Sunday, 10 June 2012

To be a pilgrim: All Who would valiant be - Hobgoblin-free zone

                                            Feeble apology for a hobgoblin - Christmas 2010

Great full-colour cartoon by Dave Walker in this week's  Church Times supplement on Back to Church Sunday: What to expect incorporating some suggestions from his readers  adoring fans, including Yours Truly. Thanks Dave,  for including mine on inclusive language in familiar hymns.  If you're not expecting it (inclusive language, not Dave W), as was I this morning, it can cause not a little dissonance twixt eye, voice and brain, resulting in a strangled squawk not unlike that of poor John Bunyan's hobgoblin. I already knew that he'd been banished, along with the foul fiend; earlier than I'd thought -according to this info on the hymn based on a poem from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the modifications made by Percy Dearmer were made way back in 1906. Well, I certainly don't date back that far, yet I distinctly remember singing the original Who Would True Valour See throughout my schooldays. Maybe we used in in solidarity with the local boys' grammar school - according to one source, they had Bunyan's version as a school song. Ours was, and as far as I know still is One Church, One Faith, One Lord, (in itself a topic for a blog post), but I digress.

Going back to church today - whatever version we were singing, it read even more inclusive and san (nearly said 'sin') itised than Perce's masterpiece! All Who Would Valiant Be...? Never mind. One good thing to be said for modernising, at least it forces you to really concentrate on what you're singing about; easy to let the tried and familiar blind you to the underlying meaning. And to be honest, when I think about  the potential horrors in some of the more contemporary output, ('s Crappy Choruses and Horrible Hymns thread saw me through many a dark night), I'll forgive Newchurch any amount of inclusive language use.

It's just - if you've been brought up on robust Anglican hymnody and even more robust poetry: I remember learning Gerard Manley Hopkin's glorious  Pied Beauty, his  God's Grandeur, and Coleridge's Rime  of the Ancient Mariner, at school between the ages of seven and ten (so there, Mr Gove!), anything less can seem like dreaming in sepia tones when you've been accustomed to all the colours of the rainbow.

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