Son Rise Morning Show today to discuss Edward Caswall on his birthday--a little earlier than my usual time--at 7:35 a.m. Eastern time (6:35 a.m. Central).
Who is Edward Caswall and why am I talking to Matt Swaim about him? His name might not be familiar, but many of his works may be. If you attended Stations of the Cross during Lent and sang the Stabat Mater in translation, "At the Cross her Station Keeping," that was Caswall's translation. If you sang the Benediction hymns O Salutoris Hostia and Tantum Ergo, from St. Thomas Aquinas' office for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, in English, chances are you sang Caswall's translations. On Pentecost Sunday you might have sung Caswall's translation of the Veni, Creator Spiritus and on Corpus Christi Sunday his version of St. Thomas Aquinas' Pange lingua gloriosi!
According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, Father Edward Caswall was an
Oratorian and poet, b. 15 July 1814, at Yately, Hampshire, of which place his father, the Rev. R. C. Caswall, was vicar; d. at the Oratory, Birmingham, 2 January, 1878. He was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was Hulme exhibitioner. Before leaving Oxford he published, under the pseudonym of Scriblerus Redivivus, "The Art of Pluck", in imitation of Aristotle, a witty satire upon the ways of the careless college student, which still has a circulation. To the eighth edition, in 1843, he wrote a special preface of regret for certain passages, now excluded, which, at that later date, he had come to regard as irreverent. In 1838 he was ordained deacon, and in 1839 priest, in the Church of England. In 1840 he became perpetual curate of Stratford-sub-Castle in the diocese of his uncle, Dr. Burgess, Bishop of Salisbury. In 1846 he published "Sermons on the Seen and the Unseen", a volume of thoughtful discourses marked by the same tender and fervent piety found in his well-known hymns, and by a clear leaning to certain elements of Catholic doctrine. Soon afterwards, having come under the influence of Cardinal (then Dr.) Newman and the "Tracts for the Times", he resigned his curacy and, in January, 1847, was received into the Church by Cardinal Acton at Rome. In 1849 Caswall's wife, who had also become a Catholic, died suddenly of cholera, and early in 1850 he became an Oratorian. In 1852 he was ordained priest, and lived at the Oratory until his death. He was buried at Rednal, in the private cemetery of the congregation, near the grave of Cardinal Newman. Besides various manuals of devotion, several of which he translated from the French, his principal works are: "Lyra Catholica", a translation of all the Breviary and Missal hymns with some others (often reprinted; last edition, London, 1884); "The Masque of Mary and other Poems", original poetry, thoughtful, imaginative, tender, and full of zealous faith, a book which drew from Cardinal Newman, in return, a remarkable poem addressed to the author (reprinted several times; last edition, London, 1887); "The Catholic's Latin Instructor in the principal Church offices and devotions" (frequently reprinted; last edition, London, 1897).
If you want to know more about Edward Caswall's life, Gracewing published a biography in 2005 and you could read excerpts here.
I looked through about eight months of Magnificat prayer magazines and found his work throughout the months in translations of Bernard of Cluny, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Francis Xavier, and many other anonymous authors. So why did Caswall translate so many Latin hymns? The Catholic Church in England needed these translations as it revived its public liturgical life--Mass had been illegal until the late eighteenth century progress toward religious freedom for Catholics. I refer you again to the great paper by Father Guy Nicholls of the Birmingham Oratory; as he comments, Caswall's translations and his original works provided the Oratory with a much needed repertoire of hymns for the congregation to sing at High Mass and Vespers. The clarity, simplicity, and directness of his translations were most appropriate for their purpose. The fact that they are still is use today shows that Caswall's translations are accessible for congregational singing, demonstrating one of the great legacies of the Oratory movement in England.