Saturday, September 13, 2008

Catherine Winkworth

Anyone who sings hymns has sung the words of Catherine Winkworth though she never wrote a hymn text herself. However, she was widely considered the best, and was certainly the most prolific, translator of German hymns into English. Her work was especially prevalent in Lutheran hymnals for more than a hundred years, but most other denominations also know many of her translations.

Winkworth was especially interested in women's education and held many positions in that field. In 1872 she was a delegate to the Conference on Women's Work in Darmstadt, Germany. She had earlier spent a year in Dresden, no doubt perfecting her proficiency in the language. Many of her hymn translations appeared in her Lyra Germanica, first published in 1855 and proceeding through many subsequent editions. Another book, Christian Singers of Germany, followed in 1869 with more translations and also biographical sketches of German hymnwriters.

This text is probably one of the ones not widely known outside Lutheran hymnals, though you probably know the tune.

O Holy Spirit, enter in,
And in our hearts thy work begin;
Thy temple deign to make us,
Sun of the soul, thou light divine,
Around and in us brightly shine
To joy and gladness wake us
That we, in thee,
Truly living, to thee giving prayer unceasing,
May in love be still increasing.

Give to thy Word persuasive power
That in our hearts, from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing;
And give us steadfastness, that we
May henceforth truly follow thee,
Thy glory ever showing.
Stay thou, guide now,
Our souls ever that they never may forsake thee,
But by faith their refuge make thee.

Thou Fountain whence all wisdom flows
Which God on grateful hearts bestows,
Grant us thy consolation
That in our pure faith’s unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Of grace that bring salvation.
Hear us, cheer us,
By thy teaching; let our preaching, and our labor
Praise thee, God, and serve our neighbor.

O mighty Rock, O Source of life,
Let thy strong word ’mid doubt and strife
Be so within us burning,
That we be faithful unto death,
In thy pure love and holy faith,
From thee true wisdom learning!
O Dove, thy love
On us shower; by thy power Christ confessing,
Let us win thy grace and blessing.

Thy heavenly strength sustain our heart
That we may act the valiant part
With thee as our reliance;
Be thou our refuge and our shield
That we may never quit the field,
But bid all foes defiance.
Descend, defend
From all errors and earth’s terrors, thy salvation
Be our constant consolation.

O gentle Dew, from heaven now fall
With power upon the hearts of all,
Thy precious grace instilling,
That heart to heart more closely bound,
In kindly deeds be fruitful found,
The law of love fulfilling.
Dwell thus in us;
Envy banish, strife will vanish where thou livest.
Peace and love and joy thou givest.

Michael Schirmer, 1640; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Philipp Nicolai, 1599; harm. J.S. Bach

The familiar tune, known as the "Queen of Chorales" was first used with the German hymn Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern (both words and music by Philipp Nicolai), also translated by Winkworth as O morning star how fair and bright.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

I've never seen this one before. Maybe because I've never gone to a Lutheran church. But I do find these words quite inspiring!