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following is contained, written in 1848. The author's long and useful career as Prime Minister and author may be studied in dictionaries of biography or histories of our times.
, Christ in Song, p. 461, the original with valuable comment, and the translation.
Theme. Christ our Refuge.
Line 1, 2. Isaiah xxyi., 4; Psalms xviii., 3 ; xix., 14; Cant. ii., 14; 1 Cor. x., 4.-3, 4. John xix., 34.–5, 6. Rev. i., 5.–17, 18. Fontem : Zech. xiii., 1.-21, 22. Romans xiv., 16.
THE RISE AND GROWTH OF
THE CHRISTIAN HYMNS.
The Jews, and the heathen Greeks and Romans, used psalms, odes, hymns, as part of their religious services. Jesus used them with his disciples. They are mentioned by the apostles, and by them commended as part of the worship of early Christians. Frequent mention of the singing of the Christians is found in early writers; and it is evident that, besides the psalms of the Old Testament, original hymns were sung from the earliest times giving divine honors to Christ. The special attention of the Church was called to them in the middle of the fourth century, by the fact that several sects of heretics were using them to propagate their doctrines. The Arians especially had composed hymns which had taken strong hold of the people of Constantinople and the East. The Synod of Laodicea, A.D. 344-346, tried to cure this evil by forbidding the use of all hymns or psalms not found in the Bible. The most eminent Christians of the West, Hilary, Ambrose, and Augustine, thought it better to use similar songs of orthodox substance. The Latin Church was ready for the new hymns. Those of Ambrose, especially, suited them, and came into universal use, first among his people in Milan, and then throughout Italy. Similar hymns sprang up, it was hardly known how, and became current every where with those who spoke Latin.
In the seventh century, at the Council of Toledo, they were formally approved. Each generation made its additions to the common stock, often by its most eminent men; and the accumulation continued as long as Latin was spoken. Afterward, when the Reformation called for intelligible hymns of the people, translations of the older hymns into the Germanic languages continued in use among Protestants. These lymns were the first original poetry of the people in the Latin language, unless, perhaps, those critics may be right who think they find in Livy a prose rendering of earlier ballads. The so-called classic poetry was an echo of Greece, both in substance and form, the matter and meters were both imitated, and the poems were composed for the lovers of Grecian art in the Roman court. It did not spring from the people, and it never moved the people. But the Christian hymns were proper folk poetry, the “ Bible of the people”—their Homeric poems. Their making was not so much speech as action. Legends described some of the best of them as the inspired acts of Christian heroes. They were in substance festive prayers,
the simplest rhythmic offering of thanks and praise to the giver of light and of rest, both natural and spiritual, at morning and evening, and at other seasons suited to the remembrance and rhythmical rehearsal of the truths of the Bible. Afterward they came to commemorate acts of martyrs and other Christian heroes; and then they became the utterance of the brooding love and faith of contemplative piety; and finally the elaborate ingenuity of monastic scholarshiy dressed up any thing and every thing religious in these poetical forms. In these later times the same scholars rewrote the rude old hymns into correct and polished meters for the use of the Latin Church. The singing was at first by the whole congregation, but in later times the music has become too difficult, and trained choirs and accompanying instruments are necessary for the service.
THE LANGUAGE. The language of the early hymns is the common speech of the day, deeply colored by Bible idiom. It has very much the same relation to that of the Augustan books which Bunyan has to Bacon or Milton. It does not differ from that of the odes of Horace more than the household talk did in the family of Horace's father; and the differences are generally gains. A few new words
appear which are needed for new thoughts; old words are ennobled by being applied to Christian uses; the main difference is a greater simplicity of structure and idiom, which is a return to the real speech of Rome, and is better than the artificial complexity of the old book speech, just as Bunyan is better than Bolingbroke, or Homer better than Pindar. In the later hymns an artificial elaboration of the language appears.
THE METERS. During the time of the writing of the hymns an essential change took place in the pronunciation of Latin. Quantity and pitch were used for accent and emphasis in the early Latin; stress or loudness of sound gradually took their place, and the meters changed at the same time. In studying the prosody of the hymns, a change is needed in the common definitions of the metrical feet. They should be defined simply by the order and make of the arsis and thesis :
An IAMBUS is a monosyllabic thcsis followed by a monosyl
labic arsis. A TROCHEE is a monosyllabic arsis followed by a monosyl
labic thesis. A DACTYL is a monosyllabic arsis followed by a dissyllabic
thesis. An ANAPAEST is a dissyllabic thesis followed by a monosyl
In the Augustan poetry the arsis is laid on long syllables, in the later Latin poetry it is laid on accented syllables; an iambus in the old poetry is therefore a short syllable followed by a long, while in the later poetry it is an unaccented followed by an accented syllable. In the hymns the change from one system to the other is gradual. The earliest are measured regularly by long and short quantity. Then writers who mean to write quantitative verses become careless about their quantities, especially in the syllables of the thesis. As we go on, the prose accent and the arsis more and more often coincide, until finally it is enough to make good verses that the accented syllables of prose pronunciation shall fall in the arsis and the unaccented in the thesis of the feet in sufficient numbers to keep up the rhythmical move'ment in the natural reading of the verses. This is accentual meter. For a more careful study of it, takę March's Anglo-Saxon Grammar, page 222 and after.
RIME. Nations who unite prose accent and arsis need to mark off their verses plainly. They do it by rime, the rhythmical repetition of letters. When the riming letters begin their words, it is called alliteration; when they end their words, it is called rhyme. Rime seems to have grown naturally into use in the later Latin poetry. It will be seen to appear first as an occasional ornament in the hymns, and become regular in form and place by slow degrees. The old Teutonic poetry used alliteration as an essential part of their metrical system, and German and AngloSaxon poets often use it freely in their Latin verses. Study of the alliterative meters as well as the quantitative is desirable for the full appreciation of the hymns. The stanzas which are found in the hymns of this book are described in the following table. The use of the names of compound meters has been avoided, and the scanning given as far as possible in simple feet. In the careful study of the verse, attention should be given both to the ancient quantities and the prose accents of the syllables in each foot.