24 April 2009

Wo Gott zum Haus nicht gibt sein Gunst

Here is my translation of "Wo Gott zum Haus nicht gibt sein Gunst" (Johann Kolroß, 1525), a versified paraphrase of the 127th Psalm. I am frankly surprised not to have found an English translation of this already, although there is an independent, original English version, very close to this one, in fact, which may be found in The Psalter (1912), its chief differences being that it uses an interlocking rhyme (ABAB) and that it expands the final idea as a separate stanza. The German hymn is found in ELK # 193. For some unknown reason, Unverfälschter Liedersegen gives the melody as "O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht." Perhaps it anticipated the unfortunate but understandable overuse of the simple, sweet proper melody "Wo Gott zum Haus" (Wittenberg, 1535) in later American Lutheran hymnals; on the occasion of a wedding, however, the former melody ("O Jesu Christ" or "Herr Jesu Christ") might have a more appropriate tone:

To Brian Westgate on his birthday.

IF GOD will not the building bless,
The builders’ toil is meaningless;
If God the city not maintain,
The watchman waketh but in vain.

2. Oh, vain it is, ere dawn to rise,
Or late to shut your weary eyes,
Or bread of sorrows to digest,
For God shall give His lov’d ones rest.

3. Our children are God’s heritage,
His gift to us, His goodly pledge;
As arrows in the hand of might,
So is the youth in God’s own sight.

4. That man is happy and at ease,
Who hath his quiver full of these;
They shall not fall to shame and woe,
For God preserves them from their foe.

5. Praise God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
As ‘twas, is now, and so shall be,
World without end, eternally!

Translation sts. 1-4 © 2009 Matthew Carver.
St. 5, tr. Matthias Loy, 1880, alt. (TLH #331).

1. Wo Gott zum Haus nicht giebt sein Gunst,
so arbeit jedermann umsonst.
Wo Gott die Stadt nicht selbst bewacht,
so ist umsonst der Wächter Macht.

2. Vergebens, daß ihr früh aufsteht,
dazu mit Hunger schlafen geht,
und eßt eur Brot mit Ungemach:
denn wems Gott gönnt, gibt ers im Schlaf.

3. Nun sind sein Erben unsre Kind,
die uns von ihm gegeben sind:
gleich wie die Pfeil ins Starken Hand,
so ist die Jugend Gott bekannt.

4. Es soll und muß dem gschehen wohl,
der dieser hat sein Köcher voll;
sie werden nicht zu Schand noch Spott,
vor ihrem Feind bewahrt sie Gott.

5. Ehr sei dem Vater und dem Sohn
sammt Heilgem Geist in Einem Thron:
welchs ihm auch also sei bereit
von nun an bis in Ewigkeit.


Brian P Westgate said...


James Gibb said...

I am one of the administrators at Choralwiki and was searching for a translation of Wo Gott zum Haus when I came upon your blog. Would you have any objection to my uploading your translation to the Choralwiki site, suitably acknowledged? James Gibb

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Thank you for your inquiry. I would not object to your uploading the translation in question to Choralwiki if I am suitably acknowledged, as you say; which should, I think, include the appropriate Creative Commons license language indicated on the margin of my blog, for non-commercial use, if that is how things are done.

Warm regards,
Matthew Carver