Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Few Notes on Hilary of Poitiers

On pp. 204-6 of vol. VIII.4.1 of Schanz/Hosius there is a brief but helpful summary of the poetic work of Hilary of Poitiers, from which the following notes are taken.

Hilary was a writer of hymns--the oldest hymn-poet in the Latin church--yet, for a long time, his actual poetry was unknown. This changed when Gamurrini discovered, in a manuscript of Arezzo, three mutilated hymns attributed to Hilary. None of the three remains in entirety: the first is missing its last four strophes; the second is missing the first five strophes; for the last, the ending is lost, whose length is therefore unable to be determined.

While the first two have in common their abecedarian composition, no two of the three are alike in meter. The first is in Second Asclepiads, the second in iambic senarii, and the third in trochaic tetrameters.

In the second and third hymns the verse-ictus and the accent fall together almost always. The first, however, abides by a different principle, in which Hilary takes great license with quantities: short syllables become long on the beat and long syllables become short on the off-beat (in der Senkung--abatement, countersink, descent, fall).

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