05 March 2010

Hilf, Gott, daß mir gelinge

Here is my translation of “Hilf, Gott, daß mir gelinge” (H. Müller, 1524) which, originally appearing as a broadsheet, is really a ballad in form, especially with its opening and closing stanzas with their transparent singer or narrator. In borrowing such a form, it recalls some of the earlier hymns of the Reformation, such as “Ein neues Lied wir heben an” [A New Song Here Shall Be Begun]. It was Heinrich Müllers prison-confession, as made clear in the last stanza, and underlined by the fact that the stanzas form an acrostic on his name (HEINRICH MULER), which I have attempted to reproduce. The balladic hymn enjoyed great popularity during the Reformation era (see Julian) when, because of its concise recounting of the Passion events, it was sung around Passion-week (so e.g. Ludecus appoints it), though it gradually fell out of use sometime during the 18th century. I include, after the German, a stanza very loosely translated by C.S. Terry, and the only other complete English (or more precisely, old Scots) translation, from Wedderburn.

The melody in Babst (1545) is one of several, most of which seem to be derived from earlier folk-melodies (see Kümmerle). One of its melodies was eventually attached to the hymn “Wenn meine Sünd mich kränken” [When o’er My Sins I Sorrow]. I include all those found in Kümmerle:

ASSIST me, great Creator!
That I may undertake
In measure and in meter
Thy glories to awake!
That I may now with joyful heart
Sing out Thy Holy Scripture:
O Lord, Thine aid impart!

2. E’ermore Thy Word remaineth,
So doth Isaiah say,
All things Thy Hand sustaineth,
Yet earth shall pass away,—
Yea, all that God Himself did make,
And all of man’s endeavor:—
Still naught His Word can shake.

3. Into this world descended
The Father’s Word eterne,
Great wonders Him attended,
But many Him did spurn,
By Judas was He sold away,
The Lamb of God was given
To death, for sin to pay.

4. Now, when His Twelve had eaten
Their paschal lamb, but look!
With comfort all to sweeten,
Bread in His hand He took,
And blessed, and said: “Eat ye of this:
For you My body given
To pardon sin this is.”

5. Red blood He then did offer
In wine, that drink they might:
“Proclaim how He did suffer
And die,” Saint Paul did write;
“Whoever shall in worthy faith
This bread and cup be taking
Shall nevermore see death.”

6. In meekness, downward reaching
With tow’l, He washed their feet,
And taught with godly preaching
From lips without deceit:
“Oh, love each other ceaselessly:
That ye are My disciples,
Men thus shall certain be.”

7. Christ, having prayed, awaited
In dark Gethsemane
The Jews who, full of hatred,
Did bind Him viciously
And sought their judge His soul to try,
With mocks they scourged and crowned Him,
And sentenced Him to die.

8. High on a cross they hanged Him,
The Highest with the worst:
His thirst for us constrained Him,
And so He said: “I thirst”
With thirst to save us men forlorn,
Who to a virgin maiden
Was truly human born.

9. Man’s Maker, head bowed lowly,
As in John’s words disclosed,
Gave up the ghost so holy,
Was from the cross deposed,
Inside a tomb was gently laid,
And on the third day rising,
Fulfilled what He had said.

10. Unto the world’s far limit
Christ His disciples sent
To bear His Word, proclaim it,
And preach its true intent:
He who believes and is baptized
Possesses life eternal
Obtained by Jesus Christ.

11. Luke tells of Christ’s ascension
With words of comfort fair,
And doth Christ’s promise mention,
To be with us fore’er:
For, lo, His Word can never fail,
Nor ’gainst it can the forces
And gates of hell prevail.

12. Earth was the Helper given,
From God He doth proceed,
By Christ sent forth from heaven
Into all truth to lead.
So let our groans to God be made,
Who never shall forsake us,
But gives us constant aid.

13. Right rulers may God send us,
And turn our every foe,
And on those who offend us,
May He His grace bestow—
For all their sake, to Christ we pray!
So sang old Heinrich Müller,
In prison as he lay.

Translation © Matthew Carver, 2010.

1. Hilf, Gott, daß mir gelinge,
du edler Schöpfer mein,
die Silben reimen zwingen
zu Lob den Ehren dein!
Daß ich mag fröhlich heben an
von deinem Wort zu singen,
Herr, wöllest mir beistahn!

2. Ewig dein Wort thut bleiben,
wie Esaias meldt,* *Jes. 40, 8.
In seinem Buch thut schreiben:
eh wird vergehn die Welt
und was Gott selber je beschuf, [erschuf,]
Sollt es alles verderben,
er thut kein Widerruf.

3. Iesus, das Wort des Vaters,
ist kommen in die Welt
mit großen Wunderthaten,
verkauft um schnödes Geld
durch Judam, seiner Jünger ein
ward er in Tod gegeben,
Jesus, das Lämmelein.

4. Nachdem sie hatten gessen,
vernehmt, das Osterlamb,
da thät er nicht vergessen,
das Brod in sein’ Hand nahm,
sprach: Eßt, das ist mein Leichnam lind,
der für euch dar wird [g’]geben [euch wird gegeben]
zu Vergebung der Sünd. [zur Vergebung euer Sünd.]

5. Reicht ihn’n auch dar zu trinken
in Wein sein Blut so roth:
“Sein Tod sollt ihr verkünden,”
Paulus beschreiben hat:
“Wer würdig ißt von diesem Brod
und trinket von dem Kelche,
wird nicht sehen den Tod.”

6. Jesus wusch ihn ihr Füße
wohl zu der selb’gen Stund, [derselben Stund]
Lehrt sie mit Worten süße
aus seim göttlichen Mund;
“Liebet einander allezeit,
dabei wird man erkennen
das ihr mein Jünger seid.”

7. Christus der Herr im Garten,
da er gebetet hat,
der Jüden thät erwarten,
von ihn gebunden hart,
sie führten ihn zum Richter dar,
gegeißelt und gekrönet,
zum Tod verurtheilt ward.

8. Hoch an ein Kreuz gehangen,
der hochgeborne Fürst;
nach uns thät ihn verlangen,
darum sprach er: “Mich dürst!”
Vernimm: nach unser Seligkeit,
darum ein Mensch geboren
von einer reinen Meid.

9. Mit seinem Haupt geneiget
er seinen Geist aufgab,
als uns Johannes zeiget,
er ward genommen ab
vom Kreuz, ins Grab ward er gelegt,
am dritten Tag erstanden,
wie er vor hat gesagt.

10. Und in denselben Tagen
Jesus sein Jünger lehrt,
allein sein Wort zu tragen,
predigen aller Welt: [predigen in aller]
Wer glaube thut und wird getauft,
der hat das ewig leben,
ist ihm durch Christum kauft. [erkauft.]

11. Lukas thuts gar schön schreiben [thut]
von seiner Himmelfahrt
doch allweg bei uns bleiben,
wie er versprochen hat,
vernimm: Durch sein göttliches Wort;
wider das kann nicht siegen
kein Gwalt der Höllen Pfort.

12. Ein Tröster thät er senden
das war der heilig Geist,
von Gott thät er sie lenden
in Wahrheit allermeist.
Denselben wolln wir rufen an,
der wird uns nicht verlassen
und uns treulich beistahn.

13. Recht laßt uns alle bitten
Christum für [die] Obrigkeit
ob wir schon von ihn litten
Gwalt, auch für alle Feind,
daß ihn Gott woll genädig sein:
hat Heinrich Müller gesungen
in dem Gefängnis sein.


1. O help me, Lord, to praise Thee,
Great Shepherd of Thy sheep,
In grateful phrases worthy
Of Thee Who watch dost keep!
Help me in song my voice upraise
For Thy blest Word so holy,
And guide my feeble praise!

1. Helpe, God, the Former of all thing,
That to Thy gloir may bee my dyte:
Be baith at end and beginning,
That I may make my song perfyte,
Of Jesus Christes passioun,
Sinnaris onely saluatioun,
As witnesse is thy word in write.

2. Thy word for euer sall remaine,
As in his buke wrytes Esay,
Baith heuin and eird sall turne againe,
Or thy trew word cum to decay.
Thou cannot like ane man repent,
To change thy purpose or intent,
Bot steidfast is thy word for ay.

3. Jesus, the Father’s Word alone,
Discendit in an Virgine pure,
With meruellis greit and mony one;
And be Judas that fals tratour,
That Lambe for sober summe was sauld,
And gaif his lyfe, for cause hee wald
Redeme all sinfull creature.

4. When eitin was the Paschall Lambe,
Christ tuke the breid his handis within,
Blyssing it, brake it, gaif the sume
Till his apostles mair and min,
Eit that, for my body is this,
Quihilk for your sakis geuin is,
Intill remissioun of your sin.

5. Siclyke hee gaif them for to drinke
In wyne his blude the quhilke was sched,
Upon his precious deid to thinke,
On hiom remembrance to be made.
Quha eitis this blissit sacrament,
Worthelie with trew intent
Sall neuer see eternall deid.
6. Jesus wusche his apostlis feit,
Schawand exempil of lowlynesse,
And chargit them with wordis sweit,
That lufe amang them suld incres.
For thairby suld it cum to licht,
That ye are my disciplis richt,
Gif ye amang you lufe possesse.

7. Efter this prayer passit he,
And met the Jewis quhilk him socht;
When they had bound him cruellie,
Before the judges they him brocht.
First they him scurgit, and for scorne
Him crownit with ane crowne of thorne,
Syne dampnit him to deid for nocht.

8. That Prince on croce they lift on hicht,
For our redemptioun that thocht lang;
Hee said, I thirst with all my micht
To saif mankynde fra painis strang.
Hee that all warldis was beforne,
Came doun of Marie to be borne,
For our trespasse on croce hee hang.

9. Then hee his heid culd incline,
As wryttis John, and gaif the gaist,
And off the croce tane was syne,
And laid in grave; but soone in haist,
Leuand, he rais on the thrid day,
And to his apostles did say,
To them appeirand maist and leist.

10. And syne he did his apostillis teiche,
Throw all the warlde for to passe,
And tell all creature for to preich,
As they of him instructit was:
Quha baptist is, and will beleeue,
Eternall deid sall not them greeue,
Bot salbe sauit mair and lesse.

11. Sanct Luke writtin in his ascention,
Thocht present aye with vs hee bee,
The Scripture makis mention,
That is to say with us is hee,
Be his sweit word steidfast but faill,
Contraire the quhilk can not preuaill
Sathan nor hellis tyranie.

12. Ane comfortour to vs hee did send,
Quhilke from the Father did proceide,
To gyde us trewly to the end,
In inward thocht and outwart deid,
Call on the Lord, our gyde and licht,
To leid vs in his law full richt,
And be our helpe in all our neid.

13. Pray for all men in generall,
Suppose they wirk vs richt or wrang;
Pray for our prince in speciall;
Thocht they be just, or tyrans strang,
Obey, for sa it aucht to bee.
In presoun for the veritie,
Ane faythfull brother made this sang.


Paul McCain said...

Mr. Carver, I really appreciate your translations, as you know. I was struck today by a hymn we were singing by Johann Heermann. As you know, Heermann was profoundly influenced by Valerius Herberger. I wonder if you have considered exploring Heermann's book Devoti musica cordis (1630), ‘music for a devout heart’, which Wikipedia reports as a work that combined hymns based on texts of the Church Fathers and writers such as Moller with hymns Heermann himself had composed. In addition to works of poetry, he also published collections of sermons.

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Thanks for the tip, pastor McCain. I appreciate it and certainly will look into it!