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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Literary Style -- Part 4

There came to my heart again thoughts on beauty of the words. In my complaint on this I have posted in former days. My flesh faints for beauty of the words, just as, also, the flesh of others. Who can count the dust of the words, from heaven sent? They are even as the stars of the sky. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. Yet, even in the fullness of their numbers, there comes upon us, in truth, a lack of height and depth and breadth in word. In the heart lies the mark toward which we reach, that the words be both in truth and in comeliness, both in tongue and pen. Yet not has man attained unto that mark.

In the day of my desire and in the day of my yearning, as I thought about all of this under the sun, I sought first of all words which would be as silver accouterments that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. But sought I also words of beauty and of adornment. And I said in my heart, yes, seven times did I say, "Let not your heart be troubled, hope yet in finding what your heart desires."

For I desire that which is unsurpassing not only in the words of truth but also in those which find grace in my eyes. My soul thirsts for the beauty of the words, like a deer pants for flowing streams in a dry and thirsty land. The fervent seeks this beauty but finds it not. Of a truth, the spirit of those in whom there was the work of the words had been willing but the flesh had been weak. So in my desire I opened my mouth in parables and my lips uttered voice that I might yet obtain.

And when I was full of days, to others I sent and told. For I knew in my heart that alone surely must not I be in my desire. And it came to pass that I heard the voices of others crying the same in loud lamentation, "Yes, let not only the words be manifold in truth, but let also them have fullness of beauty."

Were not also you of those voices?



At Sat May 21, 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Glendon M. Gross said...

Me thinks you are quickly persuaded by an older turn of phrase. Your desire is for words to be your best companions in your search for truth. Believe you me, your point is well taken. And yet your choice of words in this post conflicts with your usual desire for clarity and current English style.

Is it possible that some of the phrases you have chosen are so much the favorites of certain church going folk that they might think you are speaking from the word of God even if you are speaking falsehood? God forbid that anyone should think thusly. May such a one be accursed, lest he fail to apprehend that for which you have been apprehended. Thy wit has gotten ahead of thee.

At Sat May 21, 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

To wit, Glendon!

At Mon May 23, 06:20:00 AM, Blogger Dan Sindlinger said...

Great exercise. Although I tried several times, my mental and emotional response after readng just a few lines prohibited me from reading the entire article. I wonder if this is the same reaction many people have when reading some English translations of the Bible. I'm pretty convinced that it is, which is why I continue working on the BLB.

At Mon May 23, 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Dan, it would be interesting to field test people's responses to wordings from English Bibles that sound like my essay. My prediction is that there would be a statistically significant difference in the responses received from those who speak and write only in standard dialects of English in contrast to those who love the sound of Bibles written with the forms in my essay.

At Mon May 23, 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


Your short piece reminded me of reading the great classics. My mother, God bless her soul, used to read me all the great works of literature when I was a child. I could almost hear her voice coming through your words. Now to the point – is this “quality English?” I would say that it is superb English. However, this caveat must be given – the vast majority of today’s society would not have a clue as to what you wrote. Unfortunately today’s English is not what we were taught as children. Rhetoric and composition are not taught at all in college unless you are an English major. Mores the Pity! Hope this helps.


At Mon May 23, 12:20:00 PM, Blogger Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


I actually liked it. It was somewhat like King James.

I think Joe's comment was also right. I took a class at our local university here in Emporia about a year ago and I could not believe how few language skills the younger students had.

At Tue May 24, 07:11:00 AM, Anonymous Mary Beth Mueller said...

Wayne, It's fine to be flowery, extravagant, Shakespearean with your words. What troubled me here were lapses in grammar and sense. For example, "just as, also the flesh of others" Meaning, the flesh of others also faints? your flesh also faints for others as it does for words? It's not constructed clearly. Next two sentences. I presume "they are even as the stars of the sky" refers to "dust of the words"? Then "they" should be "it". If "they" refers to "words" then your construction is off.

Take this as coming from someone who really, really needs a job as an English teacher or an editor to serve as a pent-up grammar outlet. But I do think even the most poetic words have to work within the over-arching structure of the language, just as we cannot leave the structure of God's law without sin.

At Wed May 25, 07:11:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Mary Beth, thank you very much for your detailed comments on the English in my blog post. I have wanted this kind of feedback as part of my field test. I am rather surprised by the results, but I am learning something from the comments here on the blog post as well as the votes in the poll about my essay. I am learning that those who use English Bibles today are of at least two minds, those who prefer a "classical" sound to Bible English, where older syntactic and lexical forms are used, and those who prefer that Bibles they use be worded in the syntax and lexicon of good quality contemporary English. I will continue posting about this disparity.

At Thu May 26, 09:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Count me as one of those folks that believes that the Bible should be written in the veracular. This essay drove me crazy. Just because I can understand and read this, by forcing myself to, doesn't mean that I want to.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. So too, I think that Bibles should be accessible to the common man. Should English Bibles be excellent in style and language? Yes! Inaccessible to the average reader no. Elitism is not a fruit of the Spirit.

-Shrode from


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