The Divine Love
The two treatises De Laude Caritatis and
De Amore Sponsi ad Sponsam

Hugh of St Victor

Translated by A Religious of C.S.M.V.
Edited by Matthew C. Dallman

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The Abbey life of St. Victor at Paris was a house of Augustinian Canons Regula, founded in 1110 by Master William of Champeaux, who, as a pupil of Anselm of Laon, was, so to speak, a spiritual grandson of that Anselm’s master, the greater Saint Anselm of Bec. The community began with a handful of William’s own pupils; it grew to include men from all the chief schools of the day, Englishmen and Scots, Italians, Germans, Norwegians, as well as Normans, Bretons and Frenchmen from all parts; it came also to have a daughter-house at Bristol, among other places.

Among its members from 1118 until his death in 1140 was a man called Hugh, the eldest son of Conrad, Count of Blankenburg in Saxony. Hugh came to Parish from the monastery of Hamerleve, near Halberstadt, where he had already worn the Augustinian habit for some years. After seven years at St Victor he began to teach; and between that date and his death at the age of forty-four he wrote enough treatises to fill, when they were printed centuries later, over two volumes of Migne’s Patrologia Latina. The Abbey of Saint Victor was an amazingly vital and wide-minded place. The range of literature its sons produced is vast; Adam was a lyricist, Andrew a biblical scholar, Richard a mystic. And Hugh, who came to be called a second Augustine, was something of everything, but a mystic above all; and it is as a mystic that we meet him in the two little treatises translated in this book. The text of the first, De Laude Caritatis, will be found in Migne, vol. clxxvi, col. 969–76, and that of the second, De Amore Sponsi ad Sponsam, in the same volume, columns 987–94. As far as I know, this is their first appearance in English. They seem gems to me, especially the first, and I have loved translating them. I only hope that enough of Hugh himself has come through my translation to lead its readers to the same opinion.

The Latin titles raise a point about translation. The Latin language has three words for love: caritas, sometime spelt charitas in mediaeval Latin, dilectio, and amor, the last two only having corresponding verbs from the same root. Our word “charity,” of course, is caritas, but carries a weaker meaning in ordinary usage. We have nothing directly from the other two, except the compound “predilection” and “amour” with the debased and narrow sense of “love-affair.” Our word for love comes from the Saxon side of our inheritance, not from the French or Latin. In this translation I have rendered caritas by “charity,” wherever it occurs, and reserved “love” for amor and dilectio and their verbs.

The first treatise poses another difficulty with regard to the word via. Via means a road, in the literal sense; but though we speak of roads as high-ways and by-ways, we also speak of a “way” of doing something, in the sense of “mode” or “manner.” The senses are, of course, related; but in the latter case the Latin equivalent would be, not via, but modus. Hugh of Saint Victor treats charity as the road by which man goes to God, and God comes down to man. But in the Biblical texts which he cites in this context via in our English versions is always rendered “way.” As “way” does not sufficiently bring out the metaphor of “road,” I have used sometimes one, sometimes the other.

September 1955