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(For further information any good classical grammar may be consulted, e.g. Revised Latin Primer, by B. H. Kennedy.) Verses
If the verses are composed of lines of the same metre, the metre gives its name to the verses. If, however, they are composed of a fixed order of different metres, they are usually named either after the metre which is most used, e.g. Sapphic, or after the one which gives it its special character, e.g. Archilochian.
The following are the verse systems used in the hymns, the numbers in brackets referring to the names of lines above and the other numbers to the hymns which use the metre:
Dactylic hexameter catalectic (1); 30.
74 uses trochaic dimeter acatalectic and catalectic in various groupings, and 109 in fixed groupings.
Trochaic dimeter brachycatalectic (10); 94.
Iambic dimeter (16), known as the Ambrosian metre or, in English Hymnals, as the Long Metre. All hymns in this book are in this metre, unless otherwise stated.
Elegaic. Couplets, (1) and (s) alternately; 54, 61.
Second Asclepiad. Three Lesser Asclepiads (14) and the fourth line a Glyconic (13); (?72), 84, 100, 106, 118, 133, 136.
Third Asclepiad. Two Lesser Asclepiads (14), one Pherecratian (12) and the fourth a Glyconic (13); 110.
First Sapphic. Three Sapphics (11) and the fourth line an Adonic (3); 1, 10, 47, 87, 91, 103, 104, 107, 108, 112, 117, 121, 131, 132,
Third Archilochian. Three-lined verses with one iambic trimeter (15), one Archilochian (4) and one iambic dimeter (16). The second and third lines are often treated as one line and then called an elegiambus; 123.
5. ACCENT AND RHYME Classical poetry was quantitative, that is based on the length or shortness of syllables, as described in the preceding section. But popular poems
existed side by side with the quantitative ones, were accentual. St Ambrose wrote his hymns for the people and so had to make them popular. To do this, he did not desert the quantitative system, in which he was well versed. Instead he formed verses of iambic dimeter, which the classical writers only used in combination with other lines, and so used it that the long syllables were often also the accented ones. The popular welcome given to his hymns showed how happy his compromise had been. The Ambrosian metre was used for most of the early hymns, quantitative with traces of accentual (cf., e.g. introduction to 38), until at last the element of quantity was entirely ignored. The new system, called accentual, was based on the accent of syllables, whatever their quantity; for accent and quantity may or may not coincide. Thus a dactyl, in the accentual system, consists, not of a long and two short syllables, but of an accented and two unaccented ones, e.g. gaudia and a trochee of an accented and an unaccented syllable, e.g. dies. The iambic line Rerum Deus tenax vigor is trochaic, if considered accentually.
The Passiontide Pange lingua, 53, is trochaic, quantitative, but the Corpus Christi one, 71, is accentual. The Sanctorum meritis, 84, is a Second Asclepiad, quantitative, though the accents fall fairly regularly on the first, fourth, seventh and tenth syllables. But the Sacris solemniis, 72, is an accentual composition and therefore, so it would seem, ought to be classed as dactylic and not, as is often stated, as Asclepiad. An Asclepiad must begin with a spondee, which is impossible in accentual poetry since two succeeding syllables cannot be accented. Its fourth line is a Glyconic (12), accentual.
Roughly speaking, hymns down to the Middle Ages are quantitative, the medieval ones are accentual and rhymed, and the post-medieval are mostly quantitative.
But besides the change from quantity to accent there was brought about another change, namely a conscious and consistent use of rhyme. Rhyme is not foreign to the Latin tongue, as the fragments of early Latin poetry show. There are examples of its use in the writings of all the great Latin poets of classical times and also in the early hymns; cf., e.g. 38 and the second verse of 52. But writing in quantitative metre meant that rhyme could only occur by accident or when rhyme and quantity did not disagree, for the endings of lines, like the lines themselves, were governed by the laws of quantity, with certain legitimate substitutions. The
purpose of hymns gave them a special character, which eventually caused a new consciousness of the ends of lines. Hymns were instruction and praise in the form of poetry and not, be so expressed, merely poetry. They were meant to be sung
and therefore had to have a well-defined tune which would fit all the verses;
if it may
they were also meant to be sung by group answering group and, as it is humanly impossible to sing a verse without a pause, one major pause was allowed for in verses of iambic dimeter and two in those of trochaic tetrameter. The pause, however, had to be so arranged that it did not make nonsense of the words. A verse therefore need not be a complete sentence but it must have completed sense as a recognisable part of the complete sentence, and at each major pause there would be at least a 'sense-pause'. St Ambrose and the early writers and centonists always kept to this rule; cf., e.g. Splendor paternae gloriae, 12, where the exception in the eighth verse is due to the revisers. This indicates one of the differences between a poem and a hymn, and by this standard most of the modern hymns and the revisions of old hymns in the Breviary stand condemned.
Such an arrangement of lines gave a new importance to the ends of lines. Now the writers of accentual hymns, while keeping in general the old idea of sense-pauses', found a special difficulty in the treatment of the ends of lines. The last syllable of a Latin word is never accented and therefore cannot be the accentual equivalent of a final long syllable. Length and accent being thus eliminated for the last or the last two syllables, there remained only the music of sounds with which to embellish the endings. And perhaps it was the difficulty of beginning as well as that of ending accentual lines that brought it about that the greatest accentual hymns of the Middle Ages were written in the trochaic or dactylic metre, and the difficulty of ending such lines that caused them to be rhymed.
It is clear that the above remarks do not profess to be a history of the origins and development of rhyme. They are no more than suggested reasons why it was used and developed by Christian writers until it became, like the Ambrosian metre before it, a speciality and glory of Christian poetry. Accent and rhyme formed an appropriate means of expressing doctrinal truths in the hymns of St Thomas, pathos and pity in the Stabat Mater, the terrors of the judgment in the Dies irae and the consolation of the Holy Ghost in the Veni sancte spiritus.
With the end of the Middle Ages came the end of the poetical and popular elements of Christian Latin hymns; and, though many metrical compositions have been added to the Breviary since that time, scarcely any hymns, in the true sense of the word, have been added. Ambrose and Prudentius took something classical and made it Christian; the revisers and their imitators took something Christian and tried to make it classical. The result may be pedantry, and sometimes perhaps poetry; but it is not piety. Accessit Latinitas, discessit pietas.
AND THE HOURS
HE hymns of this section are the foundation on which the others are built, for the language and thoughts which are appropriate to the individual seasons and
feasts are worked into a vocabulary already fixed. God is our creator, our redeemer and our judge—these are the themes of all sacred song, whether in the Bible or of human inspiration. That God is our redeemer and our judge is, naturally, a point to which the hymns of the seasons and of the saints constantly return, though these early hymns mention it but seldom. But that God is our creator is an idea which runs right through the hymnal. It is, however, the constant and peculiar theme of the hymns of the days and hours, which are but metrical variations on the text Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini, qui
fecit caelum et terram. Of all the gifts of the creator, the one which is hymned everywhere, from Matins to Compline, is that of light—the physical light which suggests the light of grace, so that the writers pass imperceptibly from the one to the other. The ideas then of creation and of light are the foundation of all the hymns, and the development of the imagery of light and its opposite, darkness, gives unity to the explanation of the hymns.
At Matins we pray that night will give way to day, and at Lauds we welcome its coming. The Christ to whom we pray at Matins as lux ipse lucis et dies is the Aurora of Lauds. At Prime we pray, now that the day has come, that the effects of this spiritual light will be with us through the day, and this prayer is with us always, adapted in its form to the different hours of the day. In this way we are reminded daily and throughout each day that our Lord said: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me can never walk in darkness; he will possess the light which is life', John 8, 12; but ‘he who journeys in darkness cannot tell which way he is going', John 12, 35. When Judas left the Supper, 'it was night. These hymns will repay much study and their value as prayers is
very great. Hitherto the opportunities for using the week-day hymns at Matins, Lauds and