Sunday, April 15, 2007

Great Poetry Set to Music


The beloved Christian writer C. S. Lewis once observed that he did not like to sing in church because the music (to put this mildly) did not suit his fancy. Lewis went on to say that just when that thought ran through his mind, he looked over at his neighbor who had mud on his boots. Lewis says he realized he was not worthy to clean the mud off the boots of his neighbor, who was singing to the Lord with all his heart.

I have wondered just what sort of music the Church of England could sing that would have displeased the man who gave us The Chronicles of Narnia. I hope that he loved at least some of that music, especially great poems set to hymn tunes.

Lewis would have recognized the work of George Herbert, an Anglican priest who died about a month shy of his fortieth birthday in 1633. Herbert's texts in our hymnal are: "King of glory, King of peace" (382), "Let all the world in every corner sing" (402-403), and [my favorite] "Come my Way, my Truth, my life" (487).

Herbert's Book The Country Parson is a staple on the bookshelves of many an Episcopal priest. Here's a snippet:

"The Country Parson, as soon as he [sic] awakes on Sunday morning, presently falls to work, and seems to himself so as a Market-man is, when the Market day comes, or a shopkeeper, when customers use to come in. . . . To this end, besides his ordinary prayers, he makes a peculiar one for a blessing on the exercises of the day, that nothing befall him unworthy of that Majesty before which he is to present himself, but that all may be done with reverence to his glory . . ."


The blog would be incomplete without a poem by George Herbert:


JESU

J E S U is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th' other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev'n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where E S, and next where U was graved.
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to my whole is J E S U.



Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

2 comments:

Connie+ said...

Linda, you have such a grasp of hymnody. For all CS Lewis' wonderful writing, he could be a bit of a grouch sometimes.

Doris+ said...

Linda,
I love your pictures, poetry and everything about your blog! You have me thinking that even my poor, lowly, technophobe self should be blogging! Your pictures are really beautiful-the one over the marsh is framable-if you ever decide to publish it let me know-it would make a great notecard-I'd buy it for sure!

Your kitty is adorable! Give her a scratch under the chin from me!

I admire your spunk and drive in getting Our Savior off the ground-maybe I should have put that differently-it sounds like Jesus fell down!

Please keep me and St. Matthew's in your prayers on the 24th-that is my installation as Rector. We need all the prayers we can get. Visit our website at www.stmattsstl.org. Hope to see you at our class retreat!
Doris+