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so to be gathered into nobler chalices, vessels more fitted to contain it-new, even as that which was poured into them was new.
We can trace step by step the struggle between the two principles of heathen and Christian life, which were here opposed to one another. As the old classical Roman element grew daily weaker in the new Christian world which now had been founded ; as the novel element of Christian life strengthened and gained ground; as poetry became popular again, not the cultivated entertainment of the polite and lettered few, a graceful ornament of the scholar and the gentleman, but that in which all men desired to express, or to find expressed for them, their hopes and fears, their joys and their sorrows, and all the immortal longings of their common humanity;
:-a confinement became less and less endurable within the old and stereotyped forms, which, having had for their own ends their own fitness and beauty, were yet ordained for the expressing of far other thoughts and feelings and sentiments, than those which now stirred at far deeper depths the spirits and the hearts of men. The whole scheme on which the Latin prosodical poetry was formed, was felt to be
about thirty words which no skill could introduce into the hexameter or pentameter : and if to these were added those which only by help of elisions could find place, as tribrachs, cretics ending in m, they would not amount to much less than a word a line. As the line contained in general fewer than eight words, it would be a fair statement to say that from the chief metres in the Latin language, one word out of every eight, which it might otherwise be desirable to use, is by the rules of its prosody excluded.
capricious, imposed from without; and the poetry which now arose demanded—not to be without law; for, demanding this, it would have demanded its own destruction, and not to be poetry at all; but it demanded that its laws and restraints should be such as its own necessities, and not those of quite a different condition, required.
1 The Instructiones of Commodianus, a poem quite valueless in a literary point of view, is yet curious in this respect; and the more curious now that it is placed by scholars in the latter half of the third century rather than in the fourth, where it used to be set. For very singular is it to find, more than an hundred years before the last notes of the classical muse had expired in Claudian, a poem of considerable length composed on the system of a total abandonment of quantity, and substitution of accent in its roommaintaining the apparent framework of the old classical hexameter, but, filling it up on a principle altogether new. Nor can we suppose that this poem is the first specimen of its kind, however it is the first which has come down to our days. A poem so long, and in its fashion so elaborate, would have been scarcely the first composed in its kind. It is of so little value as to be in few hands ; three or four lines may therefore be quoted as a specimen. These are part of a remonstrance against the pomp of female dress, $ 60:
Obruitis collum monilibus, gemmis, et auro,
Respuitis legem, cùm vultis mundo placere.
It is something then more than mere association, more than the fact that these metres, in all of most illustrious and most memorable which had been composed in them, had been either servants of the heathen worship, or at least appropriated to heathen themes, which induced the Church little by little to forsake them: which even at this day causes them at once to translate us into, and to make us feel that we are moving in, the element of heathen life. The bond is not thus merely historic and external, but spiritual and inward. And yet, at the same time, the influence of these associations must not be overlooked, when we are estimating the causes which combined to alienate the poets and hymnologists of the Christian Church ever more and more from the classical, and especially from the lyrical, metres of antiquity, and which urged them to seek more appropriate forms of their own. In those the heathen gods had been celebrated and sung, the whole impure mythology had been arrayed and tricked out. Were they not profaned for ever by these unholy
that is, in sound, which with a little favouring of one or two syllables they may be inade to appear, there is the same intention of satisfying the ear with accentuated and not prosodic feet. The lines are addressed to St Paul, and are themselves worthy to be quoted:
Factus æconomus in domo regiâ,
Ipsa nos repleat tua per dogmata. This hymn also, though considerably later than the poem of Commodianus, is certainly of a very early date. Niehbuhr thinks he finds evidence in the MS. from which it is taken, that it cannot be later than the seventh century.
uses to which they had been first turned ? How could the praises of the true and living God be fitly sung in the same? A like feeling to that which led to the abandonment of the heathen temples, and the seeking rather to develop the existing basilicas into Christian churches, or where new churches were built, to build them after the fashion of the civil, and not the religious, buildings already existing, must have been here also at work.
The faithful would have often shrunk from the involuntary associations which these metres suggested, as we should shrink from hearing a psalm or spiritual song fitted to some tune which had been desecrated to lewd or otherwise profane abuse. And truly there is, and we find it even now, a clinging atmosphere of heathen life shed round many of these metres, which it is almost impossible to dissipate ; so that, reading some sacred thoughts which have arrayed themselves in sapphics, or alcaics, or hendecasyllables, we are more or less conscious of a certain contradiction between the form and the subject, as though they were awkwardly and unfitly matched, and one or other ought to have been different from what it is.
And here it may be fitly observed that the wonderful and abiding success of the hymns of St Ambrose, and of those so-called Ambrosian which were formed upon the model of his, lay doubtless in great part in the wise instinct of choice, which led him to select a metre by far the least markedly metrical, and the most nearly rhythmical, of all the ancient metres out of
which it was free to him to choose ;-I mean the iambic dimeter. The time was not yet come when it was possible to substitute altogether rhythm for metre: the old had still too much vitality to be cast aside, the new was not yet clearly visible; but, choosing thus, he escaped, (as far, at least, as it was possible, using any of these forms, to escape,) the disturbing reminiscences and associations of heathen art'. While in a later day, hardly any thing so strongly shewed how Roman Catholic Italy had fallen back under pagan influences, was penetrated through and through at the revival of learning with the spirit of heathen, and not of Christian, life, as the offence which was then everywhere taken by Italian churchmen, Leo the Tenth at their head, at the unmetrical hymns of the Church, and the determination manifested to reduce them by any force to metre ;—their very exemption from which was their glory, and that which made them to be Christian hymns in the highest sense 2.
i See Bähr, Die Christl. Dichter Roms, p. 7.
The history of the successive revisions which the unmetrical hymns sustained, is given by Arevalus, an enthusiastic admirer of the process, in his Hymnodia Hispanica, Romæ, 1786, pp. 121–144, with this ominous heading: Romanorum pontificum in reformandâ Hymnodiâ diligentia. Daniel ( Thesaurus Hymnologicus, Halis, 1841 ; Lipsiæ, 18446) has frequently given in parallel columns the hymn as it existed in earlier times, as probably it came from the author, and as it was recast in the Roman breviary. The comparison is very instructive, as shewing how well-nigh the whole grace and beauty, and even vigor, of the composition has disappeared in the process. With Scripture upon our side, it would not much trouble us, if Rome had for the present that æsthetical superiority, that keener sense of artistic beauty, which