Sin and Syntax

 

Here’s a grammar book that is so not stuffy.  Sin and Syntax – How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale (Broadway Books 1999) is almost too self-consciously post-modern with its “sin” riff.  Each of three parts – Words, Sentences and Music – consists of a chapter in four sections:  Bones (“the grammar sermonette”), Flesh (“the lesson on writing”), Cardinal Sins (“true transgressions”)  and Carnal Pleasures (“playful, riotous, sometimes subversive pieces of writing.”)  This could be an irritating book if it weren’t written so very well and didn’t lift up such luminous examples and instances  of the written word in English.  Given the sin riff, here’s an instance one  might not have expected,  in the appendix on recommended books:

“The King James Bible. …  Its poetry works whether or not you’re a believer, and it resonates profoundly through our literary culture.  If you like this stuff, you may also want to check out The Book of Common Prayer.  For musicality, few texts beat the Prayer of Consecration…. or some of the Collects (try the First Sunday in Advent….)”

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, here is the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent, which is today.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost,  now and ever. Amen.

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