Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Some recent comments on this blog

Since I circulated news of this Blog to the LSM social mailing list I've had a couple of responses by e-mail. Here are some extracts from the e-mails.

Michael Waring writes (from Pauanui in New Zealand)

Thanks for your email and the link to your blog which I read with interest here in my Godless bit of paradise. I sympathise greatly with what you say, and rather regret that I probably won't be there to see you go red in the face when LSM sing NEH 139 'Come Thou holy parachute' on Whitsunday because I have to examine a Ph.D in Sweden. Mind you, you would have more than apoplexy if you were subjected to the ghastly stuff that they sort of try to sing at the little community church here in Pauanui. The New Zealand liturgy is an appalling travesty and the hymn book arguably worse. I have to confess, mea culpa, that I have now practically abandoned it altogether because I can't stand it any more, though the church is manifestly dying on its feet and even in my state of advanced rust I could play the organ for them such that it might be possible to sing.

Ann Gustard writes

Can I share my own personal hymn word pet hate?

When I first learnt that marvellous passion-tide hymn 'When I survey the wondrous cross' I learnt it from the Methodist hymn book, and the final verse read:

'Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
demands my soul, my life, my all.'

I was very dismayed to find the second line has become 'that were a present far too small' in both EH and NEH.

Neither Alan Loader nor I have been able to find which is the original version, but 'offering' seems a much better, stronger word to use and I always sing it regardless!

Unfortunately when I checked out the truth for Ann I discovered (to her disappointment) that 'present' is the original. Here's my reply on that topic:

"Present" is Isaac Watts's original. In general, as a rule of thumb, one
can assume that if the EH differs from something else, the EH is the
poet's original wording. The source of most widespread corruptions is
Hymns A and M, and the NEH often follows that.
Ian Bradley says "In the second line of the fifth verse the word
'present' is sometimes changed to 'offering'".
I'm not sure what the objection to 'present' is, but it may be
something like what you feel about it. Perhaps the sense of "present"
has become rather trivialised by its association with Christmas
presents (socks, ties, soap and cheap electronic gadgets that don't
last long...).

Ann is not happy with Watts's choice of "present", and thinks offering just sounds better, but admits that that might be just bias (due presumably to the associations it has from her methodist upbringing and so on). Does anyone else have a view on this? Of course I like 'present', but perhaps I'm biased too?


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Catherine. I prefer "present", mainly because of the extra, temporal, meaning of the word, which "offering" doesn't convey.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the sense of "present"
has become rather trivialised by its association with Christmas
presents (socks, ties, soap and cheap electronic gadgets that don't
last long...)

Or as John Betjeman perhaps more poetically put it:

Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

Catherine Rowett said...

I was wondering whether the choice of 'present' is partly to do with the thought that one would "give the world" for something (as in "Were the whole realm of nature mine, I'd give that, except that isn't enough, it needs to be me and my life and my all"). The verb that goes with "offering" is 'offer' but that doesn't have the same connotations at all: when you offer something it's up to the other person to take it or leave it. But when you give something, it's a present, and they can't refuse.