Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Crashaw's Diary (part iv)

Wednesday 21st September
Mr Jenkins’ brother Frank came over to see me today, arriving in a mood of great excitement such as I had never seen in him before. He said he had written a new version of an old hymn and wanted my opinion of it. He unfolded a piece of paper from his pocket and laid it in front of me:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
It’s ten feet high and six across
The beams are eighteen inches wide

The beams are in cross-section square,
Their surface flat, and without bevel;
It’s raised up perpendicular
Two thousand feet above sea-level ...

I told Frank it moved me in ways I could hardly describe. He spoke excitedly about Wordsworth, his exactness, his factual nature and said that this was what he wanted to bring to his new modern up-dated hymns. Suddenly his eye alighted on a copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese on my bookshelf. “This infuriates me!” he exclaimed, snatching it up, “the one that begins ‘How do I love thee? let me count the ways’

I asked him why.

“Because she doesn’t tell you. She doesn’t tell you how many ways! By the end of the sonnet she’s completely forgotten she’s meant to be counting and starts talking about Death and God and candlelight!” He slammed his hand down on the table. “She should have ended it with the exact number, so we knew.”

I suggested to Frank that he might want to write a new version of the sonnet and he went off happy with the suggestion. I tried to carry on writing my sermon but wasted some time trying to count exactly in how many ways EBB loved her husband. About nine, I decided.

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