Page 6, 6th May 1955

6th May 1955
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Page 6, 6th May 1955 — Two outstanding names in the discussion on hymns

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Two outstanding names in the discussion on hymns


By Fr. William Bainbridge

TN any discussion on hymns it

must always be kept in mind that personal associations which, in everybody's experience, are apt to crystallise more round hymns than in any other field. are often far-reaching and potent and easily warp one's more reasoned judgment.

The committee appointed by the Hierarchy for the revision of the Westrnimrer Hymnal decided that in dealing with translations the best available were In be used. whether Or not the translator was a Catholic. Seven non-Catholic translators have been used, including Neale, of whose translations there are nine. This in itself caused adverse comment when the hook was puhlished by those, one supposes. who knew nothing of Neale and the many others who followed in his train.

A certain disappointment is discerned in the recent correspondence on the number of translations by Neale. It would seem that while some Catholics evince no interest in the Church Office hymns and are content to sing doggerel with tunes of which the hest that can be said is that the punishment fits the crime. others,who are interested in them and, most probably. remember in their earlier days Hymns A. & Al.. would have liked more of Neale's translations.

Statlds mum, NEALE was certainly the most learned hymnologist of his time. His output was prolific and thus he stands apart from the numerous translators of the lime.

He published the Hymnal Noted in 1854. containing 105 hymns of which 94 were by Neale himself. It was not a success, chiefly because the hymns were accompanied by their proper chant melodies under the care of the Rev. Thomas Hetmore. Julian, very foists, notes that they called down on the translator a storm of indignation from the Roman Catholics because he had taken no pains to point out that he had either softened down entirely or ignored the Roman doctrines in those hymns. So far, they said. as the originals were concerned. these translations were misrepresentations_

However. Julian answers that as the translations were intended for the use of the Anglican Church, it was only to he expected that Neale should omit such hymns or portions of hymns that would he at variance with her doctrines. Who better than Mgr. Knox could note these inaccuracies and failures to produce a true translation of the Latin!

The general consensus of opinion is that Neale's greatest work was his Greek translations, which he published in 1862. his Hymns of the Eastern Church. So vast an ouptput, in addition to all his other literary work, is sufficient in itself to prove Neale's amazing facility. For this the usual price had to he paid. Compilers of hymnals have often resolved on ' Neale pure and undefiled : hut they have seldom been able to maintain this attitude in practice.

The hash-pot IT was the A. & M. that brought to the notice and popularised these Office hymns. using the work of various translators hut chiefly those of Neale. But so often it is not Neale—it is a hash-pot of Neale and the Committee.

Take for example the most popular of " Neale's," The Royal Banners Forward Go. The first verse is Neale: most of the rest is A. M. The second verse in A. & M. Is: There whilst he hung. his sacred side By soldier's spear was opened wide.

To cleanse us in the precious flood, Of water mingled with his blood. Neale wrote : Where deep for us dyed. Life's torrent side.

To wash us flood.

Where mingled blood. the spear was rushing from his in that precious water flowed and M. version is used. It is pertinent to ask why the A. & M. found this necessa ry.

Julian. in discussing this hymn, notes more than 20 translations, and mentions one found in the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary in English. etc.. and he says that this is by far the best rendering of the Regis. Dr, Phillips adds to this: the original form which appeared in Walter Blount's The Office of Holy Week is far superior to that. Would a Catholic wish for any other translation?

Another popular hymn of " Neale's " is 0 come. 0 come, Emmanuel. Neale's translation can be

seen only in Hymnal Noted. It begins " Draw nigh, draw nigh Emmanuel." and I wish I could quote it in full. The former is the work of A. 4 M. and except that the two translations deal with the same subject. there is little semblance between them. The English Hymnal has a translation by T. A. Lace hut most other hymnals. including Catholic ones. have the A. & Ai. version and add (e.g.. the new B.B.C. Hymnbook)" Tr. J. M. Neale."

Grettt • O's

THE Great " O's" are living realities to Catholics and the natural decision was made that the seven " O's " should be translated and the whole arranged in its proper order. Mgr. Knox has given us a noble translation. I give for comparison the various renderings of the last line of the refrain:

" Shall he horn for thee, 0 Israel."

(Neale: note the extra syllable.) "Shall come to thee 0 Israel."

(A. & M. and T. A. Lacey.) " Is born to save thee Israel (Knox.) How much more, there seems to me. there is in Knox's line.

Knox's hymns are eminently suit able for singing. I had far rather sing: Good shepherd, spent with loving Look on me. who have strayed. Oft by those lips unmoving.

With milk and honey strayed: Spurn not a einner's crying Nor from thy love outcast Rut rest thy head in dying On these frail arms at last. (A serve of Salve Caput, W.11.41 than: 1 pray thee, Jesus own mc.

Me. Shepherd good. for thine: Who to thy fold has won me, And feed with truth divine. Me guilty. me refuge not, Incline thy face to me, This comfort that I lose not.

On earth to comfort thee.

(A translation by R. Bridges in the LH.. S. of P.. Oxford Hymnal, Yattenden Hymnal-)

Hefei poetry TT is not irrevelant here to refer

to Neale's translation of 0 quanta guano. It is found in all non-Catholic hymnals unaltered. Dr. Don. Canon of Westminster Abbey and formerly Professor of Poetry at Oxford. writes in his

English Hymns and HVIMPwriters.

when discussing this hymn: " In recent times a better translation has been made by Mgr. Ronald Knox. which is in the Westminster Hymnal."

THERE is an idea that real -Ipoetry is not acceptable by the people: that words which are not commonplace cannot be understood. If that is true. our hymns are reduced to mere doggerel. An unfamiliar, unaccustomed word ceases to he so where it is often used. It is right that people in their singing should have words that encourage them to think and to use their minds. The lethargy of Catholics where hymnody is concerned tempts one to quote from Knox's third verse of Jerusalem Lurnirtosa :

Up and stir thee, onward spur thee, What though toil be hard to hear.

If God's grace shall count thee worthy Those unguessed rewards to share.

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