Friday 26 June 2020

Thomas Kingo: Dend fierde Aften-sang'

One of the giants in Danish literature is Thomas Kingo (1634-1703), whose literary production is more varied than the Danish  Hymn Book might suggest, including wonderful 'heart-felt' sighs that are quite short. Hymns, however, were often long. Despite this, Kingo's verse has a vigour and drive that fill out the format. And his great earthiness and physicality I find welcome in a hymn-writer. Who else would round off a hymn by saying this to his body: 'Go sleep now, sack of worms!'?

the fourth evening song

The bright sun starts to set, soon evening will be here,
Each labourer is tired and hopes that rest is near:
To death I am yet one day closer than before,
Time for me
Is opening death’s door.

Here time is interchanged, with day replaced by night,
A shadow only of the sun is still in sight!
And finally the world has lost its gloriousness,
Grave’s black maw
And worms that gnaw
Is all that we’ll possess.

Then think, o think again, my soul, your rest don’t seek
Within the world, in faith and fortitude so weak!
A moment since the sun was here, now all is dark,
With the night
The world once bright
Turns desert-like and stark.

I make my way through grass that’s hung with drops of dew
And nature says: Just stop and ponder what’s in view:
The morning’s blossoming, how sadly it has pined!
What once thrived
Has not survived,
Ah! Bear all this in mind.

Be calm, my soul, for on this thought I need to brood:
How patient my God is with me, how mild and good,
I see my striking likeness in the hay and flowers,
Day and night
Teach me aright
The briefness of my hours.

A thousand thanks, o God, who from eternity
Have even so for me in time cared constantly!
Right from the instant that I here on earth did dwell
Of my clay
You have alway
Made more than I can tell.

Of sinful human blood you washed me white as snow,
And in your Son gave me a root on which to grow,
Have raised and nurtured me with your true word as bread,
Yea, my soul
Is oft made whole
When by your food it’s fed.

By your great mercy I’ve been spared all dire
Misfortune until now, in spite of Satan’s ire,
My daily bread on me you also have bestowed
In the cup
From which I sup
Have grace and mercy flowed.

But, o my God, forgive the wrongs I would disown,
Ignore the shoots that from the root of sin have grown,
And my bad conscience from its bonds of sin set free,
Cast them down
And let them drown
For ever in the sea.

Install a watch of guardian angels round my bed,
Let Satan never in my house one footstep tread,
Bring heaven to my mind, make pure my head and heart
May my soul
Remain quite whole,
Unpierced by flesh’s dart.

Your church enlighten, let your glory spread out wide,
Embrace with godly love your spiritual bride
Which in the North you’ve nurtured to your praise,
Vengeance wreak
On those who seek 
Her harm or some malaise.

Lord, let your blessedness before the king’s face go,
And all his enemies like scythed corn be brought low
Increase his earthly glory, let his life be long
May his line
With virtues fine
Know power both great and strong.

O Father, in your mercy, down from heaven gaze
On all your Christendom, all misery erase!
I now am almost ready to retire to bed,
Grant that I
In you may lie
And safely rest my head.

Come, mighty angel host, on soul and body shed
God’s rest and peace, and on what else that lies ahead!
Go sleep now, sack of worms, God’s waking call shall be
Here anon,
But later on
To his eternity.

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