Sunday, 28 April 2013

Biørn Christian Lund - unknown author of one of Denmark's best-loved hymns

It was the clergyman Biørn Christian Lund (1738-1809), strongly influenced by the Moravian Brotherhood, who wrote the original hymn in 1764. It had 31 verses, the first of which was this:
Naar jeg gethsemane her faaer
I øie og dens frugt
jeg i et paradiis da gaaer
Og lugter livsens lugt.

[When here Gethsemane my eyes
should glimpse, likewise its fruit
I then walk in a paradise
And smell life’s scented root.]

As early as 1778, the poem was shortened to the last four verses, which then were passed on by word of mouth until gradually knowledge of the original author was lost. It was in this way that Grundtvig eventually came into contact with the hymn and – with the exception of some later adjustments – gave it its present-day form.

Music to the hymn was later written by Carl Nielsen, who also immortalised the tune by using it as a theme with variations in his wind quintet, op. 43.

Min Jesus, lad mit hjerte få
en sådan smag på dig,
at nat og dag du være må
min sjæl umistelig!

Da bliver nådens tid og stund
mig sød og lystelig,
til du mig kysser med din mund
og tager hjem til dig.

Mit hjerte i den grav, du lå
til påskemorgen rød,
lad, når det aftner, hvile få
og smile ad sin død!

Før så mig arme synder hjem
med din retfærdighed
til dit det ny Jerusalem,
til al din herlighed!

Oh Jesu mine, may my heart learn
for you to hunger so
that night and day my soul will yearn
you never to forgo!

Then mercy’s time and hour shall be
most sweet and joyous too,
until one day your kiss takes me
from this life home to you.

In that same grave where you did bide
till Easter morn’s first breath,
may my heart rest at eventide
and smile at its own death!

Then take me home, poor sinner I,
in righteousness and love
to your Jerusalem on high,
to glory up above!

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