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Jesu, Dulcis Memoria


One of the best-known medieval Latin hymns. Originally, this hymn (beginning with the words Dulcis Jesu memoria ) had 42 stanzas, each of four rhyming lines. A. Wilmart collected some 90 manuscripts showing divergent texts, and altogether they contain, among other things, 18 completely new, additional verses and 25 stanzas with major modifications, along with 19 doxologies. There were several major adaptations of the hymn as well as a number of medieval translations into vernacular languages. Originally a nonliturgical hymn, it gradually gained acceptance in local liturgies before it was introduced into the medieval Roman liturgy. In the late Middle Ages the original hymn was ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux, but in fact the author was an anonymous English Cistercian who lived at the close of the 12th century. However, Gilson found clear evidence of the influence of the mystical writings of Bernard on this hymn. Post-Reformation liturgists made many arbitrary changes of dubious value in the verses of the original hymn and their order was greatly changed. The hymn achieves its best effect in its original version with eight divisions; see the reconstructed hymn by A. Wilmart [Ephemerides Liturgicae 57 (1943) 3285]. Representative of the new spirit of medieval mysticism, this hymn was alien to the traditions of Ambrosian hymnody and thus marked a turning point in the history of early Cistercian hymnography. It may also be regarded as an excellent expression of early Gothic religious feelings, although it differs greatly from most of the contemporary regular sequences of Adam of Saint-Victor, and others. In a certain sense, this hymn was already ushering in the subjective-personal spirit of Franciscan poetry that culminated in the rich poesy of the Passion in the 13th century and afterward.

Bibliography: É. h. gilson, "Sur le Jesu Dulcis Memoria, " Speculum 3 (1928) 322334; Les Idées et les lettres (Paris 1932) 3957. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 329330. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 2:79. h. lausberg, Der Hymnus Jesu dulcis memoria (Munich 1965). j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster MD 1957) 6263, 219.

[j. szÖvÉrffy]

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