8 September 2018

Ave Maris Stella

Vespers of our Lady, which we shall celebrate this evening (with Commemoration of the Sunday) gives us the iucunditas of the hymn Ave Maris Stella.

 In the English Catholic Hymn Book and in the form of Vespers of our Blessed Lady, published by the Society of SS Peter and Paul, a translation is given of Ave Maris Stella which begins Star of ocean fairest/ Mother, God who barest ...This appeared in 1904 in a volume called Songs of Syon, edited by a priest called George Radcliffe Woodward (1848-1934). Woodward served at Houghton S Giles near Walsingham; he and his wife were buried at Walsingham; so he looks rather like a bit of Walsingham's Catholic pre-History, from before Year 1 of the Hope Patten Era. Like many Anglican Catholics - even papalists such as Fr Fynes Clinton and Fr Hope Patten - his ecumenical breadth spread beyond the Catholic West to Orthodoxy; he produced a translation of the Akathist Hymn (the philobyzantinist  aspect of the Patrimony is something which we should not lose).

Star of Ocean Fairest was itself the work of the Revd Thomas Isaac Ball (1838-1916), who held a number of Scottish curacies, was for many years a leading member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, and became Provost of the College of the Holy Spirit, Cumbrae (a theological College within the Scottish Episcopal Church - nowadays a small and muddy liberal puddle but, at one time, a distinctly 'Catholic' province of the Anglican Communion). He had in 1863 translated a number of Latin hymns for the Appendix to the Hymnal Noted of S Alban's, Holborn (I wonder if Star was one of them? Does anyone have a copy?).

I suspect that Athelstan Riley's version of Ave Maris Stella, which is the version offered by the English Hymnal (and its bastard progeny The New English Hymnal), was an attempt to produce a slightly toned-down version of the original, in the hope that it would be easier for the 'Mainstream' to use. This is not an unworthy political decision for someone to take whose basic motive is to encourage devotion to our Lady. But I, for one, have always been a trifle uneasy about it.

I am in no way hostile to Athelstan Riley, a great Anglo-Catholic layman who played a distinctive role in the completion of Lancing Chapel and more or less created a magical little 'Catholic' hamlet called Little Petherick in Cornwall. I have published a couple of things on him, and regard him as having been a close companion for forty years. But I do wonder if Fr Thomas Ball and his more accurate translation of Ave Maris Stella might be a lost fragment of the Patrimony, ripe for recovery.


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Dr David McConkey kindly provided information embodied in this post.

3 comments:

E sapelion said...

The hymnal 'Songs of Syon' is available for internet download. It was made available by the excellent Corpus Christi Watershed - see http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/2016/mar/2/songs-syon-hymnal-1913/

William Arthurs said...

A Songs of Syon downloadable scan (30 Mb) can be found here.

Dale Crakes said...

Appendix to the Hymnal Noted is available at Amazon.