Christmas Hymns from John Brownlie
A significant body of Christmas-tide translations, described as “Hymns from the Office Books of The Holy Eastern Church,” were created in the early 20th century by the Rev. John Brownlie. He issued a series of six books of translations, including:
Hymns of the Greek Church (Edinburgh and London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1900)
Hymns of the Holy Eastern Church (Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1902)
Hymns from the East Being Centos and Suggestions from the Office Books of the Holy Eastern Church (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Lmd., 1905)
Hymns of the Apostolic Church (Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1909)
Hymns from the Morningland (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1911)
Hymns of the Early Church (London: Morgan & Scott LD, 1913)
Thirty-eight years ago, Dr. John Mason Neale published his Hymns of the Eastern Church, and for the first time English readers were introduced to the priceless gems of Greek hymnody. At the close of his preface he throws out a challenge which, as far as the present writer is aware, has not yet been taken up. He says: ‘And while fully sensible of their imperfections, I may yet, by way of excuse rather than of boast, say, almost in Bishop Hall’s words—
“I first adventure: follow me who list,
And be the second Eastern Melodist.”’
It would be presumptuous to believe that the translations which follow are in any particular a worthy answer to that challenge; but the translator can honestly say that they are a very earnest attempt to acquaint English readers still further with the valuable praise literature which lies buried in the service-books of the Greek Church, and they constitute the first real attempt in that direction since Dr. Neale issued his collection in 1862.
All six of Brownlie's Eastern works can be found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Works by John Brownlie, and the Internet Archive, John Brownlie. Copies of Hymns of the Greek Church and Hymns from the East may also be found at Project Gutenberg.
An additional volume of translations "Hymns and Poetry of the Eastern Church" was published by Rev. Bernhard Pick in 1908 (a copy is available at Google Books). I will be exploring that volume for additional Christmas-tide content.
According to the article "English Hymnody: Its Later Developments" by Louis F. Benson (Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 8, pp. 353-388, 1910), another contributor to the genre of Eastern hymnology translation was Dr. Richard F. Littledale who in 1867 published The People's Hymnal, containing not less than 28 Greek hymns. Benson also mentioned Allen William Chatfield, Songs and Hymns of the Earliest Greek Poets (London: Rivingtons, 1876). Note that this article was also incorporated into Benson's The English Hymn (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915); see p. 505.
Rev. Brownlie wrote that his collections contains specimens of some of the following types of musical forms:—
The Canon (κανών). This is the most elaborate form into which the praise of the Greek Church is cast. A canon consists, nominally, of nine odes or hymns, but the second ode is always omitted on account of  the denunciations of God against Israel which it contains. The canons of the Great Fast are made up of those rejected odes.
Hirmos (εἱρμός) is the first stanza of each ode. It may or may not have a connection with the stanzas following, but its function is to give them their rhythmical model.
Troparion (τροπάριον). The Troparia are the stanzas which follow the Hirmos, and the term is doubtless derived from the verb τρέπω, to turn. The Troparia turn to the strophes of the Hirmos, as to a model.
Contakion (κοντάκιον) is a term of uncertain origin. Contakia occur after the sixth ode of a canon. They are short hymns, and the term may be derived from the Latin Canticum.
Stichera (στιχηρά) designates a series of verses which are often taken from the Psalter.
Idiomelon (ἰδιόμελον). Unlike Troparia, which follow the model set by the Hirmos, Idiomela follow no model.
Stichera Idiomela are a collection of irregular verses.
Antiphon (ἀντίφωνον) is, as is well known, a hymn sung alternately by the choir, which is divided for that purpose into two parts.
The Christmas-tide hymns translated by Rev. Brownlie in these six volumes include:
Also available on this site are a number of Latin hymns. See:
Theodoricus Petri, Piæ Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum Griefswald, Sweden: 1582
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