Sunday, July 30, 2006

Jerusalem, my happy home

On Tuesday, which was St James's day, we sang a hymn (number 228 in the New English Hymnal) which begins "Jerusalem thou city blest".

The words, according to the foot of the page, are by the EDITORS.

In the English Hymnal there was a hymn in three parts with 26 verses, for a saint's day procession, which began "Jerusalem my happy home." It seems clear that the NEH editors were trying to model their work on that, since they have retained one verse intact:

In thee no sickness may be seen,
no hurt, no ache, no sore;
In thee there is no dread of death,
But life for evermore.

... write the editors of the New English Hymnal, echoing the editors of the English Hymnal.

That verse, however, had already been revised before it made into the EH. This is what F.B.P. wrote:

In thee no sickness may be seen,
no hurt, no ache, no sore;
there is no death nor ugly devil,
there is life for evermore.

F.B.P is the otherwise unknown author of the 16th century manuscript from which the words were taken. They are said to be based on stuff in St Augustine. But the NEH has not much left of F.B.P. Among the gems that have gone missing are the following:

Thy walls are made of precious stones,
thy bulwarks diamonds square;
thy gates are of right orient pearl;
exceeding rich and rare;

thy turrets and thy pinnacles
with carbuncles do shine;
thy very streets are paved with gold,
surpassing clear and fine;

thy houses are of ivory,
thy windows crystal clear;
thy tiles are made of beaten gold--
O God that I were there!

Within thy gates nothing doth come
that is not passing clean,
no spider's web, no dirt, no dust,
no filth may there be seen.

and a bit further on, these:

We that are here in banishment
continually do mourn:
we sigh and sob, we weep and wail,
perpetually we groan.

and these:

There's nectar and ambrosia made,
there's musk and civet sweet;
there many a fair and dainty drug
is trodden under feet.

There cinnamon, there sugar grows,
there nard and balm abound.
What tongue can tell or heart conceive
the joys that there are found?

And some mention of the saints one might encounter there:

There David stands with harp in hand
as master of the choir:
ten thousand times that man were blessed
that might this music hear.

Our Lady sings Magnificat
with tune surpassing sweet,
and all the virgins bear their parts,
sitting about her feet.

Te deum doth Saint Ambrose sing,
Saint Austin doth the like;
Old Simeon and Zachary
Have not their songs to seek.

There Magdalen hath left her moan,
and cheerfully doth sing
with bless├Ęd saints, whose harmony
in every street doth ring.

So what do we have in the NEH to displace all those vivid individuals and their peculiar joys in heaven? Well we have this:

And praise and honour be to him
Whom earth and heaven obey
For that blest saint whose festival
Doth glorify this day.

Enough said.