صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

of the blessed Virgin, (for he did not escape, as it was not to be expected that he should, the exaggerations of his time):

O dulcis vena veniæ;

of heaven:

O quam beata curia,

Quæ curæ prorsus nescia.

Sometimes too he is overfond of displaying feats of skill in versification, of prodigally accumulating, or curiously interlacing, his rhymes, that he may shew his perfect mastery of the forms which he is using, and how little he is confined or trammelled by them.*

These faults it will be seen are indeed most of them

but merits pushed into excess. And even accepting them as defects, his profound acquaintance with the whole circle of the theology of his time, and eminently with its exposition of Scripture, the abundant and admirable use, with indeed the drawback already mentioned, which he makes of it, delivering as he thus does his poems from the merely subjective cast of those, beautiful as they are, of St. Bernard-the exquisite art and variety with which for the most part his verse is managed and his rhymes disposed-their rich melody multiplying and ever deepening at the close-the strength which often he concentrates into a single line†

* Augustine had already shewn him the way to this play of words. Addressing the sinner as the barren fig-tree of Luke xiii. 9, he says: "Dilata est securis, noli esse secura;" and again: "Distulit securim, non dedit securitatem."

Thus of a Roman governor, who, alternating flatteries with threats, is seeking to bribe one of the early martyrs from her

-his skill in conducting a story*-and most of all, the evident nearness of the things which he celebrates to his own heart of hearts-all these, and other excellencies, render him, as far as my judgment goes, the foremost among the sacred Latin poets of the middle ages. He may not have any single poem to vie with the austere grandeur of the Dies Ira, nor yet with the tearful passion of the Stabat Mater, although concerning the last point there might well be a question; but then it must not be forgotten that these stand wellnigh alone, in the names of their respective authors, while from his ample treasure-house I shall enrich this volume with a multitude of hymns, all of them of considerable, some of the very highest, merit. Indeed were I disposed to name any one who might dispute the palm of sacred

allegiance to Christ, by the offer of worldly dignities and ho


Offert multa, spondet plura,
Periturus peritura.

*Thus with what graceful ease his hymn on the martyrdom of St Catharine commences:

[blocks in formation]

Latin poetry with him it would not be one of these, but rather Hildebert, Archbishop of Tours.

There are readers who may possibly consider that I have set the merits of Adam of St Victor too high; yet fresh from the perusal of his hymn on St Stephen, or his longer one on the Resurrection, or those on Pentecost, they will certainly wonder at the taste and judgment of his countrymen, who could apportion him no higher praise than the following: A l'égard du mérite de ses pièces, ce serait outrer l'admiration que d'adopter sans réserve les éloges qu'on leur a donnés. Elles étaient bonnes pour le temps, et même les meilleurs qu'on eût vues jusqu'alors. Mais il a paru depuis des modèles en ce genre, qui les ont fait totalement oublier, et avec lesquelles elles ne peuvent réellement entrer en comparaison. (Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. xv. p. 41.) Over against this I will set another and a fairer estimate of the merit of his hymns, the writer, probably John of Toulouse, (he died in 1659, and was himself Prior of St Victor,) seizing, as it seems to me, very happily the character at once learned and ornate, the "decorated" style, which is so characteristic of many of them: Valde multas prosas fecit... quæ succincte et clausulatim progredientes, venusto verborum matrimonio subtiliter decoratæ, sententiarum flosculis mirabiliter picturatæ, schemate congruentissimo componuntur, in quibus et cum interserat prophetias et figuras, quæ in sensu quem prætendunt videantur obscurissimæ, tamen sic eas adaptat ad suum propositum manifeste, ut magis videantur historiam texere quam figuram (Martene, Thes. Anecdot. vol. vi. p. 222). Rambach calls him, I know not whether very felici

tously, "the Schiller of the middle ages," Dom Guéranger, le plus grand poète du moyen âge.

Several of the hymns of Adam of St Victor had got abroad, and were in use at a very early date, probably during the author's life: but till very lately we were mainly indebted to the care of Clichtoveus, a theologian of the first half of the sixteenth century for what larger acquaintance with them we could obtain. Among numerous other works which he composed was the Elucidatorium Ecclesiasticum, Paris, 1515; Basle, 1517, 1519; Paris, 1540, 1556 (the best edition); Cologne, 1732, and in an abridged form, Venice, 1555: written for the instruction of the parochial clergy in the meaning of the various offices of the Church. The book, which is rather scarce, was till very lately of absolute necessity for the student of the Christian hymnology, above all for the student of Adam of St Victor's hymns. Besides containing grains of gold to be washed from the sands of a diffuse exposition, it was long a principal source of the text, and had highest authority therein; Clichtoveus having drawn it, as he himself assures us, from copies of the hymns preserved in the archives of St Victor itself. Recent discoveries, however, have much diminished the importance of this work. Almost until the other day it had been taken for granted that Clichtoveus had published all the hymns of Adam which were in existence in his time, all therefore which could be in existence in ours. No one thought it worth while to call in question his statement to this effect; nor, though it was well known that such of the manuscript treasures of the Abbey of St Victor as had escaped the Revolution were deposited in the Imperial

Library in Paris, to make researches there, and prove whether this was indeed the case. At length, however, the suspicions of the M. Gautier were aroused, mainly by observing that while we possessed hymns of his in honour of some of the obscurest saints, some of the mightiest events of the Christian Year, Christmas for example, were altogether uncelebrated in them; and he resolved to prove whether other hymns, which he was sure must once have existed, might not still be discovered. The search which he instituted was abundantly rewarded; and he has been able to publish an edition of the poetical works of Adam of St Victor (Euvres Poétiques d'Adam de S. Victor, Paris, 1858, 1859), containing one hundred and six hymns, or sixtynine more than were hitherto ascribed to him. It is true indeed that all of these were not unknown before; some were going about the world, but without attribution to their author. Far the larger portion, however, were thus for the first time drawn from their hiding-place of centuries, and not a few of these worthy to take rank with the noblest compositions of Adam himself, or any other among the foremost hymnologists of the mediæval Church. I have enriched this second edition of my book with several of these, the beauty and grandeur of which will, I feel sure, be acknowledged by all competent judges.

« السابقةمتابعة »