Monday, March 13, 2017

A Hymn for Lent from Herebert

Eleanor Parker--the medievalist and blogger, not the actress--writes for The Catholic Herald about William Herebert of Oxford and his hymn translations:

Herebert’s name is not well known today, but his poems, beautiful and distinctive in their own right, also represent an important milestone for English Catholicism: he was one of the first people to turn the Latin hymns of the Church into English poetry.

We don’t have many details about Herebert’s life, but he was probably born in Herefordshire around 1270. He was educated at the universities of Paris and Oxford, where his contemporaries included Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, and in 1317 he became master of the Franciscan house in Oxford.

He was evidently a learned man, and his poems show that he gave careful thought to the difficult question of how best to express complex religious ideas in his own language.

Herebert’s poems survive in a manuscript book written in his own hand, noted down along with his Latin sermons and other texts useful for the medieval preacher. There are 23 short poems, arranged roughly according to the cycle of the liturgical year. Some are original compositions, but most are translations or reworkings of Latin or French texts, freely adapted into English. They include the first English verse translations of some well-known hymns, such as Veni Creator Spiritus and the Palm Sunday hymn All glory, laud and honour.

You could go to her blog, A Clerk of Oxford, and see several posts about William Herebert, including this one about a Lenten hymn:

This is a Middle English translation of the Lent hymn 'Audi, benigne Conditor', by the Franciscan friar William Herebert (c.1270-1333):

Lustne, mylde Wrouhte, oure bones wyth wepinge
In þys holy uastinge, vourti dawes lestynge.
Holy secher of monnes þouht, þou wost oure brotelnesse;
To hem þat beth yturnd to þe graunte vorȝyfnesse.
Meche, vorsoht, we habbeht agult; vorȝyf hem þat knoulecheth.
To worshype of þyn oune nome, to sunvol mon be leche.
Graunte ous pyne wyþouteuorth þe body wyth vastinge,
Þat oure gost wyþynneuorth veste vrom sunnynge.
Graunte ous, Holy Trinite, þat in Godhede art on,
Þat þe ȝyft of leyntes vast notfol boe to mon. Amen.

That is:

Hear, merciful Creator, our prayers with weeping
In this holy fasting, forty days lasting.
Holy searcher of man’s thought, thou knowest our brittleness; [frailty]
To them who are turned towards thee, grant forgiveness.
Much, truly, we have sinned; forgive them that acknowledge it.
For the honour of thine own name, be physician to sinful man.
Grant us so to mortify the body outwardly with fasting
That our souls inwardly may fast from sinning.
Grant us, Holy Trinity, who in Godhead art one,
That the gift of Lent’s fast may be beneficial to man. Amen.

Please read the rest there. She posts about her Catholic Herald article here, and promises more poems and hymns from William Herebert!

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