Monday, June 27, 2011


I've been planning to write this post for the last month but haven't, cause it's a bit embarrassing. So, consequently, I haven't posted much at all. But time to end the silence.

I've been working on some hymn rewrites. In the past I've blogged passionately on how terrible it is to mess with someone else's work... and now I've done it. And to Wesley of all writers - who explicitly wrote that he didn't want anyone altering his words.

So come on. Condemn me.

Since he's long dead, legally I've not done anything wrong. But ethically? Does 200 years make a difference? And does motive matter? I'm trying to get (a version of) this particular hymn sung again. Because of its meter and language it won't be popular without a reworking. And I've given it a drastic one. Over 50% of the lines are mine.

Anyway. Tell me what you think. Am I a hypocrite? And can you pick apart the patchwork (without looking up the original) and guess which lines are mine and which are Wesley's?

Love Divine

O Love divine, what have you done!
My Lord, how can this be?
How could the ever living Son
Give up his life for me?
Nails through his hands, sword through his side
How could our God immortal die?
God instead of me!

Behold him, all as you pass by,
The Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your maker die,
And ask “What can this mean?”
Come feel with me his blood applied
Now guilt is gone, wrath satisfied
God instead of me!

Love divine, in my place
God of wonders, God of grace
God instead of me.
Love divine, bore my shame
no more guilt, no more blame
God instead of me
God instead of me

Then let us sit beneath His cross,
And catch the healing stream:
All things for Him account as loss,
We give our hearts to Him:
Of nothing think or speak beside,
My Lord, my maker, crucified!
God instead of me!


  1. John Wesley didn't want Wesleyan hymns messed with but he was a hypocrite on this topic himself - the hymns he published were almost all written by other people, especially his brother, and he edited them extensively. He just didn't want people messing with HIS version!

  2. I've never been a big fan of Wesleyan hymns so don't object to your messing with them at all. I find the tunes clumsy and the extended metaphors lose me on the way through. I must have a short attention span. Too much rock'n'roll I guess. And blogging.

    I don't know the hymn well enough to pick your bits from his. Since there's not many overblown metaphors I'm guessing you changed it a lot :) I like it and think it's nice and pithy.

    Did you mean "bore MY shame"?

    "Then let us sit beneath his cross
    And catch the healing stream"

    This is either a mixed metaphor, or you're thinking of being drenched in blood. Either way, not good!

  3. Jo - that's good to hear. Eases my conscience considerably!

    Jon - yes. I've fixed the typo. The last verse is mostly Wesley. I don't mind that image.

  4. This isn't quite what you're looking for, but hypocrisy isn't just saying one thing and doing another. It's saying one thing, doing another, while giving the pretense that you're doing what you say. Falling short of your standards is not hypocrisy.

    I think that's important, because these days it seems that bad behavior by people who take a moral stand on something in public (a 'social conservative') is seen to be 'news' because it involves 'hypocrisy' whereas bad behavior by someone who doesn't (usually a 'liberal' or 'social progressive') is not 'news' because it doesn't involve hypocrisy.

    Hypocrisy is becoming too big a category - I think we need to work to shrink it back a bit.

    So have you done what you said not to do? Yes. Are you a hypocrite? Clearly not. But it does suggest that you probably don't think your principle holds in all circumstances.

  5. Trouble is, I still believe in my principle. I just think it doesn't apply to me...

  6. Hey Simone, good adaptation. Too lazy to check what you've done exactly, but looking forward to singing it some day soon.

  7. not sure what was wrong with the original.

  8. Hmmmn. Well you're probably guilty of either hypocrisy or megalomania then if you really think the principle always holds but not when it comes to you. I suspect you don't really think that though. I think you believe there are reasons why it's okay in this instance, and (hopefully) would be just as happy with someone else having done the same adaptions you've done.

  9. Al - Nothing was wrong with the original, originally. But do you know many churches that sing it regularly? I suspect not.

    Mark - I think I probably think that time makes a difference.

    Gordon - Thanks. We're still working on the tune. At the moment, the verses are sounding nice.

  10. Mark, I agree that the term hypocrisy gets used too widely, but I'm not sure about your evaluation of how the public/media judge those who 'take a stand' and their 'bad behaviour'. 'Family values' politicians do tend to get accused of hypocrisy when they have affairs. They generally don't get accused of hypcrisy when they fail to pay their taxes, since that's not something they make a political song and dance about. They might still get into trouble for bad behaviour! Similarly, Anthony Weiner hasn't been accused of hypocrisy, but he has still paid the political price for bad behaviour. Progressive activists get accused of hypocrisy when they display bad behaviour that relates to those things on which they take a public stand - see recent furore over Bono not paying his taxes, in which the charge of hypocrisy has been made. My point is simply that there is some logic to the way the charge of hypocrite is made - it's not simply that some people's bad behaviour is criticized and others' isn't or that some public figures have values and others don't.

  11. @Simone: Glad you've joined the light side. Now just drop your silly pretence that it's a problem to edit lyrics when it serves a purpose in a different context and own up that you've done the right thing. ;)

  12. Don't feel guilty. This is so unlike the original it can hardly be regarded as a hymn rewrite, rather, it sounds like a completely different song.

    (By the way, I really like the original hymn and have sung it many times in every church I have ever belonged to.)

  13. Hey Jo, yes I think the way things work in Oz is a bit different, but we do get constantly influenced by the 800lb gorilla (the U.S.) and I think it works a bit that way there. As the whole Weiner thing was unfolding like a slow train-wreck, one TV journalist said something along the lines of: "I'm not sure that this is really news, it's not like he's a hypocrite, he's never campaigned on family values." That's more what I'm getting at - the idea that moral issues unrelated to the performance of one's public office are only in the public interest if they involve "hypocrisy".

    I agree that there is consistency in how the term is used. My complaint is that 'hypocrisy' seems to becoming almost the only 'sin' for holders of public office (people get upset if they behave badly in the job too, but that's more 'professional standards').

    But a 'family values' politician who has an affair is not necessarily a hypocrite. Falling short of one's standards is not hypocrisy. I do have a beef that the term seems to be becoming 'this guy said x is the standard but didn't meet it'. As no-one can ever fully live up to their standards if their standards are at all aspirational, this is a recipe for a race to the bottom in our standards so as to avoid the whiff of hypocrisy.

  14. I just looked up the hymn - I was confused by the other "Love Divine" hymn. However your version is still quite different from the one you have adapted. I can safely say that my previous comment still stands.

  15. Narelle - I was surprised that there was a church that was singing this hymn heaps!

  16. I didn't know the original. I read yours. I couldn't pick it, really, where you'd borrowed old language. And now I've looked it up, I think you have to revise your 50% upwards. This is more of a dynamic equivalence loose paraphrase, and is essentially new work, with echoes of the old.

    So, if you want to retain your saddle on the high horse, I think you can get away with it ;-)

  17. revise my 50% upwards? What do you mean? Change more lines or say it's 75% mine?

  18. Yes, I do agree on that, Mark. The accusation of hypocrisy applies more where someone is quite clearly paying lip-service to a set of values for political gain while ignoring those values in their personal life. Newt Gingrich, for example!

  19. Simone, I'd justify this as a 'tribute' to the original. I think when nearly 300 years have passed it is entirely valid to argue that language and style are no longer doing the job they did in the mid-eighteenth century and that the original can be reinterpreted to serve the church in a different age. And since Charles Wesley is one of the very few things I am an expert on, I venture to say that I don't think he'd mind as long as people used it to worship Jesus. Though he really didn't like Presbyterians very much!

  20. Perhaps what you're doing is a translation. Like people translate Chaucer into Modern English. Alternatively it could be a piece of intertextuality - one work referencing another, like the way rap artists reference reference their favourite pop songs through sampling them.

  21. When "Rejoice" was published, I remember thinking that what they did in modernising the words was probably a good idea, though I disliked intensely some of the alterations that they made. One of my main gripes was that they made no acknowledgement that the words were not those of the author listed. At least they could have written alt after the author's name like they do in a lot of hymnbooks.

    I've been looking at the "The hymnal" (Baptist hymnbook from the 1960's), and I think they did a good job with this. A couple of examples, which involve the Wesleys:

    "Lo He comes, with clouds descending"
    C. Wesley, 1758
    M. Madan, 1760
    Based on J. Cennick, 1750.

    "Before Jehovah's awful throne"
    Isaac Watts, 1705, 1719
    St.1, lines 1,2, alt by John Wesley

    I don't know that they needed to give quite this much detail, but at least they acknowledged that alterations have been made to the work of the original author.

    The other thing that occurred to me was that Charles Wesley may well have got Cennick's permission to re-write his hymn (which admittedly was not very good), but it would be interesting to know if Watts had the opportunity to approve the change.


  22. Sorry for the ambiguity. I meant, it's almost all your words - very few of the original words can be found next to each other.