Friday, August 19, 2005

Why "Kings Lynn"?

The name of this blog refers to a hymn by Chesterton in the 1940 and 1982 hymnals that is sung (in my church, though not, I find, in all churches) to Ralph Vaughan Williams' tune "Kings Lynn":

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.

It's an interesting tune as RVW arranged it in part because of the unusual cadence at the end: instead of the usual v-i or V-i cadence for a minor key, it has a iv-i cadence-- a grimmer sound, to my ear. Various sources say that it is related (through a Norfolk folk tune) to the American sacred harp tune "Pilgrim". You can click here to see/hear for yourself, though one can tell that the relationship is fairly distant. (For those unfamiliar with sacred harp music: the melody is in the tenor line.)

As for the choice: it's relevance to the current state of Anglicanism should be obvious.

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