contributor.author: John Petruccione

title.none: Prudentius, The Hymns of Prudentius, Trans. Slavitt (Petruccione)

identifier.other: baj9928.9706.011 97.06.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John Petruccione, The Catholic University of America, petruccione@cua.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Aurelius Prudentius Clemens. Hymns of Prudentius: The Cathemerinon, or, The Daily Round. Translated by David R. Slavitt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Pp. xix, 61. $19.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-801-85412-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.06.11

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens. Hymns of Prudentius: The Cathemerinon, or, The Daily Round. Translated by David R. Slavitt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Pp. xix, 61. $19.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-801-85412-1.

Reviewed by:

John Petruccione
The Catholic University of America
petruccione@cua.edu

In his introduction, David Slavitt points to what might be termed a hermeneutical problem: "What in the world could have drawn a skeptical Jewish aesthete of the late twentieth century to these devout poems of a fourth-century Christian" (p. ix)? I take this to imply the further question: Can these hymns be presented in a way that will arouse the interest of a largely secular modern readership? To this S. replies in the following manner: As a poet, he has himself drawn inspiration from George Herbert and John Donne, whose poetry "Prudentius had prefigured and enabled." Though a religious skeptic, he reads Prudentius with a sense of "pleasant recognition, even a degree of kinship" (p. x). This "kinship" has permitted him to engage in an effort of sympathetic understanding and imagine himself for a moment an ancient Christian. "I have tried to do the voice," he asserts, "and suggest to others something of what I admire in it" (pp. xii ff.). We should thus expect from S. an imaginative reconstruction that will focus less on the interpretation of words and lines than on conveying Prudentian poetical values. According to S., these include a "paradoxical" "combination of literary and cultural sophistication with a spiritual simplicity or even naivete" (p. xiii), a "suave and civilized demeanor" (p. xix). One's assessment of his success or failure will rest ultimately on one's own understanding of what S. terms Prudentius' "voice." In what ways and to what degree is this reflected in the new version? My judgment is that S. so completely misunderstands Prudentius that he conveys very little of the poet's character, let alone his themes or style. Despite a laudable effort to apprehend and render Prudentius' religious outlook, S. has simplified the complex, secularized the Christian, and flattened the elevated; in short, he has banalized every aspect of this most engaging, but for modern readers, often difficult, work.

S. is right to insist that this is sophisticated poetry. He seems, however, oblivious to the fact that its many levels of meaning rest on a christocentric understanding of revelation and knowledge. Prudentius, like his contemporary Augustine, viewed the natural world and the ordinary course of human life as a revelation of spiritual realities. Created by the Father, through the Son (the eternal Word), the world was for Prudentius a word of God, mute, inexplicit, but nonetheless significant, in all its aspects, of divine love. In the Scriptures God had spoken again, in suggestive types in the Old Testament and explicitly in the New. Throughout the former, it was God's Word who had manifested the Father's love by snatching a remnant of mankind from the flood, freeing the Hebrews from Egypt, revealing God's law at Sinai, and establishing His covenant with Israel. In the latter, He became incarnate to effect the salvation of all, even those outside the chosen people. Christ, the Word incarnate, was thus the beginning and end of all history, the one revelation of God, the one source of knowledge. Most hymns of the Cathemerinon begin with a description of some aspect of the course of nature or the course of daily life, i.e., God's creation or first revelation. These descriptions of external realities such as sunrise or nightfall or of routine events like rising in the morning, eating the main meal, lighting lamps in the evening, inevitably suggest important truths relating to the life and ultimate hopes of Christians. Following this descriptive introduction, a scriptural exemplum or series of exempla shows how these spiritual truths suggested by the experience of daily life are exemplified and clarified in the events of salvation history. Finally, in an ethical and anagogic exegesis, Prudentius extracts from both the phenomena he has observed and the story he has retold explicit teaching relevant to the believer's daily struggle against sin (psychomachia) and his hope for eternal salvation.

S.'s technique shatters this conceptual framework. Rather than representing the original in a complete and consecutive manner, he epitomizes and conflates, drawing from the text a succession of individual images and reflections, which he sometimes elaborates with conceits and transitions of his own. The conceptual density of the poetry vanishes. (To facilitate comprehension, I quote H.J. Thomson's Loeb edition [on which see below] for the text of Prudentius and the prose translation, which I have twice slightly adapted. Though S.'s version lacks line numbers, I shall provide these in my quotations of his work. The reader may form some idea of the extent of his conflations and omissions from the disparity between the line numbers of the original and those of S.'s English).

Consider the movement of C. 4, the hymn of thanksgiving after the main meal. In the introduction, Prudentius reflects on the absorption of food in the light of the Pauline characterization of the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 6.19). The poet's description of god-given sustenance is at one moment quite material (1f.), at another quite spiritualized (10f.); in fact, the two are not separable, for the divine Spirit of Christ (14f.) can enter the flesh in a way analogous to food. Note the very concrete insistence on human innards: "intrat [i.e., Spiritus ille sempiternus, 14] pectora candidus pudica, / quae templi vice consecrata rident / postquam conbiberint Deum medullis. / sed si quid vitii dolive nasci / inter viscera iam dicata sensit, / ceu spurcum refugit celer sacellum" (16-20; "In His purity He enters chaste hearts, which are consecrated as His temple, smiling brightly when they have drunk deep of God. But if He perceives sin or guile arising in the flesh now dedicated to Him, swiftly He departs as from an unclean shrine"). Prudentius warns that gluttony and drunkenness can block, in an almost mechanical way, the space (28-30) in which the Spirit, the "infusum Deum," who is the food of the soul (32f.), would dwell. The believer should prefer the latter to physical food, but we thank God for providing both: "sed nos tu gemino fovens paratu / artus atque animas utroque pastu / confirmas, Pater, ac vigore conples" (34-36; "But Thou dost make twofold provision for our nurture; our bodies and our souls with two several kinds of sustenance Thou dost strengthen and invigorate").

As an illustration of God's benevolent provision for the body, the temple of the Spirit, Prudentius now retells the Septuagintal narrative of Daniel in the lions' den ( = Dan. 14.27-38 in the Vulgate). Here, salvation from the lions is a secondary theme, for the poet directs our attention to God's feeding of the hungry prophet: "sic olim tua praecluens potestas / inter raucisonos situm leones / inlapsis dapibus virum refovit" (37-39; "Thus once Thy renowned power revived a man set amid rough-voiced lions, with a meal that glided down to him"). According to Prudentius, Daniel refused Nebuchadnezzar's order to bow his head to an idol (40-42) and was cast into a pit of hungry lions. The lions miraculously restrained their hunger and spared the just man. With delightful dramatic irony, Prudentius contrasts the restraint of the normally guttonous beasts (e.g., "[Danielem] saevis protinus haustibus vorandum," 45 and "fameque blanda / praedam rictibus ambit incruentis," 50f.), with the hunger of the imprisoned prophet ("clausus iugiter indigensque victus," 54). When Daniel prayed for food, Christ's angel flew down to earth and plucked up the prophet Habakuk, who was bearing a meal to the harvest reapers. The angel transported the prophet to Babylon and lowered him into the pit, where he fed the famished Daniel (55-72).

In the ethical and anagogic application, Prudentius explains that as God saved Daniel from the oppression of the human tyrant, he will shelter the Christian from the sinful world (cf. "tyrannus" referring to Nebuchadnezzar, 43 and "tyranno" referring to the rebellious world, 76) and the powers of evil that beset the believer with temptations (79f.; cf. 1Pt. 5.8). When the faithful hunger, God will feed them with a spiritual food that confers eternal life (85-93). Here the poet is evidently interpreting the food conveyed to Daniel by the angel as a type of both the Eucharist (86f.; cf. Jn. 6.27-34) and the Scriptures (96; cf. Dt. 8.3). God simultaneously--for the Eucharist is bread--provides both spiritual and material sustenance. Here, as in the introduction, both aspects of reality are indissolubly joined.

In his version of the introduction, S. begins by divorcing the two: "Now that we have nourished bodies, / let us likewise feed our souls / and set these mouths that chew and swallow / to other, more important goals- / the framing of our songs of praise (Slavitt 1-5; cf. "Pastis visceribus ciboque sumpto, / quem lex corporis inbecilla poscit, / laudem lingua Deo Patri rependat," 1-3; "Now that we have fed our flesh, taking the food which the weakly law of our body requires, let our tongue render due praise to God the Father"). His treatment of the passage describing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit very much obscures the paradox, essential to Prudentius, of the divine and immaterial entering the receptacle of the flesh: "Into the bosom's temple of those / who keep His image enshrined therein, / He enters, but departs forthwith / should there be any taint of sin" (Slavitt 17-20). S.'s immaterial "bosom" replaces Prudentius' concrete viscera.

S.'s transition to the story of Daniel continues in this inappropriately spiritualizing vein: "The moderation at the table / we practice will at once renew / the soul's robustness and sustain / the flesh, its vessel" (Slavitt 23- 26). Where Prudentius emphasizes God's abundant provision for all human needs, physical and spiritual, S. focuses on the human spiritual exercise of fasting. His immediately following version of the exemplum begins with a non sequitur: "Thus, the Lord / kept Daniel in that den of lions / safe from their cruel jaws (Slavitt 26-28). S.'s "Thus" reproduces Prudentius' "sic" (37), but while Prudentius does provide a logical motivation for the following story--the reflection that God feeds the flesh, the receptacle of the soul and the Holy Spirit--it is impossible to detect any point of coherence between the O.T. narrative and the pious commendation of fasting that S. has imposed upon the preceding lines. S. now emphasizes Daniel's deliverance from the lions, a colorful theme, to be sure, but one less important for Prudentius than that of the prophet's relief from hunger. Without any basis in the text, he inserts "No sword / he had, but only faith" (Slavitt 28f.). Reverting to the text of Prudentius, S. goes on to depict the lions fawning on Daniel (cf. 47 with Slavitt 31f.), but he then interjects another sententia of his own, "A splendid pose! But all in nature / changes over time: we feel / our bodies' promptings" (35). Compare "sed cum tenderet ad superna palmas / expertumque sibi Deum rogaret / clausus iugiter indigensque victus" (52-54; "But when he stretched his hands towards heaven in prayer to the God he had proved before, being confined without remission and in need of food . . . "). While S. implies that Daniel's physical hunger in some way compromised his spiritual stature, Prudentius shows how the hunger elicited a kindly response from the God to whom the faithful prophet had rendered the spiritual service of confession. Having developed the dichotomy of spiritual versus physical in the introduction, S. has cut out the motivation for the exemplum. His rendition of the narrative develops in a pleasant but wholly inconsequent fashion. His readers could hardly suspect the thematic continuity Prudentius has established between the introduction with its reflections on the bodily absorption of both material food and the Holy Spirit and the story of God's feeding of Daniel.

Similarly, S.'s adaptation obscures the exegetical function of the conclusion. He omits much of the passage in which Prudentius interprets Nebuchadnezzar and the lacus leonum as representative of the sinful world and the lions as symbols of demonic powers; this omission undermines the consequent parallel between Daniel's wholehearted confession of God amidst physical trials and the struggle of the present-day Christian, beset by the temptations of daily experience, to devote himself to God alone. Compare the exegetical clarity of "feram repellis, / quae circumfremit ac vorare temptat, / insanos acuens furore dentes, / cur te, summe Deus, precemur unum" (78-81; "Thou dost . . . drive away the wild beast that goes roaring round about and seeks to devour us, sharpening its teeth to frenzy with rage, for that, O God supreme, we pray to Thee alone") with "surrounded by fierce beasts of prey, / we look to Him for our protection" (Slavitt 52f.). Lost is the citation of 1Pt. 5.8 ("Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour") and the allusion to Daniel's rejection of idolatry ("te . . . unum"). Likewise, S. passes over most of lines 85-96, which interpret the food brought to Daniel as a type of both the Eucharist and the Scriptures, the spiritual bread that, if imbibed into one's physical being (internis . . . venis, 90), will guarantee eternal life even for the constitutionally mortal. Instead S. speaks confusingly of "the Lord's provision / . . . the grain of truth, the food / that fed the virtue of the prophets" (Slavitt 57, 59f.). S. thus eliminates some of Prudentius' exegesis and muddles the rest. S.'s reader will perceive a general parallel between Daniel and the present-day believer but will not even suspect that Prudentius elicits from both his ruminations on continent dining and his version of the O.T. narrative a doctrine relating the spiritual to the physical: the teaching that, even within the present time, the eternal divinity can take up residence in mortal flesh and become its surety of and guide to immortality.

Prudentius' conclusion summarizes the themes of his hymn. His proclamation of the union of Christ, whose "cross we shall always bear" ("constanterque tuam crucem feremus," 102), with God the Father, reminds the reader of Daniel's confession of the one God and confirms the parallel between the spiritual struggles of the ascetic Christian and the physical danger endured by the O.T. hero. The apostrophe to Christ recalls the central mystery of the divine dwelling within human flesh. In place of this doxology laden with ethical and anagogic significance, S. supplies the all but absurd, "The word / of God will protect from any lions / those who trust in Christ the Lord" (62-64). His treatment of C. 4 is quite representative of his method; throughout his adaptation, S. reduces to inconsequence and vagueness complex meditations in which Prudentius sought to lay bear truths that, as he believed, were revealed through natural phenomena and biblical history and exemplified in the sacramental life of the Church and the moral struggles, or psychomachia, of the individual Christian (Cf. C. 2.57-92 with Slavitt 30-41, where one finds no connection between the story of Jacob's nighttime bout with the angel and the prayer for the preservation of baptismal purity; C. 3.156-70 with Slavitt 87-95, where one misses the connection between the contrasting accounts of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve and the virginal birth of Christ with the ethical vision of the purity and mildness typical of redeemed humanity; C. 5.45-80 with Slavitt 29-39, where the narrative of the crossing of the Red Sea is severed from the theme of salvation from the powers of darkness; C. 6.25-56 with Slavitt 9-16, which fail to bring out the association of purity of heart with spiritual discernment, the idea motivating the story of Joseph's clairvoyance. S. omits C. 10.61-68, which insist on the human responsibility to grieve even for the stranger's death, the theme of the following story of Tobit).

It was, in fact, his theological precision that enabled Prudentius to construct poems in which multiple levels of meaning are seamlessly interwoven. S. sometimes replaces the ancient poet's precision with a diffuse religiosity, at other times with an apparently religious sentiment that, on closer inspection, turns out to be meaningless. This is nowhere more apparent than in passages dealing with Christ Himself. Here, as elsewhere, it is my goal simply to compare S.'s version with the original, not to suggest that he was motivated by an ideological bias. And it is notable that Prudentius' Cathemerinon uses forms of Christus forty- five times, S.'s just half as often (twenty-three). Though Christ was, for Prudentius, the key to and the object of all understanding, S. again and again removes, misinterprets, or obscures references to such basic trinitarian and christological concepts as the pre-existence of the Son, the creation of the universe through the Wisdom and Word of the Father (cf. C. 11.13-24 with Slavitt 11.8-16), the Son as the manifestation of the Father in human history (cf., e.g., C. 5.45-80 with Slavitt 28-39), Christ the incarnate redeemer of mankind, and Christ the judge of the living and the dead (cf. C. 1.97-100 with Slavitt 1.68-70). I will briefly discuss just the third point.

In S.'s Cathemerinon even passages referring to Jesus are all but emptied of apprehensible christological and soteriological import. One might mention his handling of the adoration of the Magi in C. 12 (65-72 = Slavitt 49-52), Jesus' fast in the desert in C. 7 (especially 181-85 = Slavitt 140-44), His death on the cross in C. 9 (83f. = Slavitt 56-58), and His resurrection in C. 5 (129-32 = Slavitt 71-74). But the substitution of a diffuse religious sentimentality for soteriology is perhaps most apparent in S.'s treatment of the stanzas of C. 8 that describe the Good Shepherd. In this, the hymn for breaking a fast, the poet declares that no pious practices, however severe, can repay God for His fatherly care (57-60). Daily the Father sends Christ, who humbly goes in search of sinners, like a shepherd seeking lambs lost in thickets and forests. Prudentius emphasizes the utter helplessness of man and the surprising generosity of grace, which comes to sinners in the midst of their rebellion (33-40). In an anagogic application of the gospel parable, he depicts the kindly Shepherd returning the wayward lambs to a paradise of verdant meadows and streams of life-giving waters (41-48).

Readers of S.'s version may be pardoned if they fail to guess just what gift of God surpasses human requital. He excises virtually all language and imagery referring to sin, redemption, and heavenly bliss. Compare "ille ovem morbo residem gregique / perditam sano, male dissipantem / vellus adfixis vepribus per hirtae / devia silvae / inpiger pastor revocat . . ." (33-37; "When a sheep lags behind because it is sick, and is lost from the healthy flock, wasting its wool by catching on thorny bushes along unfrequented ways in the rough woodland, He as a tireless Shepherd calls it again") with "Watching after us, our / shepherd looks for laggard / lambs caught in brambles, / or lost, or merely slow" (Slavitt 45-48). "Laggard" hardly conveys the ethical resonance of morbo residem. Phrases signifying the habit of sin and its effects--"gregi . . . perditam sano, male dissipantem, and per hirtae devia silvae"--are left untouched. S. almost passes over the lines in which Prudentius adapts the classical topos of the locus amoenus to the depiction of the heavenly paradise. Compare "reddit [i.e., oues] et pratis viridique campo, / . . . ubi / . . . frequens palmis nemus, et reflexa / vernat herbarum coma, tum perennis / gurgitem vivis vitreum fluentis / laurus obumbrat" (41-48; "[He] restores it to the meadows too, and the green field, where . . . the grove is filled with palms, the bending leaves of grass flourish, and the glassy stream of running water is shaded with evergreen bay") with "He lifts them to His shoulders / and returns them to the flock still / grazing in the meadow. / He cleans their wool of burs. / For the tenderness and care we / receive from our Creator, / let us ever be thankful, / accepting what occurs / with grateful resignation" (Slavitt 49-57). Note S.'s omission of "palmis" (a ubiquitous symbol of eternal salvation; cf. Apoc. 7.9), "perennis . . . laurus, and vivis fluentis" (referring to Jn. 4.14: "The water that I shall give . . . will become . . . a spring of water welling up to eternal life"). S.'s theologically empty sentimentality and his melancholy resignation are the opposite of Prudentius' confident Christian hope.

To express his sublime intellection of a fundamental unity refracted in a kaleidoscopic multiplicity of natural and historical phenomena Prudentius makes use of an appropriate lyric style: syntactically dense, always elevated, and occasionally grandiloquent in its diction, baroquely rhetorical in the deployment of figures of speech and thought. S.'s amalgam of the quite formal with the conversational, salty, and homespun is equally appropriate to his inconsequent congeries of trite reflection and naive narrative. The chattiness is very notable in his version of C. 8, the poem we have just been discussing. Consider the passage in which the poet announces in two elegant Sapphic stanzas that the hour to eat has now arrived: "nona summissum rotat hora solem, / partibus vixdum tribus evolutis, / quarta devexo superest in axe / portio lucis. / nos brevis voti dape vindicata / solvimus festum, fruimurque mensis / adfatim plenis, quibus inbuatur / prona voluptas" (9-16; "The ninth hour is wheeling the sun on his downward course, scarce yet has the daylight three parts rolled away, and the fourth still is left in the down-sloping sky; we, taking our meat, break off the observance of our short vow and let eager appetite enjoy its first taste of the table's abundant plenty"). The first stanza is devoted to an ingenious temporal periphrasis expressed in astronomical terms. These lines may sound bombastic to moderns, but, from the time of Ovid on, poets viewed the announcement of the time or date of a climactic moment as both an opportunity and a challenge to display their fecundity of invention (cf. Met. 3.351f.; Apul., Apol. 9.14; Damasus' epitaph for his sister, ICUR, n.s., vol. 4, #12417; Rutil. Namat. De red. suo 1.135f.; also Prud., Praef. 1-3 and Pe. 3.11f.). Note the classical formality of words like "votum" and "daps" and the surprising conjunction of the latter with the legal term "vindicare" in a phrase signifying the ethically correct reassumption of a good temporarily abjured. The poet's penchant for abstraction ("voluptas" = those who take pleasure in eating) and metonymy ("mensis" = food) are typical of all Roman, but especially late-antique, verse. The consonance and assonance in "partibus . . . tribus . . evolutis; festum fruimurque; plenis . . . prona; dape, vindicata, inbuatur, voluptas are pleasantly melodious. S., to his credit, strives to emulate Prudentius' metrical virtuosity in a basically iambic verse articulated in eight-line stanzas, in which each of two pairs of three (usually) longer lines (of five to seven syllables) is followed by one (usually) shorter (of five or six syllables), and in which the shorter (the fourth and the eighth) lines rhyme. The tone, however, flat at the beginning of the stanza, becomes downright homey at the end: "Now that day is almost / done, we end our fasting / having met the obli- / gations of our vow. / Grant, as we break bread that / our appetites be hearty, / and give us good digestion / for our dinner now" (Slavitt 9-16). In the phrase, "both in body and in / spirit," tacked onto the beginning of the next stanza, the verse passes from folksiness to incoherence (Slavitt 17f.). What can possibly be meant by "good digestion . . . in spirit"?

In Prudentius' poem, the opening stanzas constitute a meditation on the dominical injunction: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (1-20; cf. Mt. 11.29f.). He goes on quite naturally to recall the rules for fasting that Jesus delivered in the sermon on the mount (Mt. 6.16-18): "addit et ne quis velit invenusto / sordidus cultu lacerare frontem, / sed decus vultus capitisque pexum / comat honorem. / 'terge ieiunans' ait 'omne corpus, / neve subducto faciem rubore / luteus tinguat color aut notetur / pallor in ore'" (21-28; "He commands, too, that none clothe himself in dismal, untidy garb and disfigure his brows, but that we comb and dress our hair, which is the ornament of our countenance, the glory of our head. 'Cleanse thy whole body,' He saith, 'when thou fastest; and let not thy cheeks lose their redness and wear a yellow hue, nor a pale cast be marked on thy face'"). Prudentius invites us to imagine Christ the heavenly Teacher speaking directly to mature disciples in the present-day Church. S. replaces Christ and his ascetic devotees with parents and children, dramatic interaction in the present with recollections of a long-past childhood, the serious and compelling with the cute and mawkish: "Exercises such as / this became our habit / when, as little children / we started to obey / the dictates of our parents / to wash our hands and faces, / dress ourselves correctly, / and comb our hair each day. / So we read in Matthew, / who tells us, when we fast, to / maintain our good grooming" (Slavitt 25-35). I suppose that this and similarly homespun bits (e.g., 1.45-64 = Slavitt 1.31-41; 2.17-36 = Slavitt 2.10-19; 3.56-65 = Slavitt 3.29-38; 11.61-77 = Slavitt 11.30-35) are meant to suggest what S. calls Prudentius' "spiritual simplicity or even naivete": "To beseech God the Father," he declares, "one reverts to the candor and directness of that child one wishes one had been" (p. xiii). I confess that in these poems I discern no naivete, unless it be naive to believe in God and pray to Him. On the other hand, I agree that the hymns exude a "spiritual simplicity," but this is an ethical-ascetic-pose of undistracted, wholehearted devotion based on and commended by a vast intellectual effort of exegesis. It has nothing to do with the puerilities and sentimentalities S. would read into the Cathemerinon.

Even had S. succeeded in his effort "to do [Prudentius'] voice" (p. xii), teachers and students would have to go elsewhere for a translation. In the last half century, several fine scholars have addressed the needs of those who must know what the text says. H.J. Thomson's prose translation of Cathemerinon, published in the first volume of the two-volume Loeb edition of the complete works of Prudentius (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass./London 1949-53) is remarkable for its insight. Time and again Thomson spots implicit exegetical and theological nuances that he brings out in admirably clear, plain prose. M.C. Eagan's verse translation in volume 1 of The Poems of Prudentius (The Catholic University of America Press: Washington 1962 = FOTC, vol. 43) is a most impressive tour- de-force. With considerable grace, she reproduces the Latin quantitative meters in unrhymed accentual verse. Her diction, like Thomson's, is occasionally quaint, but on the whole, it is both felicitous and precise. She clarifies the meaning of some passages Thomson had misunderstood (e.g., the proper interpretation of "labor" in 1.12, 23, and 80), and her annotation, especially the references to classical and patristic parallels, is far fuller than Thomson's. Finally, M. van Assendelft has published a line-by-line translation to accompany her sometimes prolix, but always illuminating, commentary on the morning (C. 1, 2) and evening (C. 5, 6) hymns (Sol ecce surgit igneus: A Commentary on the Morning and Evening Hymns of Prudentius [Bouma's Boekhuis B.V.: Groningen 1976). These three are complementary, all current and reliable. The translations by Thomson and Eagan are both in print.

It is symptomatic of his literary, rather than scholarly, goals that S. nowhere identifies the critical text beneath his work. Here scholarly translators of Cathemerinon face a difficult choice, for editors differ over how to handle numerous plausible, and perhaps ancient, variants for individual words, lines, even entire stanzas (C. 10.9-16). Thomson, with occasional demur, and Eagan, quite consistently, followed J. Bergman's Aurelii Prudentii Clementis Carmina ([Vienna 1926] = CSEL, vol. 61). Van Assendelft, though maintaining a properly independent attitude, based her work on the more recent, but occasionally eccentric, edition of M. Cunningham (Aurelii Prudentii Clementis Carmina [Turnhout 1966] = CCSL, vol. 126). Since S. omitted so many of the passages where the reading is particularly dubious, I could not determine whose text he had used.

S.'s Hymns of Prudentius indicates its contents, not in its title but its layout. One who encounters such a slim volume--the text printed in a large, elegant font, generously spaced, and unencumbered by line numbers--would expect a work of original poetry. That is almost what we have here, for S.'s Hymns is not truly in the manner of, or imitated from, but rather inspired or suggested by, Prudentius. It should not be called a "translation," for it reproduces neither the connected sense nor even the poetic values of the original. It is just as useless, or rather misleading, to the general reader who wishes to become acquainted with Prudentius as it would be for students and teachers of Classics, Medieval Studies, and Ancient History. I should think that it will find appreciative readers primarily among those who have enjoyed S.'s own poetry.