This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Bad hymns 1

Today we have an interview with the late Sidney Carter, the hymn-writer.

E: So, Mr Carter, your hymn, "Lord of the Dance" has been nominated for the prestigious Eccles Bad Hymn Award, and you're now a finalist, along with the great Graham Kendrick, Damian Lundy and others. How do you feel about this?

SC: Well, Eccles, I am honoured that my little doggerel should be compared with such immortal verses as "Shine, Jesus, shine" and "Walk in the light."

E: Can we explore some of the problematic areas of this hymn, now? For example, where exactly did Jesus say "I am the Lord of the Dance"? The only named dancer I could locate in the gospels was Salome.


The lady of the dance.

SC: Ah, well, I may have turned over 2 pages of the Bible by mistake. Let's regard "Dance" as a metaphor.

E: A metaphor for what, exactly?

SC: Er... well, everything Jesus did, I suppose.

E: I see, I see. Shakes his head in disbelief. Now "I danced for the fishermen, James and John." Why did you mention them, rather than Peter and Andrew, for example?

SC: In my first draft I had "I danced for Andy and I danced for Pete, They thought my dancing very very sweet" but it doesn't quite scan, and anyway, makes it sound more like a story about Dalziel and Pascoe.

E: Now, "Dance, dance, wherever you may be." What exactly are you suggesting that people do? Dance in church like a bunch of demented St Vitus sufferers?

SC: Look, you're not meant to think about the words, just sing them. And wave your arms around.

E: Quite so. I come now to "I danced on a Friday when the world turned black, It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back." No doubt this is a reference to Good Friday, but what makes you think that Our Lord had the Devil on His back? Were you thinking of Sinbad the sailor here?

old man of the sea

It's hard to dance with anyone on your back.

SC: I was simply stuck for a rhyme, I'm afraid. Back, Claque, Hack, Sack, Whack... what is one to do?

E: "They buried my body" isn't very good, either, is it? Wasn't Jesus placed in a tomb? Still, that's a small point, when the rest is such a  load of tosh.

SC: You must admit that it's a very popular hymn. In some circles it has totally supplanted more old-fashioned forms of worship, where the words are obliged to make sense.

E: Indeed, your drivel now appears in various Catholic and Protestant hymnals. How much did you pay them to give you a "nihil obstat," anyway? Sorry, that was below the belt. Takes a deep breath. Well, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Mr Carter. Shall we dance?

Eccles and Sidney join the dance.


  1. The Lord Of The Dance hymn originated with the American Shaker sect. They used dancing to induce a trance state for worship.
    They say dancing supposedly leads to sex. It didn't work that way with the Shakers. They were celibate, and as a result, there are no more Shakers.

  2. We played the flute for you, and you did not dance.

  3. In defense of the Shakers, they composed the tune but had different lyrics:
    "tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free
    tis a gift to come down where you ought to be
    and when we find ourselves in the place just right
    'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
    When true simplicity is gained,
    to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
    to turn, turn will be our delight
    til by turning, turning, we come round right."

    I'm not saying these lyrics make much more sense, but at least they don't create silly mental images of the Lord.