Saturday, March 31, 2012

Without a City Wall

There was an Easter hymn we sang at school, with a line in it that always threw me off.

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

I would think: none of the green hills of Tyrone have city walls, and why would anyone put a city wall around a green hill anyway? So why would the hymn-writer remark on there not being a city wall?

In fact, it seems that the word 'without' is meant to carry the slightly archaic meaning of 'outside'. We still use the word's opposite, 'within', in everyday English -- within everyday English.

Here is an example of 'without' meaning 'outside,' from the Old Testament, where in Genesis chapter 6, verse 14, God gives Noah the instructions on how to waterproof his ark:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

Modern versions of the hymn almost always have the second line changed so that it goes: "Outside a city wall..."

As Easter approaches, may I wish everyone a happy one, and if you find a green hill, roll an egg without breaking it...without let or hindrance...