John Mason Neale is commemorated on 7 August (the day after he died in 1866), so one of the hymns he translated has been chosen for todays post.
The original Latin hymn O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata was written by Peter Abelard (1079-1142). He was born in Brittany. His father had been a military man, but Abelard became a philosopher, theologian and logician. In about 1115 he became the master of the cathedral school of Notre Dame in Paris (although the present cathedral had not yet been constructed). While there he famously had an affair with Héloïse, and the couple secretly married. However, things did not turn out well (you can read the gory details on Wikipedia), and he became a monk. He seems to have had a talent for upsetting people.
Revd John Mason Neale (1818-66) was born in London, the son of a clergyman and a descendant on his mother’s side of Revd John Mason, author of How shall I sing that Majesty. Neale was ordained in 1842 and was briefly incumbent of Crawley, but had to resign on account of chronic lung disease. He was Warden of Sackville House (an alms house at East Grinsted) from 1846 until his death at the age of 48. He died on 6 August 1866 – the feast of The Transfiguration of Our Lord, so he is commemorated on the following day.
He translated many hymns from Latin and Greek. The 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern included 58 of them and there were even more in the English Hymnal of 1906. He also wrote hymns of his own. In many cases (including this one), the English translations preserved the metre of the original Latin, so that the translated hymns could still be sung to the original plainsong melodies, for example:
Conditor alme siderum
O Lux beata Trinitas
Urbs Sion aurea
Urbs beata Jerusalem
Veni, Redemptor gentium
Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Christ is made the sure foundation
Creator of the stars of night
Light’s abode, celestial Salem
O trinity of blessed light
Jerusalem the golden
Blessed City, heavenly Salem
Come thou Redeemer of the earth
Come, thou Holy Spirit, come
He also wrote:
Around the throne of God a band
Christian, dost thou see them
Good King Wenceslas
O Happy band of pilgrims
Four of the seven verses (the missing starred verses are shown below):
1 O WHAT their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless sabbaths the blesséd ones see!
Crown for the valiant; to weary ones rest;
God shall be all, and in all ever blest.
3 Truly Jerusalem name we that shore,
‘Visions of peace,’ that brings joy evermore!
Wish and fufilment can severed be ne’er,
or the thing prayed for come short of the prayer.
4 We, where no trouble distraction can bring,
Safely the anthems of Sion shall sing;
While for thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise
Thy blesséd people shall evermore raise.
7 Low before him with our praises we fall,
Of whom, and in whom, and through whom are all;
Of whom, the Father; and through whom, the Son;
In whom, the Spirit, with these ever One.
2 *What are the Monarch, his court, and his throne?
What are the peace and the joy that they own?
Tell us, ye blest ones, that in it have share,
If what ye feel ye can fully declare.
5 *There dawns no sabbath, no sabbath is o’er,
Those sabbath-keepers have one and no more;
One and unending is that triumph-song
Which to the angels and us shall belong.
6 *Now in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high,
We for that country must yearn and must sigh,
Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land,
Through our long exile on Babylon’s strand.