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After being accustomed to the softer and richer strains of the later Christian poets, to the more ornamented style of a Bernard or an Adam of St Victor,-to the passionate sinking of himself in the great objects which he contemplates, that marks the first of these great poets of the Cross --to the melodies long drawn out and the abundant theological lore of the second,-it is some little while before one returns with a hearty consent and liking to the almost austere simplicity which characterises the hymns of St Ambrose. It is felt as though there were a certain coldness in them, an aloofness of the author from his subject, a refusal to blend and fuse himself with it. The absence too of rhyme, for which the almost uniform use of a metre, very far from the richest among the Latin lyric forms, and one with singularly few resources for producing variety of pause or cadence, seems a very insufficient compensation, adds to this feeling of disappointment. The ear and the heart seem alike to be without their due satisfaction.
Only after a while does one learn to feel the grandeur of this unadorned metre, and the profound, though it may have been more instinctive than conscious, wisdom of the poet in choosing it; or to appreciate that noble confidence in the surpassing interest of his theme, which has rendered him indifferent to any but its simplest setting forth. It is as though, building an altar to the living God, he would
Hymnarium, in the second volume of his Works. (J. M. Thomasii, S. R. E., Cardinalis, Opera Omnia, Romæ, 1747, v. 2, p. 351–434.) This book which is of sufficiently rare occurrence in England, is yet important in fixing the text, especially of the earlier hymns. The Cardi. nal's position gave him access to the oldest Vatican and other Italian MSS., of all which he has made diligent and careful use.
Ex illo libro, says Daniel, tanquam fonte primario hauriendum est. For an estimate of rose's merits in promoting the new Christian psalmody, see Rambach's Anthol. Christl. Gesänge, v. 1, p. 58–60. [T. L. P.]
observe the Levitical precept, and rear it of unhewn stones, upon which no tool had been lifted. The great objects of faith in their simplest expression are felt by him so sufficient to stir all the deepest affections of the heart, that any attempt to dress them up, to array them in moving language, were merely superfluous. The passion is there, but it is latent and represt, a fire burning inwardly, the glow of an austere enthusiasm, which reveals itself indeed, but not to every careless beholder. Nor do we presently fail to observe how truly these poems belonged to their time and to the circumstances under which they were producedhow suitably the faith which was in actual conflict with, and was just triumphing over, the powers of this world, found its utterance in hymns such as these, wherein is no softness, perhaps little tenderness; but a rock-like firmness, the old Roman stoicism transmuted and glorified into that nobler Christian courage, which encountered and at length overcame the world.
S. Ambrosii Opp., Paris, 1836, v. 4, p. 201 ; Card. Thomasii Opp., Romæ, 1747, v. 2, p. 351. —The German hymnbook is indebted to this immortal hymn of St Ambrose for one of its choicest treasures -I mean John Frank's Advent hymn, commencing :
Komm, Heidenheiland, Lösegeld,
Denn so will Gott geboren sein.
Procedit e thalamo suo,
13. This line is commonly read, and appears in the Bened. edition, Procedens de thalamo suo, but I have not been able to admit it in that form into the text; and this because there is not a single other instance in the genuine hymns of St Ambrose, of a line beginning with two spondees; invariably the second foot is an iambic. The brief Orabo mente Dominum, is not to be brought into account, as it evidently in no part seeks to conform itself to the metre of the other hymns; and the Talis partus decet Deum, which Daniel prints as the fourth line of this present hymn, is a transposition of words which he ought not to have let pass, and a reading not justified by the best editions. The present line has good MS. authority for it in the shape in which it appears above, and is so read by Thomasius.
15. gigas] The “giants" of Gen. vi. 4, were, according to the interpretation of the early Church, geminæ substantiæ ; the
sons of God” from whom they were born (ver. 2) being understood as Angels, who formed unions with the “ daughters of men.” This passage so understood must be brought into connexion with Ps. xviii. 6, (Vulg.) xix. 5, (E. V.) before we can enter into the full meaning of this line. In the “double substance” of the giants, thus born of earth and of heaven, Ambrose sees a resemblance not so remote but that he may use it, to him who in like manner was of twofold nature, divine and human. Perhaps he would hardly have dared trace an analogy, had he not been emboldened thereto by the words of the Psalmist, referred to above, in which he saw an undoubted reference to the earthly course of the Lord. In a passage from his treatise De Incarn. Dom., c. 5, he unfolds his meaning at full: Quem (Christum] quasi gigantem Sanctus David propheta describit, eo quod biformis geminæque naturæ unus sit consors divinitatis et corporis : qui tanquam sponsus procedens de thalamo suo exsultavit tanquam gigas ad currendam viam. Sponsus animæ secundum Verbum : gigas terræ, quia usûs nostri
Egressus ejus à Patre,
Æqualis æterno Patri
officia percurrens, cùm Deus semper esset æternus, Incarnationis sacramenta suscepit. Thus too in another hymn he sings :
Processit aulâ Virginis
Suæ Gigas Ecclesiæ. 17—20. He is still drawing his imagery from the 18th Psalm, (19th, E. V.) It is written there of the sun : A summo cælo egressio ejus : et occursus ejus usque ad summum ejus. (Vulg.) This he finds true of, and adapts to, him, who said concerning himself : Exivi à Patre, et veni in mundum: iterum relinquo mundum et vado ad Patrem; (John xvi. 28;) and whose humanity was acquainted with the deepest depths of humiliation, and then afterwards with the highest heights of glory and honour.
22. stropheo] This reading, though supported by inferior MS. authority, I must yet think preferable to the more commonly received Carnis tropæo accingere. Had we the words carnis tropæum alone, they might be just capable of explanation and justification, such as that which Clichtoveus gives : Christus per carnem assumptam debellato diabolo victor evasit, ipsamque glorificatam carnem demum cælo intulit. But accingi tropæo it seems impossible to believe that St Ambrose wrote, especially as the presence of the word is so easily explained on the supposition that as the more familiar word it displaced the rarer stropheum-this strophium or stropheum being a girdle or belt worn about the loins. (στρόφιον dimin. of στρόφος, from στρέφω.) It needs τιot to observe how full are the Latin hymns, and the earliest the fullest, of Greek words : nor has the objection of some, that it would be strophium and not strophēum, any force, as the Latin Christian poets