Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Naughty hymnologist! Stupid software...

For the second time I have been automatically rebuffed by the Hymn Society's online Discussion Board in an attempt to post there. The first time, maybe a year ago, was when I tried to make a comment about the Aramaic Bible, the Peshitta. I was greeted with an automated message to the effect that:

Your submission was not accepted, due to the presence of "naughty" language. Please edit your post, then resubmit it! If you have any questions, please send a note to owen@bassocantante.com.

As a strong opponent of censorship, and an even stronger opponent of automated censorship of live human beings, I objected. But the system was apparently not told where to stick it. Last night I posted (or tried to) a lengthy note about tunes and texts for the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Same "naughty language" message from the nanny.

Here's what I tried to post there:

I just posted online at


an Esperanto translation of the first five stanzas of Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic. The source is the hymnal _Espero Internacia_ published (ca. 1920) by the Christian Home Orphanage of Council Bluffs, IA (now called Children's Square, U.S.A.: http://www.childrenssquare.org). The translator (and author of the refrain) is Ann E. Beatty, compiler and translator of most of the contents of the hymnal.

What's unusual about it is that it is set to a tune other than John Brown's Body. I am interested in knowing what other tunes are circulating for the text (with or without the original refrain, which Ms. Howe took over from the antecedent lyrics about John Brown's Body), and also whether anyone actually prefers an eccentric setting.

I have put the full six-stanza set, with my own English translation of Ms. Beatty's refrain, set to the Beatty tune, in my online hymnal at


I am aware of the existence of a refrainless setting to a Walford Davies tune called VISION, though I have not yet found it, and Martin Shaw provided a tune called BATTLE SONG to which the text is set at No. 578 in the 1931 _Songs of Praise_ (Oxford). Someone at the Mudcat Café proposed Dylan's THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING, perhaps tongue-in-cheek. Are there any others?

And while I'm at it, how do folks feel about the stanzas? Personally, I like all six, though I think the sixth feels "loose" somehow; but maybe that's just because I grew up thinking the end of the fifth was the end of the song. (Ms. Howe felt the same way, and withheld the stanza from the initial publication.)

The hymnal we have at church leaves out the third verse (as well as the sixth), which strikes me as a major omission. I like the "Hero born of woman crush the serpent with his heel" imagery. I don't know if the hymnal editors thought "Hero" sounded like mythologizing Jesus (or maybe even transforming the Bread of Heaven into a Nice Big Sandwich - yikes!) or what, but I wish they'd left it in there. I sometimes sing it as a sort of descant to the second or fourth stanza...

Leland = Haruo

and in place of this, but under the same title, I posted this note:

I wrote a lengthy post on this subject and when I clicked on "Post Message" this is what I was told:

Your submission was not accepted, due to the presence of "naughty" language. Please edit your post, then resubmit it! If you have any questions, please send a note to owen@bassocantante.com.

I thank my lucky stars that my name is not Orville M a t s u s h i t a.


I emailed "owen" (who's actually named Carlton) but so far I don't see my post there, so I'll just post a link to this. The Hymn Society's Discussion Board is a really difficult one for anybody who likes html: no italics, no boldface, no live links, just plain ascii plaintext. (Actually you can cut and past a lot of other stuff in, I've posted Japanese titles there that way, but no formatting variety.) I wish there was a really good hymnsite discussion board or email list that wasn't stuck on the Roman liturgy (there are some good ones of that school) and that had a variety of interests and levels of erudition and pedantry represented. But if there is I haven't found it yet.



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