Tuesday, November 18, 2014

O ignis Spiritus paracliti

Sequence for the Holy Spirit (D 158, R 473r)Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
1a. O ignis Spiritus paracliti,
vita vite omnis creature,
sanctus es vivificando formas.

lb. Sanctus es ungendo periculose
fractos, sanctus es tergendo
fetida vulnera.

2a. O spiraculum sanctitatis,
o ignis caritatis,
o dulcis gustus in pectoribus
et infusio cordium in bono odore virtutum.

2b. O fons purissime,
in quo consideratur
quod Deus alienos
colligit et perditos requirit.

3a. O lorica vite et spes compaginis
membrorum omnium
et o cingulum honestatis: salva beatos.

3b. Custodi eos qui carcerati sunt ab inimico,
et solve ligatos
quos divina vis salvare vult.

4a. O iter fortissimum, quod penetravit
omnia in altissimis et in terrenis
et in omnibus abyssis,
tu omnes componis et colligis.

4b. De te nubes fluunt, ether volat,
lapides humorem habent,
aque rivulos educunt,
et terra viriditatem sudat.

5a. Tu etiam semper educis doctos
per inspirationem Sapientie

5b. Unde laus tibi sit, qui es sonus laudis
et gaudium vite, spes et honor fortissimus,
dans premia lucis.
1a. O fire of the Spirit and Defender,
the life of every life created:
Holy are you—giving life to every form.

1b. Holy are you—anointing the critically
broken. Holy are you—cleansing
the festering wounds.

2a. O breath of holiness,
O fire of love,
O taste so sweet within the breast,
that floods the heart with virtues’ fragrant good.

2b. O clearest fountain,
in which is seen the mirrored work of God:
to gather the estranged
and seek again the lost.

3a. O living armor, hope that binds
the every limb,
O belt of honor: save the blessed.

3b. Guard those enchained in evil’s prison,
and loose the bonds of those
whose saving freedom is the forceful will of God.

4a. O mighty course that runs within and through
the all—up in the heights, upon the earth,
and in the every depth—
you bind and gather all together.

4b. From you the clouds flow forth, the wind takes flight,
the stones their moisture hold,
the waters rivers spring,
and earth viridity exudes.

5a. You are the teacher of the truly learned,
whose joy you grant
through Wisdom’s inspiration.

5b. And so may you be praised, who are the sound of praise,
the joy of life, the hope and potent honor,
and the giver of the gifts of light.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

In contrast to Hildegard’s hymn to the Holy Spirit, with its sparse music and taut themes, this sequence bursts into life with overflowing exuberance. At the same time, through Hildegard’s unique recasting of the sequence form, in which “she makes each pair [of versicles] melodically similar, at times identical, yet [with] a trace of asymmetry” (Dronke, Poetic Individuality, p. 158), it maintains a rhythm both steady and dynamic to express the Holy Spirit’s role as root of nature and as anima mundi, “the soul of the world.” (For a more detailed analysis of Hildegard’s melodic development of each versicle pair, see the “Commentary: Music and Rhetoric” below.) The poetry adopts the same paradoxical movement that animates some of Hildegard’s other pieces for the Spirit, especially the antiphon Spiritus sanctus vivificans, which combines the Spirit’s eternally rooted stability—the ground of being—with its dynamic activity. As Peter Dronke notes, this musical “pattern of echo and modification” is “beautifully reflected in the thematic development of the poetry: in each pair of versicles, the images and meaning of the second both mirror and carry forward those of the first” (ibid.).

The opening trope on the triple Sanctus reveals what Newman has called “the delicate balance” of this sequence’s images, as it moves between its Platonic role as “life-giver in the initial bounty of creation” to its grittier role as “source of healing” in “the ‘stricken’ world” (Symphonia, p. 281). This particular movement between grace and fallenness motivates the second and third versicle pairs, which begin, like the second, third, and fourth verses of Hildegard’s hymn O ignee Spiritus, by imagining the Spirit in relation to each of the five senses: the sound of the breath (the “mighty wind” from Acts 2:2), the felt heat of the fire, the taste and smell of divine virtue inspired in human hearts, and finally the contemplative gaze. Each of these physical senses is effortlessly connected to its deeper, spiritual signification—a perfect example of Hildegard’s visionary-poetic capacity to “construct” symbolic landscapes that “show no trace of [the didactic, allegorical, or figural] scaffolding” upon which they rely.[1] Indeed, verse 2b requires for clarity in translation the addition of some of that scaffolding—in this case, to explain that the indefinite quod (that which “is seen” [consideratur] in the Spirit’s fountain) refers to the opus Dei, “the work of God,” held eternally reflected within the creative divine foreknowledge. As Hildegard explains in the words of Divine Love (Caritas) in Liber Divinorum Operum III.3:[2]
For I have written humanity, who was rooted in me like a shadow, just as an object’s reflection is seen in water. Thus it is that I am the living fountain, because all creation existed in me like a shadow. In accordance with this reflected shadow, humankind was created with fire and water, just as I, too, am fire and living water. For this reason also, humans have the ability in their souls to set each thing in order as they will. Indeed, every creature possesses this reflected shadow, and that which gives each creature life is like a shadow, moving this way and that.
And so the living fountain is the Spirit of God, which he distributes unto all of his works. They live because of him and have vitality through him, just as the reflection of all things appears in water. And there is nothing that can clearly see this source of its life, for it can only sense that which causes it to move. Just as water makes that which is in it to flow, so also the soul is the living breath that always pours forth in a human being and makes them to know, to think, to speak, and to work by streaming forth.
Wisdom drew from the living fountain the words of the prophets and the words of other wise people and of the Gospels, and she entrusted them to the disciples of the Son of God. This she did so that the rivers of living water might flow out through them into the entire world, that they might return humanity to salvation like fish caught in a net. Indeed, the leaping fountain is the purity of the living God, and in it shines his radiant glory. In that splendor God embraces all things with great love, for their shadow appeared, reflected in the leaping fountain before God bade them to come forth in their forms.

And in me, Divine Love, all things shine resplendently, and my splendor reveals the form of creation just as a shadow indicates the form [of its object]; and in Humility, my helper, creation goes forth at God’s bidding. Likewise in humility, God bowed down to me, so that he might refresh those dried-out, fallen leaves in that blessedness by which he can do all things that he wishes. For he had formed them from the earth, and thus he has also freed them after their fall.
As I have noted elsewhere, Hildegard’s symbolic-poetic mode excels in connecting “the highest levels of contemplative knowledge (of divinity itself) with the lowest levels of concrete images and artifacts” as she envisions each particular image in the light of the entire scope of salvation history.[3] This mode of thought and expression participates in the neoplatonic metaphysics that Hildegard deploys particularly strongly in the fourth pair of versicles of today’s sequence. As Dronke explains (Poetic Individuality, pp. 158-60):
[T]he Spirit is characterized first as an irresistible force that penetrates the universe from without; then, in the complementary half-stanza, as the source of motion and fertility within the natural world. When the pervasive power has moved from the circumference of the cosmos right through to its centre, it becomes the centre-point from which new elemental life radiates.
The threefold action in [versicle 4a] recalls the functions of the three wings of the virtus Sapientie, as well as perhaps the Neoplatonic triad of processio, conversio, and reditus: the divine force descends and enters into all things, it harmonizes them, and draws them to itself. If here the language associates the powers of the Holy Spirit with those of the Anima Mundi, in the second versicle it links them with those of the goddess Natura. (…) At the same time, these functions, cosmic and terrestrial, complement each other; the movement of the thought and that of the music are shaped by same symmetrical-asymmetrical pattern, the undulation of parallelism and contrast.
In the final pair of versicles, the musical symmetry breaks down, however—5a illuminates the Spirit’s particularly pentecostal task within the teaching life of the Church, while 5b summarizes the sequence in a final burst of praise. Those final “gifts of light,” however, are also the tongues of fire that “through Wisdom’s inspiration” came upon the apostles at Pentecost, and the one trace of melodic parallel in this final verse pair connects “gifts of light” to the joy of the apostolic teaching; they can also be thematically connected to the Holy Spirit’s office as lucerna anime, “lamp of the soul,” in verse 3 of Hildegard’s hymn, O ignee Spiritus.

Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer and Nathaniel M. Campbell

A mode
Range: E below the final to A an octave above the final.
               In one instance in D, B an octave and a step above the final occurs, but this could be an error; see below.
Setting: syllabic and neumatic

While some of Hildegard’s sequences (e.g. O virga ac diadema) depart significantly from the traditional form, in which each verse pair shares the same melody, this one shows tighter control, with subtler variations between versicles. The melody in part b of each verse is usually a repetition or variation of the melody in part a, and the phrasing of the music often accords nicely with the textual sense. There are several places in this sequence, however, where parallel melodies create disjunctures in the textual sense of the poetry.

In verse 1a, the melodic phrasing is clearly in harmony with the poetic sense of the text. In its corresponding verse (1b), however, the congruence between text sense and melody is irregular. Keeping in mind once again that word order in the strict sense is not as important in medieval devotional Latin as it is in modern vernacular languages, the decision was made here to follow the musical logic rather than to adhere to the poetic phrasing. Thus, on p. 1 of the transcription, lines 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6, respectively, contain almost literal parallel melodies that are also fairly equal in length. Though this rendering disrupts the poetic sense of verse 1b, the repeated use of the A to E leap at the beginning of the lines and the C,G,A figure at the ends of phrases were interpreted as clues to Hildegard’s melodic intentions. This disruption to the triple Sanctus trope may rhetorically reflect the broken woundedness described in the text.

Verses 2a and 2b (p. 1, last line, through p. 2, line 3; and p. 2, lines 4-7 of the transcription) consist of very short segments, in accordance with the textual sense. However, their second lines (o ignis caritatis and in quo consideratur) begin with C, an unusual note as a tonal marker in this mode. The phrases could be combined in performance if singers prefer. The suggestion would be to combine the first and second lines of each versicle—O spiraculum sanctitatis with o ignis caritatis and O fons purissimus with in quo consideratur. That said, our decisions regarding phrasing of Verses 4a and 4b, which are discussed below, do consider C as a grammatical marker.

On p. 3 of the transcription (verse 3a), line 1 contains what appears to be an error in Dendermonde. The melody ascends from F to B, which is improbable for several reasons. B is an unlikely highest pitch in the A mode, and the movement from F would require the Bb, also suspect, as Hildegard never uses Bb in the upper register. To ascend to the climactic pitch on the less stable flat is equally doubtful. On the other hand, Hildegard sometimes breaks the rules, and the C clef clearly moved in the manuscript for this segment. According to our singer consultant, Julia Smucker, the R version is the more singable.

In verses 3a and 3b, the melodic phrasing as it is rendered in the transcription (p. 3) is uneven in length, in part because of the variation in melody between the pair, and in part because of the use of C as a tonal marker. If performers prefer, the phrase, Custodi eos qui carcerati sunt ab inimici (p. 3, line 2) could be sung together with et solve ligatos (line 3) if the tempo is brisk enough.

The phrasing in verses 4a and 4b is particularly fraught, because of ruptures between melodic parallels, on the one hand, and textual sense units, on the other. As Hildegard is quite consistent in the deployment of parallel melody in this piece (with the exception of the final pair, on which see below), we chose to make the line break between penetravit and omnia in verse 4a (p. 3, lines 5-6) in order to preserve the melodic parallels between the versicles. Although this delineation puts the object (omnia) on a different line from the verb (penetravit) in the first two lines of verse 4a, it preserves the melodic parallels forced by the more distinct syntactical unit of of the second line of verse 4b, lapides humorem habent (p. 4, line 1), which cannot be as easily broken up. From a musical standpoint, this phrasing uses C as a grammatical marker, which, though unusual for this mode, seems to be a common secondary tone in this particular sequence. Moreover, while it would also be possible to combine the first two lines of each versicle into a single phrase, Julia Smucker has indicated that such a phrasing would require a fast tempo and good breath support. An alternative delineation, following Dronke, Poetic Individuality, pp. 158-9, would break each versicle into five lines, phrased around the note pairs A-A, A-A, E-G, G-A, and A-A, thus:
4a. O iter fortissimum,
quod penetravit omnia
in altissimis et in terrenis
et in omnibus abyssis,
tu omnes componis et colligis.
4b. De te nubes fluunt,
ether volat, lapides
humorem habent,
aque rivulos educunt,
et terra viriditatem sudat.
From the standpoint of Latin syntax and poetic style, separating the object, omnia, from its verb, penetravit, in verse 4a is not a significant break in the flow of the text. After the initial salutation, O iter fortissimum, the versicle enters the syntactical subunit of a relative clause, which runs from quod all the way to abyssis, before resetting to the principal clause in the final line of the verse. The three prepositional phrases, in altissimis et in terrenis / et in omnibus abyssis, all belong within the relative clause and describe where the Spirit's powerful course penetrates all things. Placing the object (omnia) and prepositional phrases after the verb gives them special emphasis. This delineation also reveals a particular aspect of the poetry that a more prosaic phrasing would hide: the use of the three different forms of the noun omnis at the beginning of the second, third, and fourth lines, thus emphasizing the Spirit's omnipresent activity.

Verses 5a and 5b, finally, depart from the mirrored pattern of the rest of the sequence, as their first lines are set to different melodies (p. 4, lines 4 and 7), though both begin on F. In verse 5a, F is repeated at the octave to open the second and third phrases (p. 4, lines 5 and 6), while in verse 5b, the octave F also begins the final line (p. 5, line 1), which is a variation of the final line of 5a (p. 4, line 6); while its second line begins on G (p. 4, line 8). In this section, there is an extended discrepancy between the manuscripts. It begins on the word educis (verse 5a, p. 4, line 4) and continues through the word inspirationem on the next line. The melodic motive reaches to the high A, but neither of the versions is consistent with the other melodies in the verse(s) in which the high pitch is reached. Finally, the piece ends on B in Dendermonde and A in the Riesenkodex; the R ending is more likely in the A mode.

Further Resources for O ignis Spiritus paracliti
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 148-50 and 281-2.
  • Dronke, Peter. Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages: New Departures in Poetry, 1000-1150 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), pp. 157-60.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography


[1] Peter Dronke, The Medieval Poet and His World (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1984), p. 85. 
[2] Trans. by Nathaniel Campbell, from the Latin text of the Liber Divinorum Operum, ed. A. Derolez and P. Dronke, in CCCM 92 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1996), pp. 379-81; translation © The Catholic University of America Press, forthcoming. 
[3] See Nathaniel M. Campbell, “Imago expandit splendorem suum: Hildegard of Bingen’s Visio-Theological Designs in the Rupertsberg Scivias Manuscript,” Eik√≥n / Imago 4 (2013, Vol. 2, No. 2), pp. 1-68, esp. pp. 29-30; accessible online here.  

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