Illuminations

How to Write a Hymn

by Anthony Esolen

In my May/June "Illuminations," I had the pleasure of dismembering a few contemporary hymns, if they can be said to have possessed sufficient coherence for dismemberment in the first place. But now I'd like to appeal to Christians who have an ear for verse and music, a heart for Scripture, and a sense of liturgical propriety. What has been done before can be done again. There's no good reason why we cannot have new hymns that work well as poetry, music, Scriptural meditation, and acts of worship. But they don't happen by good will alone. Let me make three recommendations for those who would write new hymns:

Poetic Meter

1. Become conversant with English poetry . . .

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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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