Words we don't quite get

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FrGareth
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by FrGareth »

I'd like to contribute, from the second verse of "Father we praise you" in the breviary:

[Lord:] Bring us to Heaven, where Thy saints united
Joy without ending.

Now, what does this mean? I presume that "joy" is standing in for "rejoice". But perhaps...

Bring us to Heaven, where Thy saints united!
Joy without ending!

There was such a unity in heaven that the hymnist exclaims the verbless "Joy without ending!" in happiness?

Bring us to Heaven, where Thy saints united
Joy, without ending.

The work of the saints in heaven was to bring together their indiviudal joy into a collective joy?
And this was either a past tense which spills into the present (like the Son was eternally begotten of the Father) of the kind only possible in heaven, or the quantity of joy which each saint contributed was endless?

Any other offers?

And does anyone else have a momentary flash of a haloed football team at the mention of saints united?

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Revd Gareth Leyshon - Priest of the Archdiocese of Cardiff (views are my own)
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Lakelark
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Lakelark »

But, Father, you have added punctuation, and to the English version at that. If you leave the original punctuation alone, the line could mean that the saints have caused joy to be united, and have done so without ending the process. But that is a totally incomprehensible statement! If a new version of "Nocte surgentes" were to be produced (I'm sorely tempted!) in contemporary language it would have to rule out using "joy" as a verb. All this adds fuel to the fire which (in the case of Latin hymns) insists that the Latin version is the authoritative one, and that translations must be faithful to it; when the non-Latin version becomes dated through the natural process of linguistic development, there is no option but to start again. (Unless you are prepared to abandon all texts which are translations from any language.)

Southern Comfort
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Southern Comfort »

[Lord:] Bring us to Heaven, where Thy saints united
Joy without ending.


It has always been obvious to me that this means "Bring us to heaven, where thy saints who are united rejoice without ending", "joy" being a verb as Lakelark pointed out.

While I'm here, how about this, from New praises be given to Christ newly crowned, a vintage piece of convoluted Knox-ian syntax, punctuation from the [New ]Westminster Hymnal:

His glory still praising on thrice holy ground
The apostles stood gazing his Mother around;


That second line is amazing. And then you get

With hearts that beat faster, with eyes full of love,
They watched while their Master ascended above.


which looks and sounds like a mixture of tenses until you realise that Knox intended "beat" in the past tense.

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musicus
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by musicus »

Southern Comfort wrote:
His glory still praising on thrice holy ground
The apostles stood gazing his Mother around;

That second line is amazing.

Very true. I must have sung that dozens of times without realizing what nonsense it is. Patrick Lee used to rail against such mangling of the English language. But then, so much of Knox's hymnody strikes me as pious doggerel.

Rhetorical question (not for discussion here): perhaps more seriously, ought we to be asking our congregations, especially the younger members, to sing such stuff?
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mcb
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by mcb »

Lakelark wrote:All this adds fuel to the fire which (in the case of Latin hymns) insists that the Latin version is the authoritative one, and that translations must be faithful to it; when the non-Latin version becomes dated through the natural process of linguistic development, there is no option but to start again.

This I think is wholly fallacious. It supposes that Latin behaved (or should be thought of) in a way different from any other known language, namely that its forms and meanings are somehow exempt from the normal forces of attrition and change. I don't know why one would want to argue this, nor, especially, what on earth the evidence would be that could back up such an idea. The truth is that "Latin" has a history even longer and more subject to variation and change than English, its origins lost in prehistory (or rather, pre-literacy) and its end... well, it hasn't ended, it's alive and well and living in Italy, France, Romania, Brazil... only we don't call it Latin in its contemporary guise.

A closer look at the Church's Latin texts shows the signs of this long and vital history. St Jerome's language (late 4th-early 5th c.) is different from classical Latin and different from the language of Thomas Aquinas or William of Ockham. The only way it can be made out to be somehow monolithic and unchanging (usually accompanied by the claim that it's somehow pure and unambiguous in meaning) is by pretending, and that requires more piety than objectivity.

In reality there's no greater claim for Latin to be a suitable vehicle for "definitive" texts than for any other variety of any other language, picked out at random from the chronological flow and freeze-framed (er, freezed-frame... froze-framed...vides quorsum oratio tendat). You could do the same with the English of the 1880s, for instance. The only difference, as far as I can see, is that more present day English speakers could have a stab at understanding late Victorian English than Medieval Latin. In either case, the process of understanding involves knowing how the text would be expressed in one's own, present day, language.

Have I missed something, do you think?

Southern Comfort
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Southern Comfort »

mcb, I suspect Lakelark was quoting the view of the author of Liturgiam Authenticam, who is indeed both ignorant and illiterate (as scholar Peter Jeffrey has ably demonstrated).

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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Scholastica »

This took some decoding when I first encountered it many years ago.

MAIDEN, YET A MOTHER:
Maiden, yet a mother, Daughter of thy Son,
High beyond all other, Lowlier is none;
Thou the consummation planned by God's decree,
When our lost creation nobler rose in thee!

Thus His place prepared, He Who all things made
'Mid His creatures tarried, In thy bosom laid;
There His love He nourished Warmth that gave increase
To the root whence flourished Our eternal peace.

Noon on Zion's mountain Is thy charity;
Hope its living fountain finds on earth in thee.
Lady, such thy power, He who grace would buy
Not as of thy dower, Without wings would fly.

Nor alone thou hearest When thy name we hail;
Often thou art nearest When our voices fail;
Mirrored in thy fashion All creation's good
Mercy, might, compassion Grace they womanhood.

Lady, lest our vision, Striving heavn'nward, fail,
Still let thy petition With thy Son prevail,
Unto Whom all merit, Pow'r and majesty
With the Holy Spirit And the Father be.

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mcb
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by mcb »

Southern Comfort wrote:mcb, I suspect Lakelark was quoting the view of the author of Liturgiam Authenticam, who is indeed both ignorant and illiterate (as scholar Peter Jeffrey has ably demonstrated).

I'm probably reading too much into Lakelark's words, though - it's entirely fair to suggest that Latin originals need constant retranslation. I'm not sure Lakelark made the point I'm attempting to argue with, viz. that there's something inherently different (more sacred, semantically more fixed and transparent, more suitable for authoritative texts) about Latin. Apologies!

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Nick Baty
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Nick Baty »

And surely Hail thou star of ocean is the only hymn in Christendom to celebrate a palindrome:
O! by Gabriel's Ave
Uttered long ago,
Eva's name reversing,
Established peace below.

Yes, I know it's not a palindrome in this case but you know what I mean!

Lakelark
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Lakelark »

Apologies willingly accepted, mcb! My only point is that (in the case of hymns) the Latin originals are approved, normative and authorised texts. Previous attempts at revision of them (such as the Quignon breviary) have generally been rejected in favour of originals. None of this is to say that vernacular versions may not be similarly authorised: translations in the Divine Office and the Missal are clearly so authorised. Of course Latin developed, as do all languages, but the text of any individual piece is as fixed as the text of, say, the Aeneid. Translations need revision precisely because they are translations into a living and developing language, to preserve the significance of the originals.

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mcb
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by mcb »

Yep, we agree.

(OT: Just pondering your username, Lakelark - are you by any chance a lake lark in a cathedralk wire? :-))

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Gwyn
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Gwyn »

On the subject of English translations of Latin originals, may I take this opportunity to commend Lakelark's superb collection "Hymns for the English Liturgy". A collection of twenty hymns derived from the Latin Liturgy and newly translated into contemporary English. These hymns are truly delightful. I have a copy here before my very eyes. I'm sure Lakelark won't mind if I suggest that you P.M. him for details. You won't be disappointed.

I feel another thread coming on . . .

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Benevenio
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Benevenio »

Was Suffer little children written by Herod?
Benevenio.

Southern Comfort
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Southern Comfort »

Lakelark wrote:Apologies willingly accepted, mcb! My only point is that (in the case of hymns) the Latin originals are approved, normative and authorised texts. Previous attempts at revision of them (such as the Quignon breviary) have generally been rejected in favour of originals. None of this is to say that vernacular versions may not be similarly authorised: translations in the Divine Office and the Missal are clearly so authorised. Of course Latin developed, as do all languages, but the text of any individual piece is as fixed as the text of, say, the Aeneid. Translations need revision precisely because they are translations into a living and developing language, to preserve the significance of the originals.


Well, now it's my turn to disagree somewhat, at the risk of going off-topic. The Latin texts of hymns are most certainly not fixed. Any look back through manuscripts over the centuries will turn up myriads of differences between the same texts. The collection of Hymni Instaurandi Breviarii Romani post-Vatican II, for example, was simply an opinion on what these hymn texts ought to be, based on one set of scholarly opinions which was welcomed with plaudits by some and roundly condemned by others. I don't think you can simply say that they are approved, normative and authorised. Many monastic communities still use the previous versions.

For an obvious example of such a change ─ more of a responsory than a hymn, but the same principle applies ─ look at what was once Ubi caritas et amor and is now Ubi caritas est vera.

If, therefore, there are many different recensions of the Latin texts, there can obviously be many different translations, some of them less comprehensible (getting us back on topic) than others. The same is true of Bible translations and original manuscripts, too.

Lakelark
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Re: Words we don't quite get

Post by Lakelark »

Yes, Southern Comfort, I broadly agree with you. I willingly withdraw the adjective "normative". But we do not find in our liturgical books footnotes of alternative readings, such as we find in Bibles. At any one time, and for any one purpose (for example secular usage as opposed to monastic), there is one authorised text, which we must assume is the most comprehensible. So when I translate I start with the text of the current missal, or the current Liturgia Horarum, and the result must not cause confusion in the minds of those who use it.

And on a personal note to mcb, if I may be permitted: no, I am knot - I simply enjoy the pun.

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