Monday, December 23, 2013

Lyric Deconstruction: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

Charles Wesley, 1739

Hark the herald angels sing 
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Merry Christmas! Or happy holidays or whatever.  Today we're taking a look at "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," which I think we can agree is much better than Charles Wesley's original lyric "Hark! how all the welkin rings." I mean, what the fuck.  (Here's the wiki on H!THAS.)

Anyway, the "newborn king" referenced here is probably Elvis.  Nah, I'm kidding, it's Jesus.  Although Elvis and Jesus had a lot in common!  They both had the same middle name, "Aaron," and both were known for healing the sick through the power of their rock.

You don't see a lot of "hark" any more.  It would be kinda cool to bring "hark" back instead of, say "hey."  "Hark, you going to the store?  Can you get me some papers?"  "Hark, man, get the fuck off my car!"  It would really give a nice Dickensian flair to things.  BRING BACK HARK.

"Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled!"

I always thought the idea of "God and sinners reconciled" was kinda cute, like they just had a couple of differences of opinion to be sorted out.  "OK, God, it's cool," the sinners would say.  "We're reconciled."  Not exactly Jonathan Edwards-type stuff.

Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies; 
With th' angelic host proclaim, 
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!" 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!"

Honestly, probably not "all nations."  I can't imagine Saudi Arabia is joining the triumph of the skies any time soon.  And I don't want to get too nitpicky here, but rhyming "proclaim" and "Bethlehem" is a bit of a stretch, Charles Wesley.

What you MAY NOT KNOW is that H!THAS keeps going!  And the second verse is, um, meatier.

Christ, by highest heaven adored; 
Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
Late in time behold him come, 
Offspring of a virgin's womb.

Ew.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep wombs out of my Christmas carols.  It's a little, uh, clinical or something.  "Christ came down to hang with us / Out of Mary's uterus"  Uh, no.

Also, yesterday I learned that 1 in 200 pregnant American women claim to be virgins.  Virgin birth is very, very common!  Imagine this knowledge had been widespread in Jesus's time.  He would have been a successful carpenter and we'd all be worshipping Frank the Horse Trainer or somebody.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th' incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

That's a lot of flesh, Charles Wesley!  Also, don't hate me for this, but when I hear "veiled in flesh" the first thing I think of is Ed Gein, not the Godhead.

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!"

Got it. Thanks, Charles Wesley! There's a third verse too - I know, mind blown - but let's call it off here.  Everybody have a great Christmas or whatever it is you do!  See you on the other side.


riz said...

If we're reaching into the back catalogue for utterances to bring back, my vote's on 'Hwæt!'

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