Until tonight, while I was listening to those “Midnight Cry” clips, I always thought the line in the second verse was:
I see prophecies fulfilled.
But no. In fact, it is, evidently:
I see prophecies fulfilling.
First off, put your flame throwers away. I’m not advocating some purist’s hard line here. The song is perfectly comprehensible the way it is, as are many songs that have one-off lines or other odd lyrical tics. But unlike a lot of those other instances, which arise when writers try to shoe-horn too many ideas or thoughts into rhythmically unaccommodating lines, the choice of unidiomatic diction is less clear here, since the idiomatic choice - fulfilled - would have worked just as well or better rhythmically and been more coherent.
The Occam’s razor possibility is, of course, that somebody chose the wrong word and didn’t have a good editor to tell them so.
More generously, though, I guess you could read the line as grammatically elliptical, making the verb reflexive. At least it makes a little more sense this way: as in, “I see prophecies fulfilling themselves.” But even this generous reading doesn’t make complete sense, since in evangelical Christian eschatology, prophecies aren’t supposed to fulfill themselves. They are fulfilled, by God, in his divine end times. Which in this case would mean the passive voice: I look around and I see prophecies being fulfilled by God.
Put it this way, and it makes me think maybe the writers wanted to convey the idea of looking around and seeing, not completed prophecies, but the fulfillment of prophecy in progress, which the present participle fulfilling must have seemed to capture better than the grammatically correct past participle that this kind of passive-voice construction takes: fulfilled.
Any writers wanna jump in here?
Update: Just to bear out the old maxim that we argue the most when the stakes are the lowest, let me clarify something that came up in comments. Baritone77 suggests that because “fulfilled” is the past participle and the verse is in the present tense, using “fulfilled” would require recasting the entire verse in the past tense. But this isn’t quite right. What we have here isn’t a straightforward past/present issue. In this case, using “fulfilled” doesn’t change the tense of sentence; rather, it makes part of the sentence passive voice: Instead of “I see prophecies fulfilling themselves” we have, “I see prophecies fulfilled by God.” Both are present tense (”I see” in the both), but the latter is a present tense sentence with a passive-voice predicate (”fulfilled by God”), which requires the past participle to defer to the agency of the action to God. Not to be technical or anything … heheh.Email this Post