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XVIIth century. He never sought any laurels. He goes on his way writing because his heart is so full, and not from any desire or intention to devote himself to poetry. A fine feeling for rhythm schooled under the principles of Opitz, language taken from the best sacred literature including Luther's Bible and almost entirely free from foreign words,17 avoidance of bombast and coarseness18 of which so many contemporary writers were guilty, richness in figures and analogies, tenderness which on occasion yields to sternness, are all attributes of his writing. The mother of Hippel1o says of him:
"Er war ein Gast auf Erden20 und überall in seinen 120 Liedern ist Sonnenwende gesäet. Diese Blume dreht sich beständig nach der Sonne21 und Gerhardt nach der seligen Ewigkeit."
Gerhardt's poems are all permeated with this hope for future happiness in Heaven and with a childlike joy in this hope. He may sing of the beauties of summer, yet with that his thoughts go further and he soon begins to reflect upon the greater beauties of Heaven. In his "Reiselied" (Goed. 248) he begins by urging on his horse; suddenly he changes from the beauties of the hill and vale to the joy of eternity. Even in an uncouth poem about health (Goed. 244) appear the lines:
"Gib mir meine Lebenszeit
Und dort in der Ewigkeit
We have said that biblical phraseology plays a large part in Gerhardt's hymns. In fact many lines are a direct translation of passages in scripture. In two or three of them a single dogma appears very plainly, but elsewhere pure doctrine is the basis of each poem. God is a friendly and gracious God, not a "bear or lion,"22 but a Father reconciled by Christ's death,entirely a New Testament conception. He even addresses the Almighty as a good companion:
"Sollt aber dein und unser Feind
An dem, was dein Herz gut gemeint,
Beginnen sich zu rächen:
Ist das mein Trost, dasz seinen Zorn
"He uses the following: Clerisei, Fantasei, Victoria, Policeien, Regiment, Summa, Ranzion, Compagnie, Regente, studieren, formieret, vexieren, jubilieren.
18 Lines such as "Trotz sei dir, du trotzender Kot!" (Goed. 5, 65) were comparatively inoffensive to XVIIth century standards.
19 Cf. Frau Th. v. Hippel, "Sämmtliche Werke," Berlin, 1827, I, 27 ff.
'Cf. "Ich bin ein Gast auf Erden" Goed. 284.
Sonnenwende, "heliotrope," from the Greek, literally "turning toward the sun."
22 Cf. Goed. 62, 17—“Er ist ja kein Bär noch Leue."
23 Cf. Goed. 217, 56-60.
The Redeemer is mentioned in barely half of Gerhardt's poems. It has therefore been often said that the poet esteemed the graces of Redemption less than those of Creation. He is fully conscious of the former, hence he can resign himself to the latter and dwell upon them in all their phases. On the basis of the Atonement there springs up in his mind the whole Christian life with all its experiences of salvation, consolation, patience, mastery of sin and suffering. Since he does not sing solely for church worship, but for family devotion and for personal edification, he necessarily must observe and discourse upon the various vicissitudes of life in sickness and health, in strife and peace.
Inasmuch as Gerhardt is a poet of unusually fine feeling for the rhythmical and melodious peculiarities of the German tongue, he appreciates the interdependence of verse rhythm and thought showing always a nicety in choosing the right word to suit the measure. The lines:
are at once suggestive of Nature in repose. The harmonious connection of words of kindred meaning, "Ruh und Rast," "Gnad und Gunst,"25 and frequent use of assonance, "Not und Tod," "Füll und Hüll," etc. are introduced not merely to catch the ear, but to accentuate the artistic effect, which shows us that Gerhardt is more than a master of the language, that he writes with an inexhaustible naturalness. He intended his style to be popular in the sense of appealing to the people, and it is here that he manifests the intimate relation of his poetry to the Volkslied without forsaking the proper limits of artistic poetry.
"Aber nun steh ich
Bin munter und frölich."26
In observing certain defects such as the awkwardness and imperfect rhyme in the couplet:
even Gerhardt's most devoted admirers must regret that he did not feel the necessity of giving to his verses the final rounding-off, or did not possess the ability to do so. Yet what many critics have regarded as faults, must, when fairly analyzed, be recognized as contributing much to the effect and as being in accord with the Sprachpoesie of the people. For example, the richness in alliteration, "Ich mein Heil und Hülfe hab,"27 "Ich lechze wie ein Land,"28 the juxtaposition of words of the same root, "Erbarm dich, o
Goed. 60, 1 and 2.
25 For a tabulation of Alliteration, Assonance, etc., cf. Appendix, pp. 149 ff.
26 Goed. 293, 8 and 9.
27 Goed. 93, 6.
28 Goed. 65, 46.
barmherzigs Herz,"29 "Ich lieb ihr liebes Angesicht," as well as the frequent repetition of words or use of refrains31 show the power of his language and offer a striking method of expressing inmost sympathy. What real fervor is indicated in the lines:
Just as Gerhardt was a loyal devotee to his mother-tongue, so also he stood aloof from the tendency of his time to adopt foreign characteristics in verse. Only twice has he employed the Alexandrine so fashionable in the period, and other foreign verse-forms he avoids entirely. On the other hand in so comparatively small a number of poems the variety of his verse structure is unusual. Gerhardt knew Buchner34 in his Wittenberg student days and owes to him his technical training in versification which his strophes show. He uses in them iambic, trochaic and especially dactyllicanapaestic metres which Buchner had declared permissible. Hahne35 enumerates in Gerhardt's poems fifty-one kinds of strophe among which six are quite complicated. Three of these, as appear in the poems, "Frölich soll mein Herze springen," Goed. 155; “Gib dich zufrieden," 274; and “Die güldne Sonne," 293, must be regarded as original with Gerhardt. While these three are not artistic and harmonious, they are, nevertheless, in exact accord with the type of melody prevalent in the XVIIth century.
Our poet has shown preference for the older German strophes which belong to popular poetry and had most firmly held their own in the spiritual song because of its relation to the Volkslied and also for the Nibelungen strophe of eight lines. Eighteen36 times he uses the well known seven-line ballad strophe and twice37 the six-lined strophe of the Wanderlied "Innsbruck, ich musz dich lassen" "38 which even as early as the Reformation had come into wide use in hymnody. He has also frequently employed the rhymed couplet in the four-lined stanza. The verse-structure in the remainder of his poems may generally be traced back to lays long since
29 Goed. 7, 76.
30 Goed. 260, 41.
"Dasz ich dich möge für und für
31 Cf. the refrains in Goed. 106; 139; 235.
32 Goed. 158, 94.
33 "Du liebe Unschuld du, wie schlecht wirst du geacht!" (Goed. 3) and "Herr Lindholtz legt sich hin und schläft in Gottes Namen" (Goed. 252).
34 Cf. p. 2.
Hahne, F., P. Gerhardt und A. Buchner in Euphorion 15, p. 19-34.
36 Goed. 10; 21; 23; 51; 125; 134; 158; 171; 190; 209; 253; 271; 298; 315; 317; 325;.
37 Goed. 60 and 71.
Regarding this melody cf. p. 100.
native to the church, though one strophe "Sollt ich meinem Gott nicht singen" appears for the first time, as far as we know, in Johann Rist's 40 hymns. Realizing, furthermore, that a composition becomes truly a poem only through its harmony Gerhardt clung to the well known melodies, adapting his new text to them that through the music his hymns might the more easily become familiar. Thus he composed "Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld" to the melody "An Wasserflüssen Babylon," and "O Welt, sich hier dein Leben" and "Nun ruhen alle Wälder" to "Innsbruck, ich musz dich lassen," and in fact his hymns were known at first only through their musical setting. Like Luther, he wished to teach the people song12 and it is evident that in composing he usually had some definite melody in mind, and what Johann Walther had been to Luther, Crüger13 was to Gerhardt. To this choir master we owe the first significant publication of our poet's hymns. Many musicians have adapted his hymns to music; Bach made use of them in a number of his cantatas and his Passion music,** and five times in his rapturous Weihnachtsoratorium do we find Gerhardt's words. Of recent musicians who have been interested in his poetry as a basis for their compositions mention must be made of Albert Becher (d. 1899), H. von Herzogenberg (d. 1900) and especially the Bavarian clergyman, Friedrich Mergner** (1818-1891), who has so thoroughly caught the spirit of Gerhardt. As early as 1732-1800 six Catholic hymn books in quite general use throughout Germany had included in all, thirteen of Gerhardt's hymns, and "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" can be heard in many Catholic churches to-day, even in the Cologne Cathedral.*
Gerhardt was essentially a "Gelegenheitsdichter," a poet of occasions, choosing for his themes the various vicissitudes of life and such events as would present themselves to an earnest pastor devoted to the flock under his care. We may define him more precisely as a poet of consolation, for at least seventeen of his hymns are to be classed as "Songs of the Cross and Consolation,"48 and fully half his work contains much that is intended as a source of comfort in the many afflictions of the troublous times in which
39 Goed. 235.
41 Cf. p. 100.
42 Cf. p. 10.
43 Cf. p. 2.
44 Cf. p. 43.
45 From Goed. 25; 310; 150; 155; 158.
46 Cf. P. Gerhardt's Geistl. Lieder in neuen Weisen von Fr. Mergner. 30 ausgewählte Lieder von Karl Schmidt, Leipzig, C. Deichert, 1907.
"Cf. J. Smend: P. Gerhardt u. das evangel. Kirchenlied in Der Protestantismus am Ende des 19. Jahrh. I, pp. 301, ff.
Cf. Index by subjects, Appendix, pp. 158 ff.
he lived. An enumeration of "Trost" words shows the use of "Trost" 51 times, "getrost" II, "trösten" 10, "trostlos," "tröstlich" 2, besides numerous phrases such as "Erschrecke nicht," "Sei unverzagt, 50 "Sei ohne Furcht,"51 "Gott hat mich nicht verlassen."52 In this connection we should consider Gerhardt's use of the word "Trost." With him it seems often to have a wider meaning than merely solace, or comfort. At times it approaches even its English cognate trust, or at least that comfort or assurance which is born of trust.53 In the poem beginning "Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott" the word seems clearly to be used in this sense in line 7:
Merkst du nicht des Satans List?
At other times the meaning is apparently the ground of confidence or reliance, as in the line: "Dein Arm ist mein Trost gewesen.' Since joy is to Gerhardt innately associated with the theme of comfort, we find in his verses a host of phrases embodying cheer and joy:
Lasz deine Frömmigkeit
By enumeration we find the use of "Freude" 161 times; of "Freudenlicht" (-quell, -schein, etc.) 33 times; of "freuen" and "erfreuen" 22 times; of "froh," "frö (h)lich," "freudig," "freudenvoll," "selig," etc. 50 times; of other kindred expressions, such as "Lust," "Wonne," "Seligkeit,” "Freudigkeit," etc. 8 times. Stanza VI of the "Adventgesang" (Goed. 108) is a fair example of Gerhardt's fondness for singing of joys both temporal and spiritual:
Aller Trost und aller Freude
49 Goed. 271,
51 Goed. 289, 3.
62 Goed. 296, 31.
53 Cf. the meaning of the modern German "getrost."
Goed. 135, 7; cf. also Goed. 135, 132; 30, 127; 150, 74; 217, 59; 317, 40.
55 Goed. 145, 19; cf. also Goed. 46, 16; 150, 43.
Goed. 65, 22. For the frequent use of "Trost und Freude" and "Freude und Trost," cf. Appendix, p. 155 and p. 153.