13 September 2012

O lieber Gott in höchsten Thron

Here is my translation of “O lieber Gott in höchsten Thron” (David Spaiser, ca. 1608),  hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance during the epidemic of 1607. Not much is known about Spaiser himself, and he is generally only known for the first stanza of Ach lieben Christen, seid getrost, which Johann Heune (Gigas) later adapted for his own hymn. We know that Spaiser lived in Augsburg, was a "bader" ("bather", or therapeutic physician) by trade, and was an important member of the Meistersinger guild. While we don't have his birth or death year, we know that he had possession of the Augsburg "Rappenbad" (Rappen baths) from 1581 to 1627, and we also have two of his publications: Vier und zwainzig Geystliche Lieder [24 Spiritual Songs]… (1609), and Vierzig schöne geystliche Lieder… (1621).

DEAR GOD upon Thy highest the highest throne,
True praise to Thee be given,
Through Jesus, Thy beloved Son,
The Lord of earth and heaven,
That Thou, with love and mercy mild,
Hast guarded me, my wife, and child
And all my house from danger.

2. From sickness Thou didst rescue us,
When plagues o’er us impended;
Yet would this judgment have been just
For we have Thee offended
By sin and gross iniquity,
And wicked lives opposed to Thee,
So that Thy rod we merit.

3. In no small peril then I lay
Within my rank and station,
But through the year God was my stay
In working and vocation;
So many men can well attest:
The hand of God hath held me fast,
And sent His blessed angel.

4. I thank Him for His gracious will,
The mercy which He gave me,
Beseeching Him to keep me still
And in all things to save me
And guard me, and my wife, and child,
And all my house with mercy mild,
Through Jesus Christ my Savior.

Translation © 2012 Matthew Carver.

1. O lieber Gott im höchsten Thron,
herzlich tu ich dich loben
durch deinen allerliebsten Sohn
im Himmel hoch dort oben,
daß du mich samt meim Weib und Kind
wie auch mein ganzes Hausgesind
so väterlich behütet.

2. Vor der Seuchen der Pestilenz,
so über uns tat schweben
durch deinen gerechten Sentenz,
so du verhenkt gar eben
wegn  unser Sünd und Missetat,
so jeder wider dich tan hat
mit unserm bösen Leben.

3. Dann ich war nit in gringer Gfahr
in meinem Amt und Wandel
in dem nächsten verschienen Jahr [1607]
mit meinem Tun und Handel,
wie männiglichen ist bekannt,
daß ob mir ghalten Gottes Hand
mit sienem lieben Engel.

4. Ich dank seiner Barmherzigkeit
für diese große Güten;
der wölle mich in Lieb und Leid
hinfüro auch behüten
samt meinem lieben Weib und Kind,
wie auch mein ganzes Hausgesind
durch Jesum Christem. Amen.


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Hi Matt, I'd suggest changing "sovereign" to "highest" because of the Calvinist use of "sovereign." Highest has the same syllable count, so would not interfere with meter, I think.

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Dear Rev. McCain, to tell the truth I wasn't aware of such an association. I originally declined to use more literal choice, "highest," because the consecutive rhyme of the diphthongs in "Thy" and "high-" seemed less euphonious to me than the assonance of the stressed syllables "sov-" and "God." Is there any context in which "sovereign" might be used without confusion? What would need to be clarified?

Many thanks for your correction.


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Unfortunately, no, if the original German does not have sovereign and we use it, it tends to conjure Reformed/Calvinist notions about God's "sovereignty" which they regard to be his chief attribute, rather than love or mercy or grace.

I'd go with "highest" to avoid any negative associations theologically.