Ethical Teachings in the Latin Hymns of Medieval England

Ethical Teachings in the Latin Hymns of Medieval England

Ethical Teachings in the Latin Hymns of Medieval England

Ethical Teachings in the Latin Hymns of Medieval England

Excerpt

"The works of the religious lyric poetry give us an instructive picture of the culture and spiritual life of the early Christian Age and of the Middle Ages."

This brief statement by the Rev. Clemens Blume, S.J., in an article in the Catholic Encyclopedia on Hymnody suggests the theme which has been pursued in the following pages. It is further elaborated in another essay by the same author, Hymnologie und Kulturgeschichte des Mittelalters, as follows: "Above all, the history of hymnody must be, and if rightly understood, will be, a history of culture of a special kind, a history of ideas and ideals as the Christian west from the fourth to the sixteenth century has clothed them in the form of poetry, sometimes mediocre, sometimes brilliant."

That the hymns of the medieval church reflect in a very striking manner the point of view of the period, is true not only in a general way but in many special phases of medieval culture. Ideas of the cosmos, allegory and typology, celestial hierarchies, demonology, mysticism, miracle, cults of saints, standards of life and conduct, all have their place in this body of literature. An attempt will be made to separate certain of these strands from the texture of the religious poetry, which in its turn will be conceived as a part of the larger pattern of medieval life. That phase which concerns ethical ideals and standards of conduct as revealed in hymns has been selected from the many possible lines of inquiry.

One learns from the hymns the nature of the approved life and the moral standards which commended themselves to the age. Terms of praise or blame, the exalting of great virtues . . .

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