« AnteriorContinuar »
How shall my weak and erring eyes,
O'er which with its detested night
Endure to look on Thy pure light ?” The Hymn (189) which John Wesley placed at the commencement of part iv., section i. of our present Hymn-Book, is worthy thus to lead the enraptured choir of "Believers Rejoicing.” It is from the German of Johann Andreas Rothe, a native of Lissa in Görlitz, born May 12th, 1688, where his father was the minister. After having studied at Leipzig, in 1722, on Count Zinzendorf's invitation, he accepted the charge of pastor at Berthelsdorf, in which he continued fifteen years. He was a very pious and talented man, the friend of Count Zinzendorf, who, on his recommendation, invited Christian David to Herrnhuth. He was the author of several theological works, and of forty-five hymns. He died in 1758. In 1740 John Wesley published his version of one hymn, the one just referred to, penned by this great and good man.
He entitled it, “ Redemption Found ;” it is a triumphant song of praise, in which the translator expresses his gratitude for his new-found pearl and security: and every believer who reads it must share in the delight.
Mr. G. Stevenson relates, on the authority of a letter written by P. H. Molther, a name familiar to the reader of Mr. Wesley's “ Journal,” an anecdote which shows that whatever freedom he allowed himself in preparing his hymns “from the German,” the utmost care was exercised by him in the process, and every available means employed for securing correctness. When he had made his version of this hymn, he sent a copy of it to Mr. Molther for his revisal, who returned it with his appro. bation of all, excepting one verse, which Mr. Wesley altered accordingly. This was in 1740, the letter which accompanied it being dated January 25th of the year in which it was published :
“ Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul's anchor may remain :
Before the world's foundation slain ;
When heaven and earth are fled away." This hymn keeps nearer to the original than most of those from the German ; and indeed, making allowance for the necessities of rhyme and metre, may be considered nearly literal, as a comparison of the above stanza with that of the original, placed at the foot of the page, will show.*
Two of the profoundest hymns in our present Collection, originally
" Ich babe nun den Grund gefunden
Der meinen Anker ewig hält !
Da lag er vor der Zeit der Welt;
one, and now inscribed, “ Part First,” and “Part Second,” respectively, are translations from the German of Ernst Lange, a native of Danzig, where he was a magistrate, and died in 1727, at the age of seventy-seven years. He was the author of many religious poems and excellent hymns, which are full of fire and energy, and prove him to have been a man of sublime genius and ardent piety. The two hymns by which he is represented in our Hymn-Book are 240,
"O God, Thou bottomless abyss," etc., and 241,
“Thou, true and only God, lead'st forth," etc. The original poem consists of ten stanzas, two of which are omitted in the version. A more literal translation of the whole, including the omitted stanzas, in the metre of the original, may not be unacceptable to the English reader.*
"1. O God, Thou bottomless profound !
Enough of Thee how can I know?
Thy glorious attributes can show ?
I plunge me in Tby mercy's sea :
I place Thee in my view,
And would proclaim Thee too,
Thou hast no end, nor hast
Beginning in the past :
“2. Tby fountain is Eternity,
Which like Thee never has begun;
And ere Thou mad'st the earth and sun.
No period will Thy glories mete;
To Thee no change is brought,
Because Thou needest nought;
To all that moves and lives,
The power Thy bounty gives
· Four lines of the Moravian version may suffice ::
Thee to describe I am not able ;
Tby heights and depths unfathomable.'
“ 3. Through Thy Omnipotence we are,
All things originate from Thee;
If Thou wert not, nought else could be.
Whate er we know, or think, or see,
Whate'er Thou hast decreed
Becomes a real deed,
Thou to Thyself alone
Canst e'er be fully known ;
And o'er the earth extends Thy sway;
As folly doth to shame give way.
Lies all uncover'd in Thy sight
Thou dwellest in the light
Which hath no gloom or night,
Peerless Thou dost remain ;
Thine own almighty reign
O'er all the armies of the sky;
Astonish'd from Thy presence fly
Their downcast faces dare not raise,
With Thee the world is fill’d,
The conscious creature, thrillid
The world on which we gaze
The Immutable displays,
Were there a thousand worlds, to Thee
A sign of Thy supremacy.
Thy path above the highest star;
Beyond man's thought; while all
To Thee in worship fall, VOL. XIX.- FIFTH SERIES.
And must with lowly reverence bend,
Who, trusting Thee alone,
His grief to Thee makes known,
And Justice in Thy Court presides,
Compassion, too, with Thee abides :
Thy ample grace and love immense
Each moment as it flies
Fresh proof benign supplies,
Yea, all that is our own,
Must ever and alone
"8. O Father, who producest all,
Tbine are the highest power and good,
Our best success hast Thou bestow'l.
Suiting each mode of life and kind ;
Thou art a Foe to none;
Impartially Thy Sun
While falls Thy gentle rain
O'er hill, and vale, and plain,
“9. Whose mouth and heart, of all mankind,
Rightly Thy praises can resound ?
Thy service is without a bound;
For Thee a habitation meet ?
Whate'er for Thee we de,
Ourselves it blesses too;
For Thou to us hast given
Our all in earth and heaven,
“10. Yet who served Thee Thou liftest higher,
And to Thy foes wilt surely be
While joy Thy friends receive from Thee. Thy praise increaseth evermore;
The cherub hosts and seraph choirs,
Thy might and glory bless,
Thy kingdom's holiness!
The majesty is Thine,
Whose glories all outshine,
And • Holy ! holy ! holy !'cry!” A comparison of the above, which is quite as literal as the idiom of each language, and the exigencies of rhyme and metre would permit, will show the freedom and beauty of John Wesley's hymns from the German ; and thus illustrate his general manner of treating them. It should be remembered, however, that a faithful translation is not a merely verbal one, and is not produced by the substitution of a word in one language for its supposed equivalent in another. To be faithful, a version must not only give a verbal rendering, but also create the same impression as the original, and place the reader in as near a relation as possible to the mind of its author. The translator, as far as he is able, should write in his own language, as the author would have done had he employed it.
Two or three remarks on the two hymns, 240, 241, as the work of John Wesley, may here be made. In the First Part, verse 2, occurs the following line :
“Eternity Thy fountain was," which is John Wesley's rendering of the original; and so it appeared at first in our Hymn-Book. But in 1808 it was altered, and this reading substituted :
"Eternity Thy dwelling was," which so continued till 1813, when the former reading was restored. We have always felt that the past tense in this line is awkward ; "was," as if it were not so now ! “Was, and is, and is to come,” is the Scriptural description; and " from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” In the original of this hymn the expression is quite correct ;
“ Dein ursprung ist die Ewigkeit :"
“Eternity Thy fountain is." In considering the figure, we should remember that a “fountain " does not create the water which issues from it; and of the Almighty it is said, His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." The margin of our English Bible reads, Heb., The days of eternity.” (Micah v. 2.) In the Second Part, verse 2, we have :
“ Thy waken'd wrath doth slowly move,
Thy willing mercy flies apace !” Brady and Tate have almost the same words :