This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bad Hymns 25

We hadn't personally encountered today's nomination for the Eccles Bad Hymn Award, On Eagle's Wings (except on Youtube), but since it has received several nominations we felt we should invite the author, Michael Joncas, to discuss it with us. Hello, Mike!

eagle and child

He will raise you up on eagle's wings.

MJ: Thank you, Eccles. It's a pleasure and a privilege to sit in the chair that has hosted so many great liturgists, such as Paul Inwood, Damian Lundy and Estelle White.

E: Oh is it? Right. Now I couldn't sit through the whole Youtube video without screaming, but I have read the words of your hymn. Basically, the bird stuff comes from Isaiah 40:31. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

MJ: Well, I padded out the chorus a bit. Since the eagle's wings might not be strong enough (and to give you a choice of transport), I wrote:

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, 
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His hand.
E: Improving on the Bible, eh? Well done. Does dawn have breath, though?

MJ: You start off using the eagle's wings, Eccles, blow around in the air a bit, and then land on God's hand.


Icarus wishes he'd booked to travel with Air Joncas.

E: I see. Now, apart from the chorus, it's a mash-up of Psalm 91.

MJ: Well, I chose some bits of it and made a few more improvements. I felt that King David needed some help in making his psalm acceptable for modern congregations.

E: Yes, he'll be very grateful. Last year I advised him on how to rewrite Psalm 23.

MJ: Right, so "Pestilence" is changed to "Famine", for example. And "his truth shall be thy shield and buckler" becomes "his faithfulness your shield".

four horsemen

Pestilence is dropped, and Famine joins the team.

E: It scans much better that way, doesn't it?

MJ: Of course I haven't managed to make the lines rhyme at all, but then nor did King David. That's more advanced poetry.

E: Except that a psalm, sung to a traditional chant, actually sounds a lot more sacred than what we're left with here.

MJ: Cruel words, Bruvver Eccles. Doesn't a verse like this resonate with you?

For to His angels He's given a command,
To guard you in all of your ways,
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

E: Well it means the same as the original psalm, but it ends with a dreadful clunk, doesn't it? That's rather appropriate, really.

MJ: Still, I'm delighted that I've got angels' hands, as well as an eagle's wings, dawn's breath and God's hand, all bearing me up.

E: Belt and braces, eh? No wonder you're shining like the sun.

MJ: Wikipedia has a fascinating discussion on whether it should be one eagle or many...

E: Let's not go there. Mike, thank you very much.

Sam the eagle

Michael Joncas, let me bear you away.

Previous entries for the Eccles Bad Hymn Award:

Lord of the Dance.    Shine, Jesus, shine.    Enemy of apathy.    Walk in the Light.
Kum Ba Yah.    Follow me.    God's Spirit is in my heart.    Imagine.    Alleluia Ch-ch.
It ain't necessarily so.    I, the Lord of sea and sky.    Colours of day.    The red flag.
Go, the Mass is ended.    I watch the sunrise.    Bind us together, Lord.    Our god reigns.
My way.    Ding-Dong! The witch is dead.    If I were a butterfly.
Journeys ended, journeys begun.    The Galilee song.    The perfect face.
Jesus Christ the apple tree.


  1. Dashing your foot against a stone sounds like the diabolical bit staright from Old Nick's mouth. Yes, a great improvement on King david's words!

  2. Paula N Wood's "Pestilential Rite" and "Censure of My Life" spring to mind here. They are part of the "Michael Any Hymn Mess".

  3. Dear Sir,

    Some of us do not admire King David's "advanced" pottery at all. Here in Tunbridge Wells ACTA we take a more bull-in-a-china-shop approach to appreciating traditional ceramics.

    Yours etc.,
    Deeply Troubled of Tunbridge Wells