[Milton-L] Re: AV/KJV and allusion

Patrick Scott SCOTTP at gwm.sc.edu
Fri Sep 14 08:45:55 EDT 2007

Morning & Evening Prayer, Marriage and Burial, the Holy Communion, dip in the psalms, dip in the collects. 

The problem with discussion of the BCP is that a large percentage of British literary scholars until the 1970s (i.e. those now over 60) had heard the 1662 prayer book services and psalms and KJV readings at least twice a week, and probably in abbreviated form twice a day seven days a week at many schools, and took awareness of it, a sense of its syle (to the point of being able to parody it consciously or if clerical unconsciously), and so never really noticed that the next generation suddenly didn't know it.  Both C of E and nonconformist churches used the KJV exclusively for readings.  Nonconformist churches used exclusiWhile church attendance in Britain slumped badly after World War I, all schools (not just church-sponsored ones) had a daily assembly which till the 1960s would have a hymn, a reading from the KJV, and typically a prayer which (for reasons of impersonality) would typically be a collect from the BCP.  For a bit, I think university terachers simply didn't notice that students no longer shared their own social and educational background, and then they felt awkward if they implied their students had been deprived.  It's not primarily a question of declining belief, more of a very rapid change in socialization.  Now we have consciously to read up  English phrases and echoes (even if we know versions of them from modern translations or other religious traditions) that in their BCP and KJV forms  P. G. Wodehouse, let alone Milton, could simply take for granted, for example:
"There is no health in us"
"author of peace and lover of concord"
"in sundry times and in divers manners"
"With all my worldly goods I thee endow" (giggles from the bridesmaids)
"Man that is borne of woman hath but a short time to live"
"Stir up, O Lord"
"the quick and the dead"
"seek after leasing"
"read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest"
"Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord"
"now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace"
"earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust"
"the peace that passeth all understanding" (placard on madly-driven truck in Nigeria ca. 196, omitting the last word)
"Like as the hart panteth after the waterbrooks."  
"I shall lift up mine eyes unto the hills"
"we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness"
"Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith"  
"cherubin and seraphim continually do cry"
"my yoke is easy and my burden is light"
"take and eat this"
"in quires and places where they sing" 
There's no point in lamenting this, but to learn an echo or to read it in a n annotation, is to give it a weighting that taken-for-granted half-echo doesn't necessarily have.

Patrick Scott
Director of Special Collections, 
Thomas Cooper Library,
& Professor of English,
University of South Carolina,
Columbia, SC 29208, USA.
Tel: 803-777-1275
Fax: 803-777-4661, attn Dr Scott
E-mail: scottp at gwm.sc.edu

>>> aelfric at gmail.com 9/14/2007 6:57 AM >>>
I'll soon be reading the 1559 BCP in preparation for an oral exam on 17th
century lit. Not having grown up in a tradition that uses it (or its
successors), what advice do list members have as far as what I should attend
to (beyond the language) to get the most from my reading? This by way of
beginning to correct for the BCP being "under-attended to."

Thanks in advance,
Jason A. Kerr

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

           *Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"

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