Lyra Ecclesiastica/First Series
In better and holier ages than this, when the sacred flame inkindled by the faith of Christ, the hope of heaven, and the love of God and man, burned brighter and steadier in men's hearts, the fathers gave way to the warmth of their devotion in hymns of such surpassing beauty and such deep and glowing feeling, that I believe there is none that bears the shape and soul of man, but who will speedily find on them the stamp of unfeigned and all-embracing charity, the marks of a "heart that God has touched," and lips that have been cleansed by fire from off the altars of the heaven of heavens.
Latin, the consecrated language of all Christendom, farther beautified with the sparkling ornament of rhyme, was the appropriate garb wherein to clothe their hallowed thoughts; but this, while it gives to their compositions eternity and universality, goes to shut out very many from reaping ghostly advantage therefrom. With a view to helping such persons to partake in the sweet songs of the saints, many most worthy men have from time to time made translations of these hymns into the tongue of their respective countries, and divers excellent versions have come out in English. It seems however to me that the metre is a very marked feature in all poetical writing, and this seems to have been too often overlooked by translators.
Some of these hymns moreover have been chosen by the Church for the service of the sanctuary, and have been adapted to music of peculiar loveliness and fitness. Of course when the metre is changed in translating, the music must be sacrificed.
It has been my endeavour then in the following pages, to preserve in all cases the metre of the original, and at the same time to translate as closely as I was able, so as to make each line of the English, as far as might be, answer both in sense and measure to the corresponding line of the Latin: and to the gaining of this end I have never shrunk from sacrificing what might seem to me a more elegant and effective rendering of a passage; for I hold that in translating the words of men so highly gifted with the Divine Spirit as the fathers of the Middle Ages, any unnecessary deviation from the text were presumption savouring of profaneness.
I will only add in conclusion, that if this little book should by God's blessing be made the means of raising in the breast of any reader one feeling akin to the hallowed devotion of the ages of faith, I shall indeed rejoice in having put it forth, and feel encouraged to add to its extent.
A. D. W.
RICHARDS, 100, ST. MARTIN'S LANE.