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you from the foundation of the world.” 27 One hymn develops at
” length the figure of the four beasts in the first chapter of Ezekiel, and applies it to the four evangelists; 28 another shows how all the events of Old Testament history—the creation of Eve, the preservation of Noah in the ark, the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, etc., typify the relations of Christ and the Church.29
The reader comes away from a perusal of these hymns feeling that he has entered deep into the spirit of the Middle Ages. To the mediaeval hymn-writer life on the whole is rather grim and forbidding. Over and over again one meets the doctrine that the flesh is a base, unclean thing that must be kept down if the soul is to see God. The forces of evil are felt to be powerful and malignant, and especially active in the unguarded hours of darkness; and so the devout Christian, on laying him down to rest, prays that when night's shadows fall, the light of faith may shine forth anew, and that, although his body may sleep, his soul may still hold in check the fires of evil passions.30
The stern logic, the hair-splitting distinctions of mediaeval philosophy are here too. Subtleties of thought and phrasing every now and then remind one of the old question about the angels on the needle's point;
Mortis portis fractis, fortis
It is especially interesting to see how often the hymns run parallel to monuments of mediaeval art as if the same emotion, the same creative impulse, found expression now in one and now in the other. The Stabat mater is akin in feeling to rood figures like the famous Nürnberg Madonna, and the Dies irae presents the same scene as innumerable representations of the Last Judg. ment, with Christ enthroned in the heavens, and the righteous ascending in happy throngs on his right, while the wicked are thrust down on the left to eternal damnation.
17 Apparebit repentina, March, p. 71, Merrill, p. 25, 1. 18.
The fondness for allegory and symbolism which is evident in painting and sculpture, in the interpretation of pagan mythology, oi Vergil's poetry, and of the Old and New Testament scriptures, finds free scope in hymnology. The four living creatures of Ezekiel (the man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle) represent the four evangelists; 33 Christ himself is typified in turn by each of these figures ;
34 he is the lion that rouses to life those dead in trespasses and sins, as the cubs of the lioness are quickened by their sire; 35 the pelican, that gives its own life blood for its young 36 Leah, the “tender-eyed,” who was unable to see the full beauty of her lord, symbolizes the synagogue, whereas Rachel, with clearer vision, represents the church, the bride of Christ.37 There are of course countless parallels to all these figures in mediaeval art; an especially beautiful illustration of the last bit of allegory is found in the Strassburg Münster, where the sculptor has carved Synagoge with bandaged eyes and the broken staff of the law, whereas her companion, Ekklesia, looks out fearlessly, in her right hand the cross and in her left the cup of communion.38
Strongest of all (especially toward the end of the mediaeval period) is the pervading feeling of mysticism—the reverence with which one contemplated the cross, the remedy of all earthly ills, the gate of Paradise to them that believed; the veneration with which one approached the Holy Eucharist, where the bread was in very deed the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. In the Christmas hymns, too, we find constantly recurring the awe and wonder of it all, that he, the eternal Lord of glory, should have humbled himself to become a helpless human babe. The contrast
33 Circa thronum, March, p. 140, Merrill, p. 56, 11. 1-32.
38 Reproduced in M. Sauerlandt's Deutsche Plastik des Mittelalters, Leipzig, 1911, pp. 36-37.
is very simply and beautifully put in two verses of a little carol: 39
Hic iacet in praesepio
Qui regnat sine termino;
and is elaborated in a stanza of Dies est laetitiae: 40
In obscuro nascitur
Princeps terrae molis;
Qui affixit sidera,
Naturally a body of literature that was so woven into the fabric of the Middle Ages could not fail to leave its mark on later generations. We find the influence of the hymns persisting long after Latin had ceased to be the common language of the educated classes of Europe, and long after the supremacy of the Church of Rome had broken down. Even as late as the nineteenth century, there are some notable occurrences of these hymns in literature. Readers of Faust will remember the scene "Zwinger," in which Gretchen comes to the image of the Mater Dolorosa in a niche in the city wall and prays, in an agony of remorse for her mother's death:
Dein Antlitz gnädig meiner Not!
Das Schwert im Herzen,
Mit tausend Schmerzen
Blickst auf zu deines Sohnes Tod.
A little later in the same poem Goethe represents Gretchen in the cathedral, taunted by an evil spirit, while the choir chants the solemn words:
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla.
3o Puer natus, March, p. 183, 11. 3-4.
40 Not included by either March or Merrill, but printed, with musical setting, in C. S. Brown's Latin Songs, p. 55.
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,
And with the solemn repetition of this last question she loses consciousness.
Scott has used the latter hymn very impressively in the closing scene of The Lay of the Last Minstrel. A great company of pilgrims has gathered at Melrose Abbey to pray for rest for the soul of the wizard Michael.
Then mass was sung, and prayers were said,
Dies irae, dies illa
These two hymns and a few others have continued in use in the service of the Roman Catholic Church until the present day. The Protestant churches broke away from the Church of Rome in their hymnology, and a return to the fine old tradition came only about one hundred years ago, as a result of the Oxford Movement led by John Henry Newman. One of Newman's younger associates, Edward Caswall, brought out an English version of a large number of Catholic hymns, and translations and adaptations of several others were made by J. M. Neale. Their example was followed by other writers, so that now the hymnals of practically all churches contain some hymns that go back to Latin originals. “Alleluia, song of gladness,” “At the Lamb's high feast we sing,” “ All glory, laud, and honor," “ O come, O come, Immanuel," and "O come, all ye faithful” are among the best known.
In some cases, the translators have departed from the original verse form, so that the use of the hymns in modern churches necessarily means modern music. More often, however, the original meter has been retained in translation, and it is therefore possible to sing many of the hymns to the plain-song melodies with which (in their Latin form) they were associated for centuries. The
ideal combination is to use the original words and the original music together. For the medieval Latin text, vibrant with deep emotion, there is no setting so appropriate as the old modal music; and one who has heard a group of hymns thus sung feels that, for a moment at least, he has touched the heart of the Middle Ages. Vassar College.