26 October 2017

An Odd Change

My son is singing in one of the Reformation mass choirs here in southern Illinois. He called me up last night, slightly annoyed. "You can't belt those words out the way the music demands." He was referring to the (what? Gentler?) updated words that conclude "A Mighty Fortress." Of course, they used to read:

And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child, and wife,
Let these all be gone,
They yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

He had checked the German and this is a very good translation of the original:

Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib:
lass fahren dahin,
sie haben's kein' Gewinn,
das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.

But in the updated version, this has become not nearly so defiant:

And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child, and wife,
Though these all be gone,
Our vic'try has been won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

His frustration was that this loses the whole defiant tone: "YOU HAVEN'T WON!" Even when you deprive us of what is nearest and dearest in our lives. It's just a sad change that "tames" Luther's more gutsy and powerful original. There are a couple examples in our current of hymnal of this political toning down (in this instance, wouldn't want the wife and kids to think they don't matter, would we?) and the result is the hymn is a bit emasculated. I wish we COULD sing it the old way on this Reformation. Good observation, David.

2 comments:

Elsa Quanbeck said...

Odd indeed! We used this new version on Sunday for our joint Reformation Service. It was the closing hymn and became chaotic when some of the folks sang from memory the old words and those reading from the service folder sang what was written there. Why was the change necessary?

Carl Vehse said...

LORD, keep us in Thy Word and work,
Restrain the murderous Pope and Turk,
Who fain would tear from off Thy throne
Christ Jesus, Thy beloved Son.

Martin Luther, 1541; Text from: EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN HYMN-BOOK (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1912), pp. 278-279