Tuesday, May 24, 2016

English Version is Song 9 in 1928 Songbook


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Interesting words from Luther which, I suspect, may have fallen into disuse with many in Nazi Germany. No doubt the Bibelforscher were keen to sing it however, especially the last verse.

Assuming it has been translated correctly, I understand the words are:

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Son of Ton

roberto said...

Can you give me more details about this song?

Miquel Angel Plaza-Navas said...

if i am not wrong, lyrics at 1928 songbook (song no 9) was as follows. Only three verses and two or three changes.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never falling;
Our helper he amid the flood
The little flock assailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe,
His craft and pow'r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right One on our side,
The One of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he!
"The mighty God" his name,
From age to age the same;
And he must win the battle.

And though this world with evils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His cause to triumph for us.
Let goods and kindred go;
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill,
God's truth abideth;
His kingdom is forever.

Miquel Angel Plaza-Navas said...

At hymnary.org you can find about this hymn:

This hymn is often referred to as “the battle hymn” of the Reformation. Many stories have been relayed about its use. Albert Bailey writes, “It was, as Heine said, the Marseillaise of the Reformation…It was sung in the streets…It was sung by poor Protestant emigres on their way to exile, and by martyrs at their death…Gustavus Adolphus ordered it sung by his army before the battle of Leipzig in 1631…Again it was the battle hymn of his army at Lutzen in 1632…It has had a part in countless celebrations commemorating the men and events of the Reformation; and its first line is engraved on the base of Luther’s monument at Wittenberg…An imperishable hymn! Not polished and artistically wrought but rugged and strong like Luther himself, whose very words seem like deeds” (The Gospel in Hymns, 316). As you can see, this is a hymn close to the hearts of Protestants and Lutherans, a source of assurance in times of duress and persecution. The text is not restricted, however, to times of actual physical battles. In any time of need, when we do battle with the forces of evil, God is our fortress to hide us and protect us, and the Word that endures forever will fight for us.

Luther wrote this text sometime between 1527 and 1529 as a paraphrase of Psalm 46, though stanza four comes directly from Luther’s own persecution experience. The most commonly used English version is a translation by Frederick H. Hedge in 1853. The text is full of battle imagery; this, coupled with the historic use of the hymn in actual battles, can be troubling for Christians who struggle with making sense of warfare. There is a case for arguing that we need to see this hymn in light of the history in which it was written, when Christians were fighting to defend their faith. However, this text also needs to be understood in terms of a spiritual struggle against the powers of darkness. Whether we believe in very real, physical demons and tempters, or less concrete forces, we are in the midst of a very real war between good and evil. That sounds very dramatic and almost cliché, but it is important to remember. Luther reminds us that we can’t simply sit back and watch as horrible things unfold in our world, but that we must join the battle, knowing that God is on our side, and that we fight for a side that has, in a sense, already won.

This tune of Luther’s EIN FESTE BURG, was, like most tunes written around the time, originally scored in rhythmic form, which can be found in Psalter Hymnal 468. This rhythmic form, as described by Paul Westermeyer, was “a secure and jubilant textual dance that trips up the foe.” Westermeyer goes on to describe the isometric version we’re all used to as “a partisan battle cry that mistakenly turned Luther’s energetic paradox (a fortress moves and fights for us) into immobile stasis” (Let the People Sing, 59). The solid and majestic rhythm we sing today definitely exemplifies the theme of “fortress,” but misses this paradox as Westermeyer describes it. A fighting fortress must be agile, and, as Calvin Seerveld writes, “If we can reinstate the original rhythm and spirited lilt of Luther’s stirring song, maybe we can also bestir ourselves today to hear and sing the song Luther gave us, not just in its dogmatic strength, but with the charismatic faith vitality he gave it” (“Getting into Martin Luther’s Groove,” reformedworship.com).

Seerveld suggests having a choir perform the rhythmic setting first, since it will most likely seem very foreign to your congregation. Another option is to use the isometric structure, but swing the quarter notes, dotting every first and third beat.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks to Miquel for the excellent background information.

Son of Ton

roberto said...

I agree with the Son of Ton. Gracias Miquel