Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Author’s Preface

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

The purpose of this volume is to provide an introductory work on the hymns of the Roman Breviary and Missal. In its pages will be found all the hymns in the Breviary since the Bull Divino Afflatu of Pope Pius X (1911), together with the five sequences of the Missal, and a few other hymns. There is at present in English no work that even approximately covers this ground. Many thoughtful men have long felt that something should be done to make our liturgical hymns better known and better understood.

The Dies Irae, the Vexilla Regis, the Stabat Mater, the Lauda Sion, and the Pange Lingua are of incomparably greater value to the Christian than the greatest of pagan odes. However, the study of the ancient classics and of Christian hymns may and should go hand in hand. Each has its own purpose; there is no quarrel between them. The one serves to cultivate a delicate and refined taste, the other enkindles in the soul the loftiest sentiments of religion. The study of the former prepares one for a fuller and more generous enjoyment of the latter.

The present volume is intended as a manual for beginners—for those who have had no access to the many excellent works on Latin hymns edited in other languages. The editor has no new theories of authorship to propound, no new historical facts to announce, and in general no new interpretation of disputed passages in the hymns. For historical data he freely acknowledges his indebtedness to many existing works, especially to the Dictionary of Hymnology so ably edited by the late Rev. Dr. John Julian, and the Rev. James Mearns, M.A.

The translations referred to throughout the volume are metrical translations. There are no prose translations in English, if one excepts a considerable part of the hymns of the Proper of the Season, which are found in Abbot Guéranger’s great work The Liturgical Year. The metrical versions given here represent the work of more than sixty translators, some of whom flourished as early as the seventeenth century. In the selection of these translations many hymn-collections and many of the finest hymn-books have been laid under tribute. Catholic and Anglican scholars, especially since the days of the Oxford Movement, have vied with one another in rendering our Latin hymns into English verse. Both in the number of translators and in the quality of their work the honors are about equally divided. It is worthy of note that Catholic scholars have ordinarily translated the Roman Breviary Text, while Anglicans have generally rendered the Original Text as found in the Benedictine and Dominican Breviaries. Much time was spent in the selection of the translations that accompany the Latin hymns. Despite the great wealth of translations the editor is included to believe that the number of really good versions of any particular hymn is not great. A translation, to be worthy of the name, most combine good idiomatic English with a literal rendering of the original. The retention of the meter of the original is also very desirable. Some translators have excelled in one of these qualities, some in another; few have successfully combined all of them. In not a few instances it was found necessary to restrict the choice of translations to those made directly from the Roman Breviary Text. Often however the two Texts while differing verbally do not differ greatly in sense. In such instances translations of the Original Text by J. M. Neale and others are freely given. It was a part of the instruction given the revisers of the hymns in 1632 that the meter and sense of each line should be preserved, and that expressions should not be fundamentally altered. It need scarcely be said that this instruction was not always followed.

Whenever ascertainable the name of the translator of each hymn is given. Statements as to authorship do not as a rule include Doxologies, Latin or English. Considerable liberty was taken in the selection of English Doxologies. The number of English translations is given under each hymn. The number of translations credited to a hymn is based in great part on the versions mentioned in Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology and in Duffield’s Latin Hymn-Writers. To these lists have been added several recent translations. All such lists are necessarily incomplete.

The editor is not unconscious of the many shortcomings and imperfections of the present volume; but if it will serve to enkindle in the hearts of beginners, especially of young men studying for the priesthood, a love for the hymns of Holy Church, it will have accomplished the chief purpose for which it was undertaken. Its preparation has been both a pastime and a labor of love. The result is cheerfully submitted to the judgment and correction of the proper ecclesiastical authorities. The pointing out of any inaccuracies will be duly acknowledged and greatly appreciated by the editor.


The editor desires to express his warmest thanks to many kind friends for their generous assistance in the preparation of this work. A special word of acknowledgment is due to the Right Rev. Msgr. H. T. Henry, Litt.D., and to the late Right Rev. Peter Engel, O.S.B., for their kindly interest in the work from its inception. The editor’s thanks are also due to many authors and publishers for permission to use the translations here assigned them: to Mr. Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, for permission to use hymn 12 from The Yattendon Hymnal; to the Benedictines of Stanbrook for hymns 99, 100, 121, 122, 138, 140 from their The Day Hours of the Church; to Messrs. Burns, Oates and Washbourne for hymns 98 and 146 from Archbishop Bagshawe’s Breviary Hymns and Missal Sequences; to the representatives of the late Marquess of Bute for hymns 84, 95, 141 from his Roman Breviary in English; to the Rev. John Connolly for hymn 116 by the late Canon Hall; to the Rev. Percy Dearmer for hymn 156; to Mr. Laurence Housman for hymn 164; to Judge D. J. Donohue for a new translation of hymn 159, and for hymns 86, 123, 142, 143 from his Early Christian Hymns; to the Rev. Edward F. Garesché, S.J. for hymn 80; to the Rev. T. A. Lacey, M.A. for hymn 48; to the Right Rev. Msgr. H. T. Henry for hymns 41, 75, 96, 97, 131, 139, 144; to the Right Rev. Sir David Oswald Hunter-Blair, O.S.B. for a new translation of hymn 30, and for hymn 141; to Miss Julian for hymn 20 written by her distinguished father; to the proprietors of Hymns Ancient and Modern (H.A. and M.) for hymns 34b and 154; to Messrs. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. for hymn 102 by the late Charles Kegan Paul; to Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co. for hymn 135, by the late Dr. T. L. Ball; to Mr. Alan G. McDougall for hymns 1, 64, 105, 129, 136, 138, 156 which now appear in print for the first time; to Messrs. Macmillan and to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) for hymns 14, 16, 18, 27, 36 by the late W. J. Courthope; to the Oxford University Press for hymn 4 by Messrs. Ellerton and Hort; to the Rev. G. H. Palmer, B.A. for permission to use many copyright hymns from The Hymner—this includes all the hymns ascribed to Messrs. G. H. Palmer, M. J. Blacker, W. J. Copeland, J. W. Chadwick, and J. W. Doran; to Mr. Athelstan Riley, M.A. for hymns 42 and 129; to The Rosary Magazine for hymn 139; to the Rev. G. R. Woodard, M.A. for a new translation of the Ave Maris Stella 149b, and for many courtesies; to the proprietors of The English Hymnal for the translation ascribed above to Messrs. Athelstan Riley, Percy Dearmer, and Laurence Housman.

Among the many scholars and friends to whom the editor is indebted he would here make special mention of Mr. James Britten, K.S.G., the Rev. James Mearns, M.A., Mr. Alan G. McDougall and the Rev. Ildephonse Brandstetter, O.S.B. Many of those already mentioned have been very kind and helpful in looking up the owners of hymns still in copyright. This in itself has been no slight task as most of these are the property of English authors and publishers. The editor has spared no efforts to ascertain the owners of all copyright hymns; but if through inadvertence any have been overlooked, indulgence is asked in so worthy a cause, and the editor promises that due acknowledgment will be made at the earliest opportunity.


Works containing translations of Latin hymns, without Latin texts and comment, will be found among the biographies of translators at the end of this volume.
  1. John Julian: A Dictionary of Hymnology, 2nd Ed., London, 1907. A truly great work which sets forth the origin of Christian hymns of all ages and nations. Very valuable for Latin hymns. This work does not contain texts.
  2. S. W. Duffield: Latin Hymn-Writers and Their Hymns, New York, 1889. This work is a series of critical essays; it contains a few Latin hymns and translations. It is not a reliable work. Funk and Wagnalls, New York.
  3. R. C. Trench: Sacred Latin Poetry, Chiefly Lyrical, London, 1864. Trench was the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin. This book is an old favorite. It contains 76 Latin hymns, six of which are from the Breviary and two from the Missal. The introduction (52 pages) is very instructive. The book is the work of a scholar, albeit a bigoted one.
  4. F. A. March: Latin Hymns, New York, 1874. Contains Latin text of 160 hymns with brief but good notes; 37 of these hymns are in the Breviary or Missal. American Book Co., New York.
  5. Eucharistica by Right Rev. Msgr. H. T. Henry, Litt.D. Contains, among much other valuable matter, the Latin texts with translations of some forty hymns in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart, and the Holy Name. There are sixty pages of comment. The Dolphin Press, Philadelphia, 1912.
  6. The Catholic Encyclopedia: This great work is frequently referred to throughout this volume. It contains much valuable information on our Latin hymns. The article on Hymnody and Hymnology was contributed by Rev. Clemens Blume, S.J., one of the editors of Anacleta Hymnica. There are also some fifty articles on individual hymns, practically all of which were contributed by Msgr. H. T. Henry. Each article is followed by a valuable bibliography.
  7. American Ecclesiastical Review: During the last twenty-five years the American Ecclesiastical Review has contained many scholarly articles on our Latin hymns, and many translations. Most of the articles and translations are from the pen of Msgr. H. T. Henry.
  8. Latin Hymns edited with an introduction and notes by Rev. Matthew Germing, S.J., Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1920. This inexpensive booklet contains forty-five hymns judicially chosen and carefully edited for classroom purposes.
  9. Latin Hymns edited by W. A. Merrill. A small volume of Latin hymns with brief bu good notes. About forty of the hymns are from the Breviary and Missal. Sanborn, Boston, 1904.
  10. Hymns Ancient and Modern (H.A. & M.), Historical Edition, London, 1909. Contains 643 hymns, among which are 148 Latin hymns with English translations and notes. It contains a valuable introduction (110 pages). The text of the Latin hymns “Hymni Latini” is also printed separately in vest pocket form. (Wm. Clowes & Sons, Ltd., 23 Cockspur St., London, S.W.)
  11. L’abbé Pimont: Les Hymnes du Bréviaire Romain. Etudes critiques, littéraires et mystiques. 3 Vols., Paris, 1874-1884. A valuable commentary; a good companion would be the work next listed below.
  12. Louis Gladu: Les Hymnes du Bréviaire traduites en français avec le text latin en regard. Second Ed., Quebec, 1913.
  13. Johan Kayser: Beiträge zur Geschichte und Erklärung der ältesten Kirchenhymnen. 2 Vols., Paderborn, 1881-1886. An excellent commentary.
  14. Adelbert Schulte: Die Hymnen des Breviers nebst den Sequenzen des Missale; 2nd Ed., Paderborn, 1906. This work contains the Roman Breviary Text of the hymns, and the Original Text where it differs from the former. There is a very literal prose translation of each hymn together with ample explanatory notes. It is one of the best works obtainable on our Latin hymns.
  15. F. J. Mone: Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelatters, 3 Vols., Freiburg, 1853-1855. Since its publication this has been one of the standard works on Latin hymns.
  16. H. A. Daniel: Thesaurus Hymnologicus, 5 Vols., Leipzig, 1841-1856. A valuable and extensive collection of hymns. The arrangement however is poor, and the abbreviations and references in the notes are most obscure. The first volume contains in parallel columns about fifty Breviary hymns in both the Original Text and the Roman Breviary Text.
  17. Dreves and Blume: Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, Leipzig, 1886. This great work when completed will contain about sixty volumes. More than fifty are now in print. It is the most extensive work on Latin hymnody thus far undertaken. The work list below should be in the hands of every user of the Analecta Hymnica.
  18. James Mearns: Early Latin Hymnaries. An index of hymns in hymnaries before 1100. It gives references to the three following works where the texts of the hymns are printed: Analecta Hymnica (supra); Werner’s Die ältesten Hymnensammlungen von Rheinau, 1891; Stevenson’s The Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church, 1851; References are also given to Chevalier’s Repertorium Hymnologicum, the great index to Latin hymns.