De Contemptu Mundi
The four following hymns are centos taken from a long
poem of about 3,000 lines written by Bernard of Morlaix
about 1140. The translations are by Dr. J. M. Neale.
The hymns have never been in use in the Breviary. The
meter is, in Neale’s words, “Dactylic hexameter, divided
into three parts, between which a caesura is inadmissible.
The hexameter has a tailed rhyme, and feminine leonine
rhyme between the two first clauses.” Neale speaks of
the “majestic sweetness” of the meter, and Trench, whose
taste was equally good, comments on its “awkwardness
and repulsiveness.” Whatever opinion one may adopt
concerning the Latin hymn, there can be only one opinion
about Neale’s beautiful translations. Neale first translated
the 96 lines which Trench printed in his Sacred Latin
Poetry; he later translated a larger cento of 218 lines.
The translation contains twice as many lines as the original.
A booklet, The Rhythm of Bernard of Morlaix, Latin text
with Neale’s translation, may be obtained from H. R. Allenson,
Ltd., Racquet Court, Fleet St., London, E. C, England.
A prose translation of the complete poem, by Henry Preble,
appeared in the American Journal of Theology, in 1906.
Copyright Benziger Brothers, 1922. Online Edition Copyright David M. Cheney,