Don’t make light of gladsome

It is a gladsome day. It is mid-winter and the sun is shining. The air smells clean. I can hear boys playing sport across the road in the park and from next door the congregation singing in the church.

I am trying to encourage the use of gladsome, as many dictionaries are suggesting that gladsome is “archaic” and has been replaced by glad. Gladsome is an adjective with two distinct meanings: being full of gladness, and causing gladness. In the first meaning glad has certainly taken over but in the second gladsome still dominates.

Glad is from Old English and means bright, shining and joyous. Gladsome has been around since the fourteenth century, the -some suffix is an adjective making device.

With the extra syllable, gladsome is softer sounding than glad and provides more rhythm to poetry and prose. Gladsome has been widely used by authors such as Emily Bronte, James Barrie and even Mark Twain. We would be wise to hang on to it.

The best example of why we need gladsome is in the translation of the first Christian hymn, known in Greek as Phos Hilaron.  It was the first hymn that did not use text taken from the Bible. Phos Hilaron is known in English as O Gladsome Light.

O Gladsome Light of the holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ.

Now we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening.

We praise God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For it is right at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise,

O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world glorifies Thee.

It is thought that in the third century a candle was kept burning in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, symbolizing his eternal light. In the evenings Phos Hilaron was sung as the candle was brought out of the tomb by the priests to call the congregation to celebrate the risen Lord. It is a tradition known as the lighting of the lamps, which is still followed by the Orthodox Church. Now English-speaking Christians sing O Gladsome Light and not, as the dictionaries would suggest, O Glad Light.