Monday, June 13, 2011

Sweet, Petite, Discreet ...

Over the last few months, we have looked at dozens, and possibly hundreds, of Latin hymns (and English translations) used in various forms of the Daily Office. Customarily, they all end with a Trinitarian doxology. This has been tacked on to the oldest hymns, but is part and parcel of the rest. It's all very pious and Nicene and whatnot, but at the moment it's driving us nuts.

The doxologies are each slightly different, but, frankly, there are only so many ways to accomplish the task. The form itself forbids much creativity regarding either words or meter. And so they usually refer to the Third Person of the Trinity as either Spiritus or Paracletus. This leaves English translators three principal choices -- Spirit, Ghost or Paraclete.

No doubt for reasons of prosody, the third is chosen very, very often. Mind you, Ghost is an easy word to rhyme, and Advocate could surely be used to good effect. But over and over, it is Paraclete. And in a shockingly large number of instances, translators seem to have only one rhyme in mind:
... be glory as is ever meet
To Thee with the Paracelete.
Or some small variation on that. It gets ... monotonous.

At this point, we are desperate to stumble across somebody who rhymes Paraclete with beat, defeat, cheat, neat, cleat, feet, feat, seat, Crete, complete, or even DEET.


Anonymous said...

I can rarely resist the temptation to omit the 'l' when Paraclete comes up in hymns at church.

Father Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I must concede that I've never sung a hymn (knowingly) that included the word "Paraclete."

Father Anonymous said...

I'm stunned, if only because from my present strangely warped perspective there seem to be thousands of them.

But sure enough -- I don't have my LBW concordance with me, but a quick flip through the pages suggests that the word occurs rarely if at all.

This is actually a fascinating and potentially important window into the history of Lutheran liturgical language. Somebody with time and books might count the respective occurrences of "Paraclete" in the CSB, SBH and LBW (then for comparison sake, Hymns Ancient and Modern, Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1980) and write a paper on it. If I were anywhere near Krauth Library, I'd do it myself.

DR Dan said...

"Sweet, Petite, Discrete" I thought this was another posting on indiscretions of politicians. My surprise.