O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata
O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata. Peter Abelard* (1079–1142).
This is the only hymn by Abelard to survive in common usage. It is usually known in the translation by John Mason Neale,* ‘O what their joy and their glory must be’*, and there are two other translations in 20th-century books. Unfortunately, none of them (even Helen Waddell*’s which comes the nearest) give much idea of the grandeur of the original text; nor do they reproduce Abelard’s rhythm (and therefore do not fit Abelard’s tune for it). By coincidence, this hymn is also the only one for which the early tune survives; as we shall see, however, this is an adaptation rather than what we should call an original composition.
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