Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Brian Wren hymn text, Part Two

1. Here hangs a man discarded,
    a scarecrow hoisted high,
    a nonsense pointing nowhere
    to all who hurry by.
2 Can such a clown of sorrows
still bring a useful word
when faith and love seem phantoms
and every hope absurd?
3 Yet here is help and comfort
for lives by comfort bound,
when drums of dazzling progress
give strangely hollow sound:
4 Life, emptied of all meaning,
drained out in bleak distress,
can share in broken silence
our deepest emptiness;
5 And love that freely entered
the pit of life's despair,
can name our hidden darkness
and suffer with us there.
6 Christ, in our darkness risen,
help all who long for light
to hold the hand of promise,
till faith receives its sight.

With this hymn, meant to be sung with the famed “Passion Chorale” of Hassler/Bach (mis)attributions, the melody so profound that we associate with “O Sacred Head, surrounded” and the B Minor Mass, we encounter quite the opposite sensibility from the wedding hymn.
Again, if memory serves, I believe I’ve only employed this text once at liturgy, most likely the Good Friday Service way back in the day.

There are likely a ton’s worth more semantics problems with which anyone who takes up this hymn text at worship would have to reconcile. For example-
“a man” ….”scarecrow”…..”a nonsense”

“clown of sorrows”….”useful word”… “faith and love and hope….absurd”…. and so forth.
Discuss away, please. Has its window of use passed? Can we reconcile such poetic license with the disciplines of text (psalter based or verbatim quotes) that we now profess as clearly the principle option?

1 comment:

Todd said...

Far less impressive than "When Love Is Found."

The poem is true enough, but many Christians are reticent about uttering the words of mockery with their own mouths. Heck, I've declined to say "Crucify Him!" since I was a lad.

I'm a skeptic on "catechetical" texts of all sorts. Too much telling in these words; not enough showing.

Shock value aside, this hymn fails for me.