Monday, November 18, 2019

Auden on the BCP

W.H. Auden on the abandonment of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer by American Episcopalians (the 1928 Prayer Book was replaced in 1979, but the Auden letter was written in 1968 unwelcome innovations having already appeared):
I think our church has gone stark raving mad. We had the Providential good-fortune, a blessing denied to the Roman Catholics, that our Prayer Book was compiled at the ideal historical moment, that is to say when the English language was already in all essentials the language we use now — nobody has any difficulty understanding Shakespeare’s or Cranmer’s English, as they have difficulty with Beowulf or Chaucer — at the same time, men in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries still possessed what our own has almost totally lost, a sense for the ceremonial and ritual both in life and in language. Why, except in very minor details, any Episcopalian should want to tinker with either the Book of Common Prayer or the King James Bible, and go a-whoring after cacophonous and sometimes heretical new versions passes my comprehension. ....
And then in a 1971 letter:
.... The odd thing about the Liturgical Reform movement is that it is not asked for by the laity — they dislike it. It is a fad of a few crazy priests. If they imagine that their high-jinks will bring youth into the churches, — they are very much mistaken. ....
Stand Firm | W.H. Auden on the Book of Common Prayer, A Word About Auden And The Book of Common Prayer

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