1100 - 1146 Author of "Yesterday, with exultation" in Hymns of the Eastern Church (5th ed.) Adam of St. Victor. Of the life of this, the most prominent and prolific of the Latin hymnists of the Middle Ages, very little is known. It is even uncertain whether he was an Englishman or a Frenchman by birth. He is described by the writers nearest to his own epoch, as Brito, which may indicate a native of either Britain, or Brittany. All that is certainly known concerning him is, that about A.D. 1130, after having been educated at Paris, he became, as quite a young man, a monk in the Abbey of St. Victor, then in the suburbs, but afterwards through the growth of that city, included within the walls of Paris itself. In this abbey, which, especially at that period, was celebrated as a school of theology, he passed the whole of the rest of his life, and in it he died, somewhere between the years 1172 and 1192 A.D. Possessed of "the pen of a ready writer," he seems to have occupied his life in study and authorship. Numerous as are the hymns and sequences satisfactorily proved to have been written by him, which have come down to us, there would seem to be little doubt that many more may have perished altogether, or are extant 'without his name attaching to them; while he was probably the author of several prose works as well. His Sequences remained in MS. in the care and custody of the monks of their author's Abbey, until the dissolution of that religious foundation at the Revolution; but some 37 of them, having found their way by degrees into more general circulation, were pub. by Clichtoveus, a Roman Catholic theologian of the first half of the 16th cent, in his Elucidatorium Ecclesiasticum, which passed through several editions from 1516 to 1556, at Paris, Basel and Geneva. Of the rest of the 106 Hymns and Sequences that we possess of Adam's, the largest part—some 47 remaining unpublished—were removed to the National Library in the Louvre at Paris, on the destruction of the Abbey. There they were discovered by M. Leon Gautier, the editor of the first complete edition of them, Paris, 1858.
The subjects treated of in Adam's Hymns and Sequences may be divided thus :—
Christmas, 7; Circumcision, 1; Easter, 6; Ascension, 1; Pentecost, 5; Trinity, 2; the Dedication of a Church, 4; Blessed Virgin Mary, 17; Festivals of Saints, 53; The Invention of the Cross, 1; The Exaltation of the Cross, 1; On the Apostles, 3; Evangelists, 2; Transfiguration, 2.
Although all Adam of St. Victor's Sequences were evidently written for use in the services of his church, and were, doubtless, so used in his own Abbey, it is quite uncertain how many, if any, of them were used generally in the Latin Church.
To the lover of Latin hymns the works of this author should not be unknown, and probably are not; but they are far less generally known than the writings should be of one whom such an authority as Archbishop Trench describes as " the foremost among the sacred Latin poets of the Middle Ages." His principal merits may be described as comprising terseness and felicity of expression; deep and accurate knowledge of Scripture, especially its typology; smoothness of versification; richness of rhyme, accumulating gradually as he nears the conclusion of a Sequence; and a spirit of devotion breathing throughout his work, that assures the reader that his work is "a labour of love." An occasional excess of alliteration, which however at other times he uses with great effect, and a disposition to overmuch "playing upon words," amounting sometimes to "punning," together with a delight in heaping up types one upon another, till, at times, he succeeds in obscuring his meaning, are the chief defects to be set against the many merits of his style. Amongst the most beautiful of his productions may be mentioned, perhaps, his Jucundare plebs fidelis; Verbi vere substantivi; Potestate non natura; Stola regni laureatus; Heri mundus exultavit; LaudeB cruets attollamus (Neale considers this "perhaps, his masterpiece "); Aye, Virgo singularis; Salve, Mater Salvatoris; Animemur ad agonem; and Vox sonora nostri chori. Where almost all are beautiful, it is difficult, and almost invidious, to make a selection.
Of his Hymns and Sequences the following editions, extracts, and translations have been published:—
i. Original with Translations:
(1) (Euvres Poetiques d’ Adam de S.-Victor. Pat L. Gautier, Paris, 1858. It is in two vols. duodecimo, and contains, besides a memoir of Adam of St. Victor, and an exhaustive essay upon his writings, a 15th cent. tr. into French of some 46 of the sequences, and full notes upon the whole series of them.
(2) The Liturgical Poetry of Adam of St. Victor, from the text of Gautier, with trs. into English in the original metres, and short explanatory notes by Digby S. Wrangham, M.A., St. John's Coll., Oxford, Vicar of Darrington, Yorkshire, 3 vols. Lond., Kegan Paul, 1881.
(3) In addition to these complete eds., numerous specimens from the originals are found in Daniel, Mone, Konigsfeld, Trench, Loftie's Latin Year, Dom. Gueranger's Annee Liturgique, &c.
(1) As stated before, 46 of the Sequences are given by Gautier in a French tr. of the 15th cent.
(2) In English we have translations of the whole series by Digby S. Wrangham in his work as above; 11 by Dr. Neale in Med. Hymns: 15, more freely, by D. T. Morgan in his Hymns and other Poetry of the Latin Church; and one or more by Mrs. Charles, Mrs. Chester, C. S. Calverley, and the Revs. C. B. Pearson, E. A. Dayman, E. Caswall, R. F. Littledale, and Dean Plumptre. Prose translation are also given in the Rev. Dom Laurence Shepherd's translation into English of Dom Gueranger's works.
iii. English Use:—
From the general character of their metrical construction, it has not been possible to any great extent to utilise these very beautiful compositions in the services of the Anglican Church. The following, however, are from Adam of St. Victor, and are fully annotated in this work:—
(1) in Hynms Ancient & Modern, Nos. 64 and 434 (partly) ;
(2) in the Hymnary, Nos. 270, 273, 324, 380, 382, 403, 418;
(3) in the People's Hymnal 215, 277, 304 ; and
(4) in Skinner's Daily Service Hymnal, 236.
-John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Adam of St. Victor. A second and greatly improved edition of his Œuvres Poetiques by L. Gautier was published at Paris in 1881.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)