26 March 2020

Euripides; and the National Rededication to our Lady of Walsingham (1)

On Sunday March 29, we are to rededicate this kingdom of England to our blessed Lady. Today and the next two days are a triduum of devotion in preparation for that event.

The prayers circulated for use are said to be based upon Erasmus' Prayer to our Lady ... I'm not quite sure which parts of the formula draw upon Erasmus.

In the Anglican Pilgrims' Manual at Walsingham, the first edition of which was put together in 1928 by Fr Hope Patten when the Shrine was still in the Parish Church, is given a somewhat mangled text of the Vow which Erasmus composed for his 1511 pilgrimage to our Blessed Lady (the self-same year that a bare-foot Henry VIII made the pilgrimage: see lines 7-8). That Manual does not reveal that the original was a delightful exercise in perfect Attic Greek iambic trimetra. Here is a complete if wooden translation; I spotted the Greek text, by the way, while browsing through the Merton Priory copy of Erasmus in Bodley. (vide The Life of Erasmus, 1726, Appendix page xliv)

Hail! Jesus' Mother, blessed,
Alone of women God-bearing and Virgin,
Others give to thee other gifts,
This man gold, that man again silver,
5. Yet another brings and offers freely precious stones
In return for which they ask in return, some, health of body,
Others, wealth, and some hope for their wives
To conceive, that they have the lovely name of Father.
Some of them hope to obtain lives as long as [Nestor] the Old Man of Pylos.
10. But I, a poet, devoted but poor,
Bringing verses - for I cannot bring anything else -
Beg as a return for my worthless gift,
The greatest prize, a devout heart
Free once for all of all sins.

This is a reworking of the Greek topos, going back through Horace to Sappho, which Eduard Fraenkel (whom in a wondrous benefaction Adolf Hitler sent to Oxford to transform Classical studies here) taught us to call a priamel; "Some .... Some ... Some ... but I ... ". And, in this text, we find also the old convention of the Poor Poet.

Did Erasmus read his poem aloud by the flickering lights in the Holy House in Tudor Walsingham? I like to imagine that he did; to think of the New Learning, the Renaissance world, there at our Lady's feet; to imagine that funny little Dutchman as he murmured verses that Euripides could have written ... if only Euripides had been a Catholic Christian. Which he would have been if ...


Sprouting Thomas said...

When it is quite safe to do so, Father, please do give us the Greek text! You can't say it was worthy of Euripides and NOT give it!

Publius said...

Good evening Fr. Such a joy to read your posts. Just out of curiosity, I was wondering if you had read, and if so had any thoughts on the Hilary Mantel series on Cromwell. I've just finished Wolf Hall and thought you might take issue on one or two aspects. G*d bless.

PM said...

Do look up on line the critique of Mantel's version of history by the Cambridge historian Richard Rex.

William Tighe said...

This may interest "Publius," although it is some years old:


In addition, I would recommend Diarmaid MacCulloch's all-encompassing biography, Thomas Cromwell (Allen Lane/Penguin, 2018) for a more historical (and basically sympathetic) treatment of that large figure.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Mantel is no historian, but an irrational, stupid ideologue.