Compared with most authors of his time Gerhardt wrote but little. His
Rist (1607-1667), and his successor,
composed respectively 659 and 1188 hymns, while Gerhardt has the modest
number of 132 poems in all.4242Among them are 18 poems for occasions,
27 founded on Psalms and 24 founded on other parts of Holy Scripture.
Yet a complete hymnal might be compiled
from them, so thoroughly do they embrace all religious and domestic experiences.
They appeared at intervals from the year 1649 on, many of them
for the first time in the Praxis pietatis melica, a collection of hymns and
tunes by Johann Crüger, the famous organist and composer of chorals.
Crüger died in the year 1662 and Cristoph Runge took over further editions
of the book. Gerhardt made no further contributions to these publications
because henceforth he became more intimately associated with Johann
Georg Ebeling, Crüger's successor in his church and organ work. Ebeling
was so much pleased with Gerhardt's hymns, that he at once began to set
them to music and eventually he published them dividing them by
"dozens"4343The tenth and last "dozen" of Gerhardt's hymns which Ebeling had set to music
for four voices and with an accompaniment of two violins and a bass, appeared in
1667. The full title, characteristic of Ebeling, reads: Paul Gerhardt's spiritual devotions,
consisting of one hundred and twenty hymns, collected into one volume, at the
request of a number of eminent and distinguished gentlemen; first to the honor of
the Divine Majesty and then, also for the consolation of esteemed and distressed
Christendom, and for the increase of the Christianity of all believing souls--in sets
by dozens, embellished with melodies for six parts." With such eagerness were these
hymns sought after that Ebeling had to publish a new edition two years later. The
melodies which proved most popular were those set to
"Voller Wunder, voller Kunst,"
"Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott" and
"Warum sollt' ich mich denn grämen."
Each single dozen was again dedicated to a particular class of men with a characteristic
preface. The first dozen he dedicated "to the prelates, counts, lords, knights,
and estates of the Electorate of Brandenburg, this side the Oder and beyond the
Elbe"; the second dozen, "To the high, noble-born, honored, and virtuous women
of Berlin" and so on.
into separate books. Gerhardt put at Ebeling's disposal the first copy of
his hymns hitherto published and also thirty-one separate strophes which
had for various reasons been omitted in previous editions. Finally he turned
over to him twenty-six more poems which the Praxis pietatis melica had
not published up to this time. Among them are a number which in all
probability belong to his early period of poetic activity, such as: "O Tod,
O Tod, du greulichs Bild," a paraphrase of one of
1 and 2.
hymns. Also among them are several which from content and form must be regarded
as products of his mature years, and from which the poet himself derived
much comfort and strength.4545
"Die güldne Sonne"
"Der Tag mit seinem Lichte"
"Wie schön ists doch, Herr Jesu Christ"
"Voller Wunder, voller Kunst"
"Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille"
"Ich bin ein Gast auf Erden"
"Herr, du erforschest meinen Sinn"
"Herr Gott, du bist ja für und für"
"Ich danke dir mit Freuden" Goed. 333.
"Ich, der ich oft in tiefes Leid" Goed. 298.
"Johannes sahe durch Gesicht" Goed. 319.
"Mein Seel ist in der Stille" Goed. 307.
"Merkt auf, merkt Himmel, Erde" Goed. 278.
The most important fact about the Ebeling edition is this, that the
personality of Gerhardt, the poet, was for the first time presented to the
German people's heart and mind. Hitherto his poems had been grouped together
in collections of hymns with those of other and perhaps better known
authors. Ebeling's publication placed Gerhardt's works on their own merit.
The texts of the hymns in the editions of Crüger and Ebeling and later
of Feustking4646Johann Heinrich Feustking: Ausgabe, Zerbst, 1707, text
"nach des seligen Autors eigenhändigem revidirten Exemplar mit Fleisz
in 1707 have often different readings so that it is difficult to
determine which the authentic version may be. It is quite within the limits
of possibility that Gerhardt himself undertook revisions, as Feustking's