Tuesday, January 24, 2017

John Mason Neale (and Year Ten)

On the birthday of the great hymnologist John Mason Neale (our spiritual godparent here) we also celebrate the ninth birthday of this site and begin our tenth (!!) year. His biography has been covered extensively in earlier posts (see links below).

Neale was largely responsible for reviving interest in the ancient hymns of the Church by translating texts from Latin and Greek (and other languages) that were unknown outside the Roman Catholic Church.  The Dictionary of Hymnology (1892) by John Julian says of Neale's skill at translation:

(...) Dr. Neale's exquisite ear for melody prevented him from spoiling the rhythm by too servile an imitation of the original; while the spiritedness which is a marked feature of all his poetry preserved that spring and dash which is so often wanting in a translation.

Today's hymn was formerly attributed to Saint Ambrose of Milan (c.340-397) but doubt about his authorship has persisted for more than a century now. Scholars agree that the theme and style are Ambrosian, but probably not the text itself. It's an office hymn, originally intended to be sung in religious communities on Friday mornings during ordinary time, but is certainly appropriate for use as a general morning hymn. Neale's translation (one of several in English) appeared in the enlarged edition of his The Hymnal Noted (1854).

Eternal Glory of the sky,
Blest Hope of all humanity,
Our Maker's sole-begotten One,
Yet born a humble virgin’s son!

The day-star’s rays are glittering clear,
And tell that day itself is near:
The shadows of the night depart;
Thou, holy Light, inflame the heart!

Uplift us with thine arm of might,
And let our hearts rise pure and bright,
And, ardent in God’s praises, pay
The gratitude we owe each day.

The faith that first must be possessed,
Root deep within our inmost breast;
And joyous hope in second place,
Then charity, thy greatest grace.

All laud to our Creator be,
All praise, eternal Christ, to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the holy Paraclete.

Latin, 5th cent.(?)
tr. John Mason Neale, 1854; alt.
William Boyce, 1769

Eight Years Ago: John Mason Neale

Seven Years Ago: John Mason Neale

Six Years Ago: John Mason Neale

Four Years Ago: John Mason Neale

One Year Ago: John Mason Neale

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