A Hymn for His Courts
by Anthony Esolen
I've often said that beauty is not just for museums, or the parlors of rich people, or professors browsing among books of poetry, but for everyone. There was a time when every peasant in Europe need only turn to his village church to find himself amidst beautiful art in stone and paint and wood and glass. In particular, the art of poetry—song, and story told in song—is universal to man, or was so until our place and time, when no songs are passed from the memory of one generation to another, and most college graduates have never heard of Tennyson and would be hard put to read something like The Idylls of the King, once enjoyed by young and old regardless of their schooling.
And I have seen this collapse in the hymns that Christians sing. In our time, a church service may be the only chance for an ordinary person to encounter a real poem in his own language; a poem he can get by heart, set to a memorable melody, so that it may work in his imagination forever. All he needs is a mind and a voice—and a real hymn, rather than what is clumsy, sloppy, foolish, or destructive of the faith.
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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including 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). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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