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The present volume fulfils the promise which was made in the Second Series of the Lyra Germanica, that the hymns contained there should be brought out in another edition, accompanied by their proper tunes. It constitutes, however, at the same time, an independent work, with an object different from that of the two preceding volumes of translations from the German hymnology. The Lyra Germanica was intended chiefly for use as a work of private devotion; the Chorale Book for England is intended primarily for use in united worship in the church and family, and in meetings for the practice of church music. This aim has throughout governed the choice of the hymns and tunes, and the form given to them; many beautiful hymns contained in the Lyra Germanica have thus been excluded, because their length or their purely reflective character rendered them ill-adapted for congregational singing, while a large number of new translations--about one-third of the whole--have been introduced, either for the sake of their tunes, or to supply necessary requirements of our services. These have been selected from various sources, chiefly from some very early German hymn-books, from the collections of Tucher and Wackernagel, from the new Bavarian hymnbook of the Lutheran Church, and from the Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch, Stuttgart, 1855, published by the Church Conference held in Eisenach in 1853.
With regard to the form of the hymns, considerable difficulty has arisen on two points;--the great length of many of them, and the peculiarity of their metres involving the constant use of dissyllable rhymes. It has seemed best, in many cases, considerably to curtail the longer hymns, to bring them within limits which, though they may still appear long to those accustomed to the English allowance of four verses only, may yet, it is thought, be used without inconvenience. The hymn may frequently be found in its complete form in the Lyra Germanica. This course has, however, been deemed inadmissible, vi where the hymn was very well known, or its meaning would have been seriously injured by abbreviation, and it has then been omitted altogether, or given at full length, as is the case with Luther's version of the Lord's Prayer, his Christmas Carol, and the fine old hymn on the Seven Words of our Lord on the Cross, here assigned to Good Friday.
As a rule, the hymn and tune have been considered as one and indivisible, and the original metres therefore strictly preserved for the sake of the tunes, which would not admit of any deviation without detriment to their characteristic beauty. This has necessitated the frequent use of the double rhymes, which the structure of the German language renders as common, and indeed inevitable, in German, as monosyllabic rhymes are with us. The comparatively small number of the former in our language presents a serious obstacle to rendering the German hymns into English with the force and simplicity they possess in their own tongue, and without which they cannot become truly naturalized among us; yet it is one which must be encountered if the tunes also are to be introduced with them, as they ought to be, and in their proper form. In this work the question has been dealt with in detail, according to the special character of each hymn and tune; in some few instances, mostly of more modern date, where the tune admitted without injury of adaptation to single rhymes, it has been thus arranged; in the greater number, the versions previously given in the Lyra Germanica have been remodelled to suit the music. Apart from the rhymes, it will be observed that these hymns possess a great variety of metres, some of which will at first, no doubt, strike an English ear as strange. But it must be remembered that by far the greater part of these hymns and tunes date from the earlier ages of German hymnology, when hymns were always written to be sung, not read; for this reason the long and monotonous lines which mark the compositions of a later period and of a more didactic character, were instinctively avoided, and metres of more complex movement, and capable of conveying more variety of sentiment, were invented. These metres will be found to follow a strict rule of their own, both in the varying number of feet, and the frequent alternation of Trochaic and Iambic lines; and it is believed that when the ear has once learnt to perceive this, and to associate them with the appropriate rhythm of their tune, there is no reason why they should not become naturalized in England. A few, included here for the sake of the tunes only, may probably always retain vii an alien sound to us; but these are very few indeed, and, in general, it would certainly be greatly to the advantage of our hymn-books if we could widen the range both of form and thought which is now given to this class of compositions.
At the present time, when the whole subject of church music and congregational singing is receiving far more attention than ever before, it seems peculiarly desirable to seize the opportunity to enrich our own hymnology from the stores of a country so pre-eminently distinguished in this way. That these hymns and tunes first sprang up on a foreign soil is no reason why they should not take root among us; all who use our Common Prayer know well how the unity of Christian sentiment is felt to swallow up all diversity of national origin. In truth, any embodiment of Christian experience and devotion, whether in the form of hymn or prayer or meditation, or whatever shape art may give it, if it do but go to the heart of our common faith, becomes at once the rightful and most precious inheritance of the whole Christian Church. Much more, then, where the country is so nearly akin to our own, may we feel that it is at once our privilege and our duty to appropriate all that she can bestow on us, and to hope that her gifts will find a welcome and a home here.
Clifton, September, 1862
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