The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
by Elsa D'Esterre-Keeling.
Development of German Hymn.
As writers of hymns, Luther and his contemporaries [Vode "Bucherbund,"xii.] were not without successors. Sterbelieder, Trostlieder, Hauslieder, [Dirges, Consolation-songs, Songs for the Home.] besides, of course, kirchenlieder and geistliche Lieder, [Church Hymns and Sacred Songs.] were poured forth in the century that followed that of the Reformation. Opitz, of the First Silesian School, [To be treated of in the next "Bucherbund" paper.] elaborated the hymn as he elaborated everything else. Here are two stanzas from his long paraphrase of Psalm civ.: [The translation is here mine, as everywhere when no acknowledgment is made.]--
Nun schau, o, Mensch, hinauf und uber dich, Nach dem, was nicht den Augen zeiget sich, Was niemand kann beschliessen in den Schranken Der Sterblichkeit und fluchtigen Gedanken. Vollbringst du das, mein Herz, und du, mein Sinn, Und legst die Last der Erden von dir hin, Sagst ab dem Leib, in dem du bist gefangen, So wird Gott dich, und du wirst Gott erlangen.
Now look, O man, above and over thee, And see what with thine eyes thou canst not see, What none can comprehend outside that portal That shuts out Heaven from foolish, erring mortal. If that thou do, my heart, my soul, this day, And all earth's burden at they feet but lay, Renounce the flesh which thou hast let enchain thee, Thou God indeed wilt gain, and God will gain thee.
This is not heart-stirring; to use a German idiom, "it leaved one cold." It is what Opitz would have called deutsche Poeterey, and it is nothing else. One can imagine the Silesian pedant's delight in the long smooth lines, in the skilful transition from the strong rimes to the weak, in the terseness of the last lines.
Very different is the note in Paul Fleming's--
In allen meinen Thaten Lass'ich den Hochsten rathen.
My God is still beside me, In all I do to guide me.
Paul Fleming died, too young, in 1640. He was a physician and an ardent admirer of Opitz, whose death he bewails in ludicrous hyperboles. Here is a line from his sonnet on "Master Martin Opitz of Boberfeld his Death" [Herrn Martin Opizen auff Boberfeld sein Ableben.]--Du Pindar, au Homer, du Maro unsrer Zeiten! (Thou of our times the Pindar, the Homer, and the Maro!).
This is indeed damning with loud praise.
In the same decade with Paul Fleming died Johann Heermann and Martin Rinkart, both of them pastors. By the former is the tender hymn, beginning Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen? (Ah, dearest Jesu, how hast thou then sinned?_, by the latter the German's Te Deum Laudamus.
Nun danket Alle Gott Mit Herzen, Mund und Handen Der grosse Dinge thut An uns und allen Enden.
Now thank we all our God, With heart, and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hat done, In whom His world rejoices! [From "Hymns Ancient and Modern." The translation is by Catherine Winkworth.]
Weckerlin, of whom the jeer ran--
Der Wakherlin sungt mit, So vihl als ihm vergonnt!
Our Weckerlin sings too, As well just as he can!
was among the hymnists, and Gryphius, the dramatist, and a layman, has a fine hymn on the theme Vanitas. Here are two stanzas from it:--
O, ye who praise earth's splendours, All is but smoke and cinders, No rock, no brass shall stay: Be ye not too confiding, What so ye deem abiding Will as a vision pass away.
Die Herrligkeit der Erden Muss Rauch und Asche werden, Kein Fels, ken Erz kan stehn: Dies was uns kan ergetzen, Was wir fur ewig schatzen, Wird als ein lichter Traum vergehn.
Wir rechnen Jahr auff Jahre, Indessen wird die Bahre Uns fur die Thur gebracht: Drauff mussen wir von hinnen, Und eh' wir uns besinnen, Der Erden sagen gute Nacht.
Year after year we reckon, Whilst death doth grimly beckon And summon us away: To far-off realms us leading, Our questions nowise heeding, Good-night to earth he bids us say.
This poem, like all the shorter poems by Gryphius, is tinged with deep melancholy. The author of the comedies of Horribiliscribrifax and Peter Squenz gave to the world a book of poems, having the woful title Kirchlofgedanken (Churchyard Thoughts).
Christian Keymann, a pastor of the little Saxon town of Zittau, is remembered as the author of the spirited hymn Meinen Jesum lass' ich nicht (My Lord Jesus, I'll not leave). Rist, a pastor of Holstein, who died in the same decade with Keymann and Gryphius, revived the martial note of Luther in his stirring chant on eternity, beginning--
O, Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, O, Schwert, das durch die Seele bohrt!
Eternity, thou thunder-word, My soul thou piercest like a sword!
In the following decade fall the last years of Heinrich Albert, author of the fine Kirchenlied, which opens--
Einen guten Kampf hab' ich Auf der Welt gekampfet!
I have fought a battle brave. Whilst on earth I sojourn'd!
Contemporary with Albert were Justus Gesensius, a high church dignitary of Hanover; and Johann Frank, burgomaster of Guben, [A little town in North Germany, not very far from Frankfort-on-the-Olga.] lovingly remembered as the author of those tender hymns: Jesu, meine Freude (Jesu, Thou my joy art), Schmucke dich, O, liebe Seele (Deck thee now, dear soul, oh, deck thee!), and Albinus, pastor of Naumburg, [Old town on the Saale, not very far from Weimar.] whose hymn, Alle Menschen mussen sterben (Die must all men, that remember), is very beautiful. Over all these, however, towers, by head and heart, Paul Gerhardt, the prince of Germany's hymnists. Born in 1607, Gerhardt lived to the age of sixty. He was for a time deacon of the church of St. Nicholas at Berlin, but was suspended, owing to his refusing to join the Protestant Union. We hear of him afterwards as pastor of Lubben, a town on the Spree, where he died. It will suffice to name the opening lines of some of his songs, all of which are well known: Befiehl du deine Wege (Commend thy paths, O Christian), Ich singe dir mis Herz und Mund (I sing to Thee with heart and lips), Ein Laumlein geht und tragt die Schuld (A Lamb now goes and bears the blame), Ich bin ein Gast auf Erden (I am a guest on earth here), Nun ruhen alle Walder (Now slumber all the forest), Ich erhebe, Herr, zu dir (I uplift, O Lord, to Thee), Geh' aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud (Go forth, my heart, and seek for joy), O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (O, bleeding head and wounded). [This hymn on the Passion will be found in our "Hymns Ancient and Modern," in a translation by the Reverend Sir Henry Baker, who translated from the Latin. Initial line: "O, sacred head, surrounded."] To these may be added the quaint pretty songs: Nieht so traurig, nicht so sehr (Not so sad be, not so sad), Geduld ist uech von Noten (Tis patience that is needful). The Germany that lost Gerhardt still possessed for a few years Georg Neumark, the librarian of Weimar, the opening line of whose best hymn--Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten (Whoso but lets our dear God manage)--has passed into a proverb in Nuemark's country, and Kaspar von Lohenstein, a better statesman, one dares to hope, than poet. Among Lohenstein's poems, which were sent forth into the world as "flowers," "roses," "hyacinths," "tears," some of the best are called geistliche Gedanken (Spiritual Thoughts). Canitz and Rodigast both belong to the closing years of this century. The last names saw the dawn of the eighteenth century. Canitz (cum titulis plenissimus, to speak with Peter Squenz, Friedrich Rudolf Ludwig Freiherr [Baron.] von Canitz) died as privy counsellor at Berlin. Two of his "spiritual songs" were for a long time favourites with the German people--those beginning Unser Heiland is gebunden (Our Redeemer, lo, is bounden), and Wenn Blut und Luste schaumen (When foam the blood and passions).["Ercles' vein" indeed--"lofty." No words better describe the work and style of the baronial poet.] Perhaps, however, the lines by him best remembered are two which occur in his lament for the death of his first wife, and which have passed into German speech.
Was fur Wellen und fur Flammen, Schlagen uber mir zusammen!
Waves and fire I see before me: Help, O, help! they're closing o'er me!
Samuel Rodigast, pastor and schoolmaster of Berlin, has a hymn with the pretty opening line--Was Gott thut, das ist wohlgethan (What God does, surely is well done). Other writers of hymns, belonging to the seventeenth century, are Gottfried Arnold, whose piety lacks sincerity; Adam Dresse, too fond of quaint conceits, as shown in his Seelenbruntigam (Bridegroom of the Soul); Mickael Dilherr, apt to be artificial and shallow; Matthaus Apelles von Lowenstern, grandiloquent as his name; and Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, delighting in most singular and choice epithets. Besides these, there is a duke among the hymnists, [Adam Ulrich of Branwick.] there are two countesses, [Emilie Juliana of Schwurdurg Rudalistadt, and Ludmillia Elisabeth of Schwarzberg.] and there is a princess. [Anna Sophia of Heine Darmstadt.] These three ladies wrote charmingly, but high above them must be ranked the Electress of Brandenburh, wife of the Great Elector, and writer of those matchless songs, Jesus, Meine Zuwersicht (Jesus, Thou my only hope), Ich will von meiner Missethat zum Herren mich bekehren (I from my sin will turn away, to Thee will turn, Lord Jesus).
Two Roman Catholic hymnists of note belonging to this century must not be passed over--Friedrich von Spee, the kind Jesuit who died in consequence of excessive zeal in tending the sick and wounded after the assault of Trier by the Spaniards in 1635, and Johann Scheffler, of Breslau, first medical man, then preacher; first Protestant, then Romanist. Both Spee and Scheffler were true poets, as is shown by the former in his Trutz-Nachtigall (Spite Nightingale [Men underlying this name--I will sing in spite of the nightingales.]), and by the latter in his hymns and maxims. Here are two thoughts by Scheffler on the Rose.
Die ros' ist ohn Warum; Sie bluhet, weil sie bluhet, Sie acht nicht ihrer selbst, Fragt nicht, ob man sie siehet. Die Rose, welche hier Dein musseres Auge sieht, Die hat von Ewigkeit In Gott also gebluht.
The Rose is without "why"; She blows because she bloweth. She asks no passer-by To heed her as he goeth. The Rose which here you see With outer eye alone; From all eternity In God Himself has grown.
Theosophy, pantheism, this, say modern Germans. Be that as it may, certain it is that these mystical quatrains have much beauty in them, and are more worthy of the name of poetry than the word-tangle on "roses three" ["Women and Roses."] which lovers of our Browning's mysticism admire. A Silesian by birth, Scheffler, took to himself the not particularly modest but very pretty name of Angelus Silesius. Many of his hymns have become popular with Protestants, as indeed, hymns by other Roman Catholics have found their way into the Protestant hymn-book of Germany, some of the finest of this country's so-called evangelische Lieder being adaptations of old Roman Catholic songs. An instance of this is Rist's O, Ewigkeit! mentioned above.
The eighteenth century was not so rich in hymns as were the two preceding centuries. To the first half of it belongs Gellert, a writer of the highest importance, of whom more hereafter. Of his hymns it has been truly said that, while they have neither the strength of Luther's nor the sweetness of Gerhardt's, they are among the best products of the time to which they belong, a time of growing scepticism and flippancy. Some of the pithy initial lines have come to be household words with German fold, such lines as Mein erst Gefuhl sei Preis und Dank (Be my first feeling praise and thanks), Wie gross ist des Allmachtigen Gute (How great is the Almighty's goodness), Jesus lebt, mit ihm auch ich (Jesus live; with Him live I). Among the hymn-writers of this century is also Friedrick Hardenberg, better known by his pseudonym of Novalis, from whom Carlyle quotes the words--"There is but one Temple in the Universe, and that is the Body of Man. Nothing is holier than that high form. Bending before men is a reverence done to this Revelation in the Flesh. We touch Heaven when we lay our hand on a human body." Das treue Herz (The Faithful Heart) is the best known hymn by Novalis. The following is the first stanza of it:--
Wenn Alle untreu werden, So bleib' ich dir doch treu; Dass Dankbarkeit auf Erden Nicht ausgestorben sei.
Though faithless be all others, I faithful will abide; Lest any of my brothers Say gratitude have died.
Klopstock, who died in 1803, two years after Novalis, was not so much writer of hymns as of odes. His lines on the Resurrection, beginning:
Auferstehn wirst du, Mein Staub, nach karzer Ruh!
Rise again thou must, Short rest thou'lt have, my dust!
were set to music by Karl Heinrich Graun, [The words with Graun's setting will be found in the Liederbuch des Deutschen Volkes (Leipzig: Breitkopf).] a composer of his own time. Of the other poets, who, with Klopstock, formed that grand sestet in the eighteenth century, one only wrote hymns. We look for these in vain in the works of Wieland the worldly, of Lessing the witty, of Herder the sententious, of Schiller the Greek. Not so in the works of Goethe. Here we find hymns of singular beauty; let the reader only call to mind the one sung by Margaret. The strange, reckless poet, Schubart, best known by his Kaplied (Song of the Cape), written and set to music for the Wirtembergian troops despatched to Africa in 1787, [Initial line: Auf, auf, ihr Bruder, und seid stark! (Up, up ye brothers, and be strong!)] in his last years wrote only sacred poetry.
First in time among the writers of hymns in the nineteenth century were the brothers Stolberg and the poet Schenkendorff. The Stolbergs belonged to the so-called Gottinger Hainbund. [To be dealt with later on.] The younger of the two, Count Friedrich Leopold, went over to Roman Catholicism, thereby enraging his good friend, Voss. The latter was unkind and unjust to the count, whose piety was unfeigned, and whose poetry still bears reading. As a sample of it, I give the stanza which closes his poem called Das Grab (The Grave).
Uns sammelt Alle, klein und gross, Die Mutter Erd' in ihrem Schoss! O, sahn wir ihr ins Angesicht, Wir scheuten ihren Busen nicht.
Come to my lap, both big and small; Thus daily Mother Earth doth call. O, saw we but her face anear, Her bosom we should never fear.
The pretty children's hymn, Christ ein Schafer (I am the Good Shepherd) beginning: Seht ihr auf den grunen Fluren jenten holden Schafer ziehn? (See ye o'er the grassy meadows yon fair Shepherd take His way?)--suggested by an old picture--is by Max von Schenkendorff, who died in 1817, and is best known as poet-champion of the so-called Freiheitskriege, waged by German hotheads in the early part of this century. This hymn, as sung to a slow folk-melody, is one of the loveliest things in song. [Vale Liederbuch des Deutchen Volkes (Breitkopf)] The famous hymn by Falk, on the three high festivals (Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide) is another instance of beautiful words set to beautiful music. [Vide Liederbuch.]
O, du frohliche, O, du selige, Gnadenbringende Weihnaschtszeit! Welt ging verloren, Christ is geboren, Freue dich, freue dich, O, Christenheit!
O, thou bountiful, O, thou beautiful, Blessed Christmas, once more thou'rt come. All was forlorn here, Christ then was born here, Glad thee, gladden thee, O, Christendom.
A good philanthropist was Johann Falk. He died in 1836, after having founded a home for destitute boys.
The young warriour poet, Korner, too, must be mentioned among the hymnists. Perhaps no poem by him will live longer than his thrilling Vater, ich rufe dich (Father, I cry to Thee!), which was set to excellent music by Friedrich Heinrich Himmel, the Berlin Kapellmeister, who outlived the poet by only two years. In very strange places do we find German hymns. Two will be found in Weber's opera of the Freischutz, the libretto of which was written by Friedrich Kind, no mean poet. Lovers of good words, twinned with good melodies, will remember the Bridal Prayer, which begins:
Und ob die Wolke sie verhulle, Die Sonne bleibt am Himmelszelt!
And tho', mayhap, the cloud should hide it, The sun remains in Heaven's vault.
More beautiful still is the untranslatable:
1. Leise, leise, Fromme Weise, Schwing' dich auf zum Sternenkreise! Lied erschalle, Feiernd walle Mein Gebet zur Himmelshalle.
2. Zu dir wende Ich die Hande, Herr ohn' Anfang und ohn' Ende. Vor Gefahren Uns zu wahren, Sende deine Engelscharen!
By Cardinal Melchior von Diepenbrock, who died in 1853, is the pretty prayer sent up at night by Germany's little children of all Christian creeds, for the wise Cardinal let no taint of dogma touch the words.
I am tired, I will sleep, Peer not, little eyes, nor peep! Father, let Thine eyes of love All night rest my bed above.
If ought wrong I did to-day, Count it not, dear God, I pray. Thy kind grace and Jesus' blood Makes, thou knowest it, all good. Be my dear ones' slumber blest, In Thy hand, Lord, let them rest; And the others, big and small, Be to Thee commended all. To sick hearts do Thou send sleep, Close Thou, Father, eyes that weep; Let the moon from Heaven's height Watch the stilly world all night.
Carl Reinecke's setting of these words is well known in England. [Vide Liederbuch.] Philip Spitta, the preacher, who died in 1859, deserves mention as the author of a collection of hymns called Psalter und Harfe. Joseph von Eichendorff, [He died in 1857.] on e of the heartiest--and healthiest--of the poets of the Romantic School, wrote a Morgengebet (Morning Prayer) which matches well the quiet tender music to which it is sung in Germany. It begins--
As contemporaries of Spitta may be mentioned Emanuel Frohlich and Victor Strauss, both of whom wrote hymns, as did greater poets than they--Uhland, Ruckert. [Uhland died in 1862, Ruckert in 1866. Both are well known in England owing to their ballad poetry.] Uhland's is the Schafers Sonntagslied, which I give entire:--
Das ist der Tag des Herrn! Ich bin allein auf weiter Flur, Noch eine Morgenglocke nur; Nun Stille nah und fern.
The Lord's Day tis to-day! I am alone abroad, I see, A far-off bell's sound comes to me, Across my quiet way.
By Ruckert is the Adventslied which opens:--
Dein Konig kommt in niedern Hullen, Sanftmuthig, auf der Es'lin Fullen, Empfang ihn froh, Jerusalem! Trag' ihm entgegen Friedenszweige, Bestreu mit Maien seine Steige, So ist's dem Herren angenehm.
In lowly garb thy King comes riding, The Lord an ass's foal bestriding; Jerusalem, thy gates wide fling! Peace-branches on his pathway strow ye, Before Him with Spring flowers go ye, So do, twill please our Lord, the King.
It is touching to meet with Arndt, the old patriot, among the hymnists. His is the pretty Engel und Lilien, [First line: Schlafe, Kindlein, kold und zuss. (Sleep, my baby, fair and sweet.)] in which the mother bequeathes her child to God's keeping in the night. Even Heine becomes a hymnist to the little children of Germany, who learn his quaint stanzas, Die heligen drei Konige (The Holy Three Kings), and say them solemnly.
Writers of German hymns who belong to our own time are Karl von Gerok, the Stuttgart preacher, not long dead, whose sacred poetry is beautiful and strong, and Julius Sturm, good pastor and good poet, by whom are the pretty stanzas on the greeting Gott grusse dich, a greeting very common in South Germany, where it is contracted into Gruss' Gott."
Gott grusse dich!--Kein andrer Gruss Gleicht dem an Innigkeit. Gott grusse dich!--Kein andrer Gruss Passt so zu jeder Zeit.
God greet thee, friend!--No other words So tender man can say. God greet thee, friend!--No other words Befit more every day.
Gott grusse dich!--Wenn dieser Gross So recht von Herren geht, Gilt bei dem lieben Gott der Gross, So viel als ein Gebet.
God greet thee, friend! If but those words Go from a heart of love, A prayer and nothing less they are To our dear God above.
Again, the late Victor von Scheffel, the darling poet of Germany's students, showed in his Bergpsalmen that he, too, could write sacred poetry of the best. A pretty short poem of his is the little thing, half hymn, half home-sickness, headed Im Lager von Akkon, 1190 (In the Camp of Acco, 1190), in which the supposed singer is a Thuringian crusader. The poet Felix Dahm, still living, has a hymn in praise of God called Abendstunde (Eventide), in which he tells us that we are to keep holy the hour of evening, as "the Sabbath of each week-day"--a thought that is worthy of Wordsworth.
Haltet heilig die Abendstunde,
Other living poets have written hymns. He who has read all the songs of Mirza Schaffy [Pseudonym of the poet Bodenstedt, the German Hafiz.] cannot have failed to notice that even among these the hymn is not absent. In face of such facts, it seems hardly necessary to fear that the last of Germany's sacred songs has been given to the world, and that the poetry of the country of Luther will henceforth be exclusively profane. How much we owe to Germany's hymnists of all times, but especially to the early ones, both poets and musicians, no student of that English compilation "Hymns Ancient and Modern" can have failed to notice. More than twelve of the finest hymns in it are translated from the German, and more than thrice that number of the tunes are German.
Questions for Club Students.
(First Class Paper.)
1. Translate closing paragraph above, beginning "Writers of German hymns."
2. Comment on the words Kan, ergetzen, als, fur, Erden (in Gryphius' Vanitas hymn).
(Second Class Paper.)
Write an essay on the German child's hymn (mude bin ich) and compare with it your favourite English child's hymn.
Book of interest:--
The German Lutheran Church Hymn-book. (Here recommended from the literary point.)
Miss Gates, Miss Margaret Lloyd, Miss Mary Lloyd, Miss Maud Lloyd.
|Top||Copyright © 2002-2014 AmblesideOnline. All rights reserved. Use of these resources subject to the terms of our License Agreement.||Home|