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Songs and Hymns of the Earliest Greek Christian Poets
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PREFACE

Four years ago the Anthologia Graeca Carminum Christianorum (Leipsic, 1871) was put into my hands by a friend, to look for hymns, Eucharistic especially, which, when rendered into English, might be suitable for the general use of the Church. Of Eucharistic hymns I did not find one in the volume. But I lighted frequently on detached passages here and there, which might form the groundwork of useful and popular hymns for general Christian worship. I did not then know that the late Dr. J. M. Neale had applied his magic wand to several of such passages which are to be found in the later portion of the Anthologia.

My attention, however, was at once arrested by the beauty and majesty of the earlier portion of the volume, which contains the Odes of Synesius, the Hymns and Songs of Gregory Nazianzen, a Hymn of Clement of Alexandria, and the Bridal Song of the earlier Methodius. In my humble opinion there is nothing in the second, the later, and by far the larger portion at all comparable in point of spirit or originality with what I have specified in the first short portion of the book. Moreover, all, or almost all, the later Greek Church poetry, or harmonious prose, which gradually took the place of the old poetry, is full of Mariolatry, of which I find nothing in the older portion referred to.

Such is the marvellous versatility of the Greek language and its power of wort-bilden, or compounding of words, that in or before the sixth century such words as θεοτοκος, θεομητωρ, θεογεννητωρ, came into general use; grammatically and beautifully formed, and logically too, so far as school logic is concerned; for if the Blessed Virgin is the mother of Him who is also God, she is, says such logic, the mother of God. Thus, by the genius of the language, aided by miserable school logic, the Blessed Virgin, the mother of the Man Christ Jesus, is made the mother of God; and as darkness and ignorance rapidly prevailed, so the worship of the Blessed Trinity is literally capped by the worship of the θεοτοκος, the prayer or doxology to the Virgin in each case forming the grand climax.11See, for example, throughout the "Great Canon," by St. Andrew of Crete, the last stanza of each of the nine Odes, pp. 147-157.

Rome, as always in the old times, borrowed from Greece, and then stamped these and other monstrous departures from primitive truth with the seal of her own falsely assumed authority, and it became law like that of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.

But let the descendants of the once noblest people on earth, the inheritors also of the glorious and divine treasures preserved in the old language--the finest ever spoken--let the Greek people and the Greek Church think and act with the mind unfettered; let them go back to the pure fountain and drink for themselves. The eye of the mind will be enlightened; they will see that neither Mariolatry, nor saint worship, nor angel worship, has any place in God's own truth. "See thou do it not," said the angel to St. John,22Rev. xxii. 9. when he was about to fall down and worship (only προσκυνησαι) before his feet. Oh that in obedience to such divine injunction the great Eastern Church would arise and shake itself from the dust; would cast to the moles and to the bats such relics of past darkness and idolatrous practice!

I was attracted also to the first part of the volume by the grand old Greek metres. To me they are vastly to be preferred to the later metrical or harmonious prose, or the mediaeval and modern jingle. This last form of poetry may be required by the English and other modern languages which have not the metrical perfection natural to the old Greek and Latin tongues; but to adopt the modern fashion in reference to the ancient Greek and Latin seems to me an unnecessary and miserable distortion. That the old metres can express sublime thought and divine truth is abundantly attested by the Anacreontics of Synesius and Gregory. The dactylics also of the latter, his hexameters and pentameters, as well as his iambics, bear the same evidence.

How the change gradually took place in Greek poetry, how accent strangled quantity, and how harmonious prose succeeded to the grand old poetry, is elaborately set forth in the preface of the learned editors of the Greek Anthology. The same contains also a masterly essay on the music of the Greek Church.

I follow their order as convenient, though chronologically the reverse of what it ought to be, and place Synesius first.

MUCH MARCLE VICARAGE,
  September 1, 1876.


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