Monday, August 27, 2007

Iron Maiden and GKC??

From David:
I watched the Father Brown BBC dvd tonight. In the biography on GKC, they mentioned that he was a major influence on C. S. Lewis (we know that) and that Neil Gaiman based one of his characters in his Sandman series, Gilbert, on GKC (some of us know that). Then it stated that Iron Maiden excerpted one of GKC's hymns in their song "Revelation" from their album Piece of Mind.

The song is on iTunes and I was able to listen to the sample of 20 seconds. God willing, I will not have to listen to the rest of it. Perhaps there are some head banger Chestertonians who will do so and tell us about it.
Anyone willing or able to tell us more about this?


  1. Well being a Head Banger Chestertonian.

    The song does start with Chesterton's hymn "O God of Earth and Altar"

    Their lead singer Bruce Dickinson learned this hymn at school growing up. The rest of the lyrics though are a mix up with Aleister Crowley influence and references to Hinduism.

    Iron Maiden (at least under Dickinson) at least has a wide range of lyrics influenced by literature such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and even the Dune series of SF novels.

  2. Thanks, Jeff! Let no one despise rock and roll, considering how LOUD psalm 150 seems to expect the music to be played - our amps are set to 12 - for the Apostles!

    Also the word "guitar" comes from the Greek kithara (="harp"), which might let us translate the "Psalm at the foot of the altar" to read:
    "I shall confess to you upon the guitar, O God" [cf Ps42:5]

    Also, as GKC puts it:

    I remember a debate in which I had praised militant music in ritual, and some one asked me if I could imagine Christ walking down the street before a brass band. I said I could imagine it with the greatest ease; for Christ definitely approved a natural noisiness at a great moment.
    ["The Tower" in Tremendous Trifles]


    According to CW10, GKC's poem "A Hymn" is now 100 years old. It's short enough to put here:

    "A Hymn"

    O God of earth and altar,
    Bow down and hear our cry,
    Our earthly rulers falter,
    Our people drift and die;
    The walls of gold entomb us,
    The swords of scorn divide,
    Take not thy thunder from us,
    But take away our pride.

    From all that terror teaches,
    From lies of tongue and pen,
    From all the easy speeches
    That comfort cruel men,
    For sale and profanation
    Of honour and the sword,
    From sleep and from damnation,
    Deliver us, good Lord.

    Tie in a living tether
    The prince and priest and thrall,
    Bind all our lives together,
    Smite us and save us all;
    In ire and exultation
    Aflame with faith, and free,
    Lift up a living nation,
    A single sword to thee.

    * * *

    It can be sung to the tune used for "O sacred head surrounded".

    --Dr. Thursday

    1. The best tune is the Welsh Llangloffan. Save "O sacred head now wounded for Good Friday or any celebration-observance of the crucifixion.

  3. You can here the song on Youtube at

    There are various videos of live performances of the same song at the same link.

  4. I always thought those Iron Maiden band members were closet Chestertonians.

    After all, who cannot forget the Distributist call from this band, "Run to the Hills"

    (watching for books thrown at me)

  5. Strange. Aleister Crowley was the only person Chesterton refused to debate. He would not appear on the same platform as Crowley and here his words are bleded with Crowley's. Hm.

    Crowley was a self-styled Satanist and devil worshipper. Chesterton never stated his objection to meeting Crowley, but possibly he didn't want to lend credibility to Crowley's view by discussing them. Ot, it might simply be that Crowley gave him the creeps.
    ~ Gramps

  6. Dr. T. wrote:
    "Thanks, Jeff! Let no one despise rock and roll, considering how LOUD psalm 150 seems to expect the music to be played - our amps are set to 12 - for the Apostles!

    Also the word "guitar" comes from the Greek kithara (="harp"), which might let us translate the "Psalm at the foot of the altar" to read:
    "I shall confess to you upon the guitar, O God" [cf Ps42:5]"

    HAH!!! As an aspiring axe shredder (Lesson #8 this Saturday), 'tis much appreciated. Thanx!

  7. I mentioned this song on my blog a while back:

    And yes, I downloaded the song from iTunes. I enjoyed hearing it knowing the words (at least the first part) were GKC's. I love the fact that his lyrics were performed in a musical style that didn't even exist when he was alive. That's really something...

  8. Perhaps David smacked his cithara (note the Zither is derived from the same Hebrew term) in abject confession.

    Clearly, he was confessing the sin of using a cithara in the House of God.

    If Jeff would read the Psalm more carefully, that's the meaning he would find.

    And that's why the Roman Catholic Church emphatically recommends the organ (fr. organon, 'all that is') as THE instrument of worship.

    When the veil of the Temple was ripped, worship became 'cosmic,' requiring 'organon'...

    That's what Cdl Jos. Ratzinger postulates, anyway.

  9. Last time I looked it up, "organ" comes from the Greek "ergon" = work.

    I am curious - where did you find that etymology?

  10. Well, I now can get to L&S, and check - Dad29 was correct that organ comes from the Greek organon="instrument, tool, for making or doing a thing" but also organon does come from ergon=work. Sorry, but I saw nothing to suggest "all that is" in Liddell and Scott, unless I missed it; I am no Greek scholar and L&S is VERY dense and so it is possible to overlook details - it is a fantastic book, and very useful.

    However! the very common and important organ stop called "diapason" means "through all" in Greek and originally meant "concord of the first and last notes" or octave.

    Perhaps I ought to clarify my intention. I did not mean to suggest by a paraphrase of Ps42:5 that guitars ought to be used: actually, the Douay has "To thee, O God my God, I will give praise upon the harp: why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me?" for that verse. I was trying to indicate that all instruments (used rightly) can and should glorify God.

    But far more is Dad29 right about the intention of the fathers of Vatican II:

    "In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument, and one that adds a wonderful splendour to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to heavenly things." [Sacrosanctum Concilium 120]

    Some Thursday I will comment more about organs... maybe sooner than you think...

    --Dr. Thursday

  11. OK. I have re-remembered the passage, more or less.

    I THINK it was Jos. Ratzinger, and the passage, more accurately recalled now, concerned the broad range of organ sounds (various stops) which call to mind 'all things' "singing" to God.

    Chirps, twitters, woofs and uuumba-ruuuumbas (etc., etc.)


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