GERMAN PROTESTANT HYMNS
Den allcr Wcltkreis nie beschloss, Dcr lieget in Maric'n Schoss ; Er ist ein Kindlcin worden klcin, Der alio Ding' erhalt allcin. Kyrieleis ! " * 3>
The first stanza alone is mediaeval, the remaining six of the hymn are Luther's.
The Christmas hymns of Paul Gerhardt, the seventeenth-century Berlin pastor, stand next to Luther's. They are more subjective, more finished, less direct and forcible. Lacking the finest qualities of poetry, they are nevertheless impressive by their dignity and heartiness. Made for music, the words alone hardly convey the full power of these hymns. They should be heard sung to the old chorales, massive, yet sweet, by the lusty voices of a German congregation. To English people they are probably best known through the verses introduced into the " Christmas Oratorio," where the old airs are given new beauty by Bach's marvellous harmonies. The tone of devotion, one feels, in Gerhardt and Bach is the same, immeasurably greater as is the genius of the composer ; in both there is a profound joy in the Redemption begun by the Nativity, a robust faith joined to a deep sense of the mystery of suffering, and a keen sympathy with childhood, a tender fondness for the Infant King.
* " Now blessed be Thou, Christ Jesu, Thou art man born, this is true ; The angels made a merry noise, Yet have we more cause to rejoice, Kirieleyson.
The blessed Son of God only, In a crib full poor did lie, With our poor flesh and our poor blood, Was clothed that everlasting Good. Kirieleyson.
He that made heaven and earth of nought, In our flesh hath our health brought, For our sake made He Himself full small, That reigneth Lord and King over all. Kirieleyson." 32