Sunday, 30 June 2013

Wesley Family Hymnwriting Workshop

Susanna :, that's not bad, John. I always say you can't go far wrong, translating the works of  Martin Luther into English. Obviously, there's only so much of yourself you can put into it. It's not all you, is it? Still, technically correct and theologically sound. Whereas Charles... Charles, how are you getting on?

Charles : Well, Mother, I've been working on "Come, and let us Sweetly Serve", but I've got a bit of writer's block here, I reckon...

Susanna: : OK, Charles.  Well, obviously, it can be hard to start on a hymn. Sometimes getting it out of the blocks can be quite tricky. Where are you? Verse one? Two?

Charles: Verse seventeen.

John : Seventeen? What - verse seventeen? Not word seventeen or line seventeen?

Charles : Yes, It's a real nuisance. I really got into it, and then just as I thought I was really hitting my stride - it's come to a complete halt. It's a real train wreck. Whatever a train wreck is going to be.

Susanna : Come on, Charles. Read it out....

Charles : OK - here it goes. It's line four I have the problem with.....
Let us join, (’tis God commands)
Let us join our hearts and hands
Help to gain our calling’s hope,
Build we.... something something something.... 
Susanna : Mmm. You know, before we get to line four.... obviously, the whole thing's great and everything, but.... just a little thought.  Obviously you've crow-barred the second half of the first line in to get a rhyme. But you've rhymed "commands" with "hands".

Charles : Yes?

Susanna : Well, it works round here, obviously. But think, Charles. We spent a lot of money to get you to Christ Church, and we don't expect you to come back speaking like a coal miner. Did you notice anyone at Oxford rhyming "commands" and "hands"?

Charles : Maybe some of the northern students.

John : Which ones, exactly? They were all from MGS, and just as posh as us.

Charles : Well. Maybe not. But the Yanks will think it's fine.

John : The thing is, Chazza....

Susanna : Don't call him Chazza. Did we raise you to call your brother Chazza?

John : No. Sorry, Charles.

Charles : No worries, Jonners. It's cool.

John : Anyway, the thing is - this is the seventeenth verse of what looks set fair to be a thirty-two verse hymn. No chorus, no bridge, no middle-eight. Just thirty-two verses in a strict 7-7-7-7 metre.

Charles : Yep. So far, so normal.

John : Well, I reckon nobody's going to care what the rhyme is. Frankly, you'll be lucky if they've not all completely zoned out by verse twelve. You could rhyme "Archangel Gabriel" with "spanner" by verse seventeen. Let's assume "hands" and "commands" will pass muster.

Charles : Sounds reasonable.

John : In which case, frankly, you might as well finish it:
Help to gain our calling’s hope,
Build we each the other up.
Charles : It doesn't rhyme,. does it?

John : My hypothesis being that it really doesn't matter by now.

Charles : And in order to make it fit and scan, you appear to have invented your own form of word-order. "Build we each the other up"? Who do you think I'm writing this for? Yoda?

Susanna : Who?

Charles : An old friend from Oxford, mother.

Susanna : Well, I think it sounds rather lovely. You should thank your brother for helping you finish your verse.

Charles : Thanks, Jonners.

John : No worries, bruv.

Susanna : Now, Charles, about this carol you've been writing. What on earth is a "welkin"?


  1. Cockles, and welkins, alive, alive-o

    Sounds familiar to me, to be sure, alanna.

  2. Beware of cockles. I used to enjoy George Peele until I found out how cockle bread was made. (And if you don't know DON'T look it up.) Don't say I didn't warn you.

  3. What on earth is a welkin?

    It's in a shell.

  4. Now, if only Charles had been born today, he could have gotten away with one or two lines repeated ad infinitum in varius keys or volumes, and no rhymes at all. And he wouldn't have had to use pretty words no one understands.

  5. I've just had a bizarre experience. Clicking on the link to "Come let us sweetly serve", I found the page also had adverts for what I last looked up on Amazon. While singing along with the 30 odd verses of Charles Wesley's efforts, I was treated to an array of ladies' underwear.
    I'm sure there's a sermon in there somewhere.


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