Evensong

A JKD — J. Keene Daingerfield (Sr.) — story, following on the ones here. This one has to do with his unique adaptation of the Magnificat from the Anglican Evensong service, a hymn of praise to Mary. The section in question is based on Luke 1:53. In the KJV, the passage goes

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

There are many variant translations, including

He has filled the poor with good things and the rich He has sent empty away.

And JKD’s was in the present rather than the present perfect:

The poor he filleth with very good things; the rich he sends empty away.

The full version — which he performed only at home — went:

The poor he filleth with very good things,
With very good things, hey HEY!
The poor he filleth with very good things,
The rich he sends empty away.

Away, you rich, you son of a bitch,
Away, away, away.
Away, you rich, you son of a bitch,
Away, away, away.

This is anapestic tetrameter, with short (iambic) first feet throughout; with rests in the fourth foot of the even-numbered lines; and with some other short feet.

There are two verses of four lines each, giving an anapestic version of what I’ll call a 4 x 4 form: four lines of tetrameter. C.M. verse is an iambic 4 x 4 with rests in the fourth foot of lines 2 and 4 (discussion here). The limerick form is an anapestic 4 x 4 with rests in the fourth foot of lines 1, 2, and 4 (discussion here). Other folksong forms are trochaic 4 x 4s. They’re all over the place.

Now, the legacy of JKD’s Magnificat. About 15 years after his death (in 1947), Ann Daingerfield (as she was then), her roommate Bonnie Bendon, and I went to Evensong at Trinity Church, Princeton. It was an odd occasion. The priest was startlingly young, possibly brand-new, and obviously nervous about conducting the service.

Things began edgily, since Ann, Bonnie, and I were the entire congregation, and the service begins with Matthew 18:20; in the KJV:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

We all got through that, and things went fine — until the Magnificat came along. The three of us in the congregation couldn’t manage to look at one another, for fear of breaking into laughter as JKD’s version streamed through our heads, and we fell silent, leaving the celebrant on his own to send the rich away empty. Then Evensong proceeded smoothly to its end, with no more snares.

(Yes, Bonnie and I knew the JKD version. The Daingerfields, Ann included, Told Family Stories, lots of them, all the time, often refining and improving them over the years, so of course Bonnie and I could send the rich sons-of-bitches away with the best of them.)

5 Responses to “Evensong”

  1. Chris Ambidge Says:

    not actually the doxology, it’s a line from the Magnificat (song of Mary)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      (In the first version of this posting, I identified the passage in question as from the doxology.) Thank you, Chris. I’ve corrected the text.

      Memory is a fragile thing.

  2. Disco Duck « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

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  3. sonneteer « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

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