years after its author’s death. He undertook the work of revising the old hymns and preparing new with great reluctance, yielding only to the entreaties of the archbishop.

It was in 1736 that the Breviary Commission finished their labors and the archbishop gave to the diocese the new Breviary, which was adopted by more than fifty French dioceses. Its general character does not concern us here. It is with its hymns 337 alone we have to do. About seventy of the primitive and mediaeval hymns still held their place in the Breviary of 1680, nearly half of them the work of Ambrose and his school. The revisers spared very few of these. Only twenty-one hymns of the earlier period were left, while eighty-five of Jean Santeul’s, nearly a hundred by Coffin himself—including some recasts of old hymns—and ninety-seven by other authors, chiefly Frenchmen of later date, were inserted. There were eleven by Guillaume de la Brunetière, a friend of Bossuet’s; six each by Claude Santeul, Nicolas le Tourneux, and Sebastian Besnault, a priest of Sens; five by Isaac Habert, Bishop of Vabres; four by the Jesuit Jean Commire; two each by the Jesuit Francis Guyet and Simon Gourdan of the Abbey of St. Victor; one each by Marc Antoine Muretus, Denis Petau, and Guillaume du Plessis de Geste; one (or three) by M. Combault, a young friend of Charles Coffin’s. This was modernism with a vengeance! New hymns were nearly thirteen to one in proportion to those from the great storehouse of the ages before the Reformation. It is not wonderful that so extreme a policy called forth a reaction as soon as the Romanticist movement, with its juster appreciation of the Middle Ages, had reached France. But by the end of the eighteenth century the old Latin hymns were banished practically from France.

As compared with Jean Santeul, Charles Coffin displays much less poetic audacity than his predecessor. You do not feel that poetry filled the same place in his intellectual existence, or that he was under the same necessity to write it. He has less genius, but a great talent for verse. And—what the critics of that age valued the most—he was more correct in his handling of the vocabulary and the metre of Latin versification. Santeul found classic Latin, much as he admired it, something of a fetter to the free movement of his genius. It was a dead language he was trying to put intense life into—an old bottle for his new wine—and at times the bottle burst. Just because Charles Coffin’s wine is not so new, his inspiration not so fresh, the bottle holds out better. And then he had the greater advantage of a closer familiarity with the ideas he wished to embody in his hymns, and with their sources in the Scriptures, and a more practical capacity for the application of his powers to the object in hand. His hymns are always in place; they are hymns of the Breviary, not brilliant poems on 338 Breviary subjects by a poet writing for glory. I do not say that Charles Coffin was the better man; God only knows; and I must confess to a liking for “the gay canon of St. Victor” which the rector of the university does not inspire in me. There is a Burns-like humanity in him and his harmless vanities which wins our love still, as it did that of his contemporaries. But Charles Coffin had a certain suitableness to his work which Jean Santeul lacked. He was an eminently dignified, respectable, and useful character, who impressed himself upon a whole generation of young Frenchmen, many of whom rose to eminence at the bar, in the public service, and even in the army. They all looked back to him with great respect. I wonder if they loved him as Mark Hopkins and George Allen are loved by those who studied under them. And in Charles Coffin’s hymns you meet the same admirable traits as in his public work. He is a man of enlightenment, dignity, devoutness, and eminent usefulness, without a touch of Rabelaisian abandon to remind you of Béranger’s saying: “All we Français are children of the great François.” Of that he reminds you only in his sparkling, effervescent ode to Champagne, in reply to Bénigne Grenan’s overpraise of Burgundy. It was to be expected that when the advocates of liturgical uniformity made their attack upon the Paris Breviary, beginning with Gueranger’s Institutions Liturgiques (1840-42), it was Santeul whom they especially attacked, although not he but Coffin was responsible for its hymnology.

Charles Coffin’s hymns have a high level of excellence, which makes it difficult to anthologize among them. Certainly not the worst are the four Advent hymns (Instantis adventum Dei; Jordanis oras praevia; Statuta decreto Dei; and In noctis umbra desides); that for Christmas (Jam desinant suspiria) and the Vesper hymn (O luce qui mortalibus); the Passion hymn (Opprobriis Jesu satur); the fine series of seven hymns for the nocturn services throughout the week, based on the seven days of Creation; and the hymn for Epiphany (Quae stella sole pulchrior). These and most of his acknowledged hymns are known to us in the translations of Williams, Chandler, and Mant, and several of these are in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

As an editor he altered and even tinkered, as well as adapted and wrote hymns. Even Jean Santeul did not escape his hand. 339 One of the hymns ascribed to him in the Paris Breviary is a cento from no less than twelve of his own hymns. From the wrath he showed when such changes were made in his lifetime, we may infer that he would have liked this as little as did John Wesley. And the older hymns were handled in the same way. A good example of Charles Coffin’s method of recasting old hymns is furnished by his version of the Ad coenam Agni providi, which already has been given in its original shape and in that of the Roman Breviary. With these the reader may compare Coffin’s revision, which will be seen to vary very widely from the old text of the ninth century:

Forti tegente brachio,

Evasimus Rubrum mare,

Tandem durum perfidi

Jugum tyranni fregimus.

Nunc ergo laetas vindici

Grates rependamus Deo;

Agnique mensam candidis

Cingamus ornati stolis.

Hujus sacrato corpore,

Amoris igne fervidi,

Vescamur atque sanguine:

Vescendo, vivimus Deo.

Jam Pascha nostrum Christus est,

Hic agnus, haec est victima

Cruore cujus illitos

Transmittit ultor angelus.

O digna coelo victima,

Mors ipsa per quam vincitur,

Per quam refractis inferi

Praedam relaxant postibus.

Christi sepulchri faucibus

Emersus ad lucem redit;

Hostem retrudit tartaro,

Coelique pandit intima.

Da Christe, nos tecum mori

Tecum simul da surgere:

Terrena da contemnere;

Amare da coelestia.


It will be observed that while the ideas, and even to some extent the phraseology of the old hymn are retained in the first six verses, their order is so changed as to suggest that we have an original hymn before us, if we do not look closely. But the last verse is altogether different. The old poet prayed that the paschal joy might be made unending through the deliverance of the regenerate from the death eternal. The modern prays that we may share mystically in the death and resurrection of Christ, and learn thereby to set our affections on things above. Similar are his recasts of the Salvete flores Martyrum of Prudentius, and the Ambrosian Jam lucis orto sidere.

Mr. Duffield has left only one completed version of a hymn from the Paris Breviary, and that one whose authorship I am unable to determine. It attracted him as one of the surprisingly few hymns in which the comparison of the Christian life to a warfare, so frequently used by our Lord and the Apostle Paul, is employed as a leading idea. His interest in such hymns no doubt was first awakened by his father’s admirable and popular one:

“Stand up, stand up for Jesus,”

suggested by the dying words of Dudley Tyng. We give both the Latin and his English version:

Pugnate, Christi milites,

Fortes fide resistite:

Immensa promisit Deus

Pio labori praemia.

Non ille fluxas ac leves

Palmas dabit vincentibus;

Sed lucis aeternae decus,

Et pura semper gaudia.

Mentes beatas excipit

Formosa coelitum domus:

Hic turba, coelis altior,

Subjecta calcat sidera.

Caduca vobis praemia

Offert levis mundi favor:

Vultus ad astra tollite;

Hic ipse fit merces Deus.

Qui nos coronat, laus Patri,

Laus qui redemit, Filio;

Alma juvans nos gratia,

Sit par tibi laus, Spiritus.

Fight on, ye Christian soldiers,

And bravely keep the faith,

For great reward shall follow,

As God’s own promise saith.

Not palms that wave and flutter

Shall be the victor’s crown,

But grace of light eternal,

And joy of pure renown.

That blessed heavenly mansion

Shall take each happy soul;

Their throng, high raised in glory,

Shall tread the starry pole.

Earth’s honor is but failing,

Her gifts are light as air;

Lift up your eyes to heaven,

For God’s reward is there.

Praise God, who crowns the battle,

And Christ, who comes to save,

And praise the Holy Spirit,

Whose grace our spirits crave.


By kindness of Dr. A. R. Thompson we add two translations from Charles Coffin’s hymns:


What star is this whose glorious light

Outshines the morn,

The herald of the King new-born!

Its radiance bright,

A heavenly sign,

Streams o’er the cradle of the Babe divine.

Faith, standing with the prophets old,

Sees down the skies

The promised Star from Jacob rise.

The sign foretold

She knows full well,

And straightway seeks the wondrous spectacle.

The lustrous star gives warning fair

To all the earth,

But chiefly men of Eastern birth,

With pious care,

The warning heed,

And seeking Christ upon their journey speed.

Their eager love knows no delay;

Danger nor toil

Their purpose resolute can foil.

They haste away

From home and kind,

And country, at God’s call, the Christ to find.

O Christ our Lord, thy star of grace

Leads us to thee!

Help these dull hearts of ours to be

First at the place,

Intent to prove

To thee, O Lord, our faith and hope and love.


Now with the declining sun,

Day to night is passing on.

So doth mortal life descend

Swiftly to its destined end.


From the cross, thine arms spread wide

Fold the world, O Crucified!

Help us love the cross. In thy

Dear embrace help us to die!

Glory to the Eternal One,

Glory to the only Son,

Glory to the Spirit be,

Now and through eternity.

Of the other writers of the Breviary only a few need detain us. Most of them are poets of the conventional sort, whose verse evidences the care taken with their education rather than their possession of any native genius, although Jean Commire (1625-1702) was of wide reputation in his day. Even of good Claude Santeul the best that can be said is that several of his hymns have passed for the composition of his brother, and that the two Trinity hymns (Ter sancte, ter potens Deus and O luce quae tua lates) and the three on Lazarus (Redditum luce, Domino vocante, Panditur saxo tumulus remoto, and Intrante Christo Bethanicam domum) deserve the honor. They make us regret the loss of these two manuscript volumes. An unfinished translation of one of these, left by Mr. Duffield, has been completed for us by Dr. A. R. Thompson. The asterisk marks the transition from the one translator to the other—


O hidden by the very light,

O ever-blessed Trinity,

Thee we confess, and thee believe,

With pious heart we long for thee!

O Holy Father of the saints,

O God of very God, the Son,

O Bond of Love, the Holy Ghost,

Who joinest all the Three in One!

That God the Father might behold

Himself, *coeval was the Son;

Also the Love that binds them both;

So, God of God, the perfect One.

Complete the Father in the Son,

The Son, the Father in complete,

And the full Spirit in them both;

The Father, Son, and Paraclete.


As is the Son, the Spirit is.

Each as the Father, verily.

The Three, One all transcendent Truth,

One all transcendent Love, the Three.

Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost

Eternally, let all adore;

Who liveth and who reigneth, God,

Ages on ages, evermore!

Next we have Nicolas le Tourneux (1640-1686), the severe Jansenist, whose preaching drew such crowds in Paris that the King asked the reason. “Sire,” replied Boileau, “your Majesty knows how people run after novelty; this is a preacher who preaches the Gospel. When he mounts the pulpit, he frightens you by his ugliness, so that you wish he would leave it; and when he begins to speak, you are afraid that he may.” It was his Année Chrétienne which suggested the Christian Year to John Keble. We have seen how he coached Jean Santeul both as to the matter of his hymns and the right spirit for a Christian poet. But the great preacher’s own hymns are sermoni propriores, “properer for a sermon,” to borrow Lamb’s mistranslation. Verse was a fetter to him, not a wing. His best are the Ascension hymn, Adeste, Coelitum chori, and that on the Baptist, Jussu tyranni pro fide. The former we give in the excellent translation of Rev. A. R. Thompson, D.D.:


Hither come, ye choirs immortal,

Singing joyful canticles!

Christ hath passed the grave’s dark portal,

With the dead no more he dwells.

All in vain doth malice station

Watchful guards the tomb before,

All in vain the faithless nation

Sets the seal upon the door.

Fruitless terror, from this prison

None have stolen him away,

But by his own strength arisen,

Victor, ends he death’s dread fray.


Prisoned, and the seal unbroken,

He can leave at will the tomb,

As at first—behold the token—

He could leave the Virgin’s womb.

When he on the tree hung dying,

Raving men, who round him stood,

“Come down from the cross,” were crying,

“Then we own thee Son of God.”

But, his Father’s will obeying

Even unto death, he dies;

Priest and Victim, ’tis the slaying

Of the world’s great Sacrifice.

Nay, the cross was not forsaken;

Dead, yet greater thing did he,

By himself, his life retaken

Proved him Son of God to be.

With thee dying, with thee rising,

Grant, O Christ, that we may be,

Earthly vanities despising,

Choosing heaven all lovingly!

Praise be to the Father given,

To the Son, our Leader. He

Calleth us with him to heaven;

Spirit, equal praise to thee!

A man of very different powers is the Abbé Sebastian Besnault, of whom nothing is told us except that he was chaplain of the parish of St. Maurice in Sens, and died in 1726. The six hymns ascribed to him in the Paris Breviary are among the finest in that collection. Three are hymns on the Circumcision (Debilis cessent elementa legis; Felix dies, quam proprio; and Noxium Christus simul introivit); one is an Ascension hymn (Promissa, tellus, concipe gaudium), and two are Dedication hymns (Ecce sedes hic Tonantis and Urbs beata, vera pacis), the latter being a recast of the Urbs beata Hierusalem. Quite justly does A. Gazier (in his thesis De Santolii Victorini Sacris Hymnis, Paris, 1875) say that if Besnault equalled Jean Santeul in the volume of his hymns, he would not rank below him as a sacred poet, since he quite equals him in his Latinity and is his superior as a spiritual writer. We give 345 Dr. A. R. Thompson’s version of his recast of the Urbs beata Hierusalem:


Blessed city, vision true

Of sweet peace, Jerusalem,

How majestic to the view

Rise thy lofty walls, in them

Living stones in beauty stand,

Polished, set, by God’s own hand.

Every several gate of thine

Of one pearl effulgent is,

Golden fair thy wall doth shine,

Blended lustrously with this,

And thy wall doth rest alone

Upon Christ the Corner-stone.

Thy sun is the martyred Lamb,

God thy temple. Angels vie

With the saints, a joyful psalm

Ever lifting up on high,

And the Holiest worshipping,

Holy, Holy, Holy sing.

Evermore stand open wide,

Heavenly city, all thy gates.

But, who would in thee abide,

Who thy walls to enter waits,

Must, that meed of life to win,

Agonize to conquer sin.

To the Father, to the Son,

Endless adoration be!

Spirit, binding both in One,

Endless worship unto thee!

Hallowed by thy chrism divine,

We become thy living shrine.

Along with Coffin should be named one of his friends, a young advocate named Combault, who possessed something of the spirit and energy of Jean Santeul. How far he contributed to the Breviary of 1736 I am unable to say, but a well-founded tradition designates him as the author of a splendid rhetorical hymn in commemoration of the Apostles Peter and Paul (Tandem laborum 346 gloriosi Principes), which has been much admired. Combault died in 1785.

The whole impression which this school of hymn-writers makes upon us is like that of the Greco-French architecture of our own age. Both reflect the critical and useful, but somewhat exclusive spirit of the Renaissance. Both are capable of fine effects, great structural beauty, and a certain grandeur not of the highest order. But a Greco-French church will not bear comparison with Notre Dame; and the hymns of Santeul and Coffin will hardly better endure a comparison with the Christian singers who wrote when Notre Dame was new.


[Fourth to Tenth Century.]

The known is but a fragment broken from the unknown. This is eminently true as regards the authorship of the Latin hymns. When we have dealt as tenderly as the historical conscience will permit with the traditions which assign hymns to this and that author, we still find ourselves unable to affix any name to the great majority. And while it is true that the most part of the very great hymns are not left in this plight of anonymity, it is true that no small number of the best are on the record like Melchizedek—“without father or mother,” and many of them also “without beginning of years,” for we can determine only approximately the century of their origin. Nor is this at all surprising. Fame was neither the object nor the expectation of the writers of the Latin hymns of the early and Middle Ages. Their utmost expectation, probably, was to be valued a little by their brethren in their own and their sister monasteries as the author of a fine sequence or an appropriate hymn for a yearly festival. It was enough for that purpose that the report of their authorship passed from mouth to mouth in the choir, without any record made of it. The love of glory as a literary motive, came in, as Mr. Symonds reminds us, with the Renaissance, which borrowed it from the old pagans. Many a devout singer of the centuries before that practised the wisdom of à Kempis’s saying, Ama nesciri, “Love to be unknown.” They wrote not for gain in renown, but for use in the edification of their brethren and of the Church. And to live for use rather than gain is to live Christianly, for, as Swedenborg says, “The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of uses.”

This and the next chapter we shall give partly to some of these orphaned hymns, touching only on the greatest. And as we come down the centuries we shall speak also of the less notable hymn-writers, 348 some of them not less notable as men or as Churchmen, but such as have made less of a mark in hymnology.

At the outset we are met by two of the greatest of the sacred songs of the Church, which are none the less hymns although classed technically as canticles. Who wrote the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum laudamus? As everybody knows, the opening words of the former are the song of the angels who brought the good news to the shepherds—words which authenticate their heavenly origin by their simplicity, beauty, and force—“a master-song,” as Luther says, “which neither grew nor was made on earth, but came down from heaven.” But the much longer supplement, which evidently reflects the situation of the Church in the days of the Arian controversy, must either have originated in the fourth century and in the East, or must have been altered to adapt it to that time. The original still exists in Greek, but in three forms, which differ somewhat; and the Latin version is defective in that it follows a later form than that which is given in the so-called Apostolical Constitutions; and, of course, the English follows the Latin, except in the part taken from the Gospel, where “good will to men” takes the place of “to men of good will” (hominibus bonae voluntatis), the latter being the reading adopted by the English translators of 1611, but rejected by the revisers of 1883.[22]

Who made the Latin version? An untrustworthy tradition ascribes it to Telesphorus, who was Bishop of Rome in 128-38. It is possible that he prescribed the chanting of the Scripture words in the Church service; but the whole hymn is of later date in Latin. There is much more likelihood that it was, according to a tradition recorded by Alcuin in the ninth century, the work of Hilary of Poitiers, the first Latin hymn-writer.

The Te Deum laudamus has some claims to be regarded as the greatest of Christian hymns. Like the Gloria in Excelsis it belongs to that first period of Christian hymn-writing, when the Hebrew psalms still furnished the models for Christian poets, and the same free movement of rhythmical prose was all that was required or even tolerated. There is no mention of it in Church 349 literature before the sixth century, when the monastic rules of both Caesarius of Arles (c. 527) and of Benedict of Nursia (c. 530) prescribe its use, and the Council of Toledo mentions it. As it uses the words of the Vulgate in verses 22-25 and 27 to the end, it cannot, as it now stands, be much more than a century older than this, as the date of the Vulgate is 382-404. Yet a tradition recorded by Abbot Abbo of Fleury in the ninth century, ascribes this hymn also to Hilary of Poitiers, who died fifteen years before Jerome put his hand to the work of revising the Latin Bible. Daniel thinks to reconcile the discrepancy by ascribing it to Hilary of Arles, who was born the year before Jerome had finished his work, and by regarding it as a translation from the Greek, as verses 22-26 certainly are. They are found in the Appendix to the Alexandrian manuscript of the Greek New Testament, where they follow the Gloria in Excelsis with the interruption only of an Amen. But is it not possible to regard the last eight verses as a separate hymn, made up, with the exception of the strong verse—

26. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire—

of verses from the Scriptures? These last verses have no internal connection with the first twenty-two, and they differ decidedly in style, form, and source. Those contain no Scripture quotations, except the Ter-Sanctus in verses 5 and 6, which is not taken from the Vulgate version,[23] but apparently from the Itala. If, therefore, we consider those twenty-two verses as a hymn by themselves, this may have been the work of Hilary of Poitiers, and there is no necessity for assuming that it was not an original Latin hymn. This becomes more probable if we drop out verse 13, which interrupts the flow of the Christological thought, and evidently was interpolated to make the hymn complete from a Trinitarian point 350 of view. When the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum were composed, it was the relation of the Son to the Father which occupied the mind of the Church. Both hymns are the expression of “the present truth” on that subject; the mention of the Holy Spirit in both is probably by interpolation at a later date.

As the form, and in some places the meaning of the Te Deum is misrepresented in the current version, it may be worth while to reproduce the original in a more literal version:

1. Thee as God we praise,

Thee as Lord we own,

2. Thee as eternal Father all the earth doth worship,

3. Thee all the angels—

To thee heaven and all its powers,

4. To thee cherubim and seraphim with unceasing voice cry aloud,

5. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth,

6. The heavens and the earth are full of the majesty of thy glory!

7. Thee the glorious choir of the apostles,

8. Thee the praiseworthy company of the prophets,

9. Thee the white-robed army of the martyrs praiseth.

10. Thee, through the circle of the lands, the Holy Church confesseth

11. Father of unbounded majesty;

12. Thy adorable, true and only Son.

13 (14). Thou King of glory, O Christ,

14 (15). Thou of the Father art the Son eternal.

15 (16). Thou, to deliver us, tookest manhood,

Thou didst not dread the Virgin’s womb.

16 (17). Thou, since thou hast overcome the sting of death,

Hast opened to believers the kingdom of heaven.

17 (18). Thou, at the right hand of God, sittest in the glory of the Father;

18 (19). As our judge thou art believed to be coming.

19 (20) Thee therefore we beg,

Assist thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with precious blood.

20 (21). Cause us to be gifted, among thy saints, with eternal glory.


There are no other unfathered hymns known to be of this century, and few less notable hymn-writers. To Jerome is ascribed a hymn, Te Bethlehem celebrat, which is not in any of the collections. His great contemporary, Augustine of Hippo, has had more than one fine hymn assigned to him, probably because his works have furnished the suggestion for so many. Notably Peter Damiani and Hildebert of Tours drew upon him. But the great theologian was not a poet, as we can see from his one essay in 351 that form, viz., his “psalm” against the Donatists, in which he gives a popular and metrical exposition of the parable of the net (Matt. 13:47-50). It is quite enough to prove that he did not write the Ad perennis vitae fontem (Damiani), or the Quid, tyranne, quid minaris (Damiani), or the O gens beata coelitum, or even the Domine Jesu, noverim me, all of which have been given to him at times.

To the fifth century—the century of Prudentius and Ennodius—we may ascribe the earlier in the large group of hymns classed as Ambrosian, which are the work of a series of writers who may be described as constituting a school. It is one of the hardest problems in Latin hymnology to distinguish between Ambrose’s own work and that of his imitators, and to arrange the hymns composed by the latter between the fifth and the eighth century in any chronological order. What can be said positively has been shown in Chapter V. The chief authorities on the subject are the early collectors, Clichtove, Cassander, and Thomasius. Of considerable importance is the MS. given by Francis Junius in the seventeenth century to the University of Oxford, and published in 1830 by Jacob Grimm. It contains a collection of twenty-six hymns by Ambrose and the Ambrosians, with a translation into old High German, probably made at St. Gall in the ninth century. But these do not exhaust the list. Others have been pointed out by Mone and other collectors, as proving their kinship to the school by their metrical form or their contents and style. Schletterer enumerates ninety hymns of the school, and of these he assigns fifteen to Ambrose himself.

Closely related to the group, and yet not assigned to it, are several hymns to which a very early date is assigned by Mone at least. To this fifth century he gives the Unam duorum gloriam, which he also claims as of German origin, and describes as one of the oldest hymns of the German Church. It is in commemoration of two martyrs, to whose honor a church near Münster was dedicated, and is strictly classic in metre. Here also he assigns the Christi caterva clamitat, an Advent hymn of classic metre and primitive tone. He probably would agree with Wackernagel in selecting the same century for the hymn on Stephen, the protomartyr, Primatis aulae coelicae, in which he finds reminders of the style of Prudentius. Lastly, he assigns this date to the Paschal hymn, Te 352 lucis auctor personat, which became obsolete when its special reference to Easter as the time of the baptism of adult catechumens lost its significance. It was used in France and probably other countries.

To the same fifth century belongs Paulinus, Bishop of Nola (353-431), who has many better claims to remembrance than his hymns. He was one of those men of whom their contemporaries cannot speak without enthusiasm, and as Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose are among his eulogists we may assume that the praise was not undeserved. He came of a noble Gallic stock; he inherited wealth and acquired from the teaching of the poet Ausonius all the culture of his time; he filled high office in Italy and Spain; he spent the last twenty-two years of his life in administering with a faithful laboriousness the affairs of a Campanian bishopric. He did not receive baptism until his thirty-fifth year, so that he may have been brought up a pagan, although the inference is not necessary. In 378 he was made Roman consul to fill an unexpired term (consul suffectus), and was sent into Campania at the end of the year. There he was so deeply impressed by a festival in honor of the martyr Vincent of Nola, that his affections were drawn strongly to the city. But soon after he married a Spanish wife and went to live first at Bordeaux and then at Barcelona. At the former in 389 he was received into the membership of the Church; at the latter he and his wife, after the death of their infant son, resolved to renounce the “secular” life and to give themselves to asceticism and charity. He was ordained to the priesthood in response to a general demand of the people during the Christmas festivities. He removed to Nola, where he and his wife lived in the service of the poor, in an age when the incursions of Goths and Vandals were producing frightful wretchedness. He seems to have held right views of the responsibility of property, and instead of divesting himself of it at once, he kept it to use for his brethren. Nor did he separate from his wife after the fashion of Ennodius and others of the age. They labored together to the end. About 409 he was elected Bishop of Nola, and occupied that see until his death. Among his gifts to his people was a new aqueduct to supply their town with pure water, an evidence of his breadth of mind and genuine humanity. When he died he was added to the list of the recognized saints, and few with better right.

His literary achievement was not great, although everything he 353 has written has its interest. His epistles and poems are reflections of both his excellence and his faults. They show at once the good heart of the man and his proneness to superstition. But his contemporaries thought his poems wonderful, and even some of the moderns have re-echoed this estimate. Erasmus calls him “the Christian Cicero,” a title more frequently assigned to Lactantius. Caspar Barth, in his Adversaria (1624), declines to rank any other Christian poet above him. His poems exhibit the decadence of Latin verse, in that quantity is often neglected and accent used to replace it. Only a few of them are hymns in any sense, and these are narrative or reflective rather than lyric. Bjorn gives two of them in his collection.

This fifth century also brings us the first woman among the Christian singers. Elpis, identified by a somewhat doubtful tradition with Helpes, the first wife of the pagan philosopher Boethius, has left a florid hymn in honor of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which holds its place in modified form in the Roman Breviary, and is divided into two hymns. She employs accentuated verse, while the verses in Boethius’s classic work, De Consolatione Philosophiae, conform to the quantitative prosody of classic poetry. Another hymn on the same Apostles, Felix per omnes festum mundi cardines, is ascribed to her and also to Paulinus of Nola. The Breviary hymn, Miris modis repente liber, is a recast of part of it.

There are several poems and chronicles which are ascribed to Prosper Tyro, whom some identify with Prosper of Aquitaine (403-65), the Gallic champion of strict Augustinian orthodoxy against the semi-Pelagian party in that province—John Cassian, Vincent of Lerins, etc. This is the more likely, as Prosper loved to “drop into poetry” even in his controversial treatises. George Cassander includes a hymn from Prosper Tyro’s works in his collection.

Many of the finest of Ambrosian hymns, which have taken rank among the favorites of Western Christendom, as sharing the noble spirit and the torrent-like power of utterance of the great Bishop of Milan, are credited by the hymnologists to the sixth century—the age of Benedict of Nursia, Caesarius of Arles, Belisarius, and Gregory the Great. We give Mr. Duffield’s translation of two of the finest, regretting that he did not live to translate others which he had marked with that view in his Index:



Christ who art the light and day,

Drive the shades of night away,

Thou, who art the Light of light,

Make our pathway glad and bright.

Now we pray thee, holy Lord,

Keep us safely by thy word;

Night and day at peace in thee

May our spirits rested be.

Let no evil dream appear,

Let no enemy draw near,

Let us bow to thee alone,

Thou who pitiest thine own!

While in sleep we close our eyes,

May our hearts forever rise

Unto thee, whose mighty hand

Keeps thine own in every land.

Look upon us, our Defence!

Drive all lurking traitors hence,

Rule thy children, O most Good,

Who are purchased with thy blood.

Be thou mindful of our state,

In this body profligate;

Guard our minds, and ever be

Near us, Lord, as we to thee.


Thou mighty Maker of earth’s frame,

Who gavest land and sea their name,

Hast swept the waters to their bound,

And fixed for aye the solid ground.

That soon upspringing should be seen

The herb with blossoms gold and green,

And fruit which ripely hangeth there,

And grass to which the herds repair.

Relieve the sorrows of the soul!

Our wounded spirits make thou whole,

That tears may sinful deeds allay,

And cleanse all baser lusts away.


Let us be swayed by thy decree,

From many evils set us free;

With goodness fill the waiting heart,

And keep all fear of death apart!

To the same sixth century belong some notable hymns which have not even a school to which to assign their paternity. The most famous of these is the

Ad coenam Agni providi,

which has been twice rewritten in conformity with the laws of classic prosody, reappearing in the Roman Breviary as the Ad regias Agni dapes, and in the Paris Breviary as the Forti tegente brachio. In English there have been at least twelve versions since 1710. The great merit of the hymn is the vigorous and terse way in which the mystical correspondence of the Christian sacrament to the Jewish passover, and of our deliverance from the yoke of Satan to the Jewish deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, are worked out. As Daniel suggests, its first stanza refers to the old usage that the catechumens, who had received baptism just before Easter, partook of the other sacrament on the first Sunday after Easter (Dominicus in albis), wearing the white robes of their baptism (stolis albis candidi). Another notable but fatherless hymn of this age is the Sanctorum meritis inclyta gaudiis—a beautiful commemoration of the martyrs whose sufferings were still so vividly remembered by the Church. Quite worthy of mention also is the Lenten hymn, Jam Christe, sol justitiae, which expresses the early Christian attitude toward God’s works, connecting the looked-for Easter with the renewal of the world by the spring—

“Dies venit, dies tua

In qua reflorent omnia.”

The hymn for All Saints Day, Psallat plebis sexus omnis voce corde carmina, is notable not only for its own vigor, but as being one of the oldest in which the alliterative principle of the early Celtic and Teutonic verse is employed in Latin. It therefore comes from the North of Europe, with the chances in favor of Ireland.

Of known but less important hymn-writers of the sixth century we have only two, Columba and Flavius. The former is the great 356 Irish missionary known to his countrymen as Columcille (the Dove, or the Dove of the Church), who lived A.D. 521 to 597. He was one of the O’Donnells of Donegal, whose chiefs, something more than seventy years before his birth, had offered especial opposition to Patrick’s preaching. He studied in the great school founded at Clonard, on the upper waters of the Boyne, by Finnian, the first of those teachers who made the Ireland of this and the following centuries “the land of schools,” to which students flocked from Great Britain and even the Continent. Finnian sent him to Clonfad to obtain ordination as a bishop; but the bishop, who was ploughing in the field when he came, made a mistake and gave him ordination as a priest. And he never rose higher than this in hierarchical dignity. Not that it mattered much in the very elastic system of Church government Patrick had established in Ireland. The tribal or sept system was copied in the Church arrangement. At the head of each church sept stood a coarb, who might be a woman, and frequently was a priest or deacon. Under this jurisdiction the bishops took the same relative place that the bards held to the chiefs in the civil tribes. Sometimes there would be a dozen of these right reverend fathers in God in one small Irish town, all under the direction of a female coarb, miscalled an abbess by later authors, as the Church sept has been miscalled a monastery.

As a penance for having been the cause of a faction fight or civil war—one hardly knows which to call it—over the ownership of a psalter, Columba banished himself from Ireland and took up his abode at Iona (or Hy), from which centre he preached the Gospel to the Scots (i.e., Irish) and Picts (i.e., Welsh) of the Highlands and the Western Islands. The former had conquered this region in the fifth century and were yet to give their name to the whole country, although up to A.D. 1198 there is no instance of Scotus meaning Scotchman rather than Irishman. But while Christianity had penetrated even the wilds of Donegal in Ireland, these Irish of Scotland and their Cymric subjects still were pagans. So as Patrick was Scotland’s gift to Ireland, Columcille was Ireland’s to Scotland. He was the type of those persuasive and successful missionaries which the Church of Patrick sent through Great Britain and to the Continent. He used the power of song very freely in his missionary labors, confounding the Druids and 357 attracting the people by the grave, sweet melody of the Church’s chants. Like Whitefield and Summerfield, he had a wonderful, because pure voice and could sing so as to be heard a mile away. He, too, was a poet of no mean merit. The sorrows of his voluntary exile from the land of his birth—the land which exercises such a weird fascination over her children that all other lands are to her what prose is to poetry or water to wine—seem to have wakened in him the gift of song. Less beautiful than these patriotic elegies is the abecedarian hymn on the spiritual history of our world, Altus prositor, vetustus dierum, et ingenitus, which is given in the Appendix to the Lyra Sacra Hibernica (Belfast, 1879) and in the second part of Dr. J. H. Todd’s Liber Hymnorum. It is written in a very rude Latinity, and is intended for instruction and edification rather than lyric expression. But it is an interesting monument of the faith of the great missionary, as it brings us nearer him than does the wonderful biography by Abbot Adamnan, his seventh successor at Iona. It was first printed in 1657 by the Irish scholar Colgan, and with it two other and shorter hymns (In Te, Christe, credentium and Noli, Pater, indulgere), which also may be Columcille’s.

Flavius was Bishop of Chalons in the year 580, and has left one hymn, Tellus et aeth’ra jubilent, which Daniel calls an excellent poem (carmen eximium). Its theme is our Lord’s washing the feet of the Apostles, and for this reason it was commonly sung after meals in some monasteries.

Of the seventh century, the century of Heraclius and Mahomet, there is not one great hymn-writer known as such, but there are some great hymns. The greatest is the Urbs beata Hirusalem, dicta pacis visio, of which the Angulare fundamentum is a part, and which is of the seventh or eighth century. Daniel, however, with the support of Schlosser, regards this hymn as not certainly older than the tenth century, and has Neale’s support in asserting that the last two verses are a later addition to give it suitableness for singing at a dedication of a church.[24] The earliest mention of its use in the tenth century is in the church of Poitiers at the annual blessing of the font on Easter Sunday, which tends to confirm 358 the supposition that two verses have been added. He thinks it of Spanish origin, as the metrical form is one usual in the Mozarabic Breviary. In later days it underwent three revisions. In the old Paris Breviary of 1527 it becomes the Urbs Jerusalem beata; in the new Breviary of 1736 it becomes the Urbs beata, vera pacis visio under the hands of Abbé Besnault (ob. 1726). In the Roman Breviary of 1631 it is the Coelestis Urbs Jerusalem, the form, as usual, best known to modern readers and translators, but not the best worth knowing. Along with the Urbs beata we may place the Gloriosa Jerusalem, probably of Spanish origin, and of the same century as well as similar in contents, but unequal in beauty and poetic worth.

Next in worth is the abecedarian judgment hymn, Apparabet repentina dies magna Domini, which Neale speaks of as containing the germ of the Dies Irae. It is little more than a rehearsal in a trochaic metre of our Lord’s prediction of the Day of Judgment. It follows the Scripture text much more closely than does Thomas of Celano. Bede mentions it in the next century. Mrs. Charles has translated it.

To this seventh century or the next Mone refers the Salvator mundi, Domine, which is most probably an Anglo-Saxon hymn, although of the Ambrosian school. It reappears in the Anglican Orarium of 1560 and the Preces Privatae of 1564, and is said to have been familiar to Sir Thomas Browne and Bishop Ken through its use at Wykeham’s school in Winchester. It, along with the Te lucis ante terminum, also sung at Winchester, may have suggested both Bishop Ken’s “Glory to thee, my God, this night,” and Browne’s “The night is come, like to the day,” given in his Religio Medici. To the seventh century we also may refer the Quicunque vultesse salvus, a hymn better known as the Athanasian Creed.

Besides these there are two groups of hymns whose temporal limits do not lie within the seventh century on either side, but which may be as well discussed here as anywhere. The first are the early Spanish hymn-writers. We know by name three of the seventh century. The first is Isidore, Archbishop of Seville (570-636), the scholar of encyclopaedic range, who did so much to adapt the learning of the Romans to the wants of the Gothic community in Spain. To him are ascribed, somewhat doubtfully, three 359 ballad-hymns in honor of as many martyrs and two abecedarian poems on repentance. More certainly authentic are three or four ascribed to his contemporary Eugenius, who was Archbishop of Toledo from 646 to 657. He has left us thirty-two Latin poems in classic metres, none of which, strictly speaking, are hymns, but his Rex Deus immense has found its way into the collections. In his day he worked hard to improve the singing and other services of the Church. Lastly, there is the Spanish magistrate Cyxilla, who built a church in honor of the martyr Thyrsus of Toledo, and wrote a hymn for the dedication, though some say he got Isidore to do it for him. Daniel (I., 190) gives it in full from the Mozarabic[25] Breviary. But far more important are the anonymous hymns of that Breviary, which constituted the hymnary of the old Spanish Church at the date of the conquest of the country by the Saracens (711-14), and which through the temporary prostration of the Church’s energy was preserved from additions and alterations. The collection therefore is interesting as containing nothing of later date than the eighth century, and probably very little that is later than the seventh. Besides a large number of hymns traceable to other authors, from Hilary to Gregory—most of them from Ambrose and his school—there are forty-eight hymns peculiar to this ancient Breviary. Of these the best known are the Alleluia piis edite laudibus, the Cunctorum rex omnipotens, the Jesu defensor omnium, the O Dei perenne Verbum of Bishop Arturus Serranus of Toledo, the Sacer octavarum dies, the Sacrata Christi tempora, and the Surgentes ad Te, Domine. It is well known that the hymns of Ambrose and his school enjoyed great repute in Spain. These unnamed writers evidently have studied at his feet, their mode of dealing with the great themes of Christian praise having much in common with his. The country, however, which gave Seneca, Lucan, and Quinctilian to Latin literature was under 360 no necessity merely to imitate an Italian model; and we find these Spanish poets departing widely from Ambrose’s school as regards the form of their verse. The four-lined stanza, with four iambic feet (u -) in each line—a line used by the tragedian Seneca before it was adopted by the Christian poets—is the form of verse employed almost exclusively by the Ambrosian school. The Mozarabic writers also use it (Convexa solis orbita), but they also employ as a substitute a trochaic verse of eleven syllables (Lucis auctor clemens, lumen immensum) and more complex choriambic forms (Alleluia piis edite laudibus, etc.). But their hymns, as a whole, lack pith and force; not one of them has earned a place by itself in the affections of Latin Christendom.

The second national group is that of the early Irish writers of Latin hymns. There are not so many of these, and still fewer names have been preserved. But they deserve notice as monuments of that aggressive Church whose missionary labors rendered such grand service in the Christianization of Western Europe. Of Caelius Sedulius there is enough said in the chapter devoted to him and his acrostic hymn. Of Columcille and the Altus Deus prositor we have spoken above. The next name which meets us is that of Ladkenus or Lathacan, an Irishman of the seventh century, to whom is ascribed a hymn of the class called in Irish Luireach (or lorica), meaning a shield. There are two hymns of this class ascribed to Patrick and to Columcille. The former, best known by James Clarence Mangan’s version,

“At Tara to-day, in this awful hour,

I call on the holy Trinity!”

is probably not the work of the Apostle of Ireland; but as it, like that of Columcille, is in Irish, it need not detain us here. The latter begins,

“Alone am I upon the mountain,

O King of heaven, prosper my way,

And then nothing need I fear,

More than if guarded by six thousand.”

That of Lathacan, while possessing the same general character, as aiming at a Christian substitute for the Druidical charms of the pagans, is on a lower level both religiously and poetically. No less than eleven of its twenty-three quatrains are occupied with 361 the enumeration of the parts of the human body, which are placed under divine protection, and these may be not without interest to the students of the history of physiological knowledge.

Many of the early Irish hymns are in the national language, which was at that time the vehicle of a vigorous native poetry. Of those in Latin the most beautiful is the Communion hymn,

“Sancti venite,

Christi corpus sumite,”

which both Daniel and Neale praise for its noble simplicity. An old Irish legend, to which we need not pin our faith, represents Patrick and his nephew Sechnall as hearing the angels sing it first, during the offertory before the communion, and adds, “So from that time to the present that hymn is chanted in Erinn when the body of Christ is received.” Singing at the communion was not unusual in the early Church, and Gregory of Tours has preserved an antiphon used at that sacrament which closely resembles the Irish hymn. But it is now disused.

The hymn is found in the Bangor Antiphonary, an old Irish manuscript of the seventh century, first published by Muratori in his Anecdota (1697-98). From Bangor it had been carried to Bobbio, the famous monastery founded on Italian soil by the Irish missionary Columbanus after he had been driven out of Burgundy by the reigning powers. From Bobbio it made its way to the Ambrosian Library at Milan, where Muratori found it. It is one of the most interesting monuments of the early Irish Church, and its hymns are given or indicated by Daniel in his fourth volume. The first is a series of quintains, each for one of the canonical hours. Then the Hymnum dicat turba fratrum, which already Beda described as hymnus ille pulcherrimus, is found in a mutilated form in the Antiphonary, and ascribed to Hilary. It is a terse rehearsal of the facts of our Lord’s birth, life, passion, and resurrection. Daniel suggests that it is one of the primitive hymns of the martyr-ages of the Church to which Pliny refers, and brought into Latin from the original Greek by some scholarly Briton or Irish man. Then a hymn in commemoration of the Apostles (Precamur Patrem), of which also Daniel thinks that Irish scholarship may have rendered from the Greek. Then a morning hymn based on the Constantinopolitan creed (Spiritus divinae lucis gloriae); and 362 another in honor of the martyrs (Sacratissimi Martyres summi Dei); the Lorica of Lathacan; and two hymns in honor of St. Patrick, one by Sechnall and the other by Fiacc. Daniel gives only the former, which is an abecedary hymn. Both are full of the marvellous—an element not wanting even in the contemporary documents of Patrick’s life, and quite abundant in those of later date.

Besides these there are four other hymns which Mone has shown to be of Irish authorship. The first is the Jesus refulsit omnium, which has been ascribed to Hilary, but is shown not to be his not only by the rhyme, but by the alliteration which marks it as originating in the North of Europe. It is found in manuscripts, German and English, of the eleventh century; but Mone ascribes it to an Irish author both because of the strophe employed and because of the mixture of Greek words with the Latin, the Irish being the best Greek scholars of the West, and being not disinclined to show off their erudition in this way. Another is an abecedary hymn, Ad coeli clara non sum dignus sidera, famous as having been supposed by some stupid critic to be the lost evening hymn which Hilary sent from the East to his daughter along with the Lucis largitor splendide. It probably is as old as the sixth or seventh century, both the structure of the verse and the allusions to pagan beliefs and Christian heresies indicating that antiquity. The use of alliteration and other peculiarities indicate an Irish author, but probably a monk of Bobbio, as the accentuated Sapphic verse was in use in that country. Here are seven of its most characteristic stanzas:

To the clear stars of heaven I am not worthy

The base eyes of my most sad behavior

Even to lift: weighed down with sorrows earthy,

Spare me, O Saviour.

Boon which I ought to show I have neglected,

Evil I did: no limit might resist me;

Crime by no secret conscience was rejected;

O Christ, assist me.

* * * * * * *

Leave me, O Lord, alone with my repenting,

Me from my birth all evil who inherit,

Give me but tears from depths of my consenting

Penitent spirit.


Mine, as I think, are vices so appalling

That the worst torments still will not withhold me,

Save as thy pity on a wretch is calling,

Glad to enfold me.

* * * * * * *

Rescue of earth, the only hope of mortals,

Equal with Father and with Holy Spirit

Three, and yet one beyond those viewless portals

Save by thy merit.

* * * * * * *

Xrist have I ever, in the faith most holy,

Praised with my lips and made a true confession;

Purely I spurned all heresy, nor slowly

Wrought my profession.

HYmns have I sung in Arius’s derision,

Barking Sabellian dog I have not favored,

Simon the swine, whose covetous base vision

Mine never favored.

S. W. D.

Besides this we have the Cantemus omni die concenentes variae, which furnishes a remarkable combination of sustained rhyme with a free use of alliteration; and two hymns in honor of Michael the Archangel, of which the first is an abecedary, and has the same structural peculiarity. Besides these there are other hymns in the Leabhur Jomann, or “Book of Hymns,” in honor of St. Brigid (often confounded with the St. Birgitta of Sweden) and other Irish saints—some in Latin and some in Irish. They have been edited for the Irish Archaeological Society by Dr. J. H. Todd (Dublin, 1855-69).

To the eighth century, the age of the Iconoclasts, of John of Damascus and of Beda, we trace but few anonymous hymns. As we have said, the Urbs beata Hirusalem (with the Angulare fundamentum) may belong here, and so may some in the Mozarabic Breviary. But as only the manuscripts we have named and the “Psalter of the Queen of Sweden”—so called because it once was the property of Queen Christine—go back to this time, we can only guess which of the hymns marked as “very old” in manuscripts of the eleventh and later centuries date back to this. Niebuhr found in a tenth-century manuscript the pilgrim hymn O Roma nobilis, orbis et domina, and published it in the Rheinisches 364 Museum (1829), and traced its accentual form of verse back to the old folk-songs of Rome, such as the Roman soldiers may well have sung at the triumph of Camillus, and certainly did so behind the golden triumphal chariots of Caesar and Aurelian.

To this century some ascribe the hymn for martyrs, Sanctorum meritis inclyta gaudia, which holds its place in a recast in the Roman Breviary, and has occupied the attention of at least four English translators. In the history of theology it is memorable as giving Gottschalk a point by its use of the phrase trina deitas, to which Archbishop Hincmar strongly objected.

Of the less notable hymn-writers of this century three belong to the group of literary men whom Charles the Great gathered at his court or employed in his administration. That Charles himself was a poet in any sense we have no evidence, much less that he wrote the Veni, Creator Spiritus. His biographer, Eginhard, tells us that although he spoke Latin fluently—his native language, of course, being German—he never fully acquired the art of writing, although he kept a tablet under his pillow for the sake of practising. He was a keen lover of learning and a generous patron of education. In one of his trips to Italy he encountered at Parma an Englishman, chief of the Cathedral school at York, and then on his way to Rome to obtain the pallium for Archbishop Eanbald. Charles offered him sufficient inducement to remove to the Continent, and for fourteen years (782-96) Alcuin of York (735-804) was Charles’s minister of education and head of the palace school, in which both the king and his children studied. He was rewarded with various abbacies, and in 796 he retired to one of them—that of St. Martin at Tours—withdrawing from the not very admirable court of his patron to spend his eight last years in study and devotion. He was succeeded by an Irishman named Clemens, who brought over the Irish preference for Greek philosophy, especially that of Plato, to Alcuin’s keen annoyance. In the collections there are some half-dozen hymns ascribed to Alcuin, none of which have made any marked impression. He was an honest, plodding, unimaginative Englishman, such as still writes Latin verses at Eton or Harrow, invitâ Minervâ, and as a matter of duty, not of necessity.

More notable for personal qualities was the Lombard, Paul Warnefried (730-96), better known as Paul the Deacon (Paulus 365 Diaconus), who had witnessed the overthrow of the Lombard kingdom by Charles in 774, and then withdrew to Monte Casino, where he became a Benedictine monk. He attracted Charles’s attention in 781 by a poetical petition in behalf of his brother Arichis, who had been carried beyond the Alps as a prisoner; and the king invited him to his court. He returned to Monte Casino in 787. His most important work, the De Gestis Longobardorum Libri Sex, is marked by a lively and patriotic interest in the legends, habits, and fortunes of his own people. He has preserved for us much early Teutonic lore, such as the poetical explanation of the origin of the name “Lombard,” which Kingsley has worked into a poem in Hypatia. A Frank he never became, and the rough soldiers of Charles’s court proposed to cut off his hands and put out his eyes by way of resenting this. “God forbid,” replied Charles, “that I should thus treat so excellent a poet and a historian.” There are but two hymns which bear Paul Warnefried’s name: one in commemoration of John the Baptist, and the other on the miracles of Benedict of Nursia. The former, which frequently is divided into three parts for different services on St. John’s day, is a hymn of much merit, and still holds its place in the Roman Breviary. Its widest fame is in connection with the history of music, as from its first verse we derive the ordinary names of our musical notes. The verse runs,

Ut queant laxis

Resonare fibris

Mira gestorum

Famuli tuorum,

Solve polluti

Labii reatum,

Sancte Johannes.

The tune composed for the hymn in the Middle Ages, or adapted to it, had the peculiarity that each half verse began on one of the bars of the staff, and each a note higher than the last. This suggested, possibly to Guido of Arezzo in the eleventh century, the possibility of using these first syllables as a mnemonic device to fix the pitch of each note on the memory of those who were learning to sing. Guido, in a letter to his friend Michael, describes the device in terms which suggest that it was his own. But there is no warrant for the assumption often made in this connection that he devised the musical staff. That was in use in England as early as 1016, while Guido wrote about 1067.


A third of Charles’s protégés was Paulinus, whom he made patriarch of Aquileia (726-804), and who is specified by George Cassander as the author of three extant hymns. One of these, the Refulgit omnia luce mundus aurea, is thought by Mone to belong to the sixth or seventh century. It is in the ornate style of his namesake of Nola and his imitator Elpis, so that it may be the work of the older Paulinus. It possesses a philological interest as being written in the lingua rustica, or provincial and countrified Latin, out of which the Romance languages were developed. Paulinus of Aquileia was a German, who took an active part in the controversies of his times, as may be seen from his prose works. Walafrid Strabo in the next century speaks of him as a hymn-writer; but it is impossible to say how many, if any, of the hymns which stand in his name are his work.

The ninth century is much more fertile in hymns than either the seventh or the eighth. It is the age of Charles the Great as Emperor, of Rabanus Maurus and Hincmar, and of John Scotus Erigena; and it witnessed the founding of the school of sequence-singers at St. Gall. To this century has been traced the beautiful paschal sequence Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani, one of the few which hold their place in the Roman Missal. Kehrein, on what seems to him good authority, ascribes the sequence to Wipo, the Burgundian chaplain of the Emperor Conrad II., and the tutor of Henry II., who has left us several poems on historical events of his time, besides a prose life of Conrad and two didactic poems for the edification of Henry. He was a man of unusual acquaintance with classical literature, which probably led to his selection as tutor to the young prince. All this makes Kehrein’s ascription of the sequence to him have an air of probability, which, however, is weakened, if not destroyed, by a comparison of this with his undoubted poems. These employ both the classic hexameter and the rhymed verse of his own age; but in neither does he show the fine ear for rhythm which the author of the Victimae paschali laudes must have possessed. The sequence was one of those Easter hymns in which Luther took such delight, and which he describes in general terms in his House-Postill: “In the time of popery many fine hymns were sung! He that broke up hell, and overcame the very Devil therein, therewith the Lord redeemed his Christendom.” Elsewhere in the same book he calls this “a 367 very beautiful hymn,” especially finding delight in the second verse, Mors et Vita duello conflixere mirando: Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus. “Make it who will, he must have had a high and Christian understanding to have painted this picture with such fine gracefulness.” In his commentary on Hosea, he again quotes it with especial praise.

To this ninth century Koch assigns the Virginis proles opifexque matris, which still holds its place in the Roman Breviary in a revised form. Less offensive to Protestant ears is the brief and beautiful sequence, probably of this century, Quod chorus vatum, which Mr. Blew has translated for his Church Hymn and Tune-Book (1855), and the editor of the Lyra Messianica has copied. Here also belongs the Ad Dominum clamaveram, which is one of the earliest attempts at a metrical treatment of the Psalms. It consists largely of extracts from the fifteen Psalms of Degrees. Here also belongs the Iste confessor Domini, which still holds its place in the Roman Breviary.

Of the less-known hymn-writers we may name the younger Prudentius, who, like his greater namesake, was a Spaniard by birth, his family probably being one of the many which took refuge in France from the rule of the Saracens. Indeed, he assumed the name out of compliment to the elder poet—a practice very reprehensible in the eyes of hymnologists, as increasing the amply sufficient confusion which hangs around the identity of hymn-writers. He was one of the most learned men of his time, and had the manliness to defend the Augustinian doctrine of predestination against Hincmar of Rheims, at the time when Gottschalk had brought it into ill repute by his paradoxical statement of it. But he and Hincmar found common ground in opposing John Scotus Erigena, who asserted that the whole controversy grew out of the ascription of temporal existence to the divine and eternal mind. His hymns are lost to us, those ascribed to him being certainly not of his authorship, unless perhaps the Virgo Dei genetrix.

Servatus Lupus (805-63), abbot of Ferrières, was one of the many pupils of Rabanus Maurus, who rose to eminence in the Church of this age, and were employed by the Karling kings in public affairs. His best monument is his letters, which give us a vivid picture of a time of disorder, and of a man of genuine capacity 368 and honest purpose. His hymns in praise of St. Wigbert are of less worth.

Much more important is Theodulph of Orleans (ob. 821), the author of a single hymn, which has preserved his memory not less by its own merits than by its association with a beautiful but unhistorical legend of its authorship. He, too, was of Spanish birth and Gothic stock. He was honored and trusted by Charles the Great, and was one of the witnesses to his will. He was strongly imperialist in his politics, both before and after Charles’s death opposing the inevitable separation of France from Germany, especially in his poems to Charles and his sons, which are among the best of that age. In 818, however, he was implicated justly or unjustly in the rebellion of Bernard, King of Italy, against his uncle the emperor, and was imprisoned three years. While in prison he composed, tradition says, the hymn for Palm Sunday, Gloria, laus et honor, together with other poems, as the pastime of weary hours. The story runs that it was to the hymn he owed his liberation. On Palm Sunday of 821 the Emperor Lewis the Pious was at Angers, where the Bishop of Orleans was imprisoned in a monastery. Through an open window, when the emperor was within hearing, he sang the hymn, which so moved his heart that he gave orders to set the prisoner at liberty. Another version of the story is that he had taught it to the children of the church, who sang it before the emperor. The legend is discredited by the fact that in 821 there was a general amnesty for political offenders, which must have given him his liberty. He died within the year, by poison it is said.

To make the list complete we add the names of Ermanrich (ob. 840), abbot of Ellwangen in Würtemberg; Drepanius Florus (ob. 860), deacon of the church of Lyons; Eric, a monk at Saint-Germain at Auxerre, and Paul Alvarez of Cordova (ob. 861)—all of whom have left us hymns in commemoration of saints.

In the chapter on Notker a full account has been given of the three principal singers of St. Gall—Notker Balbulus, Tutilo, and Hartmann. There are two lesser sequence-writers of that monastery who belong to the same (ninth) century—Ratpert and Waltram. Ratpert (ob. 900), like Notker, was a pupil of the Irishman Möngal. He was of noble family and born in the neighborhood of Zurich, and made such proficiency that he was entrusted with 369 the oversight of the outer school at St. Gall. His “proses” were composed especially for processional use and for pilgrimages, and therefore are not sequences in the strict sense. To adapt them to this use he fitted them with refrains, which might be caught up by those who had little familiarity with Latin. The Rex sanctorum angelorum is the best known of them. But most important is his position as the first in point of time of the German hymn-writers. He wrote a German hymn in honor of St. Gall (fecit carmen barbaricum populo in laude Sancti Galli canendum), of which unfortunately we have only Ekkehard’s Latin translation, made a century later.

Waltram never rose above the rank of deacon at St. Gall. He was more famous for his poems on secular themes, written to the music of the sequences, than for sequences proper. But one of the latter is ascribed to him.


[Tenth to Sixteenth Century.]

The tenth century—the century of the Danes, of the Normans, of the Othos, of the Olafs, of Dunstan, and of Cordova as a centre of philosophic and scientific culture—saw the general establishment of Christianity among the Teutonic peoples of Northern Europe. It was not rich in great Churchmen, great men of letters, or great hymn-writers. We find in it no name great enough to deserve a separate chapter. Yet Odo of Cluny and Fulbert of Chartres, the two Ekkehards, and Rupert of St. Gall are enough to show that it was not altogether barren.

This dark age was a time when the worship of Mary and the saints, already on the increase in previous ages, made rapid advances. The practice of formal canonization of the saints dates from 993. Perhaps the most characteristic hymn of the century is the Ave Maris stella, which has been ascribed to Venantius Fortunatus of the sixth century, but cannot be older than the tenth. Daniel’s final judgment was that a St. Gall MS. proves it to belong here, although he formerly had thought it might be as early as the sixth century. Moll and Mone, however, would put it even later, on the theory that it borrows from one of Hermann of Reichenau’s sequences. It is one of the favorite hymns of the Roman Catholic Church, being found in all the breviaries, and assigned for use not only at the Annunciation, to which it properly belongs, but to others of the many festivals in honor of our Lord’s mother. In the following version Mr. Duffield has given the easy form of the original:

Hail, thou star of ocean,

God’s own mother mortal,

Virgin ever perfect,

Heaven’s own blessed portal.


Bright with such a message,

Gabriel gave thee greeting;

Grant us, then, thy favor,

Eve’s defeat defeating.

Loose the prisoner’s bondage,

Give the blind their vision,

Drive all evils from us,

Pray for our condition.

Show thyself our mother,

Let thy prayer avail us

With thy Son, our Saviour,

Born that naught should fail us.

Virgin pure and only,

Mild among all others,

Make us free from sinning,

Meek beyond our brothers.

To this century or later we must assign the Martyr Dei qui unicum, which (as Invicte Martyr unicum) still holds its place in the Roman Breviary; and the Jesu Redemptor omnium, which is similarly honored.

Odo of Cluny (879-943) is the first of the three poets who have adorned that famous monastic house. He was dedicated before his birth to St. Martin, by his father, a courtier of the Duke of Aquitaine, and became a monk at Tours in fulfilment of this vow. He got such education as the times furnished, going to Paris for the sake of finding the best schools. He then joined the congregation of three monasteries recently founded by Bernon, who was abbot of them all. At the death of Bernon he became the second abbot of Cluny, and it speaks ill for either Bernon or the age that he found his work to be that of a monastic reformer even in a young monastery. He was the most considerable figure in the French Church of his time, and his advice and mediation were sought on all sides. As his name was a very usual one, a long series of books he did not write has been fathered on him, what he really left being a collection of addresses to his monks (Collationes), some sermons, and a few hymns, about four in all. Of these Dr. Neale has translated the Lauda, mater ecclesiae, lauda Christi, and Mr. Chambers the Aeterni Patris unice. They commemorate 372 Mary Magdalene, identifying her, of course, with Mary of Bethany, as Church tradition does.

Fulbert of Chartres (950-1028) was to France, in the second half of this century of disorder and transition, what Odo was in the first. He also was from Aquitaine, and possibly of a noble family, although he seems to contradict his biographers on that point when he says,

“non opibus nec sanguine fretus

Conscendi cathedram, pauper, de sorde levatus.”

He studied at Rheims under the great scholar Gerbert, afterward Pope Sylvester II.—“a pope,” as Dr. Döllinger says, “who was held in great honor as the most learned scholar and the most enlightened spirit of his time,” but afterward was regarded as an expert in the black art, and even as having sold himself to Satan. From him Fulbert at least learned no black arts. Transferred in 968 to Chartres as chancellor of the cathedral, with charge of its school, he made the place a centre of attraction to students from three nations. His scholars called him “the Frankish Socrates,” and frequent is the reference in writers of the next generation to the delightful fellowship they had with this bright-minded and devout master, who taught the science of both natural and divine things, entering into right human relations with each of them, and pointing them to that knowledge which is life eternal. Even after Robert II. elevated him to the bishopric of Chartres, in 1007, he found time to take part in the work of teaching, which he so much loved. He died in 1028.

His letters are his chief monument, and they give us an unattractive picture of his age. One of them denounces bishops who have become soldiers as unworthy of the name. Others tell of the murder, in the very porch of the cathedral, of a priest he had made the sub-dean of the cathedral at Sens. The friends of a rival candidate killed him, with the alleged connivance of the bishop of Sens! In yet another he takes to task Constance, the shrew whom a just Providence awarded to Robert II. as his last wife. His sermons are less notable, and much given to Mariolatry. His hymns are few in number, but one of them, the Chorus novae Hirusalem, is a Whitsunday hymn of much beauty, yet it has not commended itself to the compilers of the Roman Breviary. Mone remarks that it unites classic metre with rhyme, which is true also 373 of his hymn in commemoration of Martin of Tours, Inter patres monachalis.

The fifth abbot of Cluny, Odilo (962-1048), was a dear friend of Fulbert’s, and lamented his death. He continued the work of monastic reform begun by Odo, which made Cluny the centre of monastic energy and life in this age. Especially was the severity of the restored rule of Benedict, as practised at Cluny, opposed to the laxer order established by the Irish monks in Germany. So absorbed was he in this work that he refused to be made Archbishop of Lyons. Fulbert called him “the archangel of the monks.” He also wrote hymns, but there are none that we can attach with certainty to his name.

The same is true of Salvus, abbot of a cloister in the Christian kingdom of Navarre. Heriger, abbot of Lobbes (940-1009), a Flemish Benedictine and hagiologist, of great renown as an educator and a scholar, has left one hymn, Ave per quam, and two antiphons, in honor of the Apostle Thomas. Theodoric of Monte Casino wrote a hymn in honor of St. Maurus.

To the eleventh century we owe the beginnings of many things—rag paper, Gothic architecture, our modern musical notation, the crusades, the troubadours, the peace of God, the Norman rule in England. It is the century of Hildebrand, of Peter Damiani, of Anselm of Canterbury, of the great struggle to establish the celibacy of the clergy and to abolish lay patronage in the Church. It is not rich in hymn-writers, but it has some minor names and anonymous hymns worthy of notice.

To this century belongs the manuscript collection of old English hymns in Latin which the Rev. Joseph Stevenson edited for the Surtees Society in 1851 (Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church, with an Interlinear Saxon Gloss. From a manuscript of the Eleventh Century in Durham Library). While many of them are found equally in the breviaries and hymnaries of the Continent, there is a large number which seem to be peculiar to the English Church, and have not been traced to any continental source. None of these are very great hymns, and their importance to us is partly from our interest in the work of our English ancestors, and partly from the preference shown to them by modern English translators. But such work as Annis peractis mensibus and Nuntium nobis fero de supernis is more than respectable. In this 374 manuscript is found the beautiful hymn for Septuagesima and succeeding Sundays, Alleluia, dulce carmen, which therefore may be an old English hymn. It was written in accordance with the old usage that “Alleluia!” should be sung frequently on that and the following Sundays in preparation for Lent. To this century Koch assigns the abecedarian hymn, A patre unigenitus, which gets almost through the alphabet in twenty lines, but is better than this would indicate, or Mr. Chambers would not have translated it. Here belongs the Audi, tellus, audi, which unfortunately is only partly preserved in its original and unexpanded form. It is a judgment hymn, but not one of the greatest. The Lutherans used it for some time after the Reformation, and Dr. Washburn has translated it. The enlarged form recalls the Cur mundus militat of Jacoponus. Du Méril has published a Christmas hymn of this century, Congaudeat turba fidelium, whose first six verses indicate its popular use by their refrain, “In Bethlehem!” It bears a close resemblance to many of the fifteenth century, and may have been their model. To the same editor we owe the terse and spirited Easter hymn of this same century, Mitis agnus, leo fortis, which has found several English translators. To this century or, at latest, to the next, we must assign the very beautiful hymn in commemoration of Stephen the Protomartyr, Sancte Dei pretiose, whose popularity seems to have made it especially tempting to the hymn-tinkers of the Middle Ages. It is found in two other forms, both of them much watered; “but nobody likes inspiration and water,” as Lowell says.

To Anselm of Canterbury, the great archbishop and theologian, seven hymns are assigned in the collections. They are so much below the level of the Cur Deus Homo, the Monologion, and the Prosologion of that great master, as to suggest that they are the work of one of the lesser Anselms—for the name was a common one in that age—and that they have been assigned to him by the eagerness of his editors to swell his works, as has been done with many prose treatises. One of the best is a long “Prayer to the Lord and all His Saints,” beginning Deus, pater credentium, of which Mr. Duffield says, in a manuscript note, that it “contains many excellent stanzas.” There is another, “To Mary and all the Saints,” nearly as long, which shows the author’s training in a French school by its use of the assonance. Yet another on Mary 375 alone—Lux quae luces in tenebris—which has been broken into eight brief hymns for the canonical hours. Christ as the Son and Mary herself are invoked in alternate verses.

Better than any of these is a little hymn which is his in the sense of being based on a fine passage of his prose meditations. This “second Augustine,” like the first, was happier as an occasion of poetry in other men, than in his own verses. Here it is:


Veni jam veni


Dolentis animiae



In opportunatibus

Et tribulationibus


Veni fortitude fragilium,

Relevator labentium

Veni doctor humilium

Destructor superborum,

Pius pater orphanorum,

Dulcis vindex viduarum.

Veni spes pauperum,

Refocillator deficientium!

Veni navigantium




Veni omnium viventium

Singulare decus,


Unica salus,

Veni Sancte Spiritus!

Come, yea and quickly come,

Thou gentlest guest,

To them of sorrowing mind,

Consoler blest!

Thou swiftest help and guide

In every chance,

And in our sharp distress


Come, courage of the coward breast,

Who raisest them that sink oppressed!

Come, teacher of the humble, thou

Who bringest pride to dust,

Thou Father of the fatherless,

The widow’s stay and trust.

Come, thou hope of poverty,

Reviving from despondency.

Come, thou of sailing souls

The Star;

Come, thou the port of them

Which shipwrecked are!

Come, thou the one renown

Of all that live;

Come, thou the single trust

Which death can give;

Come, Holy Spirit!

Another Anselm of this century is the Bishop of Lucca, who died 1086, and to whom is ascribed a long meditative poem on our Lord’s life, in a kind of rhymed verse which is much more frequently met in the narrative or humorous poems of the next century, called Goliardic. It does not belong to the lyric poetry of the Church, although a spirited hymn has been extracted by Herbert Kynaston from the passage given by Trench. (See Lyra Messianica, pp. 283, 284.) Anselm was a weak man caught in the storm of the controversy over investitures, and would have 376 ended his days as a monk of Cluny, if Gregory VII. had not forbidden him. It is said that, although he had written in defence of the claims of Gregory against the anti-pope Guibert, he finally joined Guibert’s party before his death.

Godefroy or Geofroy, Abbot of Vendome, is another hymn-writer who was mixed up in that controversy, but remained steadfast on the papal side. He belongs both to this and the next century, having been made abbot in 1094, and lived on till 1129 at least. Twelve times he crossed the Alps in the interest of the papacy, and was rewarded for his zeal by a cardinalate. His letters still preserve for us the picture of a zealous ultramontane churchman; but his four “proses”—one about our Lord’s mother and three on Mary Magdalene—are of less importance.

To Heribert (ob. 1042), Bishop of Eichstetten, in modern Baden (anciently part of Swabia), Migne (Patrologia, 141) ascribes a number of hymns, which previously had borne no other name in the collections. His dominant tendency as a hymn-writer is shown by the fact that he wrote five hymns beginning Ave Maria, gratia plena, none of which, however, is the well-known hymn beginning with those words. That belongs to a later century. The best of his hymns are that to all saints, Omnes superni ordines, and that to the cross, Salve crux sancta, salve mundi gloria, of which Prior Aylward has furnished a spirited version to Mr. Shipley’s Annus Sanctus. Of the author we can learn nothing more than his date and location.

The succession of sequence-writers in Southern Germany was kept up through this century by Gottschalk and the fourth Ekkehard of St. Gall. Of Gottschalk we know little more than that he studied under a master, Heinrich, in an unnamed monastery of South Germany, to whom Schubiger (Die Sängerschule St. Gallens, 1858) assigns the Ave praeclara Maris stella (see p. 163), on the authority of a manuscript he believes to be older than Hermann Contractus. Of Gottschalk’s own sequences there are but three which certainly are his, and they all are prosy. If he and not some French Gottschalk of this century be the author of the O Deus, miseri misereri servi, which Daniel (IV., 173) copies from Du Méril, it is better than any of his sequences. Du Méril inclines to ascribe it to the Gottschalk of the ninth century, whom we met in the history of Rabanus Maurus. Ekkehard IV. is 377 memorable only for his Latin version of the German hymn by Ratpert in honor of St. Gall, of which the original is lost.

The twelfth century is that of the great Crusades, of Bernard and Abelard, and Peter the Venerable, and Hildebert and Adam of St. Victor. The age also of Thomas Becket, Peter Lombard, and Saladin. The Civil Law was rediscovered at Amalfi; the Canon Law digested by Gratian; the age-long conflict of Guelphs and Ghibellines began, to end only with the political ruin of Germany and the dismemberment of the Empire.

It was a time of great intellectual activity in Western Europe. The universities took their rise now, although not known by that name till the next century. In the national literatures of France and Germany it was the springtime of a new age—the age of the troubadours and the trouvères, of the Minnesingers, and the popular romances. In Latin hymnology no century was more fertile in great things than this.

Of the anonymous hymns traced to this century there are several of great beauty. The hymn on the Apostles, Exultet coelum laudibus, holds its place in the Roman Breviary in a much diluted revision. It shows a close study of Scripture and great command of terse expression. The Easter hymn, Finita jam sunt praelia, generally is given with a double Alleluia prefixed. Daniel refers it to this century; Neale to the next. It is known to English readers by the versions of Rev. Francis Pott (“The strife is o’er, the victory won!”) and of Dr. Neale (“Finished is the battle now”), both of great merit. Exactly the same difference of authorities we find as to the date of the O filii et filiae, another Easter hymn of great beauty and still more honored by the preferences of the translators, but ignored by the collectors, Professor March excepted. The Passion hymn, Patris Sapientia, veritas divina, has been bandied about among many supposed authors, two popes of the fourteenth century included. It is in the “Goliardic” metre we find in Anselm of Lucca, which was widely used in the satirical poetry of this century. It therefore probably belongs here, and may be the work of the “Egidius Episcopus” specified in one copy of the hymn. A third Easter hymn, the Surrexit Christe hodie, may be as old as this century, as there is a German hymn of this century which borrows from it, Christus ist erstanden. In its Latin, indeed, lies the germ of many later Easter hymns, 378 including that of Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord is risen to-day.” It is itself the simplest and truest expansion of the Easter morning greeting of the early Christian Church, when its members, as they met each other on the street on that Sunday, substituted “Christ is risen!” for the usual “Peace be with you!” That was the word of confession by which the Church’s Easter joy in the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, the spiritual springtide over spiritual winter, was proclaimed to a joyless and despairing world.

To this century also belongs the Advent sequence, Veni, veni Emmanuel! So Dr. Neale thinks, but Professor Daniel hesitates. It undoubtedly is based on the eight “Greater Antiphons,” which were sung at the Vesper service on the eight days preceding Christmas (O Sapientia, etc.), of which a metrical version by Lord Nelson and others is in the Hymnal of the Episcopal Church. At least as old as this century is the very beautiful sequence on the life of Christ, In sapientia disponens omnia, which Mone found in a MS. of this century, and Trend (Lyra Mystica) and Crippen have translated. The two halves of the sequence differ in a marked way in their metrical structure.

Of the lesser hymn-writers of the century, Marbod is the most productive. Like Fulbert and Odilo, he might as well be credited to the last century as to this. He was the son of a fur dealer at Angers, named Robert, became Bishop of Rennes, and died a monk at St. Aubin in 1123. He had the fighting qualities of the Angevins, whose churches are full of the tombs not of saints, but of armed warriors, Michelet says. He took such an active and aggressive part in a dispute over the election of a bishop of Angers that the other party made him their prisoner and carried him out of the mélée. But it was his eminence as a Latin poet for which his age most valued him. When he died the monks of St. Aubin announced the fact in a circular letter, and Ulger, Bishop of Angers, anticipated the extravagance of Dryden’s epigram on Milton in his praises of his friend:

“Cessit ei Cicero, cessit Maro

Junctus Homero.”

Beaugendre in 1708 collected his poems and published them along with those of his contemporary, Hildebert of Tours. They are 379 mostly versified legends of the saints, with a long poem, De Gemmis, interesting and curious as showing the “mystical” associations of the mediaeval mind with precious stones. From this Mone gives the interpretation of the precious stones in the heavenly Jerusalem, beginning Cives coelestis patriae. More hymn like in character is the Deus-Homo rex coelorum, which Chancellor Benedict has translated from Trench’s anthology:

Deus-Homo, Rex coelorum,

Miserere Miserorum;

Ad peccandum proni sumus,

Et ad humum redit humus;

Tu ruinam nostri fulci

Pietate tua dulci.

Quid est homo, proles Adae

Germen necis, dignum clade.

Quid est homo nisi vermis,

Res infirma, res inermis.

Ne digneris huic irasci,

Qui non potest mundus nasci

Noli Deus, hunc damnare,

Qui non potest non peccare;

Judicare non est equum

Creaturam, non est tecum;

Non est miser homo tanti,

Ut respondeat Tonanti.

Sicut umbra, sicut fumus,

Sicut foenum facti sumus;

Miserere, Rex coelorum,

Miserere miserorum.

Thou God-man in heaven above us,

Look upon us, Lord, and love us.

We to sin are always tending,

Earth with earth is always blending.

Thou, O Lord, from ruin save us

Through the hope thy goodness gave us.

What is man from Adam springing?

Born of sin, destruction bringing.

What is man but worm degraded,

Weak and helpless when unaided?

Make not him thy wrath inherit,

Who cannot thy favor merit.

Born to be a sinful being;

Damn him not, thou God all-seeing.

To condemn thy helpless creature

Is not worthy of thy nature;

Wretched man is not sufficient,

Lord, to answer the omniscient.

Made like smoke and shadow fleeting,

Like the hay the tempest meeting,

Pity, Lord in heaven above us,

Wretched sinners! save and love us.

There are two notable sequences attributed to the nun Hildegard of Bingen (1104-78), a visionary and prophetess who commanded the respect of Bernard and his pupil, Pope Eugenius, by her castigations of the disorders of Christendom, as did Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Sienna in a later period. There is extant a letter of hers to Bernard, written during his visit to Germany to preach the second crusade, in which she explains in very imperfect Latin the nature of her gift. Her life was begun by Gottfried and finished by Theodorich, monk of Trier. A comparison of her works—the Scivias and the Liber Divinorum Operum—with the letter to Bernard on the one hand, and Theodorich’s part of the biography on the other, makes it very evident that the monk wrote her works as well as her life; and how much of her genuine prophecies he worked into them we are unable to say. It therefore is not decisive as to her authorship that the O ignis Spiritûs Paracliti and the O virga ac diadema are found in the manuscripts 380 of her works, and that Theodorich vouches for the former. The author of these sequences had no acquaintance with the metrical principles of the school of St. Gall, and seems to have taken the Latin psalter as a model. Dr. Littledale, in his version of the former, substitutes a stricter metrical form.

Pierre de Corbeil was successively teacher of theology at Paris—where he had Innocent III. among his pupils—Bishop of Cambray, and in 1200 Archbishop of Sens. Innocent employed him on important missions, and he was a man of note in the Church and State of his age. A manuscript still preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris contains a satire on married men which is ascribed to him (Satyra adversus eos qui Uxores ducunt). But it is a very different kind of poem which entitles him to mention here, his hymn


Trinity, unity, Deity


Majesty, potency, purity


Stone and mountain, rock and fountain,

Breath and bridge most certain,

Travelled way;

Sun and light and brightness, snowy peak in whiteness,

Perfect day!

Thou art lover and giver,

Creator, receiver,


And door unto life;

Thou art favor and fitness

And splendor and brightness

And fragrance,

Where deadness is rife.

Thou art highest and nighest;

Of monarchs the king, and of statutes the spring,

And the judge—

Whom angels adore:

These laud thee, applaud thee,

And chant in their song, as they praise loud and long,

Whom they love—

Thy saints evermore.


Thou art greatness and oneness—

The flower as it shineth, the rose as it twineth;

Then rule us and save us

And bring us before thee

In glory

And joy, we implore thee.

Thou art God in thy justice

And trueness and goodness;

Thou art wholly and solely

The Lord!—

To thee be the glory

Which saints, in the highest, accord.

Pietro Gonella, a Franciscan monk of Tortona in Piedmont, is the reputed author of a long meditative poem on the miseries and follies of life and the certainty of death and judgment, which Du Méril found in a manuscript of this century. If he be not mistaken as to the date of the manuscript, of course, Eug. de Levis (Anecdota Sacra, Turin, 1789) is wrong in ascribing it to Pietro, as there were no Franciscans in the twelfth century. The chronology is important because of the relation of the poem to the Dies Irae. In point of metrical form they differ only in this Heu! Heu! mala mundi vita (better known as the Cum revolvo toto corde, from the opening line of its second part), having four lines to the verse instead of three. In point of sense the resemblances are so striking as to suggest that Thomas of Celano has ploughed with the heifer of his earlier countryman. In proof of this take these stanzas:

Terret me dies terroris,

Irae dies et furoris,

Dies luctus et moeroris,

Dies ultrix peccatoris.

Veniet Judex de coelis,

Testis verax et fidelis,

Veniet et non silebit,

Judicabit nec timebit.

Expavesco quidem multum

Venturi Judicis vultum,

Cui latebit nil occultum,

Et manebit nil inultum.

Juste quidem judicabit,

Nec personam acceptabit,

Pretio non corrumpetur,

Sed nec precibus flectetur.

Et quis nostrûm non timebit,

Quando Judex apparebit,

Ante quem ignis ardebit,

Peccatores qui delebit.

Judicabit omnes gentes

Et salvabit innocentes,

Arguet omnes potentes

Et deliciis fluentes.


Especially notable are the stanzas:

Dies illa, dies vitae,

Dies lucis inauditae,

Et mors ipsa morietur,

Qua nox omnis destruetur.

Jam festinat rex coelestis,

Judex noster atque testis,

Festinanter apparebit,

Omnis caro quem videbit.

Ecce Rex desideratus

Et a justis expectatus

Jam festinat exoratus,

Ad salvandum praeperatus.

Apparebit nec tardabit,

Veniet et demonstrabit

Gloriam, quam praestolantur,

Qui pro fide tribulantur.

If nothing whatever had been known as to the date of the two poems, we should have pronounced this an expansion of the Dies irae, dies illa by a later poet, who had two objects in view: the first, to sharpen to the conscience of his readers the warnings of the impending judgment; the second, to complete the poem by bringing the joys of the judgment more prominently into view. And with all respect for Edelestand du Méril’s judgment, we would like to have more light on the date of his manuscript.

A manuscript still preserved at Liege in Belgium contains the letters of Guido of Basoches, which is either Bas-oha, a village near that city, or, as Mone thinks, a place near Châteaudun in France. Among these letters are given a number of hymns, which he sends to his correspondents. They show some power of versification, but nothing more, and are defaced by conceits and puns. Thus he puts the name of Stephen through the six cases of the Latin grammar in as many verses of a hymn.

There are five writers of this century, each of whom is credited with a single hymn. Rudolph of Radegg, a schoolmaster of Einsiedeln, wrote a hymn in honor of St. Meinrad, which begins Nunc devota silva tota. To Thomas Becket is ascribed the Gaude Virgo, Mater Christi, Quia.... It is said to be his in a manuscript of the fifteenth century. To another Englishman, Bertier, is ascribed the only Latin hymn in the collections which relates directly to the Crusades, Juxta Threnos Jeremiae. It first appears in the chronicle of Roger of Hoveden, with the statement that Bertier wrote it in 1188. Last is Aelred (1104-66), who seems to have been a lowland Scotchman by birth, and to have shared the education of Henry, son of King David of Scotland. King David wished to make him a bishop, but he preferred the life of a 383 monk. He made his way to the Cistercian monastery at Rievaulx in Yorkshire (not Revesby in Lincolnshire, as some say), and there spent his days, becoming abbot in 1146. That he was a most lovable man we must infer from his sermons to his monks. He is one of the few preachers in Dr. Neale’s Mediaeval Preachers and Preaching (London, 1856), of whom we wish for more. His epitaph likens him, among others, to Bernard of Clairvaux, and the comparison is apposite. He was an English Bernard, with less personal force and grasp of intellect, but with the same gentleness and friendliness. His one hymn is the Pax concordat universa, which is found in his works, but not in any of the collections. The theme is congenial.

The thirteenth century, the century of Francis and Dominic, of Aquinas and Bonaventura, of Thomas of Celano and Jacoponus, is the age of the giants.

Its anonymous hymns worthy of special mention are few in number. One of the most beautiful is the Easter hymn, Cedit frigus hiemale, in which the coincidence of Easter with spring furnishes the starting-point. It is probably French. The Ave quem desidero is a rosary hymn, which rehearses our Lord’s life, with a verse for each of the beads, which surely is better than the usual Ave Marias. The use of rosaries is very ancient—pre-Christian even—but it was with the rise of the Dominican Order in this century that it became a sanctioned practice. The Jesu Salvator seculi and the O Trinitas laudabilis have been traced no further back than to this age; but they preserve the tone and style of the school of Ambrose. So the Mysteriorum signifer, in honor of the Archangel Michael, recalls an earlier age, while the Jesu dulce medicamen suggests the school of Bernard. This beautiful hymn has both thoughtfulness and unction to commend it. It represents the sounder tradition of Christian teaching in the mediaeval Church, and has been neglected unduly by Protestant translators. Mr. Crippen is the only one who has rendered it, and also the Juste judex Jesu Christe, a hymn of the same age and much the same character. Notable Marian hymns are the Gaude virgo, stella Maris, Salve porta chrystallina, and the Verbum bonum et suave; with which may be named that to St. John, Verbum Dei Deo natum, often ascribed to Adam of St. Victor, and certainly of his school. Also of that school is the vigorous hymn in commemoration 384 of St. Paul, Paulus Sion architecta. We add the terse and forceful hymn in commemoration of Augustine of Hippo, Salve pater Augustine, and the still finer in commemoration of the martyrs of the Church, O beata beatorum martyrum certamina, which has found translators in both Dr. Neale and Mr. Chambers. It is defective, as making them and not Christ the central theme.

St. Edmund, the archbishop who gave up the see of Canterbury because his heart was broken between the demands of the Pope and the exactions of the king, and died (1240) an exile in a French monastery, is credited with two Marian hymns, one of which is a “psalter,” or hymn of one hundred and fifty stanzas. They are not of great importance. Another is ascribed to Robert Grosstete, Bishop of Lincoln (died 1253), one of the great Churchmen who spoke the truth to the see of Rome. He was the friend of Simon de Montfort and of the Friars, and the foremost Churchman of England in his time, as zealous for the reformation of the clergy of his diocese and the maintenance of the Church’s rights against the King as for its relative independence of the Roman curia. The Ave Dei genetrix ascribed to him exists only in a revised and not improved shape. Its twelve verses each begin with a word from the angelic salutation. The author seems to have borrowed from a hymn of Peter Damiani.

To Hugo, a Dominican monk, who was Bishop of Strasburg toward the close of the century, and had taught theology with success, is ascribed the Ave mundi domina, in which Mary is greeted as a fiddle—Ave dulcis figella!

The fourteenth century, like the seventh, furnishes us with the name of not a single hymn-writer of real eminence, and of very few who are not eminent. Yet this century and the next exceed all others in the number of the hymns, which either certainly were written in this age, or can be traced no farther back. But the quality falls short as the quantity increases. Mary and the saints are the favorite themes; and those two great repositories of perverted praise, the second and third volumes of Mone’s collection, bear emphatic witness to the extent to which the hierarchy of saints and angels had come to eclipse the splendors of the White Throne and even of the Cross. There is not a single hymn of the highest rank which we can ascribe to these centuries of decay, when the 385 Middle Ages were passing to their death, to make way for the New Learning and the Reformation. But the great revival, which first swept over Italy and then reached Germany about 1470, which showed its power in the revival of “strict observance” in the mendicant orders, in the multiplication of new devotions and pilgrimages, and the accumulation of relics—that revival which laid such a powerful grasp on young Martin Luther and made a monk of him—bore abundant fruit in hymns both in Latin and the vernacular languages. It is a sign of the new age that the language consecrated by Church use no longer has a monopoly of hymn-writing, but men begin to praise as well as to hear in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.

The reverence for the Virgin reaches its height in the Te Matrem laudamus and the Veni, praecelsa domina, parodies of the Te Deum and the Veni, sancte Spiritus, which have nothing but ingenuity and offensiveness to commend them to Protestant readers. Of genuine poetical merit are the Regina coeli laetare and Stella maris, O Maria. Of the deluge of hymns in commemoration of the saints, we notice only the Nardus spirat in odorem, which indicates the growing worship of our Lord’s grandmother, by which Luther was captivated; the Collaudemus Magdalena of the Sarum Breviary, which Daniel calls “a very sweet hymn” (suavissimus hymnus). From it is extracted the Unde planctus et lamentum, of which Mr. Duffield has made the following translation. Both Mr. Chambers and Mr. Morgan have translated the whole hymn.


Whence this sighing and lamenting?

Why not lift thy heart above?

Why art thou to signs consenting,

Knowing not whom thou dost love?

Seek for Jesus! Thy repenting

Shall obtain what none might prove.

Whence this groaning and this weeping?

For the purest joy is thine;

In thy breast thy secret keeping

Of a balm, lest thou repine;

Hidden there whilst thou art reaping

Barren care for peace divine.


In the Spe mercede et corona we have the Churchly view of Thomas Becket’s career and its bloody end; and the O Rex, orbis triumphator and Urbs Aquensis, urbs regalis represent the German effort to raise Charles the Great to a place among the saints of the calendar.

Hymns which deal with much greater themes are the metrical antiphon, Veni, sancte Spiritus, Reple, whose early translations hold a high place in German hymnology; the Recolamus sacram coenam, which Mone well characterizes as a side-piece to the great communion hymn of Thomas Aquinas, Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem. Like that, it aims at stating the doctrine of Transubstantiation in its most paradoxical form (stat esus integer). The century furnishes several pretty Christmas hymns—En Trinitatis speculum, Dies est laetitiae, Nunc angelorum gloria, Omnis mundus jucundetur, and Resonet in laudibus—all of German origin seemingly and early known to the German people by translations. This is the festival which the childlike and child-loving Teutons always have made the most of; and these hymns, with others of the next century, are among the earliest monuments of the fact. To this, or possibly the next century, belongs the mystical prayer-hymn, Anima Christi, sanctifica me, which came to be ascribed to Ignatius Loyola, because it was a favorite with him.

The most notable hymn-writer of the century is Conrad, prior of Gaming, a town in Lower Austria, where he lived during the reign of Charles IV. (1350-78). We have his manuscript collection in a copy made in the next century and preserved at München. It contains thirty-seven hymns which probably are his, and many of them certainly so. Some certainly are recasts of earlier hymns. Thus he has tinkered Hildebert’s great hymn, without at all improving it. Most of his hymns relate to Mary, the apostles, and the other saints of the Church. His hymns show a certain facility in the use of Latin verse, but no force of original inspiration. They are correct metrically and, from the standpoint of his Church, theologically. The O colenda Deitas is the most notable.

From the same quarter of Germany and the banks of the same Ems River, Engelbert, Benedictine abbot of Admont in Styria (died 1331), offers us a Marian psalter, which has been ascribed to Thomas Aquinas, but of which two verses content even Mone. Aegidius, Archbishop of Burgos in Spain, from 1295 to 1315, has 387 written a hymn to the alleged portrait of Christ impressed on the handkerchief of Veronica. It is in the rollicking Goliardic metre, but the subject is handled with skill and success. It has been conjectured that he is the author of the Patris sapientia in the same metre, which some put back to the twelfth century and others ascribe to Pope Benedict XII., who died in 1342. This is one of the many hymns to whose recitation an indulgence was attached.

That the fifteenth century saw the invention of printing is a cardinal fact for the hymnologist. It was especially in the service of the Church that the new art found employment, and more missals, breviaries, and other Church books were printed between its discovery, in 1452, and the beginning of the Reformation, than of any other class of books. From this time, therefore, we have to deal with both written and printed sources, and printing was the means of saving a multitude of good hymns and sequences which else might have been lost utterly. The century also witnesses that great revival of learning to whose advancement printing contributed greatly, and which in its turn prepared men for the Reformation. We have seen in the chapter on the two breviaries how it affected the editing of old hymns and the writing of new. But this does not begin until the sixteenth century.

As in the case of the preceding century, we are embarrassed by the abundance of bad, mediocre, and middling good hymns, by the fewness of those which are really good, and the absence of such as would be entitled to take the highest rank. The best of the anonymous which we can trace farther back than to the printed breviaries are the continuation of the series of German Christmas hymns, whose beginning we noticed in the fourteenth century. Such are the In natali Domini, the Nobis est natus hodie, the Quem pastores laudavêre, the Puer nobis nascitur, the Eia mea anima, the Verbum caro factum est, and the Puer natus in Bethlehem. Of the last, Dr. A. R. Thompson’s translation is as follows:


The child in Bethlehem is born,

Hail, O Jerusalem, the morn!

Here lies he in the cattle-stall

Whose kingdom boundless is withal.


The ox and ass do recognize

This Child, their Master from the skies.

Kings from the East are journeying,

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh they bring.

Who, entering in turn the place,

The new King greet with lowly grace.

Seed of the woman lies he there,

And no man’s son, this Child so fair.

Unwounded by the serpent’s sting,

Of our own blood comes in the King.

Like us in mortal flesh is he,

Unlike us in his purity.

That so he might restore us men

Like to himself and God again.

Wherefore, on this his natal day,

Glad, to our Lord, we homage pay.

We praise the Holy Trinity,

And render thanks, O God, to thee!

What Ruskin remarks of the disposition of the art of the time to dwell on the darker side of things—to insist on the seeming preponderance of darkness over light, death over life—is seen also in its hymns. The Advent hymn, Veni, veni, rex gloriae, is as gloomy a lucubration as ever was associated with a Church festival. The Homo tristis esto, which is a study of the Lord’s passion apart from His resurrection, is hardly more gloomy. But other poets have more joyful strains. In the Haec est dies triumphalis we have an Easter hymn, and an Ascension hymn in the Coelos ascendit hodie, which are fittingly joyful; and in the Spiritus sancte gratia an invocation of the Comforter more prosaic than its great predecessors, but with its own place in the presentation of that great theme. A rather fine Trinity hymn is the O Pater, sancte, mitis atque pie, written in a sort of sapphic verse with iambic feet before the caesura, and trochaic following it, the feet in each case being determined by accent, not quantity. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Hewett both have translated it.

Of the innumerable hymns and sequences to the saints, we notice that our Lord’s grandmother comes in for an increasing 389 share. Mone in his third volume gives twenty-five, of which sixteen belong to this century and eight to the fourteenth. It is significant that one of them, O stella maris fulgida, is a hymn to Mary, which was altered to the new devotion to her mother. She is hailed in others as the “refuge of sinners” (peccantibus refugium), and declared immaculate (Anna labe carens), and exalted in a way which suggests that the other members of the genealogical line which connects our Lord with Adam have been neglected most unfairly. Why stop with His grandmother and exclude His grandfather? It was in the next century that the cult of Joseph came to the front. Of the Marian hymns of this time the Virginis in gremio is about the best, and the Ave hierarchia comes next. The Ave Martha gloriosa, in commemoration of Martha of Bethany, is a fine hymn in itself, and interesting as one of a group of hymns composed in Southern France in honor of this particular saint. A Church myth brings her to Provence to kill the monster (τερας) from which Tarascon takes its name, and the Church at Arles still bears a sculptured representation of the victory. Her real function in Provence was to take the place of the Martis or Brito-Martis, who was the chief loyal deity, and from whom Marseilles probably took its name. She was either of Cretan or Phoenician origin, and corresponded to the Greek Artemis, her name meaning Blessed Maiden. So her myth was transferred to the over-busy woman of Judea

Per te serpens est subversus,

which saved a great deal of trouble.

A hymn to the crown of thorns, Sacrae Christi celebremus, is quite in the manner of Adam of St. Victor; the same marvellous ingenuity of allusion to remote Scripture facts, and the same technical mastery of flowing verse. The Novum sidus exoritur is the oldest Transfiguration hymn—that being now a Church festival—and by no means the worst.

The sequence on the Three Holy Kings (or Magi), who brought offerings to the infant Saviour, which begins Majestati sacrosanctae, is referred by some critics to the next century. But as it occurs in the list of sequences which Joachim Brander, a monk of St. Gall, drew up in 1507 for Abbot Franz von Gaisberg of that monastery, it probably belongs to the fifteenth century. Brander 390 enumerates three hundred and seventy-eight sequences, specifying their subjects and authors, the latter not always successfully, and closes with that which Franz von Gaisberg composed in honor of Notker Balbulus. His list will be found in Daniel’s fifth volume. Of this, in commemoration of the three kings, whose relics are supposed to rest in the cathedral at Koeln (Cologne), he says that it is beautiful and one of the best. Mr. Duffield has left a translation of part:

“A threefold gift three kings have brought

To Christ, God-man, who once was wrought

In flesh and spirit equally;

A God triune by gifts adored—

Three gifts which mark one perfect Lord,

Whose essence is triunity.

“They bring him myrrh, frankincense, gold;

Outweighing wealth of kings untold—

A type in which the truth is known.

The gifts are three, the emblems three:

Gold for the king, incense to deity,

And myrrh, by which his death is shown.”

Of hymn-writers, the most prolific is Jean Momboir, generally known by his Latin name Johannes Mauburnus. He was born in 1460 and died in 1503, and was a Canon Regular in the congregation founded by the Brethren of the Common Life in the Low Countries. He lived for a time at Mount St. Agnes, which makes his emphatic testimony as to the authorship of the De Imitatione of especial importance. His huge ascetic work, the Spiritual Rosegarden (Rosetum spirituale) made him famous, and he was invited to France to reform the Canons Regular, according to the strict observance used in the Low Countries. He was thus, like John Staupitz, a representative of the current revival of that age, which tended to greater austerity, not to faith and joy. He spent the last six years of his life in this labor, dying at Paris in 1503. He was the friend and correspondent of Erasmus. His hymns generally begin with an O, and seem to be written on a system like that of the scholastic treatises. Indeed, his Rosegarden, both by its bulk and its method, suggests a Summa of Christian devotion. From his poem, Eia mea anima, given, there has been extracted the pretty Christmas hymn, Heu quid jaces stabulo, which has been translated several times into English and German.


Next to him comes Casimir, Crown Prince of Poland, whose Omni die dic Mariae is a Marian hymn in one hundred and twenty six verses. Father Ragey, however, asserts in Les Annales de Philosophie Chretienne for May and June, 1883, that Casimir is not the author but the admirer of these verses, that they are an extract from a poem in eleven hundred verses, and that Anselm of Canterbury is the probable author. On this he bases an argument for the reconciliation of England to the Church, which is devoted to the cult of our Lord’s mother. The poem, whosoever wrote it, is a fine one—too good, Protestants will think, for the theme, and too good to take its place among the other verses ascribed to Anselm of Canterbury. Here also there is room to ask a close examination of the manuscripts to which Father Ragey appeals, with reference to their dates. The controversy over the antiquity of the Quicunque vult salvus esse and the authorship of the Imitation suggest caution in taking the ipse dixit of diplomatists.

To an unknown Babo, and to Jacob, schoolmaster of Muldorf, are attributed Marian hymns of no great value. More important is Dionysius Ryckel (1394-1471), a Belgian Carthusian, the character of whose multitudinous writings is indicated by his title, Doctor Ecstaticus. He wrote a Comment on Certain Ancient Hymns of the Church (Enarratio in Hymnos aliquot veteres ecclesiasticos), which puts him next to Radulph de Rivo (ob. 1403) among the earliest of the hymnologists. To Dionysius is ascribed also the long poem on the Judgment, from which Mone has given an extract—Homo, Dei creatura, etc.—by way of comparison with the Dies Irae and the Cum revolvo toto corde. It evidently has been influenced by the former, but is devoted to a picture of eternal torment.

To John Huss we owe the beautiful Communion hymn, Jesus Christus, noster salus, which shows that his alleged heresies did not touch the Church doctrine on this point.

To Peter of Dresden, schoolmaster of Zwickau in 1420, and afterward described as a Hussite or a Waldensian, is ascribed the

“In dulci jubilo

Nu singet und seit fro,”

which is the type of the mixed hymns of this age. It was his purpose to secure the introduction of hymns in the vernacular into 392 the Church services, as his friend Jakob of Misa sought to do in Bohemia. In mixed hymns of this kind he seems to have tried to find the sharp end of the wedge. Some ascribe to him the Puer natus in Bethlehem, which also exists in the mixed form. Both hymns long stood in the Lutheran hymn-books in the mixed form,—for instance, in the Marburg Hymn-Book, which was used by the Lutherans of Colonial Pennsylvania.

The invention of printing from movable types, about 1452, by Johann Gutenberg of Mainz marks an era in Latin hymnology, because of the prompt use of the new method to multiply the Church books in use in the various dioceses. In every part of Western Europe, from Aberdeen, Lund, and Trondhjem, on the north, to the shores of the Mediterranean, the missals, breviaries, and hymnaries were given to the early printers, with the result of bringing to light many fine hymns and sequences whose use had been merely local. The Sarum Breviary and Missal and those of Rome and Paris were printed more frequently than any other. To the Sarum Breviary we owe the fine Transfiguration hymns—Coelestis formam gloriae and O nata lux de lumine and O sator rerum reparator aevi, which Anglican translators have made into English hymns; to the Missal the fine sequence on the crown of thorns, Si vis vere gloriari, of which Dr. Whewell published a translation in Frazer’s Magazine for May, 1849. To the York Processional (1530) we owe the four “proses” which begin Salve festa dies, toto venerabilis aevo, which suggest to Daniel that “in England also there was no lack of those who celebrated the divine majesty in very sweet hymns.”

To the Breviary and Missal of Trondhjem (Drontheim, anciently Nidaros) we owe some of the finest hymns and sequences recovered at this time. Of these the Jubilemus cordis voce is the most characteristic and perhaps the most beautiful—full of local color and characteristic love of nature. Mr. Morgan has translated it; but the dedication hymn, Sacrae Sion adsunt encaenia, has found more favor with Anglican translators, and commends itself by scriptural simplicity. Of course this breviary has fine hymns to St. Olaf, the king who did so much to make Norway a Christian country, although hardly so much as his neglected predecessor, Olaf Tryggveson. Similarly the Swedish missals honor King Eric and St. Birgitta.


The German Church books yield less that is novel probably because the earlier German sources have been so much more thoroughly explored. The breviaries of Lubec, of Mainz, of Koeln, and of Meissen furnish most, but chiefly in praises of the Mother of our Lord and the saints. The Gloriosi Salvatoris nominis praeconia of Meissen is an exception, and has found many admirers and several translators. From Mainz comes the fine hymn in honor of the apostles, Qui sunt isti, qui volant, and that for the martyrs, O beata beatorum, and the Passion hymn, Laus sit Regi gloriae, Cujus rore gratiae.

It is different with the French Church books and those of Walloon Belgium. From the Breton see of Rennes, and those of Angers, Le Mans, and Poitiers in the adjacent provinces of Northwestern France come some of the best hymns of this class. From Rennes comes the pretty and fanciful sequence on the Saviour’s crown of thorns, Florem spina coronavit; from Angers the Christmas hymn, Sonent Regi nato nova cantica, which shows how far the French lag behind the Germans of the same age in handling this theme; also the Advent sequence, Jubilemus omnes una, which suggests Francis’s “Song of the Creatures,” but lacks its tenderness. From Le Mans the Die parente temporum, which Sir Henry Baker has made English in “On this day, the first of days.” From Poitiers the fine Advent sequence, Prope est claritudinis magnae dies, translated by Mr. Hewett. From Noyon, in Northeastern France, the two Christmas hymns, Lux est orta gentibus and Laetare, puerpera, whose beauty is defaced by making the Mother and not the divine Child the central figure.

From the Missal of Belgian Tournay we have the Easter sequence, Surgit Christus cum tropaeo, and the transfiguration sequence, De Parente summo natum, which have found and deserved translators. From that of Liege several sequences, of which the best is that for All Saints Day, Resultet tellus et alta coelorum machina. In the South it is the breviaries of Braga, in Portugal, and Piacenza, in Italy, which have furnished most new hymns.

From the breviaries of the great monastic orders come many hymns, those of the Franciscans furnishing the greater number. That of the Cistercians furnishes the Domine Jesu, noverim me, noverim Te, one of the many hymns suggested by passages in the writings of Augustine of Hippo.


This notice of the early printed Church books, which Daniel, Neale, Morell, and Kehrein have brought under requisition, carries us over into the century of the Reformation, which also is that in which the Renaissance began to affect the matter and manner of hymn-writing. Already in the fifteenth century we have hymns of the humanist type by Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius II.); by Adam Wernher of Themar, a friend of Johann Trithemius, a jurist by profession, and the instructor of Philip of Hesse in the humanities; and by Sebastian Brandt, the celebrated author of the “Ship of Fools.” All these give careful attention to classic Roman models in the matter of both prosody and vocabulary. If we were to put Brandt’s Sidus ex claro veniens Olympo alongside the Puer natus in Bethlehem, we should see how little of the life and force of simplicity and reality there was in the new poetry.

The sixteenth century begins with the hymns of the humanist Alexander Hegius, a pupil of the school at Deventer and a protégé of the Brethren of the Common Life, who may have known Thomas à Kempis, as he was born in 1433, or at latest in 1445. He died in 1498, but his hymns appeared in 1501 and 1503. He was the friend of Rudolph Agricola and of Erasmus, and introduced the new learning, especially Greek, into Holland. His hymns are pagan in their vocabulary, although in accord with the orthodoxy of the time. Two lines of his,

“Qui te ‘Matrem’ vocat, orbis

Regem vocat ille parentem,”

might have suggested two of Keble’s, which have given no small offence,

“Henceforth, whom thousand worlds adore,

He calls thee ‘Mother’ evermore.”

To Zacharias Ferrari ample reference has been made in the chapter on the Breviaries. Specimens of his work may be found in Wackernagel’s first volume, as also of the hymns of Erasmus (1467-1536), of Jakob Montanus (1485-1588), of Helius Eobanus Hessus (1488-1540), and Marc-Antonius Muretus. To these Roman Catholic humanists—Eobanus Hessus afterward became a Lutheran—might have been added J. Ludovicus Vives (1492-1540), Marc-Antonio Flaminio (1498-1550), and Matthias Collinus (ob. 1566). Wackernagel does add Joste Clichtove (ob. 395 1543), and Jakob Meyer (1491-1552), who did not attempt original hymns, but recast in classic forms those already in use. Clichtove was a Fleming, and one of the earliest collectors.

The series of Protestant hymn-writers joins hard on to that of the Roman Catholic humanists. In the main they belong to the same school. Their hymns are not, like the Protestant German hymns, the spontaneous and inevitable outpouring of simple and natural emotion—a quality which puts Luther and Johann Herrmann beside Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas of Celano. They are the scholastic exercises of men singing the praise of God in a tongue foreign to their thought. Even the best of them, George Fabricius of Chemnitz, whose edition of the early Christian poets has laid us under permanent obligations, although the most careful to avoid paganisms in his hymns, and the most influenced by the earlier Latin hymns, never impresses us with the freedom and spontaneity of his verse. The series runs: Urbanus Rhegius (ob. 1541), Philip Melanchthon (1497-1572), Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563), Joachim Camerarius (1500-74), Paul Eber (1511-69), Bishop John Parkhurst of Norwich (1511-74), Johann Stigel (1515-71), George Fabricius (1516-71), George Klee, or Thymus (fl. 1548-50), Nicholas Selneccer (1530-92), Ludwig Helmbold (1532-98), Wolfgang Ammonius (1579), and Theodore Zwinger (1533-88). Recasts of old hymns both as to literary form and theological content we have from Hermann Bonn (1504-48), Urbanus Rhegius, George Klee, and Andreas Ellinger (1526-82). The last-named was a German physician who graduated at Wittemberg in 1549. His Hymnorum Ecclesiasticorum Libri Tres (1578) is described by Daniel as the most copious collection he has seen, but worthless as an authority in its first and second books, as the hymns in these are altered for metrical reasons. Hermann Bonn was a Westphalian, who became the first Lutheran Superintendent in Lubeck, and introduced the Reformation into Osnabruck. He published the first hymn-book in Platt-Deutsch in 1547.

To a later generation belongs Wilhelm Alard (1572-1645), the son of a Flemish Lutheran, who fled to Germany from the Inquisition. Wilhelm studied at Wittemberg, and became pastor at Crempe in Holstein, and published two or perhaps three small volumes of original Latin hymns. Dr. Trench has extracted from one of these two hymns. Of that to his Guardian Angel, Chancellor 396 Benedict, Dr. Washburn, and Mr. Duffield have made translations. This is Mr. Duffield’s:


When specious joys of earth are mine,

When bright this passing world doth shine,

Then in his watchful heavenly place

My angel weeps and veils his face.

But when with tears my eyes o’errun

Deploring sin that I have done,

Then doth God’s angel, set to keep

My soul, rejoicing, cease to weep.

Far hence be gone, ye fading joys,

Which spring from earth’s too brittle toys!

Come hither, tears! for I would show

That penitence by which ye flow.

I would not be in evil glad,

Lest he, my angel, should be sad;

Rise then, my true, repentant voice,

That angels even may rejoice.

Another on the Eucharist Mr. Duffield alone has translated:


When I behold thy sacred blood,

Thy body broken for my good;

O blessed Jesus, may they be

As flame and as a light to me.

So may this flame consume away

The sins which in my bosom stay,

Destroying fully from my sight

All vanity of wrong delight.

So may this light which shines from thee

Break through my darkness utterly,

That I may seek with fervent prayer,

Thine own dear guidance everywhere.

A very different group are the hymn-writers of the Jesuit Order, to whom we owe many hymns which have been ascribed to mediaeval authors, although they have marked characteristics which betray their authorship. Thus the Eia Phoebe, nunc serena has 397 been ascribed to Innocent III., the O esca viatorum to Thomas Aquinas, the O gens beata coelitum to Augustine, the Pone luctum, Magdalena to Adam of St. Victor; while the later Middle Ages have been credited with the Angelice patrone, the Ecquis binas columbinas, the Jesu meae deliciae, and the Plaudite coeli. The London Spectator ascribes a very early origin to the Dormi, fili, dormi. All these are Jesuit hymns, collected by Walraff (1806) out of the Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum a Patribus Societatis Jesu. The title of that collection (Psalteriolum) is suggestive of the contents. As the critics of the Society long ago remarked, there is a mark of pettiness on the literature, the art, the architecture, and the theology of the Jesuits. In both prose and poetry they tend to run into diminutives. No hymn of theirs has handled any of the greatest themes of Christian praise in a worthy spirit. The charge made against them by the Dominicans that in their labors to convert the Chinese and other pagans they concealed the cross and passion of our Lord, and presented Him as an infant in His mother’s arms, whether literally true or not, is not out of harmony with their general tone. Christ in the cradle or on the lap of His mother is the fit theme of their praises. In their hands religion loses its severity and God His awfulness. To win the world they stooped to the world’s level, and weakened the moral force of the divine law by cunning explanations, until, through Arnauld and his fellow-Jansenists, “Christianity appeared again austere and grave; and the world saw again with awe the pale face of its crucified Saviour.”

Some of the Jesuit hymns are very good of their kind. The Dormi, fili, dormi anticipates the theme of Mrs. Browning’s “The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus,” and of Dr. George Macdonald’s “Babe Jesus Lay on Mary’s Lap.” It is beautiful in its way, but betrays its Jesuit origin by its diminutives. The Ecquis binas columbinas is a very graceful poem, and the best passion hymn of the school, but is below the subject. The Tandem audite me is a hymn based on the false interpretation of Solomon’s Song, but is very pretty. The Pone luctum, Magdalena is perhaps the greatest of all Jesuit hymns, and has found nine Protestant translators to do it into English. It is rather a fine poem than a fine hymn. The Parendum est, cedendum est is a death-bed hymn whose length and ornateness rob it of a sense of reality. Of the Altitudo, quid 398 hic jaces and the Plaudite Coeli Mr. Duffield has left versions which will enable our readers to judge of their worth for themselves:


Majesty, why liest thou

In so low a manger?

Thou that kindlest heavenly fires

Here a chilly stranger!

O what wonders thou art doing,

Jesus, unto men;

By thy love to us renewing

Paradise again!

Strength is made of no account;

Space is here contracted;

He that frees in bonds is bound;

Time’s new birth enacted.

Yes, thy little lips may touch

Mary’s spotless bosom;

Yes, thy bright eyes weep for men

While heaven’s joy shall blossom.


Lo! heaven rejoices,

The air is all bright,

And the earth gives her voices

From depth and from height.

For the darkness is broken,

Black storm has passed by,

And in peace for a token

The palm waves on high.

Spring breezes are blowing,

Spring flowers are at hand,

Spring grasses are growing

Abroad in the land.

And violets brighten

The roses in bloom,

And marigolds heighten

The lilies’ perfume.

Rise then, O my praises,

Fresh life in your veins,

As the viol upraises

The gladdest of strains.


For once more he sees us

Alive, as he said;

Our holy Lord Jesus

Escaped from the dead.

Then thunder ye mountains,

Ye valleys resound,

Leap forth, O ye fountains,

Ye hills echo round.

For he alone frees us,

He does as he said,

Our holy Lord Jesus

Alive from the dead.

The later additions to the stock of Latin hymns are important only to the student of Roman Catholic liturgies, as connected with the new devotions sanctioned from time to time by the Congregation of Sacred Rites. Thus the devotion to the Sacred Heart led to the writing of the hymn Quicunque certum quaeritis, which the Roman Breviary has copied from the Franciscan, and whose translation by Mr. Caswall has found its way even into Protestant hymn-books. And the crowning sanction of the extravagant reverence for our Lord’s mother, the declaration that she was conceived without sin, and the institution of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, caused Archbishop John von Geissel of Koeln to write, in 1855, a new sequence for the Missal service, Virgo virginum praeclara.

Last in the series of the Latin hymn-writers stands the present pope, Leo XIII., who is the third pope in the long series to whom any hymn can be ascribed with any degree of certainty, the other two being Damasus and Urban VIII. In his Latin poems, published in 1881, there are three hymns in honor of two bishops of Perugia who suffered martyrdom in the early age of the Church. They are not remarkable for poetical inspiration, although they show that his Jesuit masters imbued him with the rules of classic verse and expression. All his poems have been reprinted in this country (Baltimore, 1886), with an English version by the Jesuits of Woodstock College.

In any other field of Christian hymnology we should close our account of the past by the expression of confidence in the fertility of the future. But as regards Latin hymnology, we feel that the 400 period of greatest value has passed by, and the record is sealed. While it is true that

“Generations yet unborn

Shall bless and magnify the Lord,”

as Rouse sings, we feel that it will not be in the medium of a dead language, but in the tongues “understanded of the people.” The attempt to maintain Latin as the language—as the exclusive speech of Christian worship in Western Europe, is one of those parts of the Roman Catholic system which are already condemned by results. The comparative barrenness of Latin hymnology for the past hundred years is evidence enough that this is not the channel in which Christian inspiration now flows; and the attention paid even by Roman Catholic poets to hymn-writing in the national languages is fresh evidence of the readiness of that communion to adapt itself to new conditions as soon as this is seen to be inevitable.



It has been asked by both Roman Catholics and Protestants—and not unfairly—whether the interest shown for the last half century by Protestant writers in the hymns of Latin Christendom, is a legitimate one. It is said by the former: “You are poaching on our preserves. All this you admire so much is what your fathers turned their backs upon when they renounced the Roman obedience. You cannot with any consistency attempt to naturalize in your churches and their services, hymns which have been written for a worship which differs in idea and principle, not in details merely, from your own. At best you can pick out a little here and a little there, which seems to suit you. But even then you are in danger of adopting what teaches doctrine which your Protestant confessions and their expositors denounce as idolatry, as when the compilers of the hymnal in use by American Presbyterians adopted Mr. Caswall’s English version of

Quicunque certum quaeritis,

ignoring its express reference to the devotion to the Sacred Heart. This is a gross instance of what you are doing all the time. If it lead you back to the bosom of the Catholic Church we shall be glad of it. But it grates on Catholic nerves to see you employing the phrase which we regard as a serious statement of doctrinal truth, as though it were a mere purple patch of rhetoric.”

This leads us to ask what the Reformation was in the idea of the Reformers themselves. They never took the ground that the religious life of Protestant nations and churches was out of all relation to the life of the nations and churches of Western Europe, as these were before Luther began his work. With all their regard for the Scriptures, they never assumed that out of these could be created a Christian Church upon ground previously held by Antichrist and him alone. Luther declared that the elements of 402 the Church for whose upbuilding he was laboring were just those in which he had been educated. As he expressed it, these were found in the Catechism taught to every child in Germany, and which embraced the creed, the commandments, the sacraments, and the Our Father. What he had learned from study of the New Testament was to give these elements their due prominence, and to disengage them from the additions and corruptions by which they had been obscured. It was not a destructive revolution, but a change of doctrinal perspective for which he was contending. He never lost his relish for the good things he had learned in the Church of his childhood. While he rendered the service into the German speech of the people, he followed in the main the old order of the service in his Deutsche Messe. He also rendered into German sixteen old hymns, twelve from the Latin, from Ambrose down to Huss, and four from the old German of the Middle Ages. In his House-Postil he speaks with great enthusiasm of the hymns and sequences he had learned to sing in church as a boy; and in his Table Talk, while he censures Ambrose as a wordy poet, he praises the Patris Sapientia, but above all the Passion hymn of Pope Gregory the Great, Rex Christe factor omnium, as the best of hymns, whether Latin or German.

Melanchthon’s gentler spirit more than shared in Luther’s reverence for the good in the mediaeval Church. The antithesis to Melanchthon, the representative of the extreme party among Protestants, is Matthias Flacius Illyricus, a man of Slavic stock and uncompromising temper. Yet he also searched the past for witnesses to the truth which Luther had proclaimed. He appeals to a hymn in the Breviary of the Premonstratensian Order, as old, he thinks, as the twelfth century, which testifies against saint worship:

Adjuvent nos eorum merita,

Quos propria impediunt scelera?

Excuset eorum intercessio,

Quos propria accusat actio?

At tu, qui eis tribuisti

Coelestis palmam triumphi,

Nobis veniam non deneges peccati.

In the same spirit he and his associates edited the first great Protestant work on Church history—the Magdeburg Centuries (1559-74, in thirteen folio volumes). The first Protestants had 403 no more idea of surrendering the history of the Church to the champions of the Roman Catholic Church, than of giving up to them the New Testament. They held that down through all the ages ran a double current of pure Christianity and scholastic perversion of that, and that the Reformation succeeds to the former as the Tridentine Church to the latter. This especially as regards the great central point in controversy, the part of grace and of merit in the justification of the sinner. And they found the proof of this continuity especially in the devotions of the early Church. They found themselves in that great prayer of the Franciscan monk, which the Roman Missal puts into the mouth of her holiest members as they gather around the bier of the dead:

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,

Quem patronum rogaturus,

Quum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendae majestatis,

Qui salvandos salvas gratis,

Salve me, fons pietatis!

“Whenever in the Middle Ages,” says Albrecht Ritschl, “devotion, so far as it has found articulate expression, rises to the level of the thought that the value of the Christian life, even where it is fruitful of good works, is grounded not upon these as human merits, but upon the mercy of God ... then the same line of thought is entered upon as that in which the religious consciousness common to Luther and Zwingli was able to break through the connection which had subsisted between Catholic doctrine and the Church institutions for the application of salvation.... Whenever even the Church of Rome places herself in the attitude of prayer, it is inevitable that in the expression of her religious discernment, in thanksgiving and petition, all the benefits of salvation should be referred to God or to Christ; the daily need for new grace, accordingly, is not expressed in the form of a claim based upon merits, but in the form of reliance upon God.”[26]


That the Latin hymns of those earlier centuries show a steadily increasing amount of unscriptural devotion to the mother of our Lord and to His saints, and of the materializing view of our Lord’s presence with His Church in the Communion, is undeniable. But even in these matters the hymns of the primitive and mediaeval Church are a witness that these and the like misbeliefs and mispractices are a later growth upon primitive faith and usage.

The first generation of Protestants, to which Luther, Melanchthon, and Zwingli belong, had been brought up on the hymns of the Breviary and of the Missal, and they did not abandon their love for these when they ceased to regard the Latin tongue as the only fit speech for public worship. They showed their relish for the old hymns, by publishing collections of them, by translating them into the national languages, by writing Latin hymns in imitation of them, and even by continuing their use in public worship to a limited extent.

As collectors and editors of the old Latin hymns, the Protestants of the sixteenth century surpassed the Roman Catholics of that age. Over against the names of Hermann Torrentinus (1513 and 1536), Jacob Wimpheling (1519), Joste Clichtove (1515-19), Jacob van Meyer (1535), Lorenzo Massorillo (1547), and George Cassander (1556), the Roman Catholic hymnologists of the half century which followed the Reformation, we may place the anonymous collector of Basel (1538), Johann Spangenberg (1545), Lucas Lossius (1552 et seq., with Preface by Melanchthon), Paul Eber (1564), George Fabricius (1564), Christopher Corner (1568), Hermann Bonn (1569), George Major (1570), Andreas Ellinger (1573), Adam Siber (1577), Matthew Luidke (1589), and Francis Algerman (1596). All these, with the possible exception of the first, were Lutherans, trained in the humanistic school of Latin criticism and poetry; but only two of them found it needful or desirable to alter the hymns into conformity with the tastes of the age. The collections of Hermann Bonn, the first Lutheran superintendent of Lubeck, and that of George Fabricius, are especially important, as faithfully reproducing much that else might have been lost to us.


The work of translating the old Latin hymns fell especially to the Lutherans. Roman Catholic preference was no stronger for the original Latin than that of the Reformed for the Psalms. Of the great German hymn-writers from Luther to Paul Gerhardt, nearly all made translations from the storehouse of Latin hymnody, Bernard of Clairvaux being the especial favorite with Johann Heermann, John Arndt, and Paul Gerhardt. And even in hymns which are not translations, the influence of the Latin hymns is seen in the epic tone, the healthy objectivity of the German hymns of this age, in contrast to the frequently morbid subjectivity of those which belong to the age of Pietism.

More interesting to us are the early translations into English. The first are to be found in the Primer of 1545, a book of private devotions after the model of the Breviary, published in Henry VIII.’s time both in English in 1545 and again in Latin (Orarium) in 1546. In the next reign a substitute for this in English alone was prepared by the more Protestant authorities of the Anglican Church, in which, besides sundry doctrinal changes, the hymns were omitted. But the scale inclined somewhat the other way after Elizabeth’s accession. The English Primer of 1559 and the Latin Orarium of 1560 are revised editions of her father’s, not of her brother’s publications. The parts devoted to the worship of Mary are omitted, but the prayers for the dead and the hymns are retained. These old versions are clumsy enough, but not without interest as the first of their kind. Here is one with the original text from the Orarium, differing from any other authority known to us:

Rerum Creator omnium,

Te poscimus hoc vesperi

Defende nos per gratiam

Ab hostis nostri fraudibus.

Nullo ludamur, Domine,

Vel somnio vel phasmate:

In Te cor nostrum vigilet,

Nec dormiat in crimine.

Summe Pater, per Filium

Largire quod Te poscimus:

Cui per sanctum Spiritum

Aeterna detur gloria. Amen.


O Lord, the Maker of all thing,

We pray thee now in this evening

Us to defend, through thy mercy,

From all deceit of our enemy.

Let us neither deluded be,

Good Lord, with dream nor phantasy.

Our heart waking in thee thou keep,

That we in sin fall not on sleep.

O Father, through thy blessed Son,

Grant us this our petition;

To whom, with the Holy Ghost, always

In heaven and earth be laud and praise. Amen.

It is not wonderful that when the Anglo-Catholics sought to revive the Primer as “the authorized book of Family and Private Prayer” on the same footing as the Prayer book, they took the liberty of substituting modern versions of the hymns for these “authorized” translations.[27] But the Primer, whatever its authority, never possessed that much more important requisite to success—vitality. A very few editions sufficed for the demand, and Bishop Cosin’s attempt to revive it in Charles I.’s time only provoked a Puritan outcry against both him and it. Rev. Gerard Moultrie has attempted to revive it in our own time, as “the only book of private devotion which has received the sanction of the English Church,” and has not achieved even thus much of success. No Prynne has assailed him.

In the Book of Common Prayer, besides such “canticles” as the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum, there is but one hymn, an English version of the Veni, Creator Spiritus in the Ordination Service. It is the wordiest of all known versions, rendering one hundred and five Latin by three hundred and fifty-seven English words, but is not without its old-fashioned felicities. The revisers of 1661 cut it down by omitting just half of it, and modernized the English in a number of places. Its very verbosity seems to have suggested Bishop Cosin’s terse version, containing but four more 407 words than the original, which, however, it somewhat abridges. This was inserted in 1661 as an alternate version. The author of the paraphrase in the Prayer-Book is unknown. It is not Bishop Coverdale, as his, although translated at second-hand from Luther, as, indeed, all his hymns are from some German source, is far closer and less wordy.[28] It also was adopted into the old Scottish Psalter of the Reformation, where it appears in the appendix, along with a metrical version of the Apostle’s Creed and other “uninspired compositions.”

From the Reformation until about fifty years ago, there was among English-speaking people no interest in Latin hymnology worth speaking of. A few Catholic poets, like Crashaw and Dryden, honored their Church versions from the hymns of the Breviary. But even John Austin, a Catholic convert of 1640, when he prepared his Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offices after the model of the Breviary, wrote for it hymns of his own instead of translating from the Latin. Some of these (“Blessed be Thy love, dear Lord,” and “Hark, my soul, how everything”) have become a part of our general wealth. Of course some versions of a homely sort had to be made for Catholic books of devotion, and I possess The Evening Office of the Church in Latin and English (London, 1725), in which the Vesper hymns of the Roman Breviary are closely and roughly versified. It is notable that “the old hymns as they are generally sung in churches”—i.e., the hymns as they stood before the revision of 1631, are printed as an appendix to the book, showing how slow English Catholics were to accept the modernization of the hymns which the papacy had sanctioned nearly a century before.


Mr. Orby Shipley, in his Annus Sanctus (London, 1884), gives a large number of these early versions from the Roman Catholic Primers of 1619, 1684, 1685, and 1706; from the Evening Office of 1710, 1725, and 1785; and from the Divine Office of 1763 and 1780. The translations of 1619 have been ascribed to William Drummond, of Hawthornden, and those of 1706 to Dryden. Drummond was the first Scotchman who adopted English as the language of literature, and although a Protestant, he belonged to the Catholicizing party represented by William Forbes, the first Protestant bishop of Edinburgh. Three hymns are given in Sir Walter Scott’s edition of Dryden on the authority of English Roman Catholic tradition, the best known being his version of the Veni Creator Spiritus. These three are found in the Primer of 1706, along with versions of the other hymns of the Roman Breviary sufficiently like them to suggest that they are all by the same hand. But this judgment is disputed.

Among Protestants the neglect was as great. So profuse a writer of hymns for the Christian year as George Wither translated only the Te Deum and the Veni, Creator Spiritus into English verse.[29] Tate and Brady, in their Supplement (1703) to their New Version of the Psalms (1696), published a translation of the Veni, Creator Spiritus. But Bishop Symon Patrick was the only hymn-writer of that age who may be said to have given any special attention to Latin hymns. His hymns were chiefly translations from that source, especially Prudentius, and Lord Selborne mentions that of Alleluia, dulce carmen, as the best.

The Methodist revival, which did so much to enrich our store of hymns, and which called attention anew to those of Germany, accomplished nothing for us as regards Latin hymns. The Earl of Roscommon’s translation of the Dies Irae (1717), and Dr. Johnson’s affecting reference to the stanza,

Quaerens me sedisti lassus, ...

stand almost alone in that age. It was not until the Romantic movement in Germany and then in England broke the bonds of a 409 merely classic culture, taught the world the beauty of Gothic art, and obliged men to revise their estimate of the Middle Ages, that the singers of the praises which sounded through those earlier centuries had a fair chance to be judged at their real worth. The forerunner of that movement was Johann Gottfried von Herder, who indeed may be said to have anticipated the whole intellectual movement of the past century, Darwinism not excepted. From his friend and master Hamann, “the Magus of the North,” he had learned “the necessity for a complete and harmonious expression of all the varied faculties of man,” and that “whatever is isolated or the product of a single faculty is to be condemned.” This made him as much discontented with the eighteenth century and its literature and philosophy of the enlightened understanding, as Hamann himself was. It was the foundation for that Catholic taste which enabled him to appreciate the excellence of all those popular literatures which are the outflow of the life of whole peoples. His Voices of the Peoples did for the Continent what Bishop Percy’s Reliques did for England, and did it much better. He saw that “the people and a common sentiment are the foundations of a true poetry,” and the literature of the schools and that of polite society are equally condemned to sterility. For this reason he had small respect for that classic Latin literature at whose bar every modern production was impleaded. He found far more genuine life and power in the Latin poems of the Jesuit father, Jacob Balde, and still more in the hymns of the Latin Church. His Letters for the Promotion of Humanity (1794-96) contain a passage of classic importance:

“The hymns which Christianity introduced had for their basis those old Hebrew Psalms which very soon found their way into the Church, if not as songs or anthems, at any rate as prayers.... The songs of Mary and of Zacharias, the Angelic Salutation, the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon, which open the New Testament, gave character more immediately to the Christian hymns. Their gentler voice was more suitable to the spirit of Christianity than even the loud trumpet note of that old jubilant Hallelujah, although that note was found capable of many applications, and was now strengthened with the words of prophet or psalmist, now adapted to gentler strains. Over the graves of the dead, whose resurrection was already present to the spirit’s vision, in caves and catacombs, first were heard these psalms of repentance and prayer, of sorrow and hope, until after the public establishment of Christianity, they stepped out of the dark into the light, out of solitude into splendid churches, before consecrated 410 altars, and now assumed a like splendor in their expression. There is hardly any one who can listen to the Jam moesta quiesce querula of Prudentius without feeling his heart touched by its moving strains, or who can hear the funeral sequence Dies irae, dies illa, without a shudder, or whom so many other hymns, each with its own character—e.g., Veni, Redemptor gentium; Vexilla Regis prodeunt; Salvete flores Martyrum; Pange, lingua, gloriosi, etc., will fail to be carried into that frame of feeling which each seeks to awaken, and with all its humility of form and its churchly peculiarities, never fails to command. In one there sounds the voice of prayer; another could find its accompaniment only in the harp; in yet another the trumpet rings, or there sounds the thousand-voiced organ, and so on.

“If we seek after the reason of this remarkable effect, which we feel in hearing these old Christian hymns, we find it somewhat peculiar. It is anything but the novelty of the thoughts which here touches and there shakes us. Thoughts in these hymns are found but sparingly. Many are merely solemn recitations of a well-known story, or they are familiar petitions and prayers. They nearly all repeat each other. Nor is it frequently surprisingly fine and novel sentiments with which they somehow permeate us; the novel and the fine are not objects in the hymns. What, then, is it that touches us? Simplicity and Veracity. Here sounds the speech of a general confession of one heart and one faith. Most of them are constructed either so as to be fit for use every day of the year, or so as to be used on the festivals of the various seasons. As these come round there comes with them in constant recurrence their rehearsal of Christian doctrines. There is nothing superfine in the hymns as regards either emotion, or duty, or consolation. There reigns in all of them a general popularity of content, expressed in great accents. He who seeks novel thoughts in a Te Deum or a Salve Regina looks for them in the wrong place. It is just what is every day and always known, which here is to serve as the garb of truth. The hymn is meant to be an ambrosial offering of nature, deathless like that, and ever returning.

“It follows that, as people in these Christian hymns did not look for the grace of classic expression or the pleasurable emotion of the instant—in a word, what we expect from a work of art, they produced the strangest effects at once after their introduction. Just as Christian hands overthrew the statues and temples of the gods in honor of the unseen God, so these hymns contained a germ which was to bring about the death of the pagan poetry. Not only were those hymns to gods and goddesses, heroes and geniuses, regarded by the Christians as the work of unbelievers or misbelievers, but the germ from which they sprang, the poetic and sportive fancy, the pleasure and rejoicing of the peoples in their national festivals, were condemned as a school of evil demons; yes, even the national pride, to which those songs appealed, was despised as a perilous though splendid sin. The old religion had outlived its time, the new had won its victory, when the absurdity of idol-worship and pagan 411 superstitions, the disorders and abominations which attended the festivals of Bacchus, Cybele, and Aphrodite, were brought to the light of day. Whatever of poetry was associated with these was a work of the devil. There began a new age for poetry, music, speech, the sciences, and indeed for the whole direction of human thought.”

As the Romanticist movement gained ground in Germany, attention to the early hymns increased. Even Goethe, the weltkind among the prophets, was influenced. Hence his use of the Dies Irae in the first part of Faust, although he was pagan enough to care for nothing at Assisi except the Roman remains. A. W. Schlegel made a number of translations for the Musen-Almanach. Then came the long series of German translators, of whom A. J. Rambach, A. L. Follen (brother of Professor Charles Follen of Harvard), Karl Simrock (1850 and 1866), and G. A. Koenigsfeld (1847 and 1865) are the most notable. Much more important to us are the German collectors: G. A. Björn (a Dane, 1818), J. C. von Zabuesnig (1822 and 1830), H. A. Daniel (Blüthenstrauss, 1840; Thesaurus, 1841-56), F. J. Mone (1853-55), C. B. Moll (1861 and 1868), P. Gall Morel (1866), Joseph Kehrein (1873). To the unwearied thoroughness of these editors, more than of any other laborers in this field, we owe our ampler access to the treasures of Latin hymnody. But what field of research is there in which the scholarship of Germany has not laid the rest of the world under obligations?

In English literature the Romanticist movement begins properly with Sir Walter Scott. Himself a Presbyterian, he was brought up on the old Scotch Psalm-book, for which he entertained the same affection as did Burns, Edward Irving, Campbell, Carlyle, and Archdeacon Hare. He opposed any attempt to improve it, on the ground that it was, “with all its acknowledged occasional harshness, so beautiful that any alterations must eventually prove only so many blemishes.” But his literary tastes led him to a lofty appreciation of the Anglican liturgy—a circumstance which has led many to class him as an Episcopalian—and equally for the poetry of the mediaeval hymns. His vigorous version of a part of the Dies Irae inserted in The Lady of the Lake (1805) gives him his smallest claim to mention in the history of hymnody. It was the new atmosphere he carried into the educated world, his fresh and hearty admiration of admirable things in the Middle 412 Ages, which had been thought barbarous, that makes him important to us. He gave the English and Scottish people new weights and measures, new standards of critical judgment, which emancipated them from narrow, pseudo-Protestant traditions. He made the great Church of undivided Western Europe intelligible. No doubt many follies resulted from this novel lesson, the worst of all being contempt for Luther and his associates in the Reformation. The negations which attend such revolutions in opinion always are foolish exaggerations. It is the affirmations which are valuable and which remain. And Romanticism for more than half a century has been affecting the religious, the social, the intellectual life of Great Britain and America in a thousand ways, and with, on the whole, positive and beneficial results. Its most powerful manifestation was in the Oxford movement,[30] but both in its causes and its effects it has transcended the limits which separate the divided forces of Protestantism.

Naturally the Oxford movement was the first to turn attention to the hymns of the Middle Ages, or what it regarded as such. We use this qualified expression because its leaders at the outset were much better poets than hymnological scholars, and welcomed anything in the shape of a Latin hymn as “primitive,” no matter what. Isaac Williams, in the British Magazine in 1830, published a series of translations of “primitive hymns” which he gathered into a volume in 1839. They were from the Paris Breviary, of whose hymns only one in fourteen were older than 1685, and most of them not yet a hundred years old. Rev. John Chandler, in his Hymns of the Primitive Church (1837), drew on Santeul and Coffin with equal freedom, evidently supposing he was going back to the early ages for his originals. Bishop Mant, in his Ancient Hymns from the Roman Breviary (1837), did a little 413 better, although not half-a-dozen hymns in that Breviary are unaltered from their primitive forms, and many are no older than the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Rev. Edward Caswall, an Oxford convert to the Church of Rome, naturally confined his Lyra Catholica (1849) to the Breviary hymns, supplementing those of Rome with some from Paris. The first collection published by Dr. Newman (Hymni Ecclesiae, Pars I., 1839) was confined to the Paris Breviary, but with the notice that they “had no equal claim to antiquity” with “the discarded collections of the ante-reform era.” But he claimed on rather slight ground that they “breathe an ancient spirit, and even where they are the work of one pen, are the joint and indivisible contribution of many ancient minds.” This is an opinion of the work of Santeul and Coffin in which neither Cardinal Newman nor the Gallican Church would agree to-day.

In fact, these English scholars, with their constant habit of making Latin verse after classic models from their school-days, and their entire want of familiarity with post-classic Latin, found what pleased them best in the two Breviaries of Rome and Paris. With that they seemed likely to stop. It was Dr. John Mason Neale (1851-58) who, among translators, first broke these bounds, went to the older sources, and introduced to English readers, both by his collections and his translations, the great hymns of the Western Church. As a translator he leaves much to be desired. His ideas as to faithful reproduction of the form of his originals are vague. His hymns too often might be said to be based on the Latin text rather than to reproduce it. But they are spirited poems, whose own vigor and beauty sent readers to the original, and they were not disappointed.

From that time we have had a series of excellent workers in this field—John Keble, Rev. W. J. Blew (1855), Mr. J. D. Chambers (1857 and 1866), Rev. J. W. Hewett (1859), Sir Henry Baker (1861 and 1868), Rev. Herbert Kynaston (1862), Rev. J. Trend (1862), Rev. P. S. Worsley (1863), Earl Nelson (1857 and 1868), Rev. Richard F. Littledale (1867), R. Campbell, of the Anglo-Catholic 414 party; and Dean Stanley, Mrs. Charles (1858 and 1866) and Dr. Hamilton Magill (1876) outside its ranks. Theirs have been no inconsiderable part of those labors which have made the last thirty years the golden age of English hymn-writing, surpassing even the era of the Methodist revival.

In America the work was begun in 1840 with a modest little volume published at Auburn, in New York, and ascribed by Mr. Duffield to Dr. Henry Mills of Auburn Theological Seminary, who in 1856 also published a volume of translations of German hymns. His earlier book was The Hymn of Hildebert and the Ode of Xavier, with English Versions, and contained thirty-five duodecimo pages. Next in order came Dr. John Williams, Bishop of Connecticut, with Ancient Hymns of the Holy Church (1845). Dr. William R. Williams of New York, in his address on “The Conservative Principle in our Literature,” delivered in 1843, made a reference to the Dies Irae, which gave him the occasion to publish in an Appendix the literary history of the great hymn, giving the text along with Dr. Trench’s version and his own. This seems to have given the impulse which has made America so prolific in translations of that hymn, only Germany surpassing us in this respect. Dr. Abraham Coles may be said to have led off with his volume, containing thirteen translations in 1847. But it was not until after the war for the Union that the productive powers of American translators were brought into play. Much, no doubt, was due to foreign impulse, especially from Dr. Trench and Dr. Newman; but it is notable that in America far more work has been done outside than inside the Episcopalian communion.

Dr. Coles again in 1866, Mr. Duffield in 1867, Chancellor Benedict in 1869, Hon. N. B. Smithers in 1879 and 1881, and Mr. John L. Hayes in 1887 published volumes of translations. But far more numerous are the poets whose versions of Latin hymns have appeared in various periodicals or in collections like Professor Coppée’s Songs of Praise (1866), Dr. Schaff’s Christ in Song (1869), Odenheimer and Bird’s Songs of the Spirit (1871), Dr. H. C. Fish’s Heaven in Song (1874), Frank Foxcroft’s Resurgit (1879), and Dr. Schaff and Arthur Gilman’s Library of Sacred Poetry (1881 and 1886). Of these contributing poets we mention Dr. E. A. Washburn, whose translations have been collected in his posthumous volume, Voices from a Busy Life (1883); Dr. 415 Ray Palmer, our chief sacred singer, whose versions of the O esca viatorum and the Jesu dulcis memoria are as classic as his “My faith looks up to Thee;” Dr. A. R. Thompson, to whom the present volume is under great obligations; Rev. J. Anketell, another of its benefactors; Rev. M. Woolsey Stryker, Rev. D. Y. Heisler, Rev. Franklin Johnson, D.D., and Rev. W. S. McKenzie, D.D. Besides these we may mention the anthology of translations published by the Rev. F. Wilson (1859), of texts by Professor F. A. March (1874 and 1883), and of both texts and translations by Judge C. C. Nott (1865 and subsequent years).

It is not, however, only as literature, but in the actual use of the American churches, that the Latin hymns have made a place for themselves. Since 1859, when the Andover professors published the Sabbath Hymn and Tune-Book, with original translations furnished by Dr. Ray Palmer, there has been a peaceful revolution in American hymnology. Every one of the larger denominations and many of the smaller have provided themselves with new hymn-books, in which the resources of English, foreign, and ancient hymnology have been employed freely, and with more exacting taste as to sense and form, than characterized the hymn-books of the era before the war. While the compilers have drawn freely upon Caswall, Neale, Chandler, and the Anglican Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), in many cases original translations were given, as in Hymns of the Church for the (Dutch) Reformed Church, of which Dr. A. R. Thompson was one of the editors; and Dr. Charles Robinson’s Laudes Domini (1884), to which Mr. Duffield contributed. And there is evidence that the hymns thus brought into Church use from the storehouse of the earlier Christian ages have helped thoughtful Christians to realize more fully the great principle of the Communion of the saints—to realize that all the faithful of the present are bound in spiritual brotherhood with those who held to the same Head and walked in the light of the same faith in bygone centuries, even though it was with stumbling and amid shadows, from which our path by God’s good providence has been set free.



The first sources of the Latin hymns and sequences are the manuscript and printed breviaries and missals of the Western Church. Both these have been explored by the collectors from Clichtove to Kehrein, although it cannot be said that the examination has been exhaustive either as regards the manuscripts or the printed books.

The following is an approximate list of the printed breviaries which have been examined by modern collectors:

Ambrosianum,Milan,1557,Neale, Morel, Zabuesnig.
Constantiense,Konstanz,1504, 1516,Morel, Daniel.
Curiense,Kur,c. 1500,Morel.
Eboracense,York,Neale, Newman.
Mozarabicum,Old Spanish,1775,Daniel.
Parisiense vet.,Paris (old),1527,Neale.
Parisiense,1736,Newman, Zabuesnig.
Romanum vet.,Rome (old),1481, 1484, 1520,Kehrein.
Romanum,Rome (new),1631,Zabuesnig, Daniel.
Salisburgense,Salzburg,1515,Neale, Daniel.
Sarisburense,Salisbury,1555,Neale, Daniel, Newman.
Augustinianorum,1557,Morel, Zabuesnig, Neale.
Benedictinorum,1518, 1543,Daniel, Zabuesnig.
Canonum Reg. Augustini,Zabuesnig.
Carmelitarum,1759,Daniel, Zabuesnig.
Carthusianorum,1500,Daniel, Zabuesnig.
Cisterciensium,1510, 1752,Daniel, Zabuesnig.