Anthony Esolen on Christian Hymns
In the Key of Christ
I have been wondering why I don’t care for the lyrics to modern hymns. Now, I’m not speaking of the smugly heretical, as in the truly embarrassing “Sing a New Church into Being,” or makin’-out-with-Jesus stuff, as in “Come Back to Me (Hosea).” I mean the lyrics to which one cannot object, because all they are is an unrhymed English rendering of one of the psalms. There’s something missing.
One might respond, “Yes, the art is missing,” and that’s true as far as it goes, because the artistic balance and parallelism of the Hebrew, and its play on sounds, do not often survive in the English, so that . . .
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Anthony Esolen is a professor at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the author of many books, including Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books), Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius Press, 2019). He has also translated Dante's Divine Comedy (Random House). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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