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its idealism and by the religious sentiment which never deserts it. The Troubadours produced canzonette, pieces of a light and gay character, dedicated to sensual love. T'he Minnesingers composed lieder, hymns which breathe a spiritualised passion, and sometimes even divine love. The song and the hymn had already chosen their place, and performed their part among the two nations.
But before long, a vast event, the Reformation, brought its powerful influence in aid of that of the national character. From the year 1524, Luther began to publish hymns in the German language; and the Protestant nations accustomed themselves to sing them, not only in their places of Worship, but also in their houses, in their family meetings, over the tombs of their fathers and the cradles of their children. The sixty-three hymns of the Reformer of Wittenberg gave birth to a prodigious number of other religious songs, especially in the eighteenth century. The Germans of the Reforined Church, who had at first made use only of a bad translation of the Psalms, followed the example of those who adhered to the Confession of Augsburg, the Pietists; and the Moravians. The best poets of Germany (the most modern, Schiller and Goethe, excepted,) deemed it their duty and honour to compose hymns; and the result was, that the sacred poetry of Germany became superior to every other species of poetry, both in quantity, and in the excellence of its productions. Nothing similar to this is found in France. The small number of the Protestants, their incessant struggles with the House of Valois, the austere forms of the Calvinistic worship; in the two succeeding centuries, the persecutions of Richelieu and Louis XIV., the fugitive and obscure existence of Protestantism in the wilderness ; finally, at the era of the French Revolution, the chilling influence which spread over the faith, the declension from religious habits, the predominance of political affairs ;-all concurred in confining our churches to a bad translation of the Psalms of David, and in rendering hymns extremely rare. We have not had, up to the present time, more than was strictly necessary; and the greater part of our hymns, composed by theologians rather than by poets, are characterized by a sorry mediocrity.
“As to the French Catholics, they enriched themselves, during the seventeenth century, with some excellent Latin hymns; but good hymns in the vernacular language are not to be expected from that quarter. When the people sing in Latin in their public worship, the best sacred poetry naturally borrows the language of the sanctuary. Scarcely did the lyre of Racine, obedient to the austere voice of Port Royal, atone for its profane tragedies by some religious poems. I do not speak of John-Baptist Rousseau: his sacred poems are a sort of poetical manufacture, and nothing better. The Missionaries of Catholicism, since the
Restoration, have endeavoured to render hymns in the French language popular ; but nothing could be more ridiculous than their attempts. Imagine the effect of miserable complaints, forced to rhyme at the expense of grammar, and sung to the tune of “ Catacoua” or “ Folies d'Espagne." To bring into eternal contempt the French hymns of the Romish Church, there only wanted, perhaps, those of the Missionaries of Charles X.
‘From the preceding observations we may deduce one important inference; namely, that the language of sacred song must exist in Germany, while in France it has no existence, or at least has only just come into being; for languages are instruments which undergo transformation according to the use they are applied to. Poetry has but two modes of expressing itself in French, the tragic and the comic phrase, the sublime and the vulgar. That is to say, our language is above the proper style of the hymn in one of its forms of phraseology, and below it in the other. The hymn requires a phraseology simple yet dignified, popular but serious, at once easy to be understood and elevated. Alas! I appeal to all who are competent to form an opinion in this matter, and their reply will be, that the language which should unite these two conditions is yet to be created in France. Some persons may even be disposed to add, that it never will be created. If you choose to write the higher kind of sacred poetry, the French language will adapt itself to you in that walk; you will only need to have genius to become a Lamartine; but your poetry, I give you warning, will not be popular: hymns written in this style will be very bad hymns. If 'then you choose the popular kind of poetry, the greater part of the words in the Rhyming Dictionary will be at your disposal ; with nerve, and especially with good sense, an indispensable requisite in addressing the people, you will succeed; but you will then produce, I can predict, songs, not hymns. I know not whether I am about to enunciate a paradox, but I believe it to be more easy to compose in French a passable epic poem than a good hymn, which, as Boileau said of the sonnet, is itself worth a long poem. The difficulty of a good hymn in our language is such,
that even Frenchmen, imperfectly as they may be acquainted with German or English, succeed better and more easily in composing hymns in those foreign tongues, than in their own.
The remarks we have just submitted to the reader, do not prevent our doing justice to the efforts made, of late years, to multiply the number of French hymns: we deem those efforts, on the contrary, the more laudable and deserving of encouragement, on account of the great obstacles which were to be overcome. A pastor of Geneva, a man of piety and talent, M. Malan, has led the way
with a zeal which has been crowned with success; and his hymns, to which he brought the rare and precious advantage of composing both words and music together, have powerfully served to popularize religious song in the reformed communions of Switzerland and France. We may expect not less from the Collection which we have now to announce.
The airs have been chosen, with correct judgement, from the works of the greatest masters: Haydn, Paër, Beethoven, Mozart, and other composers equally illustrious, here lend the melody of their airs and the majesty of their harmonies to the effusions of Christian piety. The hymns are, for the most part, all that they can be in French. Devotional sentiment, the life of faith, experience of the blessings conferred by the Christian religion, are displayed in every page. Some few are remarkable for their poetic merit. The quality which is most rare in this collection, is the talent of versification, which, besides, is the less necessary as concerns pieces intended to be sung. In other words, the authors of these hymns are true Christians; among these Christians, there are some poets; among these poets, we have some difficulty in finding masters of versification, and we do not very much regret their absence.
* These “ Chants Chrétiens," the typographical execution of which is extremely neat, will, we hope, be favourably received in our churches and in our religious assemblies. They will contribute to sustain the Christian life among them; and they will have no inconsiderable influence in developing that religious awakening which we now witness. The Editor of this Collection has deserved well of the friends of the Gospel; and we invoke upon his work every Divine benediction. The “ Choix de Cantiques," of which the third edition has just appeared, is already well known to pious persons, and stands in no need of our recommendation, The best collections have been laid under contribution by the Editor. The profits of the sale are to be devoted to the Establishment at Chatillon sur Loire, designed for training schoolmasters. The purchaser of this book will therefore at once obtain possession of a good publication, and contribute to a good undertaking.'
Thus far the Reviewer in the Archives. In the Writer's remarks
upon the distinctive character of the poetry of the northern and southern nations, there is, perhaps, something fanciful. The distinction between the two kinds of poetry must be recognized ; and the difference between the national character of the Germans and that of their more gay and volatile neighbours, is decided and palpable. But the theory can hardly be sustained, which seems to ascribe to climate and physical circumstances, the diversity of character which is reflected in the literature and popular poetry of the Germans and the more southern nations. For, in the first place, the discovery of the more intellectual species of poetry, la poésie intime, was not reserved for the northern nations. Its earliest specimens are found in the literature of Judea ; and next to the inspired poetry of the Hebrews, in moral sublimity, are some of the loftier flights of the severe tragic poetry of Greece. How could the country and language of Plato be deficient in the poetry of the soul? On the other hand, what can be more completely sensual than the poetry of the Scandinavian bards? The truth is, that, under every climate and zone, we find both temperaments of mind, both species of production, co-existing and sometimes commingling in the national character and literature. The East has its mystical and esoteric poetry as well as its voluptuous songs. India has its austere Pythagorean philosophy as well as its pantheon, its Jina as well as its Krishna. It is a serious error to imagine that the creed and character of nations are determined or shaped by their physical circumstances; the influence of which, how powerful soever their operation, as it were, in vacuo, that is, in the absence of the influence exerted by political condition and religious tenets, are so easily overborne and counteracted by causes more directly operating upon the moral nature. The character of nations, as of individuals, is shaped by their creed, not their creed by their character. Had the Reformation maintained itself in Spain or Italy, as it did in Germany and England, we should have had a new sacred literature springing up under the fervid beams of the South. Castile and Tuscany would have produced both their Miltons and Klopstocks, and their Wetsteins and Michaelises. Wherever the inspired volume is naturalized in the vernacular language, and familiarized to the people, it must exert a powerful influence, not merely upon the religious belief, but even upon the literature of the nation.
The political circumstances under which Protestantism has always maintained a precarious existence in France, contrasted with the degree of religious liberty enjoyed by the Protestants of Germany, will, we think, sufficiently account for its never having given birth to a sacred literature and hymnology that might vie with that of their more fortunate neighbours. As to the capabilities of the French language, we scarcely feel competent to offer an opinion ; but we concur with the Writer of the preceding remarks in his fine observation, that languages are instruments which undergo transformation according to the use they are applied to. The middle style between the stiff, set phraseology of French heroics and the popular idiom, which is, we are told, yet to be created in France, would be the natural result of the formation of a Protestant language and a religious literature. In our own country, we owe Paradise Lost to Puritanism, Watts to non-conformity, Cowper and Montgomery to the revival of the evangelical faith. To Cowper has been ascribed the foundation of the modern school of poetry, which has succeeded to the artificial style of Pope, and the florid, pompous phraseology of Thomson. From the time of the Restoration to the middle of the last century, the French set our fashions in literature as in costume. The time is come for repaying our obligations in a better coinage. France has hitherto been half a century behind us in philosophy. It adopted the metaphysics of Locke and the atheism of Herbert and Spinoza, when they were beginning to be superseded or discarded here. We must not then be surprised if it is only just beginning to import our purer faith and more precious literature. It has given birth to its Pope in Boileau, to its Thomson in De Lille: its Cowper will appear hereafter.
We are glad to notice among these Chants Chrétiens several translations of well known hymns in our own language. By means of translation, the spirit of English psalmody is most likely to be transferred into French poetry. So great are the difficulties of poetical translation, that it would not be fair to take a translated hymn as a fair specimen of the poetical merit of the present Collection ; but we think that our readers will be pleased to have an opportunity of comparing with the original the following imitation of Cowper's beautiful hymn,
• I thirst, but not as once I did.'
Seigneur, mon âme est altérée,
· Bon berger, tu sais ma faiblesse':
Il te suivra jusqu'à la fin.' The last verse has no counterpart in the original, nor does it quite harmonize with the rest. Another of the Olney Hymns, beginning, “When I lived without the Lord,' is more closely rendered, and we shall give both the translation and the original.