Eat your heart out, Timothy West!
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we’re all gathered here this evening, perhaps in the immortal and poetic words of the King James Bible I ought really to start by saying:
“Hearken to my words”, which of course, contrasted with the New English Bible Version of: "Give me a hearing”.
I don’t know what it is, there’s always something so special I think about the King James Version, its poetry and its cadence.
I don’t know about you, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve never really understood who it was that decided that for people who aren’t very good at reading, the best things to read are those written by people who aren’t very good at writing! Poetry, I have always thought, is for everybody - even if it’s only a few phrases - but banality is for nobody. It might be accessible for all but so, at the end of the day, is a desert!
When you think about it, where is the comfort in a phrase too banal to be remembered? For instance, as:
“Why take ye thought for raiment?” asks the King James Bible.
“And why are you anxious about clothing?” asks the Revised Version.
So, sometimes perhaps on these occasions one has to think about the fact that, if the word of God can seem a bit over our heads, perhaps it is supposed to be. And I don’t know how many of you remember Alan Bennett in the ‘The Old Country”? “I imagine”, he wrote, “that when it comes to the next Prayer Book they won’t write “He”, meaning “Him” with a capital H; “god” will be written in the lower case to banish any lurking feeling of inferiority.”
But Ladies and Gentlemen, I was asked recently to just record a part of the King James Bible for “You Tube” - which I read rather rashly in the Chapel Royal, which I think many of you visited this evening before you came here. What amused me so much were the comments that came in, after I’d read it, on “Twitter” and “Facebook”.
One of them said: “If The Prince ever gets tired of “Prince-ing”, he would be a fabulous narrator! What a soothing voice.”
And another one said: “One of my favourites since I was a child. Wish he had even read it all. Thanks for sharing this.”
But I think my favourite really was: “Well done Your Highness. You would be an excellent voice actor.”
Eat your heart out, Timothy West!
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are so blessed, I think, really with the King James Version, when you think what trouble King James I took to assemble such a group of learned scholars to ensure that the very best translation was produced and we have benefitted ever since. But one of the things I’ve always felt has been so sad is losing that sense of continuity that we were able to share, many of us, with our predecessors in having this access to such a great translation. And I’ve always felt that, one of the things as I get older, I find, is although I didn’t really understand everything I was hearing, over the years in Church, or wherever, school, in endless Chapel services, you know, as I get older and older and life can sometimes become more challenging here and there, or when particular moments of difficulty confront you, then all these wonderful passages come back, to provide such a degree of comfort and security when you think perhaps there is no hope. Those great words, the ultimate meaning of them, the symbolism of them, can mean so much as a result of the way they were written. Of course you wouldn’t dream, I don’t think, of translating Shakespeare into modern verse, but I won’t go into that!
So really this evening I just wanted above all else to congratulate and thank Frank Field in particular, Lord Salisbury who’s sadly not here, the Trustees and all the supporters of the King James Bible Trust for taking this initiative to set up the Trust, to help mark this marvellous 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible with such a splendid series of events. And I know so many of you have been involved in all this, are still involved and I cannot thank you enough for all the efforts you’re putting into this, just to raise the profile of this great translation and of what it means in so many people’s lives. It’s wonderful to see so many friends from across the Atlantic who’ve come all the way, especially. It just shows what an enormous interest is still taken in the United States in the King James Version of the Bible. So having this link there is I think of enormous importance. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I just wanted to add to this occasion my good wishes, for what they’re worth, for the rest of this year and to say just how important what you are doing is - to make sure that people become aware again of what they’ve been missing for so long. Thank you.