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Veni Sancte Spiritus


The sequence that was traditionally assigned to pentecost. This sequence is also known as the "Golden Sequence." It must be dated late 12th century, since its verse form is unknown before the middle of the 12th century; furthermore, whenever the sequence appears in earlier manuscripts it has obviously been inserted by a later hand. ekkehard v (Acta Sanctorum April 1:579595), a monk of Sankt Gallen, says that Pope innocent iii is the author and that he gave the sequence to Ulric, Abbot of sankt gallen, who was on a visit to Rome and who then introduced its use at Sankt Gallen. However, a contemporary manuscript, Distinctiones monasticae et morales (ed. Pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense 3:130), thought to be by an English Cistercian, cites the sequence as the work of stephen langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton is known to have had close connections with the cistercians; and H. Thurston, having examined the whole MS, testifies that the unknown author is "likely to be a well-informed and reliable witness," familiar both with English writers of the day and with Paris, where Langton had studied and taught for several decades, and where in fact he had been a friend and fellow student of the future Pope Innocent III. Moreover, evidence from

the manuscript tradition indicates the sequence spread from Paris rather than from Rome. Today scholars hold it probable or see little reason to doubt that Langton is probably the author of this sequence.

In form the Veni Sancte Spiritus represents the final evolution of the sequence. Its stanzas are homomorphic, its lines are all of the same length. The meter is accentual trochaic dimeter catalectic; the rhyme scheme is aabccb and every third line ends in ium, so that the antiphony is obscured by the use of the same final rhyme to all the strophes. The high technical skill of the versification is matched by a clarity of thought and expression and a deep religious feeling that deserve the high praise the poem receives.

Bibliography: n. gihr, Die Sequenzen des römischen Mess-buches dogmatisch und ascetisch erklärt (Freiburg 1887). Analecta hymnica 54:234239, text. j. julian, ed., A Dictionary of Hymnology (New York 1957) 2:121215. f. m. powicke, Stephen Langton (Oxford 1928). a. wilmart, Auteurs spirituels et textes dévots du moyen âge latin (Paris 1932). m. dulong, "Étienne Langton versificateur," Mélanges Mandonnet, 2 v. (Bibliothèque Thomiste 1314; 1930) 2:183190. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 343344. j. de ghellinck, L'Essor de la littérature latine au XIIe siècle (Brussels-Paris 1946). h. thusrston, Familiar Prayers, ed. p. grosjean (Westminster, MD 1953). j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster, MD 1957) 110113, tr. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465).

[a. j. kinnerey]

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