Saturday, January 28, 2012

Feast of Thomas Aquinas IV

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

On the cross thy Godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran---
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory's sight. Amen.

This, of course, is a translation of Aquinas's hymn, "Adoro Te Devote". The translation, which I think is very likely the best poetic translation, is by none other than Gerard Manley Hopkins; it is, if I recall, one of several versions he attempted, and is one of his fairly early poems. As all poetic translations tend to be, it's a bit loose in parts, but (1) it is remarkable how close it actually is, particularly given the verbal gymnastics of the original, and (2) every license taken is justifiable poetic license for the target language. The result is much wordier than the original, though. The literal translation of the first stanza would be something very roughly like:

Devoutly I adore you, hidden Deity [or Truth, depending on the reading]
who these figures [or appearances, or forms] truly underlies;
all my heart submits itself to you,
for in contemplating you it all subsides [or fails].

Caswall's slightly tighter translation of the same stanza:

O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.

There are a number of hymns attributed to Aquinas. This and the hymns from the Mass of Corpus Christi universally attributed to Aquinas are the ones most widely accepted as really Thomistic; it would be genuinely surprising if they were not.

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