Monosyllabitude

I remember ‘encouraging’ one of our organists in the choosing of processional hymns. To be honest, I would do without them – processional hymns, that is. Far better to let everybody shuffle in more or less elegantly and then start worship purposefully and together.

But if you must …. It should be short lines, single-syllable words and a brisk tune. And if the brisk tune could be sung more briskly than everybody first thought of as brisk, that would be good too. For some reason, I remember pleading for ‘o praise our God today/His constant mercy bless’

Which brings us to George Herbert whom we commemorated yesterday.

Part of the interest in George Herbert is in the extent to which he and his ministry in Bermerton are responsible for binding us to particular patterns and understandings of pastoral ministry.

But for me it is the poetry and the hymns. I am of course in a small way a wordsmith myself. My introduction to the revised Policy and Action Plan for Casting the Net lacks only a suitable tune. But I would die happy if I could get anywhere near Herbert’s combination of clarity and economy – and his use of single-syllable words

King of Glory, King of Peace
Teach me my God and King
Let all the world in every (corner) sing

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8 Responses to Monosyllabitude

  1. chris says:

    I can’t stand King of Glory because of Gwalchmai. Might help you(s) to process briskly, but doesn’t do much for the rest of us. (I thought you weren’t supposed to pay any attention to the rhythm, but rather to glide by as if on wheels?) 🙂

  2. Ann Fontaine says:

    On singing Anglican hymns – I still think this is how most hear us.

    • david says:

      Thanks Ann – I can’t get it to play out here at Blogstead where the broadband is thin … but when I get somewhere where it is better I shall listen

  3. Mary Birch says:

    And to think we sang every verse of Lift High the Cross at your installation….
    A possible title for a tune for your Casting the Net preface might be Retiarius.

    Yes, for style, elegance and economy of words few can match George Herbert-“a verse may find him, whom a sermon flies”.

    • david says:

      Yes indeed – interesting about singing all the verses. I’m quite keen on cutting out verses because many hymns seem too long to me. There is one of the hymnals in use in some of our churches which seems to have extra verses. … And then when you do cut out verses, there is the predictable confusion .. which only adds charm to the proceedings

  4. Mary Birch says:

    “Perhaps not his best verse either”? It’s still pretty clever stuff, with the internal rhyming words changing by one letter, love/move, through to enroll/extoll. The verse form doesn’t get in the way of the sentiment expressed. Herbert was a musician, but have we any evidence of his expecting his verse to be set to music, like Donne’s “Hymnne to God the Father?” Or was this written entirely as devotional verse, with later editors of hymn books quarrying his work to adapt for congregational singing?

    • david says:

      Goodness Mary. I shall have to ‘up the stakes’ on the internal structure of my sermon when I come to Dunblane on Palm Sunday. And the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t blame the verse when I don’t like the hymn wot somebody turns it into like.

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