(W: Recently we’ve sung a few songs that almost went out of their way to be unintelligible. Here’s Cheryl’s thoughts on the fine line between creativity and intelligibility.)
Song lyrics are a form of poetry, and poetry should obey grammar, or at a stretch at least poetic grammar. Note that the further you stretch grammar to make it fit your poetry, often the less coherent it becomes. “Jesus, I have taken my cross” vs “Jesus, I my cross have taken.”
Even so, there are still conventions governing ‘poetic’ grammar that means saying “Jesus, my taken I have cross” is really getting into incoherent and downright ungrammatical rather than creative. If one of our chief aims for singing worship songs is to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16), I’m perplexed as to why songwriters would craft lines like:
- “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I be afraid?” (of? Why miss out prepositions where they are called for?)
- “And if our God is for us, what could stand against?” (us? A brick wall? Just generally against?)
- “Oh let the ancient words impart.” (impart what?)
I’m thankful for the efforts of songwriters to help us “sing a new song” to the Lord in light of what He’s accomplished in Christ. But please, check for grammatical errors!