My father’s last achievement before he died at the end of last year, aged 94, was to finish a book about the medieval poem (hymn), Stabat Mater. It contained a new translation by him from the original Latin. He comes down in favour of Jacopone da Todi as being the author.
In his final weeks, the manuscript was accepted by a publisher in England, Gracewing. The first proofs were issued shortly after he was taken into hospital and he asked his family to take on the task of seeing that the relevant corrections were made and that the book was produced. Alas he did not live long enough to see it in print. However he was shown the book in draft form and I also provided him with laminated copies of the two pages containing his new translation of the poem (twenty stanzas).
I reproduced this alongside the Latin original and I hope it gave him some satisfaction to see this part of his work in print while he was still alive and remained lucid. At his cremation service at Mount Jerome in Dublin, I read the translation as a prayer.
A brief review of the book has appeared in the latest edition of the new Catholic Herald magazine. In the section ‘Briefly noted…’, the reviewer says:
“Stabat Mater by Desmond Fisher (Gracewing, £9.99). This fascinating account of the origins and different translations of the well-loved Lenten hymn was written not long before the death of its author, a former Catholic Herald editor, who died soon after its completion last year, aged 94. The book seeks to discover the hymn’s likely author: Jacopone da Todi, who lived at the time of the Black Death. Fisher provides his own translation of the hymn alongside others, though the well-known translation by Edward Caswall is likely to remain the popular choice for its familiarity and mournful cadences”.
This evening in Dublin we are launching the book. We are very pleased that John Horgan, the former Press Ombudsman. who as a young reporter was given a job by my father at the Catholic Herald in London, has agreed to be the main speaker. Copies of the book will be available at €10 and the proceeds on the night will be donated to the Irish Cancer Society in memory of my father.
If you would like an invitation to the event, please contact me. If you cannot attend and would like to purchase a copy, you can also contact me directly. If you live in Britain and wish to order a copy (£9.99) please do so using the Gracewing website or through Amazon or one of the online bookshops. It is also available worldwide using online orders.