Than When We First Begun? Really?

One of the greatest hymns is “Amazing Grace.” We did it during communion yesterday–me at the piano, Maddie on the clarinet, Cecilia on the violin. Sounded beautiful. But I confess–that last line always bothers me.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

People sing the last line without the contraction: “Than when we first begun.” Which makes it ungrammatical and, therefore, unspiritual. It should just be, “Than when we first began.” But then you lose the rhyme, and we can’t have that. I’m sure Gabriel and all the other angels cringe whenever we sing it (since English is their native tongue).

Even WITH the contraction, I don’t like it. It means, “Than when we had first begun.” Doesn’t sound right.

I’m sorry. It grates on my wordsmith sensibilities. It just does.

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