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Nun ruhen alle Wälder.--(Goed. 60.)


First published in Crü. Praxis, 1648, no. 15, in 9 stanzas of 6 lines; thence in Wackernagel: no. 102; Bachmann: no. 2; Unv. L. S.: 1851, no. 529. Cf. Koch, IV, 607; VIII, 194.

This is one of the finest and one of the earliest of Gerhardt's hymns. In the time of Flat Rationalism in Germany the first stanza became the object of much derision.177177Cf. "Jetzt schlafen weder Wälder," as no. 2338, in the final "Zugabe" to the Herrnhut Gesangbuch, 1735, dated "On Aug. 13, 1748, after Holy Communion at Herrnhut." This is a parody on the style of Gerhardt's stanzas I, II, III, VI, VII. It was translated and included in Part II of the Moravian H. Book, 1754, as "Tho' now no creature's sleeping." But the shallow wit showed how little poetry was then understood, for Gerhardt followed in thus beginning his hymn a much admired passage of Virgil, Aeneid IV, 522-528:

Nox erat, et placidum carpebant fessa soporem
Corpora per terras, silvaeque et saeva quierant
Aequora, cum medio volvuntur sidera lapsu,
Cum tacet omnis ager, pecudes pictaeque volucres,
Quaeque lacus late liquidos, quaeque aspera dumis
Rura tenent, somno positae sub nocte silenti
(Lenibant curas, et corda oblita laborum).

Among the common people the hymn became an exceeding favorite and was generally used as an evening prayer. Its childlike simplicity combined with its deep poetical charm has won the hearts of old and young to the present day. Frequently it has been sung on starry nights by men, women, or children in the fields on their homeward way, and many have laid themselves down for the long sleep of death with this hymn on their lips.

A troop of French soldiers entered Lisberg, a small town of Hesse, on the 14th of September, 1796, plundered and killed the inhabitants, and burned the whole town. A little way distant, at the foot of a mountain, was a small cottage in which a mother sat by the bedside of her sick child. 99 Hearing the noise in the town and seeing the burning houses she locked the door and knelt by the bedside and prayed. As the door burst open and a furious soldier rushed in, she spread her hands over the child and cried:

Breit aus die Flügel beide,
O Jesu, meine Freude, . . . (stanza VIII),

and lo! the wild soldier suddenly dropped his arm, stepped to the bed, and laid his rough hand gently on the child's head. Then going outside he stood guard that none of his troop might harm the cottage.

Although in limited use in the English hymn books, the translations are numerous, as follows:

1. Quietly rest the woods and dales.

Omitting stanza VIII by Mrs. Findlater, in H. L. L., 1st Series, 1854, p. 36 (1884, p. 38), included in Cantate Domino, Boston, U. S. A., 1859.

2. Now all the woods are sleeping.

A full and good translation by Miss Winkworth, in the 2d ed., 1856, of the 1st Series of her Lyra Ger., 1855, p. 228. Included in full in her C. B. for England, 1863, and the Ohio Luth. Hyl., 1880.

3. Now woods their rest are keeping.

A translation of stanzas I, III, VIII, IX, by Edward Thring, as no. 18 in the Uppingham and Sherborne School H. Bk., 1874.

4. Jesu, our joy and loving Friend.

A translation of stanza VIII as no. 200 in the Appendix of 1743 to the Moravian H. Bk., 1742.

5. Now Woods and Fields are quiet.

In the Suppl. to Ger. Psal., ed. 1765, p. 73.

6. Display thy both wings over.

A translation of stanza VIII as no. 156 in pt. I of the Moravian H. Bk., 1754.

7. Jesus, our Guardian, Guide and Friend.

A translation of stanza VIII as no. 765 in the Moravian H. Bk., 1789 (1886, no. 1190).

8. Lo! Man and Beast are sleeping.

H. J. Buckoll, 1842, p. 76.

9. Now rest beneath night's shadow.

E. D. Yeomans, in Schaff's Kirchenfreund, 1853, p. 195.

10. Now rest the woods again.

Miss Winkworth, 1855, p. 226 (see no. 2 above).

11. Rise, my soul, thy vigil keep.

Miss Dunn, 1857, p. 9.

12. Now resteth all creation.

J. S. Stallybrass, in the Tonic Solfa Reporter, January, 1859, and Curwen's Harmonium and Organ Book, 1863, p. 58.

13. Now every greenwood sleepeth.

Miss Manington, 1863, p. 133.

14. Now hushed are woods and waters.

Miss Cox, 1864, p. 9.

15. Now spread are evening's shadows.

J. Kelly, 1863, p. 285.

16. The woods are hushed; o'er town and plain.

Dr. J. Guthrie, 1869.

17. The duteous day now closeth.

In the Yattendon Hymnal, 1899, thence in Hymns of the Kingdom of God, N. Y., 1910, 1916, and the Hymnal of Praise, N. Y., 1913.

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