Academic journal article The Hymn

Receiving and Using Critical Responses to Hymn Texts

Academic journal article The Hymn

Receiving and Using Critical Responses to Hymn Texts

Article excerpt

Every poet and every critic carries particular beliefs, values, and assumptions to the act of making critical judgments about a text. What works? What does not work? And why? We do not answer these questions in a vacuum but from a consciousness that has been shaped by a multitude of different forces. Theological convictions, literary tastes, cultural biases, the music of language as we have it absorbed it throughout our lives, the impact of new knowledge and ways of understanding the world, the vividness of our imaginations, the congregational song that has nurtured our faith, and the ethos of our home worshipping communities - all of these and more shape the critical sensibilities with which we respond to hymn texts. In some of these realms we may share substantial common ground, but in others the landscape of our hearts will have very different contours and features.

Therefore, in receiving criticism a hymnpoet needs to be open to the critic's analysis but without assuming every judgment fits with the constellation of forces that have shaped the poet's work. And critics need to be clear about the criteria that drive their responses. Here, then, are some of the key principles and values that I bring to my judgments about contemporary hymn texts, both my own and others'.

Is the language musical? By which I mean two things: does it have the euphony of good English, words that flow smoothly from our mouths and delight the ear? Does it sound like something that calls out to be sung? …

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