Sunday, September 13, 2009

Catherine Winkworth

Hymn translator Catherine Winkworth was born today in 1827 in London, and moved to Manchester at a young age, where she spent much of the rest of her life. Her interest in translating German hymns of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was perhaps sparked by the gift of a book (with the generic title Andachtsbuch, or "devotional book") containing some of these hymns, which she received from Christian Karl Bunsen, a family friend who also happened to be the British ambassador to Germany.

Catherine, assisted by her sister Susanna, published two volumes of hymn translations from German titled Lyra Germanica. The first, in 1855, contained 103 hymns, and the second, in 1858, contained 131. These books contained only the texts. In 1863, with the assistance of musical editors
William Sterndale Bennett and Otto Goldschmidt, Catherine published The Chorale Book for England, which paired many of her translations to their original German tunes.

Several of her translations have already appeared here (click on her name in the tags below). This familiar hymn is adapted from one of her best known translations from a hymn by Joachim Neander, published in the Chorale Book with its original German tune arranged by Sterndale Bennett. She retained the original meter which is quite unusual for a hymn in English: two very long lines (14 syllables!) followed by a very short line of four syllables and then finished with two lines relatively normal in length. I don't think there is another tune that would fit it.

Praise be to God, the Almighty, who rules all creation!
O my soul, worship the wellspring of health and salvation!
Join the great throng,

Psaltery, organ, and song;
Sound forth your glad adoration.

Praise be to God, who o'er all things is wondrously reigning,
And as on wings of an eagle, uplifting, sustaining!
Have you not seen

All that is needful has been
Sent by God's gracious ordaining?

Praise be to God, who will prosper your work and defend you;
Surely God's goodness and mercy here daily attend you;
Ponder anew

What the Almighty can do,
Who with great love shall befriend you.

Praise be to God, O forget not God's manifold graces!
Each that has life and breath, one song of gratitude raises;
Let the Amen

Sound from God's people again,
Singing forever God's praises.

Joachim Neander, 1680
tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863; alt.
Ander Theil des Erneuerten Gesangbuch, 1665

harm. William Sterndale Bennett, 1864

Winkworth's four-stanza translation (fairly free to begin with, according to contemporaneous sources) has been altered in several different ways by several generations of hymnal editors, but the sense is the same. In the English Hymnal (1906) there were three additional stanzas added which were not from the German original, and perhaps written by Percy Dearmer. This is the best of them, I think (though I probably wouldn't add it in myself):

Praise be to God, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around you are raging,
Bids them to cease,
Turning their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

One Year Ago: Catherine Winkworth

No comments: