William Garrett Horder.

The hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody online

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wrote irregular verses, every strophe of which ended

with the words ' Kyrie Eleison,' from the last syllables of

which these earliest German hymns were called Zeisen"\

The earliest of these which has been handed down to us

is on Peter, which runs as follows : —

Our dear Lord of grace hath giyen
To St. Peter power in heaven,
That he may uphold alway.
All who hope in him, and say

Kyne eleiaon I

Christe eleison !
Therefore must he stand before
The heavenly kingdom's mighty door ;
There will he an entrance give
To those who shall be bid to live :

Eyrie eleison !

Christe eleison I
Let us to God's servant pray,
Jul, with loudest voice to-day,
That our souls, which else were lost.
May dwell among the heavenly host :

Kyrie eleison I

Christe eleison !

• Kurtz's " Church History," vol. i, p. o-tt.
tWinkworth's " Christian Singers of Germany," p. 28.


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This was the humble beginning of Oerman Hymnody.
Somewhat later, in the twelfth century, much of the
native feeling found expression through the Minne-
singers, whose songs were in the vernacular, and of a
much more finished character. Many of these, though
not distinctly religious, were yet touched with Christian
feeling ; some were distinctly religious, and did much to
meet and satisfy the craving for lyric and musical
expression on the part of the people. The Zetsen, too,
came into more general use, and grew to a greater finish,
as may be seen from the following verses, afterwarda
adopted by Luther as part of his own hymns : —

Christ the Lord is riseD^
Oat of Death's dark prison,
Let OS all rejoice to-day,
Christ shall be our hope and stay :

Eyrie eleison.

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia I
Let us all rejoice to-day ;
Christ shall be our hope and stay.

Eyrie eleison.

Many of the great Latin hymns were translated
into German, and found their way into occasional use, and a
large number of religious poems were composed.
M. Wackemagel has collected nearly 1,500 pieces by 85
authors, belonging to the time before the Eeformation.
Some of these were composed for different classes and
occasions — such as pilgrims, boatmen, &c., or to be sung
in battle. The oldest German Easter Hymn belongs to
the twelfth century.

To the heretical sects of the time is flue both the
composition of much of the religious poetry, Imd,
as in the case of the Syriac and Greek churches, its
introduction into the public worship of the Church. The
school of Mystics, to which Tauler belonged, by the


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impetus it gave to the study of the Bible (the first
complete yeraioii of it into Oeiman was by a Mystic —
Matthias of Beheim), prepared the way for a nobler
hymnody ; and to this, I fancy, is due the fact that many
of the early hymns are little more than Bible
narrative in verse — the form of that verse being
due to the influence exerted by the Volkslied, or popular
song of the time, which was largely in the ballad style.
The following are specimens, which, by reason of their
simplicity and freshness, seem to me very beautiful : —

The first is on the Incarnation —

A ship oomes sailing onwards

With a precious freight on board ;
It bears the only Son of Qod,

It bears the Eternal Word.

A predons freight it brings as,

Glides gently on, yet fast ;
Its sails are filled witii Holy Love,

The Spirit is its mast.

And now it casteth anchor,

The ship hath tonched the land:
Ood's Word hath taken flesh, the Son

Among us men doth stand.

At Bethlehem, in the manger,

He lies, a babe of days ;
For ns Hegiyes Himself to death,

O give Him thanks and praise.

Whoe'er would hope in gladness
To kiss this Holy ChM,

Must suffer many a pain and woe
Patient like Him and mild ;

Must die with Him to evil

And rise to righteousness,
That so with Christ he too may share

Eternal life and bliss.


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The second is on the Eesuirection —

There went thcee damsela ere break of day,
To the Holy Grave they took their way ;
They Mn would anoint the Lord onoe more
As Mary Magdalene did befcxe. AHftii^fn.

The damseb each to other made moan,
" Who will roll na away the stone,
That we may enter in amain
To anoint the Lord as we are fain ? "

Fall predoos spioes and salve they brooght,
But when they oame to the apot they aou^t,
Behold the grave doth open stand,
An angel dtteth on either hand.

** Te maidens, be not filled with fear,
He whom ye seek, He is not here ;
Behold the raiment white and fair
Which the Lord was wrapped in, lieth there.

" Ye maidens, do not here delay.

Ye must to GaUlee away ;

To Galilee ye now must go,

For there the Lord Himself will show."

But Mary Magdalene oould not depart,
Seeking the Lord, she wept apart ;
What saw she in a little while?
She saw our Lord upon her smile.

In garb and wise He met her there
As were He a gardener, and did bear
A spade within His holy hand,
As woidd He dig the garden land.

" O tell me, gentle Gardener thou,
Where hast thou laid my Master now ?
Where thou hast hidden Him bid me kno^.
Or my heart must break beneath its woe."

Scarce oould He speak a single word,
"Exe she beheld it was the Lord ;
She kneeleth down on the cold bare ttone,
She halh found her Lord, and she alone.

" Touch me not, Mary Magdalene,

But tell the brethren what thou hast seen;

Toudi me not now with human hand,

Until I ascend to my Father's land." Allelm'a.


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Some of the popular songs of the time, too, were
themselves adapted to a religious use, so that, in some
cases, the religious supplanted, in public esteem, the
secular yeraions. The following is an adaptation of the
song of a wandering artisan, beginning ^^ Innsbruck, I
must forsake thee " : —

World, 1 most fonake thee,
And far away betake me,

To eeek my native shore ;
So loog I've dwelt in sadness

1 wish not now for gladness.

Earth's Joys for me are o'er.

Bore is my grief and lonely,

And I can teU it only

To Thee, my Friend most sore !
€k>d, let Thy hand uphold me,
Thy pit3dng heart enfold me.

For else I am most poor.

My Befnge where 1 hide me.
From Thee shall nought divide me,

No pain, no poverty :
Nouffht is too bad to bear it,
If Then art there to share it ;

My heart asks only Thee.

But it was not till the year 1467, when the followers
of John Huss fonned themselves into a separate Church,
that hymns came into common use in the mother tongue.
Huss himself laid stress on the people taking part in the
song of the Church, and, with a view to this, composed a
number of excellent hymns in the Bohemian. These,
together with many that had previously existed, were
collected by Lucas, a Senior or Bishop of the "Brethren,"
and formed the " first hymn-book of original compositions
in the vernacular to be found in any Western nation
which had once owned the supremacy of Rome. Before
this, there were two or three collections of German
versio ns of the Latin Hymns and Sequences."*

* Winkwonh's ** Cnrutian Singers ot (i^iuany," p. V6.


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But, after all, we must wait till the Eeformation for
the great outburst of Oerman Hymnody. Before
this, the whole influence of the Eoman Church,
then dominant in the land, was against hymn singing
in the vernacular, which could only flourish among the
sects, more or less, under its ban. It was only
the resolute who had courage enough to defy the
dominant Church. In Germany, as in England, the
Dissenters were the flrst hymn-singers, and in both
countries this fact restricted the sphere of hymnody. It
could not take on national forms. It always, more
or less, bore the mark of reproach. In Germany,
the Reformation altered all this; indeed, hymn-
singing was one great means by which the Eeformation
movement was fostered. All before were but as the
fore-gleams of the coming glory. One of the flrst things
Luther set himself to do, after he had given the German
people a translation of the Bible, was to furnish them
with a German Liturgy ; and, to render this complete, he
felt that he must give them German hymns in the place
of the Latin Hymns and Sequences which had formerly
been sung in the "Roman Church. He saw clearly the
large part which hymns might All in the religion of so
musical a people as his countrymen. He says: — ''For I
would fain see all arts, especially music, in the service of
Him who has given and created them." On this point,
he differed widely from the men who led the Calvinistic
Churches. He was of a more human type than Calvin —
had a larger heart, and a more gracious idea of religion.
He reached a point which it took some generations for the
Calvinists to reach, if, indeed, they ever quite reached it.
The Puritans, indeed, had in their midst a flner poet than


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Luther, but they never introduced even Milton's superb
renderings of certain of the Psalms into their worship.
What a use Luther would have put Milton to, if he had
been a member of his Church ! What songs he would
have written ! Aye, and what music, too ! To his friend
Spalatin, Luther writes : — " It is my intention, after the
example of the prophets and the ancient fathers, to make
Oerman psalms for the people ; that is, spiritual songs,
whereby the Word of God may be kept alive among them
by singing. We seek, therefore, everywhere for poets.
Now, as you are such a master of the German tongue,
and are so mighty and eloquent therein, I entreat you to
join hands with us in this work, and to turn one of the
psalms into a hymn, according to the pattern (t.^., an
attempt of my own) that I here send you. But I desire
that all new-fangled words from the Court should be left
out ; that the words may be all quite plain and common,
such as the common people may understand, yet pure, and
skilfully handled ; and next, that the meaning should be
given clearly and graciously, according to the sense of the
psalm itself."

'^ The miner's son, who, in his school-days, had carolled
for bread before the doors of the burghers of Eisenach,
remembered the old melodies when the hearts of the
people were looking to him for the ' bread which satis-
fieth,' and gave forth out of his treasure-house things
new and old. The great Reformer of the German
Church was also her first great singer. Luther gave the
German people their hymn-book as well as their Bible.
He brought over some of the best old hymns into the new
worship ; not word by word, in the ferry-boat of a literal
translation, but enti^ and living, like Israel through the


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Jordan, when the priests' feet, bearing the ark, swept
back the waters."*

Thirty-seven hymns he certainly wrote. Some hare
said more, but probably they are in error. Of these,
twelve were translations from the Latin, four new
versions of the German Zetsm, and twenty-one , original
compositions. These came at once into use, and had not
to encounter the long-continued opposition which h3rmns
in England had, where they only gradually became
incorporated into the common song of the Church.
Luther's hymns were at once printed and carried all
over the country by wandering students and pedlars;
some of them even found their way into Eoman Catholic
. churches, so that a Eomanist declared : *' The whole
people is singing itself into the Lutheran doctrine."
Many hymn-books now appeared, four of which contained
most of his hymns, and for them he wrote prefaces.
After four or five years, Luther taught the people in his
own church at Wittenberg to sing in worship, and th^i
the custom spread very swiftly. " Of these, the earliest,
the Enchiridion published at Eifurt in 1524 was first
placed in the people's hands for reading while the choir
was singing, for the congregation was so unused to joining
in the public service, that they could not, at once, adopt
the new practice."!

By far the best known of Luther's hymns is that on
the forty-sixth psalm, which Frederick the Great called
<* God Almighty's Grenadier March," and which is
usually supposed to have been written on his way to
the Diet of Worms, on account of the likeness of the

♦ " Voice of Chrifitian Life in Song," p. 266.
t Winkworth'8 '♦ Christian Singere of Gennany," p. 109.


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third Terse to Luther's celebrated and oft-quoted reply to
Spalatin, who would have dissuaded him from the journey,
**If there were as many devils in Worms as there are
tiles on the roofs, I would go and not be afraid." Others
t-liiTiTr that it was composed at the close of the Second
Diet of Spires in 1539, which revoked the religious
liberty granted in the previous one of 1526, taken yrv^'X
four Protestant provinces and fifteen free cities protssted,
out of which sprang the name Protestant — a name seldom
used in Germany, where the word Evangelical is
used, but constantly in England.

It is impossible to fix, with certainty, the occasion
which gave birth to this hymn. All the efforts to do so
have sprung out of conjecture and internal probability.
Perhaps the most nervous translation is that by Thomas
Carlyle, which I append, but that already quoted in
Chapter xvi, by Gknifrey Thring, is more suitable for use
in public worship: —

A safe stronghold our Ood is still,

A trusty uiield and weapon :
He'll help ns clear from ail the ill
That hath ns now overtaken.
The andent prince oi hell
Hath risen with purpose fell ;
Strong mail of craft and power
He weareth in this hour :
On earth is not his fellow.

With force of arms we nothing can ;

FuU soon were we down-ridden ;
But for us fights the proper Mui,
Whom God Himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, Who is this same ?
Christ Jesus is His name.
The Lord Salaoth's Son :
He, and no other one.
Shall conquer in the battle.


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And were this world all devils o'er,

And watching to devour ns,
We lay it not to heart so sore ;
Not they can overpower ns.
And let the prince of ill
Look grim as e'er he will.
He harms as not a whit :
For why ? his doom is writ ;
A word shall quickly slay him.

God's word ! for all their craft and force,

One moment will not linger ;
But, spite of hell, shall have its coarse :
'Tis written by His finger.
And though they take our life.
Goods, honour, children, wife ;
Yet is their profit small :
These things shall vanish all ;
The dty of God remaineth.

This is now the most popular of Lather's hyinnSi but one
which he called '* A thanksgiving for the highest benefits
which God has shown in Christ," a kind of doctrinal
confession, was at the time, as is not to he wondered at,
more popular. *' A curious use was made of it in the year
1557, when a number of princes helonging to the reformed
religion being assembled at Frankfort, they wished to
have an evangelical service in the church of St. Bartholo.
mew. A large congregation assembled, but the pulpit
was occupied by a Eoman Catholic priest, who proceeded
to preach according to his own views. After listening
for some time in indignant silence, the whole congregation
rose and began to sing this hymn, till thej fairly sang the
priest out of church. Its tune is that known in England
as Luther's Hymn, and tradition says that Luther noted
it down from the singing of a travelling artisan." '' 'Out
of the depths I cry to Thee ' he sang when recovering
from a fainting fit, brought on by the intensity of
spiritual conflict ; and when, at last, his dead body was


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borne through Halle, on its way to its last resting place
at Wittenberg, his countrymen thronged into the Church
where it was laid, and, amidst their tears and sobs, sang
this hymn beside it " : —

Oat of the depths I cry to Thee,

Lord God, O hear my wailing I
Thy gracious ear incline to me,

And make my prayer availing :
On my misdeeds in mercy look,
O deign to blot them from Thy book, [

Or who can stand before Thee ?

Thy sovereign grace and bonndless love

Make Thee, O Lord, forgiving ;
My pmrest thoughts and deeds but prove

Sin in my heart is living :
None guiltless in Thy sight appear,
All who approach Thy throne must fear,

And humbly trust Thy mercy.

Thou canst be merciful while just.

This is my hope's foundation ;
On Thy redeeming grace I trust,

Qrant me, then. Thy salvation :
Shielded by Thee I stand secure.
Thy word is firm. Thy promise sure,

And I rely upon Thee.

Like those who watch for midnight's hour

To hail the dawning morrow
I wait for Thee, I trust Thy power,

Unmoved by doubt or sorrow.
So thus let Israel hope in Thee.
And he shall find Thy mercy free.

And Thy redemption plenteous.

Where'er the greatest sins abound.

By grace they are exceeded ;
Thy helping hand is always found

With aid, where aid is needed ;
Thy hand, the only hand to save.
Will rescue Israel from the ^ave.

And pardon his transgression.

His sweet Christmas Hymn, **Von Himmel hoch da
komm ich her," was written in 1531, for his little son
Hans, who was then four years old. It was described in


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the first editions of his hymn book as *' A children's song

from the second chapter of St. Luke, drawn up by Br.

M. L."

OhI let ns all be glad to-day,
And with the shepherda homage pay :
Come, see what God to us hath given,
His oDly Son, sent down from heaven.

Awake, my soul I from sadness rise,
Come, see what in the manger lies :
Who is this smiling in&nt child ?—
'Tis little Jesus, sweet and mild.

Twice welcome, O thou heavenly Guest,
To save a world with sin distresoed :
Com'st Thou in lowly guise for me?
What homage shall I give to Thee ?

Ah I Lord eternal, heavenly King,
Hast Thou become so mean a thing ;
And hast Thou left Thy blissful s^at.
To rest where oolta and oxen eat ?

Were this wide world much wider made,
With ffold and costly gems arrayed :
E*en then, by far too mean 'twould be,
To make a little crib for Thee.

No silken robes surround Thy head,
A bunch of hay is all Thy bed !
Where Thou, a King so rich and great,
Art bright as in Thy heavenly state.

Jesus, my Saviour, come to me —
Make here a little crib for Thee :
A bed make in this heart of mine,
That I may aye remember Thine.

Then from my soul glad songs shall ring —

Of Thee each day 111 gaily sing :

The glad hosannas will 1 raise

From heart that loves to sing Thy praise.

« From the old Latin Psalmody, he gave a free rhymed
translation of the Te Deum, and several of the Ambrosian
hymns. The Funeral Hymn, 'Media in yita in morte
sumus ' (see Chapter Y), composed by Notker, a monk of
St. Ghdl, A.D. 900 (the first lines of which appear in our


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Banal Service), he poured forth anew in three verses, and
infused into it a tone of confidence and hope very faintly
audihle in the original."*

I have lingered over Luther's work in hymnody, not
because he is largely represented in our English collections
—this is not the case : partly because many of his
hymns were written for a condition of religious thought
so different from that which now prevails, and partly
because, in the main, they are^in a style and metre which
suit the German, but does not suit the English style of
music ; the former is more massive and solid, the latter
lighter and quicker in movement. This accounts for the
fact that, from the great stores of German hymnody,
comparatively few have become naturalised and popular in
England, and even those that have, owe much of their
popularity to the fact that, passing through the mind of
English translators, they have caught much of the English
spirit ; in the most popular translations, though the ideas
are German, the style is English. Slavishly literal trans-
lations have always been failures. Only when a really
poetic mind has done the work of translation, have they
caught the ear, and moved the heart, of English folk.
But I have tarried over Luther rather because he is the
real founder in Germany — ^as was Dr. Watts in England —
of a really popular hymnody in the common speech of the
people. Concerning the hymnists who followed, I can
only speak, and give illustrations, of those whose hymns
have come, through translations, into English use. This
will be clear when I say that the ** Liederschatz " of
Albrecht Knapp includes a list of no less than four
hundred writers.

♦'• Voice of Uhristian Lit© in Song,*' p. 267.


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Luther's principal co-workers in hymnody were Justus
Jonas, his colleague in the department of theology at
Wittenberg (who assisted Luther in preparing metrical
versions of the Psalms), and Paul Eber, who held a similar
relationship to Melancthon.

Nicholas Decius, (died 1529) a conyerted monk, is well-
known by his German version of the '* Gloria in Ezcelsis,"
which, when wedded to its fine chorale, became popular,
and was sung by all classes of the people, and on the most
stirring occasions, all over Germany. Mendelssohn intro-
duced it into his Oratorio, 8L Fatd, The following
translation af it is by W. Bartholomew : —

To GK>d on high be thaDks and praise,

Who deigDB our bonds to sever :
His cares our drooping souls upraise,

And harm shall reach us never:
On Him we rest, with faith assured.
Of all that live, the mighty Lord,

For ever and for ever.

'' The general character of Lutheran hymnology in the
sixteenth century is its true churchliness and popular
style. It is doctrinal, devotional, and bears the impress
of objectiveness. The poet does not give vent to his own
frame of mind, his individual feelings, but the Church
itself, through his lips, confesses, believes, comforts,
praises, and adores.

''At the same time, it is truly popular, truthful,
natural, cordial, bold, and fearless in expression ; moving
with rapid steps; no pausing, no retrospect, no minute
delineations, or extended descriptions, no didactic demon-
strations. In its outward form, it followed the old
German epos, and popular narrative poetry, and aimed,


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above all, at being not only read but sung, and sung by
the congregation."*

So popular had hymns become, that even royal and
noble personages, like the Elector John of Saxony, and
the Margrave George of Brandenburg, became contributors
to this department. Southern Germany now began to
take its share in this work. Hans Sachs, of ITuremburg,
the shoemaker (bom 1494), wrote and published more
than 6,000 poems of every kind, amongst which there
were many hymns. One of these, " Why art thou thus
cast down, my heart?" is included in "The Chorale
Book for England." He had great fears that now his
countrymen had become freed from the yoke of Rome
they would quarrel among themselves, and he therefore
exhorts them to " Love God above all, and thy neighbour
as thyself; against that doctrine ban and edict, clergy
and laity, school and preaching, monks and old women,
will alike be powerless."

Among the Bohemian Brethren arose several writers of

great excellence ; notably Michael Weiss, (died 1540) pastor

of the German-speaking congregations of Landskron and

Fulnek, who translated the best of the Bohemian hymns into

German for their use, and contributed some of his own.

One of the finest is the following Evening Hymn, which

has been included in a few English collections : —

Kow QoA be with as, for the night is dodng;
The light and darknewa are of his disposing ;
And 'neath His shadow here to rest we yidd us,
For He wHl shield ns.

Let evil thooghts and spirits flee before us ;
Till morning oometh, watch, O Master, o'er us ;
In soul and body Thou from harm defend us,
Thine angels send ua.

* Kurtz's •' Church Histwy," vol. ii, p. 128.

A 2


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Let holy thonghts be oms when sleep o'ertakea us,
Our earliest thoughts be Thine when moruing wakes us ;
All day serve Thee, in all that we are doing,
Thy praise porsuing.

As Thy beloved, soothe the sick and weeping,
And bid the prisoner lose his grieft in sleeping ;
Widows and orphans we to Thee commend them,
Do Thoa befriend them.

We have no refuge, none on earth to aid us,
Save Thee, O Father, who Thine own hast made us ;
But Thy dear presence will not leave them lonely
Who seek Thee only.

Father, Thy name be praised^ Thy kingdom given,
Thy will be done on earth as 'tis in heaven ;

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 24 of 37)