Mark DELCOGLIANO, trans. & intro. Gregory the Great: On the Song of Songs. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2012. Cistercian Studies 244. Pp. xviii + 326 (including appendices). ISBN 978-0-87907-244-5. Reviewed by Nathan LUNSFORD, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53233
Within this comprehensive volume, translated and introduced by Mark DelCogliano, one will find all that is extant of Gregory the Great’s comments on the Song of Songs: his Exposition (in the form of an unrevised notary’s transcription—see pp. 43–48), along with the compilations of Paterius and the Venerable Bede, and the Excerpts of William of Saint Thierry.
Throughout his introduction and translations, DelCogliano has maintained a remarkable balance, engaging many of the finer points of Gregorian scholarship without sacrificing accessibility for the interested general reader. Both the reader new to Gregory and the seasoned scholar will appreciate DelCogliano’s clarity and forethought—seen, for example, in his helpful explanation of such potential headaches as the difficult matter of citations to the Moralia (xvii). Likewise, DelCogliano’s general introduction (comprising no less than 102 pages) provides a clearly-structured and approachable overview of Gregory’s life, writings, exegetical method, and influences. The translations themselves are the fruit of DelCogliano’s careful engagement with the Latin texts, and are each prefaced with their own introduction detailing the textual history and the edition or version upon which his translation is based.
His attentiveness to the textual issues is further attested in the five forward-looking appendices: Appendix 4, for instance, in addition to noting textual divergences related to manuscript transmission or deliberate alteration, suggests emendations for future editions of Paterius and Bede. DelCogliano is to be commended for this thorough treatment of Gregory’s exegesis of the Canticle and its subsequent medieval reception. While the general reader may find the scholarly notes initially off-putting, given the wide-ranging scope of this volume the additional guidance is welcome. In addition, useful indices (subject and scriptural) and an extensive bibliography make this is an indispensable reference for future scholarship on Gregory the Great.