Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gaining a Deeper Understanding of the Poetry of Our Hymns

It has been my practice for years during the passing of the sacrament to open the hymnbook and read the words of the hymns being sung that day. I read them without the musical rhythm and pacing that make them "songs" - simply as poems, as I would read them in a classroom to a group of students. The meaning often jumps out in ways that simply are impossible to understand in their lyric form.

For example, look at the 3rd verse of Silent Night. If you type the words in separate lines for each individual thought or idea or phrase, it looks like this (read without pausing when no punctuation is visible):

Silent Night!

Holy Night!

Son of God,

love's pure light radiant beams from thy holy face,

with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Translated into "normal" English, it might read:

Silent Night! Holy Night! Son of God, love's pure light beams radiantly from thy holy face, and that pure light of love carries with it the rising light of redeeming grace.

Thou art Jesus - Lord at thy birth.

I gained a
MUCH deeper appreciation of this hymn and others when I started reading them as poems within the spirit of Sacrament Meeting.


Michaela Stephens said...

I do this too.

SilverRain said...

The original German translates beautifully as:

Quiet night, holy night, all sleep. Alone wakes only the trusted, most holy pair, holding a boy with curly hair. Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Quiet night, holy night. Shepherds first declare the good news, through the Angel's Hallelujah sounding far and near. Christ, the Redeemer is here, Christ, the Redeemer is here.

Quiet night, holy night. God's Son. Oh, how love smiles from Thy divine mouth which falls upon us with the redeeming hour. Christ at thy birth, Christ at thy birth.

Stephen said...

It is important to realize that all hymns are poems and much of scripture too.