26 May 2011

Ad cenam agni providi

If you are accustomed to the Liturgia Horarum, and you look in a 1961 Breviary, you will get a shock when you got to the Office Hymn for Vespers during Eastertide. Instead of Ad cenam agni providi you will find Ad regias agni dapes. This text is the piece of elegant Renaissance Latinity which Urban VIII substituted for the the fifth century text previously in use. The problem Pope Urban had with the original is that it was written when Latin was still a spoken language, a living and vivid vernacular, and its text is therefore, from the point of view of classical purists, full of irregularities. For example, it treats stolis (robes) as if it were istolis: which is how they pronounced st- in the 'Vulgar Latin' period*. Like most popular and subclassical texts, it has anacoloutha, diminutives, and 'intolerably' erratic systems of accented syllables. All this is why I like it. I even feel that the author was a considerable poet who actually used 'irregular' accentual patterns to emphasise words.

Urban's gang of resurrected Horaces so rewrote the second stanza that not a word of the original remained ... but perhaps by this point I have lost non-latinists. Never mind. If you have your English Hymnal to hand, you can find the original, translated by the incomparable John Mason 'Patrimony' Neale, at 125. You will find the Urbanist replacement at 128. You may feel that both, in their different ways, are good hymns. You are right. I just happen to feel that Vatican II was wise to mandate the restoration of original texts (although the 1968 revisers, foolishly, did straighten out the rhythms a bit). The Benedictines, incidentally, never did adopt the Urbanist texts. Moreover, the Renaissance version can miss things. Neale was convinced that the old text's description of Christ's blood as 'rosy' (roseo: 'light pink', because Roman roses were not modern cultivars) is explained by that fact that if a body is totally drained of blood, the last few drops are ... pink (how did he know? Was he right?).

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*Grandgent writes thus about the prosthetic vowel: "The earliest Latin example is probably iscolasticus, written in Barcelona in the second century; it is found repeatedly, though not frequently, in the third century; in the fourth and fifth it is very common: espiritum, ischola, iscripta, isperabi ..." Isidore of Seville in the seventh century was the first to comment on it. It has, of course, left innumerable marks upon the lexicography of the Romance languages (e.g. stella>istella>etoile).

14 comments:

John said...

Again, thanks. Because of dera Urban, I use the Breviarium Monasticum for ALL hymns, the 1940s Breviarium Romanum for all else. I'm finally becoming accustomed to the pre Pius XII psalter.

Last Knight said...

Are we allowed to use any Breviary other than 1962? Universae Ecclesiae 32 seems to suggest not.

Flambeaux said...

Last Knight,

Layman are always free to use whatever suits them.

It is only clergy bound to say the Office who have limitations imposed on them.

Maureen Lash said...

"Istolis salutis candidi" would give 9 syllables, wouldn't it? Or am I reading a corrupt version of line 2?

jasoncpetty said...

That 'prosthetic vowel' is all over the place in Spanish. Interesting to read something of its origins. Thanks, Father.

bgeorge77 said...

Hoorah for the Brevarium Monasticum, and thanks for the lesson on the "prosthetic vowel."

Love the Neale translations, which are featured in the Monastic Diurnal from St Michael's abbey.

http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/AdCenamAgni.html

Patricius said...

Urban VIII's revision of the ancient Breviary hymnody...another example of the limits of Papal authority in action?

GOR said...

So if the prosthetic vowel is an example of what happens to a language when it is still living would the BBC announcers’ predilection for appending an ‘r’ to names such as Africa (Africa-r), Australia (Australia-r) and so on, be deemed as using a ‘prosthetic consonant’…?

Or is it merely an affectation?

Henri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henri said...

Urban VIII horrible version was refused not only by the Benedictines, but also by all monastic orders, all French dioceses, many Roman basilicas. At the beginning of the XXth century, many liturgical books printed give the two versions, as do the Vesperale Romanum 1912. The fact is that Solesmes printed books progressively gave only the Urban version, that's why it became the norm. :-(

RichardT said...

Pink blood - blood and water?

Rubricarius said...

“In the seventeenth century came the crushing blow which destroyed the beauty of all Breviary hymns. (...) They slashed and tinkered, they re-wrote lines and altered words they changed the sense and finally produced the poor imitations that we still have, in the place of hymns our fatehrs sang for over a thousand years. Indeed their confidence in themselves is amazing. They were not ashamed to lay their hands on Sedulius, on Prudentius, on St. Ambrose himself. (...)

No one who knows anything about the subject now doubts that the revision of Urban VIII was a ghastly mistake, for which there is not one single word of any kind to be said. (...)

This can only be a temporary state of things. If ever we are to have a final Breviary, as the result of so much change in our time, the very first improvement, more urgent than a restoration of the Vulgate text, is that we have back the authentic hymns.” Adrian Fortescue, 1916

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

I think the pink blood is correct, as the last drop comes (our modern halal abattoirs in England should be able to shew this!) the blood separates, and is thus mixed with water. What a theological point hidden behind the veil of a simple word!

Of course, in Our Lord's case (and doctors can tell us why) That which came out was immediately mixed (or separated), and thus rosy.

Sir Watkin said...

"Istolis salutis candidi" would give 9 syllables, wouldn't it? Or am I reading a corrupt version of line 2?

Yes.

The original was "Stolis albis candidi".

There are many later variants dating from a time when stolis had ceased to be pronounced as a trisyllable, e.g. "Et stolis" (Monastic Breviary), "Ex stolis", "Stolisque".