Monday, 6 April 2009

Notker Balbulus

Today is the feast day of blessed Notker the Stammerer who died on this day in the year 912.  He was a monk of the abbey of Sankt Gallen and was principally famous for his versification. He may have stammered with his mouth, but he was eloquent with his pen.
He was in the past credited with inventing the Sequence, by which I mean the prolongation of the Alleluia at Mass which, they think, grew out of the jubilus, or very long melisma that prolonged the singing of Alleluia on feast days, simply by adding a poem to be sung to the same melody.
The Mediæval Mass had a Sequence almost every day, but most of them were excised at the Renaissance (though it was the Renaissance that beatified Notker in 1512), and I don't think any of the surviving ones are by our friend. Rather unaccountably Bugnini, in his iconoclastic way, changed the position of the Sequence to before the Alleluia in the 1970 missal, thus severing its connection with the ancient past, and, indeed, its very raison d'etre. I really miss the final Alleluia after Amen in the sequence, especially after the Easter and Pentecost sequences—I find the concluding Alleluia melodically and emotionally very satisfying. It feels bald without it.
Notker is also famous for writing one of the two biographies of Charlemagne (the other being by Einhard).

Here is Notker's Sequence for Pentecost:
Sancti Spiritus
Adsit nobis gratia
Quae corda nostra sibi
Faciat habitaculum
Expulsis inde cunctis
Vitiis spiritalibus.
Spiritus alme, illustrator hominum,
Horridas nostrae mentis
Purga tenebras.
Amator sanctae sensatorum
Semper cogitatuum,
Infunde unctionem tuam,
Clemens nostris sensibus.
Tu purificator omnium
Flagitiorum Spiritus,
Purifica nostri oculum
Interioris hominis;
Ut videri supremus
Genitor possit a nobis,
Mundi cordis quem soli
Cernere possunt oculi.
Prophetas tu inspirasti, ut praeconia
Christi praecinuissent inclyta.
Apostolos confortasti, ut trophaeum
Christi per totum mundum veherent
Quando machinam per Verbum suum
Fecit Deus coeli, terrae, maris,
Tu super aquas foturus eas, numen
Tuum expandisti, Spiritus.
Tu animabus vivificandis
Aquas fecundas,
Tu, aspirando da spiritales
Esse homines.
Tu divisum per linguas mundum
Et ritus adunasti, Spiritus.
Idololatras ad cultum
Dei revocas,
Magistrorum optime.
Ergo nos supplicantes tibi
Exaudi propitius, sancte Spiritus,
Sine quo preces omnes cassae
Creduntur et indignae
Dei auribus.
Tu, qui omnium saeculorum sanctos,
Tui numinis docuisti instinctu,
Amplectendo spiritus;
Ipse, hodie apostolos Christi
Donans munere insolito
Et cunctis inaudito seclis,
Hunc diem gloriosum fecisti.

You can find his whole book of Sequences here, at Migne's Patrology on-line.


Ben Whitworth said...

I may be wrong, but I think the final 'Amen. Alleluia' was restored to the Sequences in the third edition of the Missal of Paul VI (2002).

William said...

Call me slow on the uptake, but you had me really confused with Amator sanctae sensatorum …, until I realised it was a typo for sancte.

It's all right for you Church Latinists, for whom the two words are pronounced the same, but spare a thought for us poor Classicists, who have been trained to pronounce them quite differently.

Wonderful Sequence, though – thanks for that.

Pastor in Monte said...