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Prose or Sequence

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Definition and general description

The Sequence (Sequentia)—or, more accurately as will be seen further on, the Prose (Prosa)—is the liturgical hymn of the Mass, in which it occurs on festivals between the Gradual and the Gospel, while the hymn, properly so called, belongs to the Breviary. The Sequence differs also in structure and melody from the hymn; for whilst all the strophes of a hymn are always constructed according to the same metre and rhythm and are sung to the same melody as the first strophe, it is the peculiarity of the Sequence, due to its origin, that (at least in those of the first epoch) each strophe or pair of strophes is constructed on a different plan. A sequence usually begins with an independent introductory sentence or an Alleluia (an intonation with its own melody); then follow several pairs of strophes, each pair with its own melody; in the earlier periods the conclusion is uniformly an independent sentence of shorter or longer form. Each pair of strophes is composed of strophe and antistrophe, which exactly agree in their length and the number of their syllables (later also in rhythm and rhyme). The execution was entrusted to two choirs (usually of men and boys, respectively), the strophe being sung by one and the antistrophe by the other to the same melody. Thus, in contrast with the monotony of the hymn, the Sequence shows manifold diversity in outward construction, in melody, and in method of execution. The various transformations which this original plan underwent in the course of the centuries, and according to which we divide sequences into those of the first, the transitional, and the second periods, will be considered in the next paragraph.

Origin, development, and classification

That the Sequence started from the Alleluia is generally admitted, and may be considered as certain; but the manner of its origin and the various phases of its development before we get to what are termed the "versus ad sequentias" (which are the immediate predecessors of the Sequence), are still shrouded in obscurity and cannot now be determined with certainty, as the oldest documents are not contemporary, and from those which we possess no sufficiently definite conclusions can be drawn. With the aid of the "Analecta hymnica medii ævi"—especially the material of the last volume (LIII) edited by the Rev. H. M. Bannister and the writer of the present article—and with the assistance of the material gathered by Bannister for his forthcoming work on the Sequence melodies of all Western countries, we may trace the most probable development of the Sequence as below:

(1) The starting-point of the Sequence is the Alleluia with its melisma (i.e. a more or less long melodious succession of notes on its concluding a); in other words, the Alleluia which precedes the versus alleluiaticus. This succession of notes was called sequentia (or sequela, "that which follows"); synonymous terms are jubilus, jubilatio, neuma, melodia, as was later explained by Abbot Gerbert of Saint-Blasien: "Nomen sequentiarum antea jubilationibus ejusmodi proprium fuit, haud dubie, quia soni illi ultimam verbi syllabam seu vocalem sequebantur. 'Sequitur jubilatio', ut habetur in Ordine Romano II, 'quam sequentiam vocant'…. In citatis his locis agitur de Alleluia, in cujus ultima syllaba hujusmodi neumæ haud raro satis longe comparent in veteribus codicibus…. Ipsa illa repetitio a a a cum modulatione sequentia dicebatur. 'Post Alleluia quædam melodia neumatum cantatur, quod sequentiam quidam appellant', ait S. Udalricus lib. I consuet. Cluniac. cap. II. Belethus idem affirmat: 'Moris enim fuit, ut post Alleluia cantaretur neuma; nominatur autem neuma cantus qui sequebatur Alleluia.' Quod tamen ita intelligi debet, ut ipsi ultimæ vocali A conjungeretur" (Gerbertus, "De cantu et musica sacra", Typis St. Blasianis, I, 1774, pp. 338 sq.; cf. "Analecta hymnica", XLVII, 11 sqq.; XLIX, 266 sqq.). Hence sequentia is originally only a musical term; etymologically it is the same as the Greek ’akolouthía, although the latter word actually means something else (cf. Christ and Paranikas, "Anthologia græca", Leipzig, 1871, p. lvii). How far, however, we are justified in supposing Græco-Oriental influence from the similarity of the terms sequentia and ’akolouthía must be left undecided, especially as the Hymn too, though borrowed from the Greek ’úmnos, must be regarded as a genuine Western product without traces of anything essentially Eastern.

(2) It was the length of the melisma or jubilus over the ending a (when and how this length arose is not here in question) which probably led to its being divided into several parts (incisa, musical phrases). Each division was then called sequentia, and the whole, as comprising several such divisions, sequentiæ. The reason for this division was a purely practical one, viz. to allow the singers time to take breath, and to effect this the more easily the practice was introduced, so it would seem, of having these divisions of the melody (or sequentiæ) sung by alternate choirs, each musical phrase being sung twice; exception was made in the case of a few jubili, apparently the shorter ones which have no such repetition. This is the origin of the alternate choirs, and of the consequent repetition of all or nearly all the divisions of the melody. In the old musical manuscripts the repetition is indicated by a d (=denuo or dupplex or dis for bis; cf. discantus for biscantus).

(3) A much more important advance was made when some of the divisions of the melody or sequentiæ—for it did not as yet apply to all of them—were provided with a text; this text, consisting of short versicles, was appropriately termed in the "Proœmium" of Notker "versus ad aliquot sequentias" (i.e. the verses or text to some of the divisions of the melody), in which expression the proper meaning of sequentia is preserved. When we reach these versus ad sequentias we are on safer historical ground. In the "Analecta hymnica", XLIX, nn. 515-30, we have examples of them preserved in some old French and English tropers; not a single example comes from Germany. For the purpose of illustration we may give the first paragraphs of the jubilus "Fulgens præclara" from the Winchester Troper:

[IMAGE OMITTED]

The first three divisions of the jubilus are here without any text; they are pure melody sung to the vowel a; a text is then provided for the fifth division and its repeat; this is again followed by a on which the melody was sung; a text has been composed for the eighth and twelfth divisions as for the fifth; the ending is three divisions of the melody without any text.

(4) From these "versus ad sequentias" to the real Sequence was no great step; a text was now set to all the sequentiæ or divisions of the melody without exception, and we thus have what we call a sequence. The proper and natural title of such a melody with its text (a text which has neither rhythm, metre, nor rhyme) is doubtless "sequentia cum prosa" (melody with its text), a title found in old French sources. As this text (prosa) gradually became more prominent, and as it had to be marked before the melody, the use of the term "Prosa" for both melody and verse was only natural. France adopted and retained this term; on the other hand, Germany, whether from imperfect knowledge of the development or because the original meaning of sequentia was lost, or from opposition to France which is frequently evinced in the language of the sequences, or from whatever other reason, employed almost exclusively the title Sequentia. In this connexion it is interesting to quote the remark of William of Hirschau in his "Consuetudines": "…pro signo prosæ, quam quidam sequentiam vocant". From the single title "Sequentia cum prosa" developed the two titles, "Prosa" and "Sequentia" (Prose and Sequence), which are now used promiscuously; the first is the older and more accurate, the second the more usual. (As a matter of curiosity we may mention that there have been people who took in earnest the interpretation of prosa as = pro sã, i.e. pro sequentia.)

This sketch of the development of the Prose or Sequence explains many peculiarities in the oldest sequences. Originally the text was adapted to a melody which already existed; as the divisions of this melody (clausulæ), with the exception of the introductory and closing ones, were usually repeated by alternative choirs (cf. above II, 2), there arose double strophes of the same length and sung to the same melody—in other words, symmetrically constructed parallel strophes. These somewhat long pieces of melody (a musical division corresponding to the strophe of the text) were further subdivided into smaller divisions, shorter musical phrases with short half-pauses, so that the whole of the melody was divided into a number of short musical phrases of different lengths. Under these circumstances it was natural that at the beginning neither rhythm nor metre (still less rhyme, which is of relatively late origin) was taken into practical account, and the whole presented an appearance and form very different from what we usually understand by a poem. On the whole then the Prosa was true to its name in being prose, except that the fact that the antistrophe had to be as long as the strophe and that the end of the verse had, so far as possible, to correspond with the end of the word imposed a certain restraint. Moreover, as it seems, the first writers of sequences felt themselves especially bound by another law (frequently observed also in later times), which, it is important to note, prevailed without exception in the versus ad sequentias, the predecessors of the Sequence, and which, therefore, may not be considered the product of a later date; the jubilus of the Alleluia was built on its concluding a, and is thus the melody of the a. This a, the original text of the jubilus, ought therefore naturally to be prominent in the text which was introduced to replace it. As a matter of fact, in all versus ad sequentias and in many old sequences (especially the earliest), not only the strophes but often all the verses end in a. But we must not overlook the fact that in those of German origin this law is seldom observed or, more properly speaking, is still only occasionally used (cf. Analecta Hymnica, LIII, nn. 150, 160, 161, 185, 186), and even then it is not the verses but only the strophes which end in a. As an example of these peculiarities we may quote the first strophes of the sequence "Eia recolamus" (Anal. Hymn., LIII, 16), once a favourite Christmas sequence in all countries:—

[TABLE OMITTED]

All unpaired and unsymmetrical sequences of this sort are thus short, and their origin is probably to be explained by the fact that a few relatively short Alleluia-jubili were left without repeats. As the divisions of the melody have no repeat, the strophes set to them are also not repeated (i.e. they have no antistrophe or parallel strophe). If this explanation is right, there is no ground for the suggestion that sequences without parallel strophes are older than those with them; they may date from the same period, but they had a very short life, as sequences without symmetrical pairs of strophes soon became so unusual that antistrophes were added to those earlier without them. With the sequence developed in the way thus indicated, viz. by adapting a text to an already existing melody, it became natural in time to have sequences composed with a melody of their own. The text in this case had no need to follow the Alleluia-jubilus; text and melody would be composed at the same time, and, if need be, the melody might be accommodated to the text. This led to a freer treatment of the text, which otherwise would have to follow syllable by syllable the notes of the melody, and so gradually more attention was paid to rhythm and symmetry in the construction of the verse, as is required by the exigencies of poetry.

Even when the text was set to a melody already in use, care was soon taken to observe a certain rhythm in the words. In this connexion rhythm does not depend on the quantity of the syllables (with which the sequence has practically no concern), but simply on the accent of the word. In many sequences we find in a few of their verses and strophes this type of symmetrical rhythm (i.e. a rhythm which occurs regularly in a verse and its correspondent); in other sequences we find it in almost all the verses (e.g. in two sequences, for St. Stephen's Day and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, ascribed to Notker Balbulus). In the St. Stephen sequence "Hanc concordi famulatu" (Anal. Hymn., LIII, n. 215) the rhythm in the first two pairs of strophes which follow the introductory verse is of this kind; the acute accent placed above the words represents the natural intonation of the words:—

2a.
 
 
3a.
 
 
Auctóris illíus
exémplo
dócti benígno
O Stéphane,
sígnifer régis
súmme bóni, nós exaúdi,
2b.
 
 
3b.
 
 
Pro pérsecutórum
precántis
fraúde suórum.
Profícue
quí es pro túis
éxaudítus ínimícis.

Exactly the same rhythm in strophe and antistrophe, in the verse and its parallel, can be seen in the Apostles' sequence which follows the same plan:—

2a.
 
 
3a
 
 
Ecclésiam véstris
doctrínis
ílluminátum
Nam Dóminus,
Pétre, cælórum
tíbi cláves dóno dédit
2b.
 
 
3b.
 
 
Per círculum térræ
precátus
adíuvet véster.
Armígerum
Béniamin, Chrístus
té scit súum vásque eléctum.

In both these sequences the end of all the strophes is paroxytone.

Like rhythm, assonance, the precursor of rhyme, was also gradually introduced; now a single verse, now several verses, began to end with the same or equivalent vowel (e and i, o and u). This was the beginning of that process which gradually led to the development of sequences characterized by regular rhythm and rhyme and complete uniformity in the construction of the verses (frequently also of the strophes), and thus revealing in structure and technique a strong contrast to the older types, in which the text had almost exclusively the character of prose, the strophes being dissimilar and the verses of unequal length, of different structure, and without rhyme or regular rhythm. These latter are therefore called the sequences of the first epoch; none have been preserved in the liturgy of today.

(5) The transition from the sequences of the first to those of the second epoch occupied more than a century, viz. from the end of the tenth, when the change made itself visible here and there, to the beginning of the twelfth, when the new style reached its perfection. Sequences with more or less numerous traces of the transition process are so numerous that they may be placed in a class by themselves. While maintining the structure of sequences of the first epoch, these sequences add a greater or less degree of the element of rhyme (although not yet pure rhyme) and greater uniformity of rhythm. They may be entitled sequences of the transitional style, not of the transitional period; for many sequences of the transitional period still bear the distinct stamp of the older ones, and moreover, when sequences of the second period were in highest favour, some writers of prose utilized the structure of the early period, while employing rhyme according to the style of the second period. It should also be observed that not a few sequences are so very akin to those of the first, whilst others on the contrary are so nearly related to those of the second epoch, that it is very difficult to decide to what group they should be referred. A sharp line of division cannot be drawn, since the development from the older to later forms (sometimes in strong contrast with the first) was not only slow but steady, revealing no abrupt transition or change. A good example of the transition style is the Easter sequence which is still used, but now a little altered in the "Missale Romanum", and which probably was composed by Wipo the Burgundian (d. after 1048):—

1. Victimæ paschali laudes immolent Christiani.
2a.
 
 
 
3a.
 
 
 
4a.
 
 
 
 
Agnus redemit oves,
Christiani innocens Patri
reconciliavit
peccatores.
Dic nobis, Maris,
quid vidisti in via?
Sepulchrum Christi viventis
et gloriam vidi resurgentis.
Credendum est
magis soli
Mariæ veraci
quam Judæorum
turbæ fallaci.
2b.
 
 
 
3b.
 
 
 
4b.
 
 
 
 
Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitæ mortuus
regnat vivus.
Angelicos testes,
sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea;
præcedet suos in Galilæa.
Scimus Christum
surrexisse
a mortuis vere;
tu nobis, victor,
Rex, miserere.

(6) The final phase of the development is seen in the sequences of the second epoch already described, in which uniformity of rhythm, purity of rhyme, and strict regularity in structure characterize the verses, though the strophes still evince manifold variety. Not infrequently most (sometimes even all) of the pairs of strophes are composed of verses so uniform that the outward difference between these sequences and hymns, though not completely removed, is considerably lessened. The present sequence for Corpus Christi, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas in 1263, may serve as an example:—

1a.
 
 
Lauda Sion salvatorem,
Lauda ducem et pastorem
  In hymnis et canticis.
1b.
 
 
Quantum potes, tantum aude,
Quia major omni laude,
  Nec laudare sufficis.

If we institute a comparison between this and a strophe of a sequence of the first epoch and a strophe of the following hymn:—
Pange lingua gloriosi
  Corporis mysterium
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
  Quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi
  Rex effudit gentium.

—it is at once evident how far the sequence strophe given above differs structurally from one of the first epoch, and how nearly it approaches the form of the hymn strophe. With the latter, it has the same kind of verse with its masculine and feminine rhymes and a similar rhythm, the only difference being that the order of the catalectic and acatalectic verses is dissimilar. Moreover, in the Corpus Christi sequence all the pairs of strophes are like the first, except that the third pair consists of a strophe and antistrophe each composed of six verses, of which the fourth and fifth introduce another rhythm, and the last two pairs of strophes increase the number of verses by one and two verses respectively. The three other sequences which remain in the liturgy—viz. the "Veni sancte Spiritus", "Stabat mater dolorosa", and "Dies iræ dies illa", of which the last two were originally rhymed prayers—show even greater, and in fact complete, symmetry in all the strophes—the sequences for Whitsuntide and the requiem Mass show uniformity even in all the verses. In other respects, however, many sequences of the second epoch, despite their uniformity, evince such variety in the structure of the pairs of strophes that, in contrast with the monotony of the hymn, they present considerable diversity. But the element which is wanting in all of them is the connexion with the Alleluia-jubilus and its melody, and it is only in the repetition of the melody in the antistrophe and in the change of melody in the individual strophes that its origin from the jubilus can still be observed.

Of the above-mentioned six phases in the development of the sequence the first and second are very obscure in two respects, as regards (1) the appearance of the Alleluia-jubilus without the text and (2) the relation to the so-called Gregorian Alleluia. To answer the first question, we are naturally tempted to point to the fact that in some of the earliest tropers (e.g. Cod. Sangallen., 484), the Alleluia-jubilus has no text. It is quite true that melodies without text are found there, but the earlier opinion that these are melodies to which texts were subsequently added is not true: they are melodies to previous sequence-texts, as is shown in the introduction to "Anal. hymn.", LIII, pp. xxii sq. The expression "melodies without text" is liable to be, and in fact has been, misunderstood, and should be replaced by "melodies to an existing but unwritten text". No one has as yet found a single Alleluia jubilus without text, whence might have been deduced the existence of jubili in this form before the text and independent of it. The prior existence of such jubili must indeed by admitted, but no example has as yet been discovered, nor is the discovery of such jubili hereafter probable. For, in spite of long and careful research, no liturgical manuscript with neums or melodies has been discovered of a date earlier than the ninth century, with the one exception of a Pontifical of Poitiers (Cod. Parisin. Arsen., 227), which is either eighth- or ninth-century; even of the ninth century, however, the textless Alleluia-jubili were already replaced by the versus ad sequentias and many sequences; the form of the textless jubilus can be only provisionally conjectured on the basis of the jubili with the versus ad sequentias (see above, II, 3).

For this reason it is still more difficult to give a decided answer to the second question as to the connexion between the jubilus, which forms the basis of the sequence-melodies, and the Gregorian Alleluia. If we take it for granted that the latter have been handed on unaltered and retain the original form in the oldest known sources (though these do not go further back than the ninth century), in other words, that the Alleluia before the Alleluia-verse had in the time of St. Gregory the Great the form which the Benedictines of Solesmes have established for it in their valuable publications, then we must admit that the melismata of the Gregorian Alleluia, even the longest of them, are much shorter than, and are different in kind from, the melismata of the jubilus to which the versus ad sequentias and the sequences proper were attached. According to the "Proœmium of Notker", the text of the sequences is so set to the melodia longissimæ of the Alleluia-jubilus that practically one syllable of the text corresponds to one note of the jubilus. What then was the origin of this comparatively long melisma? Was it developed from the Gregorian Alleluia by similar melismatic interpolations and musical embellishments, just as responsories of the Breviary with their final melisma grew into the tropes and verbeta with their more extensive text and music? This view cannot be accepted; for we always straightway recognize the original melisma of the responsory as the basis or leitmotiv of the melody of the verbeta, which at the end of each division and at the conclusion regularly returns to the shorter original melody. Quite different is the case with respect to the sequences of the first epoch. The introduction, it is true, follows the melody of its Alleluia; a few words which follow are frequently adapted to the first notes of the melisma to the Gregorian Alleluia, but the melody of the sequence then entirely deserts the melisma of the Alleluia and never returns to it. Various modern liturgiologists have believed that the long jubilus may be referred to Byzantine influence during the eighth century; however, no direct positive evidence has hitherto been forthcoming, and no example of Byzantine music, which might have served as a model for the long Alleluia jubilus, has come to light. Moreover, assuming a Byzantine model, it is more than enigmatical why writers of proses often adhered so conscientiously to the melody of the Alleluia proper and to the first notes of its concluding a; assuming that the verses were written to fit foreign melodies, we are at a loss to explain why a part is not foreign. Perhaps the difficulty may be explained if we assume that Gregory the Great found a long Alleluia, presumably derived from the Greeks, and gave it the short form preserved in the choir-books of the West. We know that he shortened many parts of the Sacramentary. If this surmise be true, the long jubili may have continued to exist in some places alongside of the shorter ones, and may have served later as the basis of the sequence text. While this attempt at a solution of the great riddle has much in its favour, it is still only an attempt.

Melody and title of the melody

From what has been said it will be seen that there are two classes of sequence melodies: (1) those which originally formed the Alleluia-jubilus. These are the melodies to which a sequence text was later composed; (2) those which originated simultaneously with the text, both being composed by the same person, or those which were composed by a musician for a text written by a prosator. Not every sequence has its own melody; often several sequences were written to one and the same melody, and, if this were very popular, many sequences were written to it. Hence many sequences have the same plan and the same melody. In such sequences the obvious thing was to identify the melody by some distinctive word; this word was and is called the title of the melody. About 300 titles of sequences of the first and transitional period are found in the old manuscripts; this does not imply that only 300 old melodies are known, for many melodies have come down to us without title.

It was natural that the title should be chosen from the initial word of the original sequence, to the melody of which later sequences were adapted; as example we may cite such titles as "Almiphona", "Creator poli", "Digna cultu", "Exsultet elegantis", "Fulgens præclara", etc.

It was also natural, if indeed not even more appropriate, to provide as the title of a sequence melody the beginning of the Alleluia-verse whose Alleluia-jubilus gave the melody for the sequence. Hence we explain such titles as "Ostende", "Lætatus sum", "Excita", "Veni Domine", "Dominus regnavit", "Dies sanctificatus", "Multifarie", and several others. Thus the Alleluia-versicle of the Gradual for the first Sunday in Advent is "Ostende nobis Domine misericordiam tuam etc."; for the second Sunday, "Lætatus sum in his etc."; for the third, "Excita Domine potentiam tuam etc.", and so on. In the further development of the Sequence, as the list of titles increased, as the sense of the connexion of the Sequence with the Alleluia and its versicle gradually disappeared, and as for some reason or other the desire for novelty arose, titles were adopted which seem to us rather far-fetched. Important words from the beginning or middle of a sequence were taken as titles. In the sequence "Quid tu virgo mater ploras" (Anal. hymn., LIII, n. 239), the words "virgo" and "ploras" gave the title "Virgo plorans"; from "Hanc concordi famulatu" (Anal. hymn., LIII, n. 215) was taken the title "Concordia"; in the sequence "Virginis venerandæ" (Anal. hymn., LIII, n. 246), the second strophe commences "Filiæ matris", whence was taken the title "Filia matris"; the sequence "Summi triumphum regis" (Anal. hymn., LIII, n. 67) belongs to the alleluia-versicle, "Dominus in Sina in sancto ascendens in altum captivitam duxit captivitatem", and the conspicuous words "captivam … captivitatem" produced the title "Captiva"; the same is the case with other titles, e.g. "Amœna", "Mater", "Maris stella", "Planctus cygni", etc. Several titles are evidently formed on the principle of analogy; from the beginning of the sequences "Lyra pulchra regem" (Anal. hymn., LIII, n. 52) and "Nostra tuba nunc tua" (ibid. n. 14), titles (namely "Lyra" and "Nostra tuba") which indicated musical instruments were introduced; analogous to these are such titles as "Bucca", "Cithara", "Fidicula", "Fistula", "Organa", "Tuba", "Tympanum". Perhaps "Symphonia" is founded on the analogy of "Concordia", and the title "Chorus" related to it. Of somewhat less obvious origin, although they indicate the actual or supposed origin of the melody, are such titles as "Græca", "Romana", "Metensis", "Occidentana". Far-fetched and now scarcely explicable are the titles "Cignea", "Frigdola", "Planctus sterilis", "Duo tres", "Hypodiaconissa", "Vitellia", etc. If the conjecture be accurate that the title of a melody is simpler and more natural the nearer it is to its origin, then the titles, taken in connexion with other facts, provide the means of explaining the question as to the original home of the various sequences. France preferably chose titles from the Incipit of the Sequence or Alleluia-verse; St. Gall and Germany on the contrary never chose titles from the Incipit of the Sequence, but used many unusual titles which to us have little or no meaning.

History of the sequence

Formerly the origin of the Sequence was always sought at St. Gall and Notker Balbulus was universally accredited as its inventor. The basis for this supposition was furnished by the so-called "Proœmium of Notker", in which Notker tells us that it was the "Antiphonarium" of a monk of Jumièges (in which "aliqui versus ad sequentias erant modulati"), which had suggested to him to place the words of a text under the melodiæ longissimæ of the Alleluia-jubilus in such a way that each word of the text corresponded to a note of the melody. But does this prove that Notker was the first person who did this? In St. Gall, certainly; but elsewhere this might have taken place long before-hand. Besides it is very doubtful on other grounds whether the "Proœmium of Notker" is genuine and authentic. Until the last two decades our knowledge of sequence material was entirely inadequate. The older sequences, and especially their melodies, were only known to us through the St. Gall tropers, whose importance was enhanced by their number; other old tropers from Germany, of which scarcely six were known, were treated as copies of those of St. Gall. What France, England, or Italy had done in the production of sequences was scarcely suspected, and one had no idea at all of the relation which their melodies had to the St. Gall melodies. Subsequently it became plain that the St. Gall composer was more than once influenced by an older French exemplar; what has been said above as to the development of the Sequence—it was based on the most extensive collection of original material—undoubtedly goes to prove that all the peculiarities of the sequences in their early stage are found in those of France, whilst those of St. Gall (i.e. the German ones) show signs of a relatively later period and of a phase of greater development, even in the matter of the name of the sequence and of titles of melodies. Further proofs cannot be given here, and we must content ourselves with referring to the discussion in "Analecta hymnica", LIII, the results of which may be summed up in three sentences: (1) proses or sequences did not originate in St. Gall. Notker Balbulus was not their first inventor, although he was their first and most prominent exponent in Germany. Their origin goes further back, probably to the eighth century; (2) failing more definite evidence, it is difficult to say exactly what sequences are to be attributed to Notker Balbulus; meanwhile, we cannot determine what sequences of the first epoch and clearly of German origin come from St. Gall and what from other German abbeys or dioceses; (3) all that has hitherto been discovered as to the origin and development of sequences shows France to have been the original home of the "versus ad sequentias" and of the "sequentia cum prosa". As to the precise locality of that home in France—whether it was Luxeuil, or Fleury-sur-Loire, or Moissac, or St-Martial, must be a matter for conjecture.

In what countries and to what extent France made its influence felt in the composition of sequences cannot yet be decided with accuracy. At the end of the tenth and especially in the eleventh century sequences were certainly very widely spread and popular in all countries of the West—even in Italy, which until lately has been overlooked as having scarcely any share in this branch of composition. Not only in Northern but also in Southern Italy, in the neighbourhood of Benevento and Monte Cassino, were schools for sequences, as the discoveries of Bannister at Benevento have proved. Of all these sequences of the first epoch there were some in the eleventh century which were found only in a given country and were therefore local products; others (but they were relatively few) were the common liturgical property of all countries of the West. Besides these, there are two particular groups to be distinguished, viz. such as were used only in France, England, and Spain, and such as were used only in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. This being the case, we may classify sequences as Gallo-Anglican or Germano-Italian: to the first class belong the Spanish; to the second those of Holland and Belgium. Between the countries which belong to one class, there existed a more or less free exchange of sequences, whilst sequences which belong to the other class were as a whole excluded and only rarely introduced. Thus, between France and Italy, as well as between England and Germany, there existed sometimes a friendly exchange, but scarcely ever between France and Germany. This fact probably played some rôle in the development of sequences in various countries and in the influence which one country exercised upon another. Of the composers of sequences unfortunately only a few names have been preserved; after the great Notker Balbulus of St. Gall (d. 912), the first rank is taken by Ekkehard I of St. Gall (d. 973), Abbot Berno of Reichenau (d. 1048), Hermann Contractus (d. 1054), and Gottschalk of Limburg (d. 1098). If the honour of the invention of sequences belongs to France, the honour of bringing sequences to perfection during the first epoch belongs to Germany.

During the second epoch the picture changes: in the abbey of the Canons Regular of St. Victor in Paris the Sequence with rhythm and rhyme reached artistic perfection, combining splendour of form with depth and seriousness of conception. This was the case with Adam of St. Victor (d. 1192); it is unfortunately uncertain whether many of the sequences ascribed to him are really his or belong to his predecessors or imitators. The new style met with an enthusiastic reception. The sequences of Adam of St. Victor came into liturgical use almost everywhere, and found eager and frequently even successful imitation. In French Graduals almost all the sequences of the first epoch were supplanted by the later ones, whereas in Germany, together with the new ones a considerable number of those which are supposed to be Notker's remained in use as late as the fifteenth century. Some precious contributions were furnished by England. Italy on the other hand falls quite behind during the second epoch. However, the two noble sequences still in use, the "Stabat mater" and the "Dies iræ", are the works of two Italian Franciscans, their composition being with some probability assigned to Jacopone da Todi (d. 1305) and Thomas of Celano (d. about 1250); both these works, however, were originally written as rhymed prayers for private use and were only afterwards used as sequences. St. Thomas of Aquinas too (d. 1274) has bequeathed to us the immortal sequence, "Lauda Sion salvatorem", but that is the only one he wrote. Sequences like hymns declined in the fifteenth century, and reached their lowest stage of decadence where they had most flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth (viz. in France). 5000 sequences of the most varying value have already come to light; they are a testimony to the Christian literary activity in the West during seven centuries, and are especially significant for the influence they exercised on the development of poetry and music. For the Gregorian melodies were taken over by them and preserved with fidelity and conservatism; with the admission of sequences and tropes into the liturgy, ecclesiastical music found its opportunity for further development and glorious growth.


Sources

TRENCH, Sacred Latin Poetry chiefly Lyrical (London, 1849, 1864, and 1874); NEALE, Sequentiæ et missalibus … collectæ (London, 1852); FRERE, The Winchester Troper (London, 1894); WEALE AND MISSET, Analecta liturg. (London and Lille, 1888-92); JULIAN, Dict. of Hymnology (2nd ed., London, 1907); BARTSCH, Die latein. Sequenzen des Mittelalters (Rostock, 1868); SCHUBIGER, Die Sängerschule St. Gallens (Einsiedeln and New York, 1858); KEHREIN, Latein. Sequenzen des Mittelalters (Mainz, 1873); WERNER, Notkers Sequenzen (Arrau, 1901); MARXER, Zur spätmittelalterl. Choralgesch. St. Gallens (St. Gall, 1908); MISSET AND AUBREY, Les proses d'Adam de Saint-Victor (Paris, 1900); BLUME AND DREVES, Analecta hymnica medii ævi, VII-X, XXXIV, XXXVII, XXXIX, XI, XLII, XLIV, LIII (Leipzig, 1899-1911); vols VII-X were edited by DREVES, XI by BANNISTER, LIII by BLUME AND BANNISTER, and the others by BLUME; vols. LIV and LV will conclude the collection of all proses or sequences.

About this page

APA citation. Blume, C. (1911). Prose or Sequence. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12481d.htm

MLA citation. Blume, Clemens. "Prose or Sequence." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12481d.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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