Page:EB1911 - Volume 14.djvu/201

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189
HYMNS


Ferdinand III. Martin Rinckhart, in 1636, wrote the “Chorus of God’s faithful children” (“Nun danket alle Gott”—“Now thank we all our God”), introduced by Mendelssohn in his “Lobgesang,” which has been called the “Te Deum” of Germany, being usually sung on occasions of public thanksgiving. Weissel, in 1635, composed a beautiful Advent hymn (“Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates”), and J. M. Meyfart, professor of theology at Erfurt, in 1642, a fine adaptation of the ancient “Urbs beata Hierusalem.” The hymn of trust in Providence by George Neumark, librarian to that duke of Weimar (“Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten”—“Leave God to order all thy ways”), is scarcely, if at all, inferior to that of Paul Gerhardt on the same theme. Paul Flemming, a great traveller and lover of nature, who died in 1639, also wrote excellent compositions, coloured by the same tone of feeling; and some, of great merit, were composed, soon after the close of the war, by Louisa Henrietta, electress of Brandenburg, granddaughter of the famous admiral Coligny, and mother of the first king of Prussia. With these may be classed (though of later date) a few striking hymns of faith and prayer under mental anxiety, by Anton Ulrich, duke of Brunswick.

The most copious, and in their day most esteemed, hymn-writers of the first half of the 17th century, were Johann Heermann and Johann Rist. Heermann, a pastor in Silesia, the theatre (in a peculiar degree) of war and persecution, experienced in his own person a very large share of the Rist. miseries of the time, and several times narrowly escaped a violent death. His Devoti musica cordis, published in 1630, reflects the feelings natural under such circumstances. With a correct style and good versification, his tone is subjective, and the burden of his hymns is not praise, but prayer. Among his works (which enter largely into most German hymn-books), two of the best are the “Song of Tears” and the “Song of Comfort,” translated by Miss Winkworth in her Christian Singers of Germany. Rist published about 600 hymns, “pressed out of him,” as he said, “by the cross.” He was a pastor, and son of a pastor, in Holstein, and lived after the peace to enjoy many years of prosperity, being appointed poet-laureate to the emperor and finally ennobled. The bulk of his hymns, like those of other copious writers, are of inferior quality; but some, particularly those for Advent, Epiphany, Easter Eve and on Angels, are very good. They are more objective than those of Heermann, and written, upon the whole, in a more manly spirit. Dach. Next to Heermann and Rist in fertility of production, and above them in poetical genius, was Simon Dach, professor of poetry at Königsberg, who died in 1659. Miss Winkworth ranks him high among German poets, “for the sweetness of form and depth of tender contemplative emotion to be found in his verses.”

The fame of all these writers was eclipsed in the latter part of the same century by three of the greatest hymnographers whom Germany has produced—Paul Gerhardt (1604–1676), Johann Franck (1618–1677) and Johann Scheffler (1624–1677), the founder of the “second Silesian school,” who Gerhardt. assumed the name of “Angelus Silesius.” Gerhardt is by universal consent the prince of Lutheran poets. His compositions, which may be compared, in many respects, to those of the Christian Year, are lyric poems, of considerable length, rather than hymns, though many hymns have been taken from them. They are, with few exceptions, subjective, and speak the language of individual experience. They occupy a middle ground between the masculine simplicity of the old Lutheran style and the highly wrought religious emotion of the later pietists, towards whom they on the whole incline. Being nearly all excellent, it is not easy to distinguish among the 123 those which are entitled to the highest praise. Two, which were written one during the war and the other after the conclusion of peace, “Zeuch ein zu deinen Thoren” (“Come to Thy temple here on earth”), and “Gottlob, nun ist erschollen” (“Thank God, it hath resounded”), are historically interesting. Of the rest, one is well known and highly appreciated in English through Wesley’s translation, “Commit thou all thy ways”; and the evening and spring-tide hymns (“Now all the woods are sleeping” and “Go forth, my heart, and seek delight”) show an exquisite feeling for nature; while nothing can be more tender and pathetic than “Du bist zwar mein und bleibest mein” (“Thou’rt Franck. mine, yes, still thou art mine own”), on the death of his son. Franck, who was burgomaster of Guben in Lusatia, has been considered by some second only to Gerhardt. If so, it is with a great distance between them. His approach to the later pietists is closer than that of Gerhardt. His hymns were published, under the title of Geistliche und weltliche Gedichte, in 1674, some of them being founded on Ambrosian and other Latin originals. Miss Winkworth gives them the praise of a condensed and polished style and fervid and impassioned thought. It was after his conversion to Roman Catholicism that Scheffler. Scheffler adopted the name of “Angelus Silesius,” and published in 1657 his hymns, under a fantastic title, and with a still more fantastic preface. Their keynote is divine love; they are enthusiastic, intense, exuberant in their sweetness, like those of St Bernard among medieval poets. An adaptation of one of them, by Wesley, “Thee will I love, my Strength, my Tower,” is familiar to English readers. Those for the first Sunday after Epiphany, for Sexagesima Sunday and for Trinity Sunday, in Lyra Germanica, are good examples of his excellences, with few of his defects. His hymns are generally so free from the expression, or even the indirect suggestion, of Roman Catholic doctrine, that it has been supposed they were written before his conversion, though published afterwards. The evangelical churches of Germany found no difficulty in admitting them to that prominent place in their services which they have ever since retained.

Towards the end of the 17th century, a new religious school arose, to which the name of “Pietists” was given, and of which Philipp Jakob Spener was esteemed the founder. He and his pupils and successors, August Hermann Francke and Anastasius Freylinghausen, all wrote hymns. Pietists. Spener’s hymns are not remarkable, and Francke’s are not numerous. Freylinghausen was their chief singer; his rhythm is lively, his music florid; but, though his book attained extraordinary popularity, he was surpassed in solid merit by other less fertile writers of the same school. The “Auf hinauf zu deiner Freude” (“Up, yes, upward to thy gladness”) of Schade may recall to an English reader a hymn by Seagrave, and more than one by Lyte; the “Malabarian hymn” (as it was called by Jacobi) of Johann Schütz, “All glory to the Sovereign Good,” has been popular in England as well as Germany; and one of the most exquisite strains of pious resignation ever written is “Whate’er my God ordains is right,” by Samuel Rodigast.

Joachim Neander, a schoolmaster at Düsseldorf, and a friend of Spener and Schütz (who died before the full development of the “Pietistic” school), was the first man of eminence in the “Reformed” or Calvinistic Church who imitated Lutheran hymnody. This he did, while suffering persecution Neander. from the elders of his own church for some other religious practices, which he had also learnt from Spener’s example. As a poet, he is sometimes deficient in art; but there is feeling, warmth and sweetness in many of his “Bundeslieder” or “Songs of the Covenant,” and they obtained general favour, both in the Reformed and in Lutheran congregations. The Summer Hymn (“O Thou true God alone”) and that on the glory of God in creation (“Lo, heaven and earth and sea and air”) are instances of his best style.

With the “Pietists” may be classed Benjamin Schmolke and Dessler, representatives of the “Orthodox” division of Spener’s school; Philipp Friedrich Hiller, their leading poet in South Germany; Gottfried Arnold and Gerhard Tersteegen, who were practically independent of ecclesiastical Schmolke. organization, though connected, one with the “Orthodox” and the other with the “Reformed” churches; and Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf von Zinzendorf. Schmolke, a pastor in Silesia, called the Silesian Rist (1672–1737), was perhaps the most voluminous of all German hymn-writers. He wrote 1188 religious poems and hymns, a large proportion of which do not