Filed by MetaLark.
I really hate for people to change the wording on beloved old hymns, but I’ve come upon a case that cries out for a change. It’s in the third verse of “Rock of Ages.” I’m re-notating this song for my church choir to sing (it’s in the public domain, so this is legal), and the Baptist and Methodist hymnals differ on one word, neither of which I like.
Here’s the verse from the Baptist book:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
The Methodist hymnal has “Vile” instead of “Foul.” But both of these adjectives seem overwrought by today’s standards. I thought of substituting “Soiled,” but “Soiled, I to the fountain fly” feels a bit awkward. So, I submitted three wording options to family members, noting that the previous two phrases start with adjectives–”naked” and “helpless.” But each person disagreed with the other, and that’s when I came up with the fourth option. They haven’t yet responded on that one…
Here are the options:
1. Soiled, I to the fountain fly
2. To the fountain, soiled, I fly
3. To the fountain let me fly
4. Soiled, unto the fountain fly
Each person responded with a different opinion, and each expressed criticisms of those not chosen, namely:
Option 1. Awkward, as stated.
Option 2. “Soiled” seems to refer to “fountain” rather than “I.”
Option 3. Doesn’t give a reason for flying to the fountain.
The fourth option keeps the adjective-first iteration, and incidentally keeps the unstated-”I” iteration. Would that work, do you think? Or, should I just keep one of the original adjectives? Or, have you any other suggestion for me?