20 August 2017

O großer Gott von Macht

Here is my translation of the repentance hymn, “O großer Gott von Macht" (B. Schnurr, 1678, sts 1-8; J. M. Meyfart, st.9), for times of general need. This hymn, the final stanza of which Bach uses in his cantata for Trinity X, is interesting for several reasons. Its arrangement consists of six lines of original text each stanza, appealing to God’s various divine attributes for pardon and mercy to prevail over strict righteousness and to spare the people and land in the midst of some unnamed necessity; and appended to this, a two-line semi-refrain of supplication based on the progressively audacious intercessions of Abraham in Genesis 18. Note that I attempt to reproduce the rhyme scheme of the German, which perhaps unnecessarily fails to rhyme the first and third lines. But the contiguity of these lines is enhanced by the quickness of the music, so that rhymes here would be foreign to the expression. Additionally, the hymn has had several proper tunes or variant melodies over the years (Zahn 5105–5117). I include the original along with that more nearly approximating Bach's (Zahn 5105 a–b resp.). The first may be attributed to Melchior Franck (Leipzig, 1632); the second form is found in Hiller, 1798, and follows the variant originally published in Praxis Pietatis Melica (Berlin, 1661).


GREAT GOD of mighty pow’r,
Abounding in all grace,
Wilt Thou the land entire
In furious wrath erase?
What if there be some faithful still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy then afford us,
Not for our works reward us!

2 Great God of honor famed,
Far be it from Thee now
To beat with dread rebuke
Both good and evil brow!
What if there be some fifty still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy then afford us, &c.

3 Great God of counsel wise,
Let mercy now abound,
Let righteous judgment yield,
Nor so severe be found.
What if there forty-five be still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy then afford us, &c.

4 Great God of strength to save,
Regard the suff’ring land,
And from Thy scourges dire
Withdraw Thy reaching hand.
What if there be some forty still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy then afford us, &c.

5 Great God of boundless might,
From all Thy wrath relent,
As often to Thine ear
Our wretched pray’r is sent;
What if there be some thirty still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy yet afford us, &c.

6 Great God of grace renowned,
Oh, hear us as we cry,
And in Thy lofty throne
Perceive our lowly sigh!
What if there be some twenty still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy then afford us, &c.

7 Great God of act and deed,
Hear humble earth implore,
Which of Thy lenient heart
Would ask this one thing more:
What if there be but ten souls still
Which do according to Thy will?
Thy mercy then afford us, &c.

8 Great God of glorious praise,
Have sins their limit passed,
And wilt Thou in Thy rage
Destroy us all at last,
Yet may the little children still
Do right, according to Thy will,
Thy mercy then afford us,
Not for our works reward us!

9 Great God of faithfulness,
Since naught avails with Thee
But Christ, Thy Son, who stilled
Thy just hostility,
Behold His wounds, His anguish grim,
His pains and sorrows, and for Him
Thy mercy now afford us,
Not for our works reward us!

Translation © 2017 Matthew Carver. 

The German text is found here.


Walter said...

Another great translation & appropriate hymn for these days when our nations are turning away from God. But I have another reason for writing: I've just received my copy of Liber Hymnorum. I only saw it while 'surfing' the web a few months ago. You haven't listed it here on this blog among your publications ! And I had not visited Emmanuel Press in a good long-time.
This book is a Treasure with so many unique jewels of hymn translations where you did them specifically ! It is a wonderful bi-lingual edition: so needed when it comes to Latin as hardly anyone knows it these days ! I've been spending a lot of time reading the Latin hymns of Chemnitz (Fabricius?!), Selnecker et al., and I'm glad to see you've published all 3 of Melanchton's Latin Hymns in your book: all of them priceless. The melodies from Lossius are wonderful: I have such a difficult time reading that German type of Gregorian notation in his original publications that it is a pleasure to sight read them with ease in your book ! I have also seen your name among the pages of Dr Wm.Renwick's Sarum Rite weblog, but that too was quite a while ago. I think you've done some translating for him there as well; but am not certain. He teaches from my old Alma Mater, McMaster U., in Hamilton Ontario. I still have family there, but rarely visit. I live in Stratford Canada, about 1.5 hours drive from Hamilton. Thank you for the Liber ! I hope it serves the Church well. But MARANATHA in the meantime ! Yours, in Christ Walter Mattys.

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Thanks again, Walter. Your comments are always encouraging. Yes, I've been translating the sequences of the Sarum rite, as well as some rhymed offices for Dr. Renwick at McMaster the last few years. We should see the fruits of that labor soon. It will also help greatly toward the publication of our own Lutheran book of sequences in the next couple years. For some interesting reading about the Lutheran chorales on this momentous year, please allow me to recommend Robin Leaver's latest, "The Whole Church Sings: Congregational Singing in Luther's Wittenberg." I had the pleasure and honor of assisting Dr Leaver with some of the literal prose translations there.

Walter said...

Thanks for recommending Robin's book: I've read what was available in Preview through Google Books and will follow up with Eerdmans. I also thank you for mentioning Litzel's work in your Liber's Introduction. The Latinizations are so 'artfully' done that they seem original. This past spring I came across Joseph Clauder, who did the same type of Latinization work about about a century before Litzel. There are no fewer than 300 hymns of the earliest Lutheran times rendered into Latin.
The title is Pslamodia Nova for the first 100 hymns, found in Google Books.

The 2nd and 3rd one-hundred series are in the German Digital Library.

under the name of Joseph Clauder. The Titles there are; Pslamodiae Novae and there are 2 separate publications. They are not as artful as Litzel, but come a close 2nd. Reading these and re-typing them out kept me quite busy this year !
Pax & Bonum

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Thanks again! This book looks good. I like the bilingual aspect, and the long preface will want some investigation.
I have toyed with putting together a "quick" Latin hymnal with Latin Matins, Psalms (Clementine?), and Kernlieder for classical school use. There is some overlap between the earlier Lutheran Latinizers (W. Ammonius, etc.) and Litzel, so one better than I will have to sort out which are to be preferred.

Walter said...

Kernlieder: a term I had to look up, Matt ! Every parish has its favourite 'core'. Yes, good idea ! I do see the overlapping and it is nice to be able to chose!
I have found yet another amazing collection (200+ odes) published in the early 17th century, but it is all Latin with only a couple referenced to German originals. It seems to be connected from Magdeburg to Prague during the Religious Wars. Pensum Sacrum is the title; and there are plenty of Matins & Vesper hymns, but only originally in Latin. It is digitized, but only on Archive.org have I found it:

Best wishes on all your projects !