Monday, February 27, 2006

Addendum on NEH438: "man" rhymes with "plan"

Rather than re-write what I wrote yesterday, I might as well add this observation separately.

It struck me as I was shutting down my computer last night that I'd missed the most obvious piece of incompetence on the part of the NEH editors, the one that will really make you laugh (or squirm). How's this for poetry? Compare these two quatrains:

(a) verse 3 of NEH 438
Praise to God whose Word incarnate
Glorified the flesh of man,
Deeds and words and death and rising
Tell the grace in heaven's plan.

(b) verse 4 of NEH 438
Praise to God who through his Spirit
Ever speaks his word to man;
Spirit, dwelling deep within us,
Show us all the Father's plan.

Were they a bit stuck for rhymes? Man, plan, man, plan... Or are they obsessed with the idea that God has a plan? This is bureaucratic business planning taken to extremes! The incarnation is a corporate presentation demonstrating to potential customers that the organisation has aims and objectives, a corporate strategy and is meeting its targets. Or are they determined that we must remember that the word 'man' can be used generically to refer to the human race and not just to male individuals, so they think it is necessary to add it, several times over, to a hymn that had been rather keen to avoid even calling God 'he' let alone implying that we were all of the masculine gender. And having added man all over the place, they had to find something to rhyme with it so they put in "plan" all over the place?

None of that unimaginative doggerel in the original of course. On the contrary Brooks himself wrote this of the incarnation:

Thanks to God whose Word incarnate
heights and depths of life did share.
Deeds and words and death and rising,
grace in human form declare.

and this, of the spirit
Thanks to God whose Word is answered
by the Spirit's voice within.
Here we drink of joy unmeasured,
life redeemed from death and sin.

Now who would you say was the better poet (and better theologian)?


Anonymous said...

"man" rhymes with "plan"

I'm sure I would be unable to sing these trite verses without recalling the palindrome

A man, a plan, a canal — Panama!

Catherine Rowett said...

I spotted another example of "man" rhymes with "plan" in the Somervell we were practising at choir last night, in one of the congregational chorales. But then once is forgivable, especially if the lines mean something. It's when it's just bubble wrap, to fill up lines that have been emptied of their proper content, that it makes one cringe.