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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

Lord Robbins
I find it difficult to describe in temperate language my feelings regarding the current tendency to reject the Jacobean translation of the Scriptures to say nothing of the Book of Common Prayer in favour of recent versions of these masterpieces.

Whether one is a believer or not, it is surely not open to question that, with Shakespeare, these works are the main background of our literary heritage. To substitute for their marvellous cadences and deep spiritual and poetic appeal, these supreme examples of literary insensibility aping on the sublime plane on which they move the dead-pan language of informal twentieth-century speech, seems to me an outrage which, if it were not a real danger, one would never believe to be possible.

Presumably the motive is well-intentioned-to make more 'real' the teaching, the narrative and the aspirations the sacred books and prayers embody. But this is a fallacy born of complete incomprehension of what 'tells' and what does not 'tell' in such communication with the young who after all are far more musical and just as sensitive to literary excellence as their predecessors. What would they-or we-say of an attempt to rewrite one of Hamlet's soliloquies in modern English? All eyes would be dry. How much more so to be condemned is this forcing the adoption of such parodies of the greatest literary manifestations of one of the great religions of the world.

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