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Hymns Of The Eastern Church by John Mason Neale

Then, not to pursue the subject

with a detail of which this
Introduction will not admit, we find that by the beginning of the eighth century, verse, properly speaking (and that with scarcely an exception), had been discarded for ever from the hymns of the Eastern Church; those hymns, occupying a space beyond all comparison greater than they do in the Latin, being written in measured prose. And now to explain the system.

The stanza which is to form the model of the succeeding stanzas, -- the strophe, in fact, -- is called the Hirmos, from its drawing others after it. The stanzas which are to follow it are called troparia, from their turning to it.

Let Ps.119:13, be the Hirmos; --

|I will talk of Thy commandments

and have respect unto Thy ways.|

Then verse 15 would be a troparion to it: --

|With my lips have been I telling:

of all the judgments of Thy mouth.|

So would 17: --

|O do well unto Thy servant:

that I may live, and keep Thy word.|

and Ps.102:16: --

|When the LORD shall build up Sion:

and when His glory shall appear.|

Let verse 44 be a Hirmos:

|So shall I always keep Thy law:

yea, for ever and ever.|

and 45 will be a troparion to it: --

|And I will walk at liberty:

for I seek Thy commandments.|

These troparia are always divided for chanting by commas, -- utterly irrespective of the sense. This separation into commatisms renders it very difficult to read them without practice. Take an example, with the corresponding effect in English: --

Oide a· echos d& 183; o eirmos

Thalassas to eruthraiou telagos, abrochois ichnesin, o palaios pezeusas Israel, staurotupois Moseos chersi, tou Amalek ten dunamin, en te eremo etroposato.

|Israel in ancient times passing on foot with, unbedewed steps the Red Gulf, of the sea, turned to flight by, the cross-typifying arms, of Moses the might of Amalek, in the wilderness.|

The perfection of troparia is in a Canon, of which I shall say more presently. I need not trouble the reader with the minute distinction between troparia and stichera; as a troparion follows a Hirmos, so a sticheron follows an homoion, and then becomes a prosomoion. There are also idiomela, -- that is, stanzas which are their own models, -- and an infinite variety of names expressive of the different kind of troparia.

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