Sunday, February 11, 2007

Praise to the Lord the Almighty

I thought it worth observing, briefly, that the hymn "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" has seven verses in the English Hymnal (three of them starred) and only six verses in the New English Hymnal (two of them starred) and that the origin of the starred verses is something of a mystery.

The hymn is (purports to be) a translation of Lobe den Herren, a German hymn published in 1680 in A und Ω Glaub- und Lieb­es­ü­bung by Joachim Neander (1650-80). The English version that we know is said to be translated by "Catherine Winkworth and others". The minimal bit of research I've done on the matter so far suggests that four verses were translated by Winkworth, that is the four that are unstarred in the hymn books. However, the Cyberhymnal gives seven verses and implies that all of them are by Winkworth. Still it seems that the EH and NEH concur in believing that some of their verses at least are not by Winkworth (and since those in the NEH are all, without exception, in the Cyberhymnal's version, it seems that it cannot be true both that everything in the Cyberhymnal entry is by Winkworth and that some of what is in the NEH entry is by "others".)

However, the plot thickens, for I have so far been unable to find more than five verses in the German. Indeed, Frank Colquhoun affirms that the original was of five stanzas (A Hymn Companion, page 22). This seems to be confirmed by the fact that the Cyberhymnal and several other sites provide five verses of the German text, the same five in all cases. This is what they have:

Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren!
Meine geliebte Seele, das ist mein Begehren.
Kommet zu Hauf! Psalter und Harfe, wacht auf!
Lasset den Lobgesang hören!

Lobe den Herren, der alles so herrlich regieret,
Der dich auf Flügeln des Adelers sicher geführet,
Der dich erhält, wie es dir selber gefällt.
Hast du nicht dieses verspüret?

Lobe den Herren, der künstlich und fein dich bereitet,
Der dir Gesundheit verliehen, dich freundlich geleitet.
In wieviel Not hat dich der gnädige Gott
Über dir Flügel gebreitet.

Lobe den Herren, der deinen Stand sichtbar gesegnet,
Der aus dem Himmel mit Strömen der Liebe geregnet.
Denke daran, was der Allmächtige kann,
Der dir mit Liebe begegnet.

Lobe den Herren; was in mir ist, lobe den Namen.
Alles was Odem hat, lobe mit Abrahams Samen.
Er ist dein Licht; Seele, vergiß es ja nicht;
Lob ihn und schließe mit Amen!

The five verses in the German appear to be verses 1 to 4 and verse 7 of the seven provided in the Cyberhymnal, that is these ones:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, Who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, Who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Of these you will notice, perhaps, that verse 3 is unfamiliar. It doesn't appear in any of the hymn books that I own. So four of the verses we normally sing are from Neander's original, and there is a fifth that we do not normally sing (and which, perhaps, Winkworth did not translate?).

So where do the rest come from? There seem to be a total of eight verses in circulation, those five and three more. The English Hymnal had all three of the additional ones which it marked as "Part 2", all of which were starred. They went like this:

Praise to the Lord, Who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who when sickness with terror uniting,
Deaf to entreaties of mortals, its victims is smiting,
Pestilence quells, Sickness and fever dispels,
Grateful thanksgiving inviting.

Praise to the Lord, Who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Of these the first and third survive into the NEH but the second has been cut. None of them seems to be based on anything written by Neander.

Now it seems to me that the correct description of this hymn as it currently appears in the NEH is that it is part of a hymn by Neander, that part being translated by Winkworth, with some additional interpolated verses, perhaps composed in English not German, by someone else we know not whom. In this, the EH was if anything slightly less close to authenticity than the NEH because it had added three of those interpolated verses, not just two. Why they made it look as though they were translations of Neander's original we shall perhaps never know. But one wonders whether the NEH editors just copied the EH in pretending that it was all a translation from Neander.

1 comment:

Virginia said...

There are quite a lot of minor variants between hymnbooks even in the 'Winkworth' verses.
'If to the end' vs. 'He who with love doth befriend thee'
'shall daily attend' vs 'here daily attend' etc.
(I quote from memory). No idea which versions actually are by Winkworth.

But I'm not really sorry to have lost that third verse as quoted by Cyberhymnal. It doesn't sound very singable; 'health hath vouchsafed', in particular, is a real tongue-twister. To say nothing of the contorted syntax and that triumphalistic third line.