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Hymns

latin, poetry, century, people, rhyme, church and modern

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HYMNS, Latin. From the beginning, the Church adopted the psalms and made use of various versicles and devotional hymns in its service. Once the persecutions ceased, and Christians had no longer to hold their services so as to avoid notice, this practice grew in significance. The great Fathers of the Church wrote or encouraged the writing of hymns, and by the end of the 4th century a large number were in use. Hilarius Pictaviensis, Hilary of Poitiers (died 368), made a collection of hymns with the title, (Libor Mysteriorum,> mentioned by Saint Jerome, now lost, for which he has been called the Father of Western Hym nology. Some of the hymns of Pope Damasus (died 384) whose secretary Jerome was, have been preserved. The greatest hymn writer of the 4th century' is Saint Ambrose. Not all the hymns attributed to him are his, but many are, and one at least, the (Te Deum,) is still in common use. Among the other great hymn writers of the earlier centuries are Saint Au gustine, Prudentius, Sedulius (an Irishman of the 5th century), Fortunatus, and Eugenius (of the 6th and 7th centuries), Pope Gregory the Great, Venerable Bede, Alcuin, (8th century), and Peter Damien (died 1072). It is the latter part of the Middle Ages, however, especially the 12th and 13th centuries, that saw the birth of the greatest Latin hymn writers. They are Bernard of Clairvaux and Bernard of Morlaix. Adam of Saint Victor, and Alanus of Lille, of the 12th century, and Thomas of Celano, Bonaventure, Aquinas, and Jacopone da Todi of the 13th century.

At first these hymns in the Western Church were written in the meters of the old Latin poets, but after the introduction of rhyme, they gradually came to follow the new mode. In the earlier Middle Ages an essential change took place in the pronounciation of Latin. *Quantity and pitch were used for accents and emphasis in the early Latin; stress or loudness of sound gradually took their place and the meters changed at the same time. In the Au gustan poetry, the arsis is laid on the long syllables, in the later Latin poetry, on accented syllables. . . . In the Latin hymns, the change from one system to the other can be noted. As modern poetry is founded on accents, not quantity, it is in these Latin hymns that can best be studied the gradual rise of modern poetry.* (March). The Latin hymns are also

of interest because in them can be studied the progress from alliteration to rhyme. At first, the regular recurrence of a vowel sound at regular intervals, made the music of verse. After a time, the addition of similar consonant sounds added to the musical quality and the satisfaction to the ear, and then rhyme as we now know it was complete. The various stages between the two can be recognized and excellent illustrations of the various phases ob tained in the larger collections of Latin hymns.

The language of the early hymns is the common speech of the day, colored by Bible idioms. New words appear but only such as are needed for new thoughts. Familiar words are lifted to the standard of poetic diction by application to Christian usage. An extreme simplicity of language 'just as far as that is compatible with the expression of the profound devotional truths of Christianity characterizes them. They are much simpler than classical Latin poetry, and for that reason deeply influ enced popular devotion and thinking and served to modify popular language and poetry. In the history of literature, the Latin hymns occupied an important place because they were the first original poetry of the people in the Latin lan guage. The Latin poetry of the classical period was an echo of Greece °both in sub stance and form, the matters 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.° (March). It was their use by the people that fostered rhyme in the poetry of the modern languages. The folk listened to these Latin hymns sung on the festival days many times every year, (they were required to go to church nearly 100 times a year), became familiar with the cadence of them, and the music of verse, often joined in using them at the time when the modern languages of Latin origin were coming into existence, and these hymns therefore con stituted the school in which modem rhymed poetry took its rise.

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