Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No High Carousals During Lent

Further exploration of yesterday's hymn reveals that it was Francis Pott, the editor of Hymns Fitted to the Order of Common Prayer (1861) who substantially molded and reworked the original nine-verse text of George Hunt Smyttan.

Compare the penultimate verse of both versions:

Pott (and possibly subsequent others)
So shall we have peace divine:
Holier gladness ours shall be;
Round us too shall angels shine,
Such as ministered to thee.

Holy peace and truth divine,
Joy and gladness, light and love,
All around, like angels, shine,
Tokens of our home above.

Pott is aligning the text more specifically to Jesus' trials in the wilderness and our overcoming of those trials.

Of Smyttan's nine verses, two that were removed are the original third and fourth:

And shall we in silken ease,
Festal mirth, carousals high, --
All that can our senses please, --
Let our Lenten hours pass by?

Shall we not with thee retire,
Far from all the giddy throng,
Searching out our heart's desire,
Mourning sin the whole day long?

Pott was, perhaps, a tad less conservative than Smyttan and may have thought these verses a bit extreme. On the other hand, he also removed this more pleasant verse, the original seventh:

For a heavenly food is ours,
And in faith's high hope we live;
Riches, too, come down in showers,
Brighter far than earth can give.

It's also possible that editor Pott simply thought that the theme and intent of the hymn was sufficiently expressed in six verses (cut by later editors to five, remember) and that the remaining three were less necessary. Or maybe someone was telling him "People don't like to sing nine verses any more; cut it down." (Those people are still around, but now they want everything cut to three verses.)

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