Poetry school

I may have to lose my identity as a non-poetry person.  This Lent, we are having a series of long readings from the King James Version of the Bible (in honour of the 400th anniversary), with Prayer Book Collects and appropriate music, followed by lunch.  The sessions go from Creation to The Last Things.

I did the first set of readings yesterday, and the language took over.  I’m not really a great fan of the KJV, as I like to have an accurate text in accessible language to ponder.  But I have to say, there was something almost musical about the words, which I surrendered to without troubling too much about the sense.

And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit whose seed was in itself after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

And then John’s gospel ch. 1:16 –

And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”

I made the mistake of glancing at that verse in NRSV and now I’m carefully forgetting it, because it made it smaller somehow. The crucial thing seems to be hearing the words out loud.  Am I at this late stage learning how to ‘read’?

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4 Responses to Poetry school

  1. Patricia E. Bentley says:

    Ah! The pure poetry of the KJV! Brought up to read the KJV I sometimes regret that in making the the Bible more easily understood that the ‘baby has been tossed out with the bathwater’. As a lay person, that has read and continues to read several different interpretations of the Bible, the sheer beauty and timelessness of the poetry of the KJV has the power to transport me to another time and place that modern interpretations simply cannot match!

    • alisonpeden says:

      I wonder if it had the same impact at the time? Were people in 1611 lamenting the loss of the Latin Vulgate which sounded marvellous and mysterious in comparison with the ‘plain English’ of the KJV? Or is the KJV intrinsically more ‘poetic’ than modern translations – more rhythmical etc?

      • Z. R. Mockbee says:

        Oh yes, it had the same effect. At that time, the translation used in the liturgy was the Bishop’s Bible, which was wooden and ugly. When King James decided to translate, the translators intentionally looked to Tyndale and his literary work to influence the KJV. The KJV was not actually written in the contemporary language of 1611, a lot of it was antiquated for the 17th century. Translators thought it very important that the text sound rhythmic, poetic, majestic, and lyrical when read from the lectern.

  2. alisonpeden says:

    Thank you so much for this – I hadn’t known that and it certainly heightens the siginificance of the KJV. And thank you for your comment which has stirred me to start blogging again!

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