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§ 82. Beginnings of Evangelical Hymnody.


I. The "Wittenberg Enchiridion," 1524. The "Erfurt Enchiridion," 1524. Walter’s "Gesangbuch," with preface by Luther, 1524. Klug’s "Gesangbuch," by Luther, 1529, etc. Babst’s "Gesangbuch," 1545, 5th ed. 1553. Spangenberg’s "Cantiones ecclesiasticae," 1545. See exact titles in Wackernagel’s Bibliographie, etc.

II. C. v. Winterfeld: Luther’s geistl. Lieder nebst Stimmweisen. Leipz. 1840. Ph. Wackernagel: Luther’s geistl. Lieder u. Singweisen. Stuttgart, 1848. Other editions of Luther’s Hymns by Stip, 1854; Schneider, 1856; Dreher, 1857. B. Pick: Luther as a Hymnist. Philad. 1875. Emil. Frommel: Luther’s Lieder und Sprüche. Der singende Luther im Kranze seiner dichtenden und bildenden Zeitgenossen. Berlin, 1883. (Jubilee ed. with illustrations from Dürer and Cranach.) L. W. Bacon and N. H. Allen: The Hymns of Luther set to their original melodies, with an English Version. New York, 1883. E. Achelis: Die Entste-hungszeit v. Luther’s geistl. Liedern. Marburg, 1884. Danneil: Luther’s geistl. Lieder nach seinen drei Gesangbüchern von 1524, 1529, 1545. Frankf. -a-M., 1885.

III. Aug. H. Hoffmann von Fallersleben: Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenlieds his auf Luther’s Zeit. Breslau, 1832; third ed., Hannover, 1861. F. A. Cunz: Gesch. des deutschen Kirchenlieds. Leipz. 1855, 2 parts. Julius Mützell: Geistliche Lieder der evangelischen Kirche aus dem 16ten Jahrh. nach den ältesten Drucken. Berlin, 1855, in 3 vols. (The same publ. afterwards Geistl. Lieder der ev. K. aus dem 17ten und Anfang des 18ten Jahrh. Braunschweig, 1858.) K. Müllenhoff and W. Scherer: Denkmäler deutscher Poesie und Prosa aus dem 8ten his 12ten Jahrh. Berlin, 1864.

*Eduard Emil Koch (d. 1871): Geschichte des Kirchenlieds der christlichen, insbesondere der deutschen evangelischen Kirche. Third ed. completed and enlarged by Richard Lauxmann. Stuttgart, 1866–1876, in 8 vols. (The first ed. appeared in 1847; the second in 1852 and 1853, in 4 vols.) A very useful book for German hymnody.

*Philipp Wackernagel (d. 1877): Das deutsche Kirchenlied von Luther his N. Hermann und A. Blaurer. Stuttgart, 1842, in 2 vols. By the same: Bibliographie zur Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes im 16ten Jahrhundert. Frankf. -a-M., 1855. *By the same: Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit his zu Anfang des XVII Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, 1864–77, in 5 vols. (his chief work, completed by his two sons). A monumental work of immense industry and pains-taking accuracy, in a department where "pedantry is a virtue." Vol. I. contains Latin hymns, and from pp. 365–884 additions to the bibliography. The second and following vols. are devoted to German hymnody, including the mediaeval (vol. II.).

*A. F. W. Fischer: Kirchenlieder-Lexicon. Hymnologisch-literarische Nachweisungen über 4,500 der wichtigsten und verbreitetsten Kirchenlieder aller Zeiten. Gotha, 1878, ’79, in 2 vols. K. Severin Meister and Wilhelm Bäumker (R. C.): Das katholische deutsche Kirchenlied in seinen Singweisen von den frühesten Zeiten his gegen Ende des 17ten Jahrh. Freiburg-i. -B. 1862, 2d vol. by Bäumker, 1883. Devoted chiefly to the musical part.

On the hymnody of the Reformed churches of Switzerland and France in the sixteenth century, Les Psaumes mis en rime franaçaise par Clément Marot et Theodore de Bèze. Mis en musique à quatre parties par Claude Goudimel. Genève, 1565. It contains 150 Psalms, Symeon’s Song, a poem on the Decalogue and 150 melodies, many of which were based on secular tunes, and found entrance into the Lutheran Church. A beautiful modern edition by O. Douen: Clément Marot et le Psautier Huguenot. Paris, 1878 and 1879, 2 vols. Weber: Geschichte des Kirchengesangs in der deutschen reformirten Schweiz seit der Reformation. Zürich, 1876.

On the hymnody of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren, see Wackernagel’s large work, III. 229–350 (Nos. 255–417), and Koch, l.c. II. 114–132.

Comp. the hymnological collections and discussions of Rambach, Bunsen, Knapp, Daniel, J. P. Lange, Stier, Stip, Geffken, Vilmar, etc. Also Schaff’s sketch of "German Hymnology," and other relevant articles in the forthcoming "Dictionary of Hymnology," edited by J. Julian, to be published by J. Murray in London and Scribner in New York, 1889. This will be the best work in the English language on the origin and history of Christian hymns of all ages and nations.


The most valuable contribution which German Protestantism made to Christian worship is its rich treasury of hymns. Luther struck the key-note; the Lutheran Church followed with a luminous train of hymnists; the Reformed churches, first with metrical versions of the Psalms and appropriate tunes, afterwards with new Christian hymns.

The hymn in the strict sense of the term, as a popular religious lyric, or a lyric poem in praise of God or Christ to be sung by the congregation in public worship, was born in Germany and brought to maturity with the Reformation and with the idea of the general priesthood of believers. The Latin Church had prepared the way, and produced some of the grandest hymns which can never die, as the "Dies Irae," the "Stabat mater," and the "Jesu dulcis memoria." But these and other Latin hymns and sequences of St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, Fortunatus, Notker, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas a Celano, Jacobus de Benedictis, Adam of St. Victor, etc., were sung by priests and choristers, and were no more intelligible to the common people than the Latin Psalter and the Latin mass.632632    On Greek and Latin hymnology and the literature, see Schaff, Church History, III. 575 sqq., and IV. 402 sqq. and 416 sqq. The reign of the Latin language in public worship, while it tended to preserve the unity of the church, and to facilitate literary intercourse, kept back the free development of a vernacular hymnody. Nevertheless, the native love of the Germans for poetry and song produced for private devotion a large number of sacred lyrics and versified translations of the Psalms and Latin hymns. As there were German Bibles before Luther’s version, so there were also German hymns before his time; but they were limited in use, and superseded by the superior products of the evangelical church. Philip Wackernagel (the most learned German hymnologist, and an enthusiastic admirer of Luther) gives in the second volume of his large collection no less than fourteen hundred and forty-eight German hymns and sequences, from Otfrid to Hans Sachs (inclusive) or from a.d. 868 to 1518. Nor was vernacular hymnody confined to Germany. St. Francis of Assisi composed the "Cantico del Sol," and Jacopone da Todi (the author of the "Stabat Mater ") those passionate dithyrambic odes which "vibrate like tongues of fire," for private confraternities and domestic gatherings.633633    Comp. Ozanam, Les poetes Franciscains en Italie au 13mesiècle. Paris, 1852.


German Hymnody before the Reformation.


In order to form a just estimate of German Protestant hymnody, we must briefly survey the mediaeval German hymnody.

The first attempts of Teutonic church poetry are biblical epics, and the leader of the Teutonic Christ-singers is the Anglo-Saxon monk Caedmon of Whitby (formerly a swineherd), about 680, who reproduced in alliterative verse, as by inspiration, the biblical history of creation and redemption, and brought it home to the imagination and heart of Old England.634634    Bouterweck, Caedmon’s des Angelsachsen biblische Dichtungen, Elberfeld, 1849-54. Bosanquet, The Fall of Man, or Paradise Lost of Caedmon, translated in verse from the Anglo-Saxon, London, 1860. This poem, which was probably brought to Germany by Bonifacius and other English missionaries, inspired in the ninth century a similar production of an unknown Saxon (Westphalian) monk, namely, a poetic gospel harmony or life of Christ under the title "Heliand "(i.e., Heiland, Healer, Saviour).635635    E. Sievers, Der Heliand und die angelsächsische Genesis. Halle, 1875. About the same time (c. 870), Otfrid of Weissenburg in the Alsace, a Benedictine monk, educated at Fulda and St. Gall, versified the gospel history in the Alemannian dialect, in fifteen hundred verses, divided into stanzas, each stanza consisting of four rhymed lines.636636    Flacius first edited Otfrid’s Evangelienbuch (Evangeliorum liber), Bas. 1571. Recent editions by Graff, under the title Krist, Königsberg, 1831; and Kelle, Otfrid’s Evang.-buch, Regensb. 1856 and 1859, 2 vols. Specimens in Wackernagel’s D. Kirchenlied (the large work), vol. ii. 3-21. A translation into modern German by G. Rapp, Gotha, 1858.

These three didactic epics were the first vernacular Bibles for the laity among the Western barbarians.637637    Comp. Hammerich, Aelteste christliche Epik der Angelsachsen, Deutschen und Nordländer. Translated from the Danish by Michelsen, 1874.

The lyric church poetry and music began with the "Kyrie Eleison" and "Christe Eleison," which passed from the Greek church into the Latin as a response of the people, especially on the high festivals, and was enlarged into brief poems called (from the refrain) Kirleisen, or Leisen, also Leichen. These enlarged cries for mercy are the first specimens of German hymns sung by the people. The oldest dates from the ninth century, called the "Leich vom heiligen Petrus," in three stanzas, the first of which reads thus in English: —


"Our Lord delivered power to St. Peter,

That he may preserve the man who hopes in Him.

Lord, have mercy upon us!

Christ, have mercy upon us!"638638    Wackernagel, II. 22, published the whole hymn from a manuscript in Munich.


One of the best and most popular of these Leisen, but of much later date, is the Easter hymn,


"Christ is erstanden

von der marter alle,

des sul [sollen] wir alle fro sein,

Christ sol unser trost sein.

Kyrie leyson."639639    Wackernagel, II. 43 sq., gives several forms. They were afterwards much enlarged. In a Munich manuscript of the fifteenth century, a Latin verse is coupled with the German:—
   "Christus surrexit,

   mala nostra texit,

   et quos hic dilexit

   hos ad coelum vexit

   Kyrie leyson."


Penitential hymns in the vernacular were sung by the Flagellants (the Geisslergesellschaften), who in the middle of the fourteenth century, during a long famine and fearful pestilence (the "Black Death," 1348), passed in solemn processions with torches, crosses, and banners, through Germany and other countries, calling upon the people to repent and to prepare for the judgment to come.640640    See specimens in Koch, I. 194 sq., and in Wackernagel, II. 333 sqq.

Some of the best Latin hymns, as the "Te Deum," the "Gloria in excelsis," the "Pange lingua," the "Veni Creator Spiritus," the "Ave Maria," the "Stabat Mater," the "Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem," St. Bernard’s "Jesu dulcis memoria," and "Salve caput cruentatum," were repeatedly translated long before the Reformation. Sometimes the words of the original were curiously mixed with the vernacular, as in the Christmas hymn, —


"In dulci jubilo

Nun singet und seit fro!

Unsres Herzens Wonne

Leit in praesepio

Und leuchtet wie die Sonne

In matris gremio

Alpha es et O."641641    Several forms in Wackernagel, II.


A Benedictine monk, John of Salzburg, prepared a number of translations from the Latin at the request of his archbishop, Pilgrim, in 1366, and was rewarded by him with a parish.642642    Wackernagel (II. 409 sqq.) gives forty-three of his hymns from several manuscripts in the libraries at Munich and Vienna.

The "Minnesänger" of the thirteenth century—among whom Gottfried of Strassburg and Walther von der Vogelweide are the most eminent—glorified love, mingling the earthly and heavenly, the sexual and spiritual, after the model of Solomon’s Song. The Virgin Mary was to them the type of pure, ideal womanhood. Walther cannot find epithets enough for her praise.

The mystic school of Tauler in the fourteenth century produced a few hymns full of glowing love to God. Tauler is the author of the Christmas poem, —


"Uns kommt ein Schiff geladen,"


and of hymns of love to God, one of which begins, —


"Ich muss die Creaturen fliehen

Und suchen Herzensinnigkeit,

Soll ich den Geist zu Gotte ziehen,

Auf dass er bleib in Reinigkeit."643643    Wackernagel, II. 302 sqq.; Koch, I. 191.


The "Meistersänger" of the fifteenth century were, like the "Minnesänger," fruitful in hymns to the Virgin Mary. One of them begins, —


"Maria zart von edler Art

Ein Ros ohn alle Dornen."


From the middle ages have come down also some of the best tunes, secular and religious.644644    Meister and Bäumker, in the Katholische deutsche Kirchenlied in seinen Singweisen, give a collection of these catholic tunes, partly from unpublished manuscript sources. They acknowledge, however, the great merit of the Protestant hymnologists who have done the pioneer work in mediaeval church poetry and music, especially Winterfeld and Wackernagel.

The German hymnody of the middle ages, like the Latin, overflows with hagiolatry and Mariolatry. Mary is even clothed with divine attributes, and virtually put in the place of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit, as the fountain of all grace. The most pathetic of Latin hymns, the "Stabat mater dolorosa," which describes with overpowering effect the piercing agony of Mary at the cross, and the burning desire of being identified with her in sympathy, is disfigured by Mariolatry, and therefore unfit for evangelical worship without some omissions or changes. The great and good Bonaventura, who wrote the Passion hymn, "Recordare sanctae crucis," applied the whole Psalter to the Virgin in his "Psalterium B. Mariae," or Marian Psalter, where the name of Mary is substituted for that of the Lord. It was also translated into German, and repeatedly printed.645645    Wackernagel, in his Biblogr., p. 454 sqq., gives extracts from an edition printed at Nürnberg, 1521.

"Through all the centuries from Otfrid to Luther" (says Wackernagel),646646    II p. xiii.; compare Nos. 222, 226, 728, 870, 876. we meet with the idolatrous veneration of the Virgin Mary. There are hymns which teach that she pre-existed with God at the creation, that all things were created in her and for her, and that God rested in her on the seventh day." One of the favorite Mary-hymns begins, —


"Dich, Frau vom Himmel, ruf ich an,

In diesen grossen Nöthen mein."647647    Wackernagel, II. 799 sqq., gives this hymn in several forms. It was sung on the feast of the Nativity of Mary, and at other times.


Hans Sachs afterwards characteristically changed it into


"Christum vom Himmel ruf ich an."


The mediaeval hymnody celebrates Mary as the queen of heaven, as the "eternal womanly," which draws man insensibly heavenward.648648    I allude, of course, to the mystic conclusion of the second part of Goethe’s Faust:—
   "Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan."
It resembles the Sixtine Madonna who carries the Christ-child in her arms.


German Hymnody of the Reformation.


The evangelical church substituted the worship of Christ, as our only Mediator and Advocate, for the worship of his virgin-mother. It reproduced and improved the old Latin and vernacular hymns and tunes, and produced a larger number of original ones. It introduced congregational singing in the place of the chanting of priests and choirs. The hymn became, next to the German Bible and the German sermon, the most powerful missionary of the evangelical doctrines of sin and redemption, and accompanied the Reformation in its triumphal march. Printed as tracts, the hymns were scattered wide and far, and sung in the house, the school, the church, and on the street. Many of them survive to this day, and kindle the flame of devotion.

To Luther belongs the extraordinary merit of having given to the German people in their own tongue, and in a form eclipsing and displacing all former versions, the Bible, the catechism, and the hymn-book, so that God might speak directly to them in His word, and that they might directly speak to Him in their songs. He was a musician also, and composed tunes to some of his hymns.649649    According to Koch (I. 470), Luther is certainly the author of the tunes to "Ein feste Burg," and to "Jesaja dem Propheten das geschah," and probably of six more; the tunes to the other Luther-hymns are of older or of uncertain origin. He is the Ambrose of German church poetry and church music. He wrote thirty-seven hymns.650650    Wackernagel, III. 1-31, gives fifty-four Luther-poems, including the variations, and some which cannot be called hymns, as the praise of "Frau Musica," and "Wider Herzog Heinrich von Braunschweig." Most of them (twenty-one) date from the year 1524; the first from 1523, soon after the completion of his translation of the New Testament; the last two from 1543, three years before his death. The most original and best known,—we may say the most Luther-like and most Reformer-like—is that heroic battle- and victory-hymn of the Reformation, which has so often been reproduced in other languages, and resounds in all German lands with mighty effect on great occasions: —


"Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott."

(A tower of strength is this our God.)651651    Carlyle’s translation,—
   "A safe stronghold our God is still,"

   is upon the whole the best because of its rugged vigor and martial ring. Heine called this hymn the Marseillaise of the Reformation; but it differs as widely from the Marseillaise as the German Reformation differs from the godless French Revolution.


This mighty poem is based upon the forty-sixth Psalm (Deus noster refugium et virtus) which furnished the key-note. It was born of deep tribulation and conquering faith, in the disastrous year 1527 (not 1521, or 1529, or 1530), and appeared first in print in 1528.652652    The hymn appears in Joseph Klug’s Gesangbuch of 1529 (and in a hymn-book of Augsburg, 1529), and to that year it is assigned by Wackernagel (III. 20), Koch, and also by Köstlin in the first ed. of his large biography of M. Luther (1875, vol. II. 127), as a protest against the Diet of Speier held in that year. But since the discovery of an older print apparently from February, 1528, Köstlin has changed his view in favor of 1527, the year of the pestilence and Luther’s severest spiritual and physical trials. He says (I.c. II. 182, second and third ed.): "Aus jener schwersten Zeit, welche Luther bis Ende des Jahres 1527 durchzu-machen hatte, ist wohl das gewaltigste seiner Lieder, das ’Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,’ hervorgegangen." Schneider (1856) first fixed upon Nov. 1, 1527, as the birthday of this hymn from internal reasons, and Knaake (1881) added new ones. The deepest griefs and highest faith often meet. Justinus Kemer sings:—
   "Poesie ist tiefes Schmerzen,

   Und es kommt das schönste Lied

   Nur aus einem Menschenherzen,

   Das ein tiefes Leid durchglüht."

Luther availed himself with his conservative tact of all existing helps for the benefit of public worship and private devotion. Most of his hymns and tunes rest on older foundations partly Latin, partly German. Some of them were inspired by Hebrew Psalms. To these belong, besides, Ein feste Burg" (Ps. 46), the following: —


"Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir" (1523).

(Out of the depths I cry to Thee. Ps. 130.)


"Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein" (1523).

(Help, Lord, look down from heaven above. Ps. 12.)


On the second chapter of Luke, which is emphatically the gospel of children, are based his truly childlike Christmas songs, —


"Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her" (1535),

(From heaven high to earth I come,)


and


"Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schaar" (1543).

(From heaven came the angel hosts.)


Others are free reproductions of Latin hymns, either directly from the original, or on the basis of an older German version: as, —


"Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (1543).

(Te Deum laudamus.)


"Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, heiliger Geist" (1524).

(Veni, Creator Spiritus.)


"Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (1524).

(Veni, Redemptor gentium.)


"Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ" (1524).

(Grates nunc omnes reddamus.)


"Mitten wir im Leben sind" (1524).

(Media vita in morte sumus.)


"Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist" (1524).

(Now we pray to the Holy Ghost.)


"Christ lag in Todesbanden" (1524).

(In the bonds of death He lay.)
"Surrexit Christus hodie.")653653    The third stanza of this resurrection hymn is very striking:—
   "Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg,

   Da Tod und Leben rungen:

   Das Leben das behielt den Sieg,

   Es hat den Tod verschlungen.

   Die Schrift hat verkündet das,

   Wie da ein Tod den andern frass,

   Ein Spott aus dem Tod ist worden.

   Hallelujah!

   

   (That was a wondrous war, I trow,

   When Life and Death together fought;

   But Life hath triumphed o’er his foe.

   Death is mocked and set at naught.

   .’Tis even as the Scripture saith,

   Christ through death hath conquered Death.)


Among his strictly original hymns are, —


"Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein" (1523).

(Rejoice, rejoice, dear flock of Christ.)


Bunsen calls this, the first (?) voice of German church-song, which flashed with the power of lightning through all German lands, in praise of the eternal decree of redemption of the human race and of the gospel of freedom."


"Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort,

Und steur des Papsts und Türken Mord" (1541).


This is directed against the Pope and the Turk, as the chief enemies of Christ and his church in Luther’s days.654654    The second line, which was very offensive to the Papists, is changed in most modern hymnbooks into,—
   "Und steure alter Feinde Mord."

The stirring song of the two evangelical proto-martyrs at Brussels in 1523, —


"Ein neues Lied wir heben an." —


is chronologically his first, and not a hymn in the proper sense of the term, but had an irresistible effect, especially the tenth stanza, —


"Die Asche will nicht lassen ab,

Sie stäubt in alten Landen,

Hie hilft kein Bach, Loch, Grub noch Grab,

Sie macht den Feind zu Schanden.

Die er im Leben durch den Mord,

Zu schweigen hat gedrungen

Die muss er todt an altem Ort

Mit aller Stimm und Zungen

Gar frölich lassen singen."655655    See the whole in Wackernagel, III. 3, 4. Thomas Fuller says of the ashes of Wiclif, that the brook Swift, into which they were cast (1428), "conveyed them into the Avon, the Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean; and thus the ashes of Wiclif are the emblems of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over."


(Their ashes will not rest and lie,

But scattered far and near,

Stream, dungeon, bolt, and grave defy,

Their foeman’s shame and fear.

Those whom alive the tyrant’s wrongs

To silence could subdue,

He must, when dead, let sing the songs

And in all languages and tongues

Resound the wide world through.)


Luther’s hymns are characterized, like those of St. Ambrose, by simplicity and strength, and a popular churchly tone. But, unlike those of St. Ambrose and the Middle Ages, they breathe the bold, confident, joyful spirit of justifying faith, which was the beating heart of his theology and piety.

Luther’s hymns passed at once into common use in church and school, and sung the Reformation into the hearts of the people. Hans Sachs of Nürnberg saluted him as the nightingale of Wittenberg.656656    "Die wittenbergisch Nachtigall,
   Die man jetzt höret überall."
How highly his contemporaries thought of them, may be inferred from Cyriacus Spangenberg, likewise a hymnist, who said in his preface to the "Cithara Lutheri" (1569): "Of all master-singers since the days of the apostles, Luther is the best. In his hymns you find not an idle or useless word. The rhymes are easy and good, the words choice and proper, the meaning clear and intelligible, the melodies lovely and hearty, and, in summa, all is so rare and majestic, so full of pith and power, so cheering and comforting, that you will not find his equal, much less his master."

Before Luther’s death (1546), there appeared no less than forty-seven Lutheran hymn- and tune-books. The first German evangelical hymn-book, the so-called "Wittenberg Enchiridion." was printed in the year 1524, and contained eight hymns, four of them by Luther, three by Speratus, one by an unknown author. The "Erfurt Enchiridion" of the same year numbered twenty-five hymns, of which eighteen were from Luther. The hymn-book of Walther, also of 1524, contained thirty-two German and five Latin hymns, with a preface of Luther. Klug’s Gesangbuch by Luther, Wittenberg, 1529, had fifty (twenty-eight of Luther); Babst’s of 1545 (printed at Leipzig), eighty-nine; and the fifth edition of 1553, a hundred and thirty-one hymns.657657    See Koch, I. 246 sqq., and Wackernagel’s Bibliographie, p. 66 sqq.

This rapid increase of hymns and hymn-books continued after Luther’s death. We can only mention the names of the principal hymnists who were inspired by his example.

Justus Jonas (1493–1555), Luther’s friend and colleague, wrote, —


"Wo Gott, der Herr, nicht bei uns hält" (Ps. 124).

(If God were not upon our side.)


Paul Ebert (1511–1569), the faithful assistant of Melanchthon, and professor of Hebrew in Wittenberg, is the author of


"Wenn wir in höchsten Nöthen sein,"

(When in the hour of utmost need,)


and


"Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’r Mensch und Gott."

(Lord Jesus Christ, true man and God.)


Burkhard Waldis of Hesse (1486–1551) versified the Psalter.

Erasmus Alber (d. in Mecklenburg, 1553) wrote twenty hymns which Herder and Gervinus thought almost equal to Luther’s.

Lazarus Spengler of Nürnberg (1449–1534) wrote about 1522 a hymn on sin and redemption, which soon became very popular, although it is didactic rather than poetic: –


"Durch Adam’s Fall ist ganz verderbt."


Hans Sachs (1494–1576), the shoemaker-poet of Nürnberg, was the most fruitful "Meistersänger" of that period, and wrote some spiritual hymns as well; but only one of them is still in use: —


"Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?"

(Why doest thou vex thyself, my heart?)


Veit Dietrich, pastor of St. Sebaldus in Nürnberg (d. 1549), wrote: —


"Bedenk, o Mensch, die grosse Gnad."

(Remember, man, the wondrous grace.)


Markgraf Albrecht of Brandenburg (d. 1557), is the author of: —


"Was mein Gott will, gescheh allzeit."

(Thy will, my God, be always done.)


Paul Speratus, his court-chaplain at Königsberg (d. 1551), contributed three hymns to the first German hymn-book (1524), of which —


"Es ist das Heil uns kommen her"

(To us salvation now has come)


is the best, though more didactic than lyric, and gives rhymed expression to the doctrine of justification by faith.

Schneesing’s


"Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ"

(To Thee alone, Lord Jesus Christ)


appeared first in 1545, and is used to this day.

Mathesius, the pupil and biographer of Luther, and pastor at Joachimsthal in Bohemia (1504–65), wrote a few hymns. Nicolaus Hermann, his cantor and friend (d. 1561), is the author of a hundred and seventy-six hymns, especially for children, and composed popular tunes. Nicolaus Decius, first a monk, then an evangelical pastor at Stettin (d. 1541), reproduced the Gloria in Excelsis in his well-known


"Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" (1526),


and the eucharistic Agnus Dei in his


"O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" (1531).


He also composed the tunes.

The German hymnody of the Reformation period was enriched by hymns of the Bohemian Brethren. Two of them, Michael Weisse (d. 1542) and Johann Horn, prepared free translations. Weisse was a native German, but joined the Brethren, and was sent by them as a delegate to Luther in 1522, who at first favored them before they showed their preference for the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. One of the best known of these Bohemian hymns is the Easter song (1531): —


"Christus ist erstanden."

(Christ the Lord is risen.)


We cannot follow in detail the progress of German hymnody. It flows from the sixteenth century down to our days in an unbroken stream, and reflects German piety in the sabbath dress of poetry. It is by far the richest of all hymnodies.658658    It is characteristic of the voluminous Ultramontane work of Janssen, that it has not a word to say about the hymnological enrichment of public worship and Christian piety by Luther and his followers.

The number of German’ hymns cannot fall short of one hundred thousand. Dean Georg Ludwig von Hardenberg of Halberstadt, in the year 1786, prepared a hymnological catalogue of the first lines of 72,733 hymns (in five volumes preserved in the library of Halberstadt). This number was not complete at that time, and has considerably increased since. About ten thousand have become more or less popular, and passed into different hymn-books. Fischer659659    In his Kirchenlieder-Lexicon, 1878. gives the first lines of about five thousand of the best, many of which were overlooked by Von Hardenberg.

We may safely say that nearly one thousand of these hymns are classical and immortal. This is a larger number than can be found in any other language.

To this treasury of German song, several hundred men and women, of all ranks and conditions,—theologians and pastors, princes and princesses, generals and statesmen, physicians and jurists, merchants and travelers, laborers and private persons,—have made contributions, laying them on the common altar of devotion. The majority of German hymnists are Lutherans, the rest German Reformed (as Neander and Tersteegen), or Moravians (Zinzendorf and Gregor), or belong to the United Evangelical Church. Many of these hymns, and just those possessed of the greatest vigor and unction, full of the most exulting faith and the richest comfort, had their origin amid the conflicts and storms of the Reformation, or the fearful devastations and nameless miseries of the Thirty Years’ War; others belong to the revival period of the pietism of Spener, and the Moravian Brotherhood of Zinzendorf, and reflect the earnest struggle after holiness, the fire of the first love, and the sweet enjoyment of the soul’s intercourse with her heavenly Bridegroom; not a few of them sprang up even in the cold and prosy age of "illumination" and rationalism, like flowers from dry ground, or Alpine roses on fields of snow; others, again, proclaim, in fresh and joyous tones, the dawn of reviving faith in the land where the Reformation had its birth. Thus these hymns constitute a book of devotion and poetic confession of faith for German Protestantism, a sacred band which encircles its various periods, an abiding memorial of its struggles and victories, its sorrows and joys, a mirror of its deepest experiences, and an eloquent witness for the all-conquering and invincible life-power of the evangelical Christian faith.

The treasures of German hymnody have enriched the churches of other tongues, and passed into Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, French, Dutch, and modern English and American hymn-books.

John Wesley was the first of English divines who appreciated its value; and while his brother Charles produced an immense number of original hymns, John freely reproduced several hymns of Paul Gerhardt, Tersteegen, and Zinzendorf. The English Moravian hymn-book as revised by Montgomery contains about a thousand abridged (but mostly indifferent) translations from the German. In more recent times several accomplished writers, male and female, have vied with each other in translations and transfusions of German hymns.

Among the chief English translators are Miss Frances Elizabeth Cox;660660    Sacred Hymns from the German, London, 1841, new ed. with German text, 1865. Arthur Tozer Russell;661661    Psalms and Hymns, partly original, partly selected, for the use of the Church of England, Cambridge, 1851. Many of the pieces are from the German. He contributed most of the translations to Ernest Bunsen’s Hymns for Public Worship and Private Devotion, London, 1848. Richard Massie;662662    Luther’s Spiritual Songs, London, 1854; and Lyra Domestica, translations from Spitta’s Psaltery and Harp, London, 1860; second series, 1864. Miss Catherine Winkworth;663663    Lyra Germanica, first and second series, Lond. and N. Y., 1855 and 1858, in several editions. Also the beautiful Chorale Book for England, London, 1863, which contains many hymns from the Lyra Germanica, partly remodelled, with seventy-two others translated by the same lady, together with the old tunes edited by Bennet and Goldschmidt. Several translations of Miss C. W., especially from Paul Gerhardt, have passed into hymn-books. Comp. Theo. Kübler, Historical Notices to the Lyra Germanica (dedicated to Miss C. W.), London, 1865. Mrs. Eric Findlater and her sister, Miss Jane Borthwick, of the Free Church of Scotland, who modestly conceal their names under the letters "H. L. L." (Hymns from the Land of Luther);664664    Hymns from the Land of Luther, translated from the German by H. L. L., Edinburgh and New York, in 4, parts, 1854; fifth ed., Edinb. 1884 (15th thousand), enlarged by the Alpine Lyrics of Mrs. Meta Heusser. The translations of Miss Borthwick reproduce the spirit rather than the letter of the original. Several of them have become more widely known through hymnbooks and private collections: as Franck’s eucharistic hymn, "Schmücke dich, Oliebe Seele.""Soul, arise, dispel thy sadness;" Gerhardt’s "Ich bin ein Gast auf Erden.""A pilgrim and a stranger, I journey here below;" Tersteegen’s "Gott rufet noch.""God calling yet;" Schmolck’s "Mein Jesu, wie Du willst, So lass mich allzeit wollen" "My Jesus, as Thou wilt;" Zinzendorf’s "Jesu, geh voran.""Jesus, still lead on;" Spitta’s "Was macht ihr, dass ihr weinet.""What mean ye by this wailing" and his "Angel of Patience" (Es zieht ein stiller Engel."" A gentle angel walketh throughout this world of woe"); Lange’s "Was kein Auge hat gesehen."" What no human eye hath seen; "Mrs. Heusser’s "Noch ein wenig Schweiss und Thränen," " A few more conflicts, toils and tears;" "O Jesu Christ, mein Leben."" O Christ, my Life, my Saviour;" besides other religious lyrics which are not intended for hymns. Miss Borthwick has since published Lyra Christiana, a Treasury of Sacred Poetry, edited by H. L. L., Edinb. 1888, which contains a few German poems, but is mostly selected from English sources. James W. Alexander,665665    Presbyterian minister in New York City, died 1859. He Is the best translator of Gerhardt’s "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" ("O sacred Head, now wounded"), and several other famous hymns, German and Latin. His translations were first published in Schaff’s "Kirchenfreund"or 1849-’51 (with the originals), then in the "Mercersburg Review" for 1869, pp. 304 sqq., 414 sqq., and have since passed into many American hymn-books.Henry Mills,666666    Horae Germanicae, Auburn and New York, 1845, 2d ed. 1856. Mills was professor of biblical criticism in the Presbyterian Theol. Seminary at Auburn, N. Y., and died 1867. John Kelly,667667    Paul Gerhardt’s Spiritual Songs, London, 1867. not to mention many others who have furnished admirable translations of one or more hymns for public or private hymnological collections.668668    e.g., for Schaff’s Christ in Song, New York, 1868, and London, 1870. In my German Hymn-book (Philad. 1859, revised and enlarged ed., 1874), I have noted the English translations as far as I knew them.

English and American hymnody began much later than the German, but comes next to it in fertility, is enriching itself constantly by transfusions of Greek, Latin, and German, as well as by original hymns, and may ultimately surpass all hymnodies.



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