Thursday, July 13, 2017

With stanzas too few. . .

The sad truth is that every hymnal must make choices when it comes to what hymns are included, what hymns are excluded, and what stanzas of those hymns included will be published. We all know that. Some in the congregation breathe a sigh of relief that not every stanza is included. Others care little except when they tire after a dozen or so stanzas with a few more left yet to sing. Pastors are too often guilty of choosing stanzas in the pursuit of a shorter worship service without taking into account the poetic progression of those stanzas.

Some among us, in particular I would mention Matthew Carver, have taken up the cause of hymns not included in our hymnal. And, in this case, stanzas not included in the hymnal. For most folks, this wonderful Easter hymn, With High Delight Let Us Unite, is a familiar and favorite expression of our Easter joy. Yet the three stanzas included in the hymnal are but a small fraction of the stanzas in the hymn and wonderful stanzas they are. Carver has done us a great service in providing those not included, with fresh translation. It is all a great reminder of what we are missing as well as what we have in our hymnals.

In this case, it would have been worth the space to include all 13 stanzas -- even if they may have meant the hymn itself were less used or less beloved. So profound and powerful are the poetic expression of the faith that we are at a loss for not having had these extra 10 stanzas to sing, to meditate upon, and to pray. 

What do you think?


Mit Freuden zart

Here is my expansion and emendation of the Easter hymn "With High Delight Let Us Unite" (G. Vetter, d. 1599). The translation by M. Franzmann (© 1969 CPH) consisted of three stanzas, the first two and the final one. In order to illustrate the pious acrostichon (MEDIATOR IESUS) embedded in the original 13-stanza hymn, I have altered the first lines of Franzmann's stanzas and presented them here, as well as translated the ten remaining, observing the constraint of preserving the acronym.
Further information is found here.
The German is found here.
The original instance in the Bohemian Brethren hymnal, Kirchengeseng (1566).

MAY we unite with high delight
In songs of sweet jubilation!
Ye pure in heart, all bear your part,

Sing Jesus Christ, our Salvation.

To set us free forever, He

Is ris’n and sends to all earth's ends
Good news to save ev’ry nation.

2 Earth's Lord, He first from death has burst

Forth into life, all subduing.

His Enemy doth vanquished lie;

His death has been death's undoing.

“His saints shall see like victory
O'er death and grave," said He, who gave

His life for them, life renewing.

3 Deliv’rance theirs —gone are their cares,
Their hellish bonds now are broken.
From Satan’s lie and shame they fly,
By Christ their Head being woken.
To Him, their Lord, they praise accord
And gladly live, their lives to give
Of all their thanks but a token.

4 In peace, we know, as He did go
So He to life soon shall send them,
His righteousness and glorious dress
By His arising He will lend them.
Now sin and hell and death as well
Have been repealed; and He, their Shield,
Will no more let fear offend them.

5 At Calvary, upon the Tree—
He by His death there did nail them,
Now led in tow, a sorry show,
His foes as Victor must hail Him.
To heav’n again He’ll lead His train
Where ev’ry tongue, both old and young,
With hymns of praise shall regale Him.

6 To soothe our heart, He will impart
The treasures of His good favor;
He shall our flesh with life refresh,
To joy in heav’n’s bliss forever;
We will be raised with eyes amazed
To see our Lord, our limbs restored,
Our members shall perish never.

7 Our bodies now may frailly bow,
Our heavy sins may aggrieve us,
And cause us woe where’er we go,
And never here peaceful leave us,
Yet He will there give ev’ry heir
A mansion bright for our delight,
Of which naught shall bereave us.

8 Rich is the saints’ inheritance
In Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
Your lips employ, tell out the joy
That shall be yours now and ever!
Ye shall as one shine like the sun,
And never fade, like angels made,
Ye saints, forget this joy never!

9 Just then shall be Christ's penalty
On those who dare to defy Him—
Th’ accursèd host who proudly boast
Whose faithless hearts still deny Him.
Condemned to hell, in pain they’ll dwell
Without relief from cares and grief,
No matter how they decry Him.

10 Each faithful soul, made pure and whole,
Will know instead jubilation
For God the Son, their crown who won,
Arose for their re-creation;
He makes them new by Spirit true,
Through His dear Word; He is their Lord,
Their Rock, and their sure Salvation.

11 Such comfort free, thus brought by Thee,
Lord, give us henceforth unceasing;
Our hearts by grace uphold and brace
To bear all life's hours distressing;
That till the end our days we spend
Within Thy love, and patient prove,
And close this life in Thy blessing.

12 Until we die, this hope supply:
That joy shall be ours forever;
Then blest and well with Thee we’ll dwell,
And part from Thee, Jesus, never;
But with Thy flock hold Thee, our Rock,
And praise Thy name with loud acclaim,
Where naught from Thee shall us sever.

13 So praises ring; give thanks, and bring
To Christ our Lord adoration.
His honor speed by word and deed
To every land, every nation.

So shall His love give us above,
From misery and death set free,

All joy and full consolation.

Translation stanzas 3–12 © 2017 Matthew Carver.
Stanzas 1–2, 13, M. Franzman © 1969 (CPH), alt.

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John Joseph Flanagan said...

I think there are too many stanzas to sing. An abundance of words, like a long winded prayer, do not make us necessarily more reverential before the Lord. We may think so, but it is not true that God insists on long prayers or hymns to prove we love and worship Him. Otherwise, Jesus would have made the Lord's Prayer 1000 words, and He did not. The Lord knows our hearts. A shorter hymn sang with sincerity is better than a longer and tiring one which may put the congregation to sleep.

Ted Badje said...

I have seen congregations have services where hymns are broken up, some verses sang after the sermon. Some lengthy hymns can be sung in a chorale setting. Some creativity is needed.

jwskud said...

My pastor will divide longer hymns into multiple services. So we'll sing 3-4 stanzas each Sunday for 2-3 Sundays. It helps to learn the melody for those of us not musically inclined, and recall aspects of the service the preceding week(s). But perhaps the greater depth of meaning is lost?