Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Catherine Winkworth.

Catherine Winkworth, born today in 1829 in London, remains one of the most prolific and most well-known translators of German hymns into English. Though contemporary hymnal editors (Lutheran and others) are always looking for modern translations, Winkworth's are still prominently included.

We have covered much of her biographical information in previous years, and included many of her translations at other times of the year (click on the tag below), but a few items caught my attention this year in reading about her again.

Catherine and her sister Susanna were mostly educated at home, but they also studied with the Reverend William Gaskell, the Unitarian minister of the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester. Gaskell and his wife, Elizabeth, the popular novelist (whose books are still read and adapted for television today) were family friends of the Winkworths.  Catherine was also acquainted with other literary women of her day, including Charlotte Bronte and Harriet Martineau.

Catherine's first book of translated German hymn texts, the first volume of Lyra Germanica, was published in August of 1855. Within weeks of its appearance, Catherine began receiving requests from hymnbook editors for permission to include her translations in the collections they were preparing. The book had fortuitously arrived during a period of great change in congregational singing; the long resistance to hymns in the worship of the Church of England was coming to a close and there was great demand for new hymns. Six of Winkworth's translations appeared in the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1860), which probably spread them even faster and farther, and before long she was included in the hymnals of many denominations in the English-speaking world.  Closer to our own time, she is mostly known in Lutheran hymnals, though some of her hymns still cross denominational lines.

Today's hymn is from the second volume of Lyra Germanica (1858).

All depends on our possessing
God’s abundant grace and blessing,
Though all earthly wealth depart.
They who trust with faith unshaken
In their God are not forsaken
And will keep a dauntless heart.

God, who to this day has fed me
And to many joys has led me
Is and ever shall be mine.
God who did so gently school me,
God who still doth guide and rule me,
Will remain my Help divine.

When with sorrow I am stricken,
Hope anew my heart will quicken,
All my longing shall be stilled.
To God's lovingkindness tender
Soul and body I surrender;
For on God alone I build.

Well God knows what best to grant me;
All the longing hopes that haunt me,
Joy and sorrow have their day.
I shall doubt God's wisdom never—
As God wills, so be it ever—
Freely I commit my way.

As on earth my days are lengthened,
God my weary soul has strengthened;
All my trust in God I place.
Earthly wealth is not abiding,
Like a stream away is gliding;
Safe I anchor in God's grace.

Anonymous, from Nurnburg Gesang-Buch, 1676;
tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1858; alt.
Johann LΓΆhner, 1691; adapt. Johann B. KΓΆnig, 1737

Catherine died of heart trouble in France in 1878. She had traveled to Europe to help care for her invalid nephew Frank Shaen.  After her death, her sister Susanna (who was a noted translator of German prose) began to write a memorial volume drawn from family correspondence, but she died in 1884 before completing the work. Years later, their niece Margaret Shaen took up the project and finished it, and it was finally published in 1908, Memorials of Two Sisters: Susanna and Catherine Winkworth.

Eight Years Ago: Catherine Winkworth

Seven Years Ago: Catherine Winkworth

One Year Ago: Catherine Winkworth

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