David Nussman: Aquinas & the Aesthetics of Latin Poetry

The Angelic Doctor as Poet: Aquinas’ Pange Lingua and the Aesthetics of Latin Poetry

David Nussman

Saint Thomas Aquinas is widely known for his theological and philosophical works, of which the most famous one by far is the Summa Theologica.[1] The vast majority of secondary scholarship about Aquinas—whether concerning his magnum opus or concerning the other writings in his corpus—primarily deals with philosophical and theological subject-matter.[2] However, in addition to his copious volumes of prose, Aquinas also wrote a handful of Eucharistic hymns, commissioned by Pope Urban IV.[3] This essay will study the Pange Lingua, which is perhaps the most famous of Aquinas’ five hymns. The analysis will first be prefaced by a brief explanation and defense of methodology. The main body of the essay will then be devoted to naming and discussing stylistic features according to their order of appearance. After that, the point will be made that, in the Pange Lingua, the Angelic Doctor manages to achieve a prodigious and fragile balance between the expressive freedom of poetry and the strict precision of theology, constructing a hymn with great style that conveys many of the same messages about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that are found in his prose. Lastly, this paper will propose some areas for future research while trying to explain the general lack of attention given to Aquinas’ hymns in various academic disciplines.

One potential objection to this essay’s methodology is the claim that in the Pange Lingua “St. Thomas makes little attempt to capture poetic faith in the mystery of the Eucharist. His interest is confined to the religious dogma.”[4] In other words, Aquinas’ work is not poetical enough because it is not mysticism because it does not address the ineffability of the divine.[5] However, Aquinas was well aware of the ineffability of God, as is made clear in the Summa Theologica (II.2, Q.89, Art.1). Furthermore, this objection fails to take into account that, while ineffability may be a hallmark of medieval mysticism, not all poetry is mysticism. One could argue that there is something uniquely poetical about mysticism and something uniquely mystical about poetry, but such an assertion is too ambiguous to be truly meaningful.

One might say that the goal of this essay is to apply to a Medieval Latin hymn the same arsenal of techniques for stylistic analysis that scholars normally apply to classical Latin poetry, especially—although not exclusively—to lyric poetry.[6] Some may object to this methodology, considering it inappropriate to reallocate analytical methods in this way. This essay’s response to that attitude is simple: despite the major deviations in various other respects that are so clearly evident, Aquinas’ Pange Lingua nonetheless shares a number of essential stylistic features with the poems of antiquity.

Before propounding the quasi-classical features of the Pange Lingua, it is first necessary to enumerate the glaring differences between medieval hymns and classical poems. The first of these differences is the difference in meter. Medieval hymns generally operate under a different understanding of meter than classical poetry,[7] and many of them—including all five of Aquinas’—follow strict rhyme schemes, something never seen in classical Latin poetry. There is also the issue of historical context. Medieval hymns were, by definition, written for liturgical functions, while classical poems were written for primarily secular purposes—and when they were written for religious purposes, the religion was generally Greco-Roman polytheism. That brings us to the last distinction: medieval hymns are about matters of Christian faith, while classical poems are obviously not about Christianity, being written by non-Christians prior to the Christian era. Despite these obvious, massive differences, one can still believe that analytical methods used for studying classical poetry are also applicable to the Pange Lingua, as long as the analysis stays within the realm of style. After all, none of the differences listed above are stylistic in nature, strictly speaking—though they may be capable of having influence on style.[8]

In classical Latin poetry, there seem to be three stylistic techniques which were thought of by the ancient Romans as essential to writing good poems, and which have also been widely noted among classical scholars. These techniques are word-play,[9] verbal allusion,[10] and imagery.[11] These same stylistic elements, as will be demonstrated in this essay (not as its thesis per se but rather as its premise), were later used by Aquinas in his hymns. Therefore, this essay can be thought of as a commentary[12] on the Pange Lingua that gives special attention to these three stylistic elements. However, rather than addressing all three of these things separately, this essay shall discuss allusions and word-play as contributing to the construction of vivid imagery.

The allusions or ‘verbal echoes’ contained in Aquinas’ Pange Lingua begin as early as the hymn’s very first line: “Pange, lingua, gloriosi”—which is a word-for-word intertext with the opening line of a much earlier hymn, penned by Venantius Fortunatus:[13]

Pange, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis
et super crucis tropaeo dic triumphum nobilem,
qualiter redemptor orbis immolatus vicerit. (Carm. 2.2:1-3)

Sing, tongue, about the battle of the glorious war
And speak the noble triumph upon the trophy of the cross,
How the world’s redeemer won victory by being sacrificed.

Thus, to those who have encountered Venantius’ hymn prior to encountering Aquinas’ hymn, the opening line of Aquinas’ Pange Lingua hearkens back to the original Pange Lingua. Thus, Aquinas’ hymn immediately brings to mind Venantius’ description of the Crucifixion.[14]

The first stanza is also where the word-play begins. For our purposes here, ‘word-play’ is intended to have a very general meaning, referring to any type of rhetorical device that consists of the particular usage of individual words. In the Pange Lingua, Saint Thomas Aquinas begins the word-play in the middle of the first stanza, with the appearance of the words ‘pretiosi’ and ‘pretium.’ However, this figura etymologica is not simply word-play for its own sake. The adjective ‘pretiosus’ is also found modifying the noun ‘sanguis’ in a stock phrase in the Latin rite: viz., ‘precious blood’—referring to the Eucharist.

Given the prominence of this phrase in the Order of Mass, therefore, the mental images that this phrase would espouse in the minds of the audience are images of the celebration of Mass. But then, the word ‘pretium’ in the subsequent line creates a seamless transition from the Mass to the Cross. This certainly makes sense, considering how Aquinas held that the Sacrifice of the Mass is, by means of participation, one and the same with the Sacrifice at Calvary. [15]  It also makes sense for Aquinas to try to construct vivid imagery, because he stated in the Summa that the way human beings know and understand things always begins with the senses, and proceeds to the ‘agent intellect,’ where abstraction and imagination occur (and by which humans come to understand the essences of material things).[16] The line after this—which reads “fructus ventris generosi”—echoes Elizabeth’s greeting to the Virgin Mother in Luke 1:42: “Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui![17] Thus, Aquinas briefly alludes to one of the earliest events recorded in the New Testament—the Visitation.[18]

This allusion could rightly be called a foretaste of the allusions in the subsequent stanza: as a more direct reference to the beginnings of Jesus’ early life appears in the very first line of the second stanza: “Nobis datus, nobis natus.” This line, of course, refers very explicitly to the birth of Jesus—a fitting subject for a phrase that possesses such tender simplicity, such graceful balance. The line strikes the reader as an emotionally charged interjection, as a shout of praise and thanksgiving. Despite its simplicity, this line still has a level of stylistic intentionality; there is not only some mild alliteration with the threefold ‘n’s, but also a combination of consonance and assonance in the words ‘datus’ and ‘natus.’

Manuscript of the Pange Lingua (from the Dominican House of Studies Priory of the Immaculate Conception website)
Manuscript of the Pange Lingua (from the Dominican House of Studies Priory of the Immaculate Conception website)

This same stanza also features a very interesting pair of lines: “et in mundo conversatus,/ sparso verbi semine,” which translates to, “and having dwelled in the world, with the seed of the word having been sown.” The usage of the word “conversatus” is rather peculiar. Although it makes sense to interpret it as the perfect participle of a deponent verb for ‘dwelling,’ it could just as likely be understood (as it sometimes is in English translations[19]) as perfect passive participle of the verb meaning ‘to discuss.’ This added layer of meaning—which is added, in quasi-classical fashion, by exploiting an ambiguity in the Latin tongue[20]—would go naturally with the subsequent line, “with the seed of the word having been sown.” Some might object that this interpretation is assuming that Aquinas intended to play on the ambiguity of the verb-form “conversatus,” and might argue that it is more likely to be a happy accident. However, there is a massive number of Latin words that end in “–atus,” meaning Aquinas had countless alternative ways to render this line. It can therefore be reckoned that Aquinas must have picked this wording over a seemingly endless list of alternatives for a reason—perhaps to play on the twofold meaning of the word “conversatus.”

The line “sparso verbi semine” not only suggests a possible play-on-words in the line before it (as mentioned above); the line also has rhetorical significance of its own. This turn of phrase is not just a metaphorical summary of Jesus’s public ministry; it is also an allusion to Jesus’s Parable of the Sower (found in Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:3-9, and Luke 8:4-8). The next two lines after this, meanwhile, are by far the most opaque lines in the entire hymn: “sui moras incolatus/ miro clausit ordine.” A literal rendering into English might read as follows: “His habitation ended his delays in marvelous order.” It is quite unclear what the author meant by this. (These lines bare immense richness of expression, but the richness seems to obscure the meaning a little too much.) Perhaps the phrase means that Christ brought an end to His people’s waiting for the Messiah. However, one could also understand the lines as referring to Christ allowing Himself to be crucified, in which case ‘ending his delays’ would refer to how Jesus stayed away from the city of Jerusalem until His ‘hour’ had come.

The second stanza as a whole seems to be briefly summarizing Jesus’s life leading up to the Last Supper; the third stanza, meanwhile, primarily describes the Last Supper. It even has as its opening line “In supremae nocte cenae” or “On the night of the Last Supper.” Such a clear establishment of context really helps the audience to picture the scene in their heads. The second line in the stanza, “recumbens cum fratribus” (“reclining at table with his brethren”) features mild assonance and consonance (i.e., “recumbens cum”). Furthermore, the presence of the word “fratribus” in this line echoes what Christ said in Luke 8:21: “My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God and do it.”[21] This appearance of the word for ‘brothers’ in Aquinas’ Eucharistic hymn thus is a reflection of the intimacy that Christ shared with his Apostles at the Last Supper. However, it can also be understood as conveying the intimacy which Christ still desires to have with all of His followers on earth by means of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

In the subsequent lines, a figura etymologica is formed by the words “lege” and “legalibus.” This rhetorical figure appears to have been included simply for reasons of emphasis. The repetition of words involving ‘law’ makes it very clear that Christ did “not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”[22] This meaning becomes more clear with the repetition of “cibis” and “cibum.” The first is in reference to the rituals of Passover, while the latter is in apposition (grammatically speaking) with “se”—that is, with Christ Himself. The first was established as a foreshadowing of the latter, and the latter fulfills the former. Then there is the final line of the stanza: “se dat suis manibus.” This translates to the following: “He gave Himself with His own hands.” This phrase echoes with great artistry a famous quotation from Saint Augustine: “For Christ was carried in His own hands, when, referring to His own Body, He said, ‘This is My Body.’ For He carried that Body in His hands” (Exposition on the Book of Psalms: Psalm 33:1:10).

Next, there is the fourth stanza. The fourth stanza of Pange Lingua is perhaps the richest of the hymn’s six stanzas, theologically for certain and perhaps stylistically as well. A literal translation of the fourth stanza into English would read as follows: “The Word-flesh makes true bread into flesh by His word: and wine becomes the blood of Christ, and if sense fails, faith alone is enough to strengthen the sincere heart.” This stanza has an abundance of rhetorical devices, especially in the first two lines. There is, for instance, the repetition of “Verbum” and “verbo” together with the similar-sounding “verum.” It makes for some nice alliteration and consonance and assonance, all rolled into one.[23] This heavy layering of rhetorical devices enhances the combined imagery in the phrase “Verbum caro panem verum / verbo carnem efficit.” This phrase thus combines a description of the Incarnation[24] with a description of Transubstantiation. Such intensity of expression serves to convey a sense of supernatural, unimaginable beauty contained invisibly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The fourth stanza blends rhetorical sophistication with theological precision, thus creating a transition between the stylistic richness of the third stanza and the somewhat lower register of the fifth stanza. The fifth stanza has some typical assonance and consonance in the first line (“Tantum ergo Sacramentum”) and again in the second line (“veneremur cernui”).[25] The third and fourth line echo back to the Last Supper, in which the “covenant of old” (“antiquum documentum”) did in fact “yield to the new rite” (“novo cedat ritui”). Thus, Aquinas is repeating the theme from stanza three of exploring the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament.[26] The final two lines of this stanza are basically a re-statement of the final three lines of the previous stanza: contrasting “faith” (“fides” in both places) with “sense” (“sensus” in stanza four) or “the senses” (“sensuum” in stanza five).[27]

The sixth and final stanza brings the hymn to its end in the way that all good Catholic hymns end: with a prayer to (and articulation of) the Most Blessed Trinity. Furthermore, the closing stanza repeatedly echoes “the first two strophes of the second sequence of Adam of St. Victor for Pentecost.”[28] More specifically, there are verbal echoes contained in the following phrases: “Genitori, Genitoque” and “compar sit laudatio.” The congeries verborum of the line “salus, honor, virtus quoque” serves to indicate an emotional intensity, the sort of thing that in some sense one ought to try to bring out of one’s self before the Real Presence of Christ.

The most significant conclusion that can be drawn from this analysis is that Saint Thomas Aquinas manages to achieve a grand portion of stylistic flair as well as a grand portion of theological rationale. What is perhaps most fascinating about the Pange Lingua is that the peak of style and the peak of theology seem to coincide with one another so harmoniously in the midst of the third and fourth stanzas. In fact, the stylistic contrast between the simplicity of the third stanza and the complexity of the fourth really plays into the theological ideas expressed all throughout this hymn, indicating both the glory and the humility contained in Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross: the Sacrifice of the Mass: and the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Despite their widespread popularity and longstanding liturgical presence, the hymns of this Doctor of the Church seem to receive far less attention in the secondary scholarship than his prose receives. For Aquinas’ hymns to receive significantly less attention than Aquinas’ philosophy and theology is easy to understand. After all, the impact that Thomistic thought has had on Christendom over the centuries[29]—and continues to have in the Catholic Church even to this day[30]—was made possible by his prose rather than by his hymns. However, this argument only explains the lack of discourse on these hymns among scholars of Thomistic philosophy and theology. It does not explain the surprising deficiency of writings on Aquinas’ hymns that one will find in various other fields. Therefore, we will now seek to explain the lack of scholarship in the other disciplines, with the hopes of narrowing down the possibilities for future research.

For starters, there is the field of Catholic liturgical studies, in which most of the modern-day scholarship is largely preoccupied with the liturgy of the early Church and the liturgical changes that accompanied the Second Vatican Council.[31] Aquinas’ hymns are essentially irrelevant to these contemporary liturgical debates, since they were written in the 13th century (which by all reckonings is several centuries too late to be considered part of the ‘early Church’): and since their liturgical usage was virtually unaffected by Vatican II and they are still present in the Mass of Pope Paul VI.[32] Specialists in medieval European history, meanwhile, commonly devote themselves to more complex and arcane topics[33]—and rightly so, if they intend to make new discoveries or shed light on topics of confusion and dispute. New historical knowledge cannot generally be acquired by studying texts—such as Aquinas’ hymns—which are relatively well-known: of which the authorship is known with the greatest certainty: and which are completely extant due to their perennial liturgical presence. However, some historians have written about the usage of the Pange Lingua and the rest in certain regions and/or at certain times.[34] While an analysis or comparison of some of this evidence would be relatively feasible, it would probably not be a very fruitful endeavor, because it would not really reveal anything new.

Despite this gaping lack of secondary scholarship in the fields of philosophy, theology, and history, Aquinas’ hymns have received a small amount of literary analysis[35]—sometimes in the context of explaining why the hymns are so difficult to translate.[36] Given these facts, writing about the Pange Lingua from any kind of perspective other than a ‘literary’ one would have proven futile. For although even the literary commentary is not abundant enough for the present essay to have engaged in any particularly deep discussion with outside voices, there is at least enough such commentary to have provided inspiration for this paper. A similar thing will be true for any future studies of Aquinas’ hymns: they will ultimately have to be ‘literary’ in focus, because the hymns attract little interest in other fields of study.[37]

Therefore, if someone desired to study Aquinas’ Eucharistic hymns beyond the scope of this essay, it would be a worthwhile pursuit to apply similar analytical techniques to his other hymns. After all, this essay has dealt with only one of them: there are still four other hymns, and they are all worthy of something akin to the analysis related in this paper. For future research, one could also choose to apply a radically different methodology of analysis to one of Aquinas’ hymns—whether it be the Pange Lingua or one of the others.

The Pange Lingua of St. Thomas Aquinas

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intacta Virgine,
et in mundo conversatus,
sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus
miro clausit ordine.

In supremae nocte cenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae
se dat suis manibus.

Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
laus et iubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.

Amen.

Notes

[1] Sufficient overviews of Aquinas’ writings, can be found in the Penguin Classics compilation entitled Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings, in pp. 447-538 of Philosophy in the Middle Ages (3rd ed.), and—lastly—in Pegis’ Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. (These books are given full citations in the bibliography.)

[2] A few examples of this secondary scholarship can be found in Wippel 1987:117-99.

[3] The Pope commissioned these hymns for the introduction of the Feast of Corpus Christi into the liturgical calendar in 1264 AD. The hymns written for this occasion were Adoro Te Devote; Pange Lingua; Sacris Sollemnis; Verbum Supernum: and a Sequence entitled Lauda Sion. (A Sequence gets sung by the choir during Mass after the Epistle and before the Gospel.) Furthermore, there are two excerpts from Aquinas’s hymns, entitled “O Salutaris Hostia” and “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum,” which are used during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. “O Salutaris Hostia” is the last two stanzas of Verbum Supernum, and “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum” is the last two stanzas of Pange Lingua.

[4] Nelson 1956:326.

[5] This interpretation of the quote becomes clear when read in context.

[6] I say “not exclusively” because many of the same topics frequently brought up in scholarly writings on classical lyric poets like Catullus and Horace are equally commonplace in the study of epic poetry like Vergil’s Aeneid. For instance, one could briefly cite a few pieces of scholarship about verbal allusions; McCallum 2015, about Horace echoing Vergil: Johnston 1983, about Catullus echoing Sappho: and Smith 1930, about Vergil echoing Catullus.

[7] Medieval hymns often use accentual metrics, as opposed to the rhythmic metrics of classical poetry. The Pange Lingua is written in Trochaic Tetrameter.

[8] How it is exactly that differences in meter, rhyme scheme, religion and culture might affect poetical style is too abstract, too ambiguous, and too complex of an issue for the purposes of this paper.

[9] For an example of word-play in Horace, see Hendry 1992: in Catullus, see Muse 2009: in Vergil’s Eclogues, see Boyd 1983.

[10] See footnote 6 above.

[11] Tracy 1948:104-7 shows Horace’s understanding of good lyric poetry as using a series of images, scenes, metaphors, etc., to express a logical message in a way that is both engaging and mysterious.

[12] This is part of the reason why it is recommended to view the essay side-by-side with the text of the hymn itself.

[13] This allusion is noted in Henry 1911 and in Messenger 1950:190. Often, a Latin text (at least informally, if not also officially) was assigned a title taken from its opening line: a practice which carried over through Medieval Times, in which this was often done to hymns and prayers. Thus, Aquinas’ hymn and Fortunatus’ hymn are both typically called either “Pange Lingua” or “Pange Lingua Gloriosi.” (Fortunatus’ hymn is listed in Harrington & Pucci 1997 as “Pange Lingua Gloriosi.”)

[14] It is at least worth mentioning that, although Medieval Latin present it in a different format, Venantius’ hymn is in essentially the same meter as Aquinas’ hymn. As noted in Henry 1911, this pattern of accentual metrics is attributed to the troops of Julius Caesar, who allegedly sang praises to their imperator while marching through Gaul.

[15] Summa Theologica III, Q.83, Art.1.

[16] Summa Theologica I, Q.79, Art.3-5; see Pegis 340-8.

[17] As found in the Vulgate and the Ave Maria. Translates to, “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” The beginning of Elizabeth’s greeting here overlaps with the end of Gabriel’s greeting in Luke 1:28 to form the words of the Ave Maria.

[18] The phrase also somewhat alludes to the Annunciation, as is indicated in the footnote above. This allusion might also be meant, perhaps, to invoke images of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross during her Son’s Crucifixion, since it is coupling images from the beginning of her motherhood with the worst sorrows she experienced as Jesus’s mother. However, that connection is a little more of a stretch.

[19] See the translation quoted in Henry 1911.

[20] ‘Exploiting an ambiguity in the Latin tongue’ is exemplified by the classical poets’ use of zeugma. (One might also include zeugma-like constructions, as there is some dispute over the exact definition of a zeugma, cf. Lussky 1953.) One example of this type of rhetorical device (cited in Lussky 1953:285 as not a real zeugma) is in Verg. Aen. II.654: “inceptoque et sedibus haeret in isdem.”

[21] According to the Douay-Rheims translation.

[22] Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Douay-Rheims)

[23] If there is any single umbrella term meaning “the use of similar-sounding syllables,” this essayist would be very eager to learn it, rather than having to list alliteration, consonance and assonance every time they show up together in Latin poetry—which is actually a very frequent occurrence. In fact, I would argue that the use of similar-sounding syllables is so frequent in good classical Latin (poetry and prose alike) that scholars take it for granted (especially as it appears in prose) and do not generally consider it something worth writing about. What else could explain the general deficiency of scholarship on the matter? When one starts really looking for the repetition of sounds in Latin texts, it shows up everywhere. The only other reasonable contributing factor to the lack of scholarship on the matter would be that modern classicists do not read texts aloud as a crucial aid to interpreting—as this set of rhetorical devices is recognized most easily by someone who can read the text aloud with relative ease.

[24] Cf. John 1:14: “Et Verbum caro factum est” (Vulgate).

[25] In response to doubts that the assonance and consonance were intentional, we should note the plethora of disyllabic words that could have been used instead of ‘tantum’ which would not achieve the same effect: such as ‘unum,’ ‘summum,’ ‘illud,’ or ‘bonum.’

[26] Aquinas believed in four senses of Scripture (cf. Summa Theologica I, Q.1,Art.10). One of these four senses is the Allegorical sense, in which the Old Testament is viewed as a foreshadowing of the New Testament.

[27] However, as noted by Henry 1911, some commentators have also inferred a contrasted between ‘the senses’ and ‘sense,’ in which ‘the senses’ refer to the five bodily senses while ‘sense’ refers to an intellectual faculty.

[28] Henry 1911.

[29] One editor’s words of praise for the Angelic Doctor are the following: “Aquinas’ position as a major philosopher, both in the medieval and the modern worlds, needs little amplification. There may be room for doubts as to whether he is the most characteristic medieval Christian philosopher, but there is no doubt that he has made the greatest mark in the world” (Hyman et al. 2010:450).

[30] For the impact of Aquinas on the development of Catholic doctrine, see Gratsch 1985. Although this book mainly provides an excellent outline of the Summa, it also frequently compares and contrasts Aquinas’ statements with statements found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

[31] For debates about the propriety of modern liturgical practices, see Bayldon 2005, Leone 2014, and Dinges 1987. For discussions about what the liturgy of the early Church potentially looked like, see Piper 1951, Kraemer 1934, and Day 2009.

[32] Introduced in 1970, the Mass of Bl. Pope Paul VI (informally known as the Novus Ordo) generally lacks the Gradual, Tract and/or Sequence, situated between the Epistle and the Gospel. In their stead is an optional Alleluia verse—except during Lent, when there is just the ‘Verse before the Gospel.’ Despite this major liturgical shift, Aquinas’ Lauda Sion is one of the few Sequences still found in the liturgical texts of the Novus Ordo. It is listed on the Feast of Corpus Christi, thus essentially retaining its centuries-old position in the liturgical calendar.

[33] For examples of historical studies in medieval liturgy, see Vogel 1986 and Toy 2009.

[34] cf. Messenger 1928, Messenger 1950, and .

[35] Although not exactly a commentary, Nelson 1956:326 does mention the Pange Lingua. However, this paper takes issue (above) with Nelson’s claim that the hymn is un-poetical.

[36] As seen in the entry (cited above) in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

[37] This lack of attention does not imply any lack of importance. It mainly means that the topics presently being grappled with in the various academic disciplines are such as would not compel scholars to write about the Eucharistic hymns of the Angelic Doctor.

David Nussman (Class of 2017) is majoring in the Honors Bachelor of Arts (H.A.B.) program, and is pursuing a minor in Philosophy. A Cincinnati native, David previously graduated from Covington Latin School, an accelerated college-prep school with an intensive liberal arts curriculum. He therefore entered college at a young age, and is set to attain a bachelor’s degree by the age of 20. In addition to his academics, David has regularly been a member of Jazz Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble. He also devotes much time to Life After Sunday, a club that gathers several nights a week for prayer and the Sacraments. “The Angelic Doctor as Poet: Aquinas’ Pange Lingua and the Aesthetics of Latin Poetry” was sponsored by Dr. Thomas Strunk, Associate Professor of Classics.

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