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TRANSLATED FROM THE
AUTHOR OF wTHE CATHEDRAL.
Enquire of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of
For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days
ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD,
Natural piety would turn our attention to the ancient Latin Hymns, as the source from which our acknowledged deficiency in Metrical Psalmody is to be supplied. And indeed our Church itself points out to us these fountains, and leads us, as it were, by the hand to them; inasmuch, as in the same books of devotion we find most parts of our own Prayer-book. Moreover, that which may be accounted the only metrical Psalm, or Hymn, fully authorized by the Church of England, viz. the Veni Creator, inserted in the Ordination services, is one of these hymns. And perhaps the reason why more of them were not introduced into the Prayer-book, was rather the difficulty of finding persons competent to translate them at the time, than any other cause. Archbishop Cranmer did himself attempt it, at least the " salve festa dies," as he mentions in a letter to the king, expressing a desire, that as his "English verses wanted the grace and faculty which he could wish they had, his Majesty would cause some other to do them in more pleasant English and phrase1."
'See Collier's Eccles. Hist. vol. ii. p. 206. At any rate, though nothing is more opposed to the wishes of the translator than that any of these Hymns should find unauthorized admission into any of our Churches, yet, so far as they have preserved the character of the original, they are much more congenial to the spirit of our own Liturgy than those Hymns which are too often made to take part in our ancient Services.
With regard to the mode of translation, it was first intended to have had the Latin printed together with these Hymns, in the manner that they have occasionally appeared in the British Magazine ; by which it would have been seen how far the originals have been closely adhered to, which has been done for the most part; and how far, as in other cases, the liberty has been taken freely to paraphrase rather than to translate. The chief reason for not thus printing the Latin Hymns has been, that they are to be procured in a small edition, recently published at Oxford, which comprises mostly the same which are here selected. Some of them are in the original not free from objection, such as those on the Eucharist, on the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the Remains of the Dead ; but it is hoped that there is nothing whatever in these translations but what is perfectly agreeable to the doctrines of our own Church.
The subjects of these Hymns, and the allusions which they contain, are frequently such as cannot be understood without some knowledge of the Breviary Services, which it would be too long a work, and foreign to the present intention, to explain ; as, for instance, the Hymns for the different days of the week not only contain allusions to the work of the Creation on those days, but also, with reference to it, a particular key-note, or lesson appropriate to the day. On the first day love to God and His commandments is inculcated ; on the second, God's love to man is the subject ; on the three following days, Faith, Hope, and Love ; on Friday, the patient virtues and the sufferings of Christ; on Saturday, thanksgiving for those who are with God, and rest from their labours. In like manner not only have the Festivals, but their Octaves also, a peculiar and appropriate topic: for instance, that of the Epiphany, is the Baptism of Christ ; that of the Ascension, Christ's return to Judgment; that of All Saints'Day, the mortal remains of the dead. This circumstance has prevented the Hymns from being adapted, as could have been wished, more strictly to our own Festivals.