ESTERDAY I began a 5-part series hoping to convince readers to give $5.00 per month. You can access PART 1 by scrolling to the bottom; today is PART 2. At Watershed, we love to scan & upload rare hymnals. As usual, the following hymnal has never been available online—until today!
There is confusion about this hymnal’s name. The official version is: “Songs of Syon: A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Canticles.” But Theodore Marier also published a hymnal called “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Canticles.” To avoid confusion, some refer to this book simply as the WOODWARD HYMNAL.
GEORGE RATCLIFFE WOODWARD (d. 1934) was an Anglican priest who (I’m told) was a disciple of J. M. Neale. However, the vast majority of hymns in this book are English translations of Roman Catholic texts—from Latin, Greek, and other languages. Some are metrical, others are plainsong. Many are quite interesting. For example, consider how the 2nd verse of the AVE MARIS STELLA is rendered into English, wonderfully conveying the meaning of the original Latin:
Fr. Matthew Britt (1872-1955)—a Roman Catholic benedictine priest—says this about Woodward:
WOODWARD, REV. GEORGE RATCLIFF, M.A. (b. 1848), was educated at Harrow, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He is the editor of the excellent hymnal, Songs of Syon, to which he contributed many translations from the Latin, Greek, and German. His translations from the Latin do not include any of the Breviary hymns. He is also the author of the widely known Cowley Carol Book.
Fr. Britt was quite impressed with an original translation Woodward made for the AVE MARIS STELLA. Incidentally, here’s what Fr. Britt says about the translators contained in his monumental work on hymns:
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS OF TRANSLATORS :
It is interesting to record here the religious affiliations of the translators whose hymns find a place in this volume. It will be observed from the biographies given above that among the Catholic translators fully one-half are converts. Among those classed as Anglicans the writer believes that all are of the High Church party.
CATHOLICS : Aylward, Bagshawe, Bute, Campbell, Caswall, Donahoe, Dryden, Faber, Garesche, Hall, Henry, Hunter-Blair, Husenbeth, Leeson, McDougall, MacCarthy, Newman, Oakeley, O’Hagan, Oxenham, Paul, Potter, Wallace, Walworth, and Wingfield. The translations in the Primers are all by Catholics.
ANGLICANS: Ball, Blacker, Blew, Chadwick, Chambers, Copeland, Courthope, Dearmer, Ellerton, Hort, Housman, Irons, Julian, Lacey, Littledale, Neale, Palmer, Riley, and Woodward. [The religious affiliation of Doran is not definitely known to the writer; he was probably an Anglican. Scott was nominally a Presbyterian with a leaning toward the Episcopal Church.]
This article is part of a series: