Archive for the ‘Stopford Brooke’ Tag

Silent Night   3 comments

Silent Night

Above:  Part of the Hymn, from Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Silent Night (Stille Nacht in the original German) is the great Christmas hymn by Father Franz Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), dating to 1816 and published in 1818.  The note in Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013) mentions the 1816 date, which means that Mohr had the text sitting around long before the Christmas Eve service of 1818.  This fact overturns the part of the traditional story which had the priest writing the text in 1818.

There are English translations of the German text, but the most famous one is that of John Freeman Young (1820-1885), from 1863.  He served as the Episcopal Bishop of Florida from 1867 to 1885.  The most common variations over time in his text explain the difference between

Silent night! Holy night!

and

Silent night, holy night!

The Young text, as reprinted in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996), follows:

1.  Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright,

Round yon Virgin mother and Child.

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

2.  Silent night! Holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar;

Heav’nly hosts sing, Alleluia;

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!

3.  Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Marilyn Kay Stulken, in the Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1981), tells me that the above lyrics were anonymous until 1957.  This is consistent with my survey of old hymnals in my collection.  And I have one hymnal published in 1994 which continues to list the author of these lyrics as anonymous.

These words, the John Freeman Young lyrics, remain unaltered (except for the discrepancy between a comma and an exclamation point) in most contemporary hymnals.  Even The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s Lutheran Worship (1982), which turns My Faith Looks Up to Thee into My Faith Looks Trustingly, leaves Silent Night as it was.  Yet The New Century Hymnal (1995), United Church of Christ, which contains rewrites of almost all hymns therein, changes the third verse so that

Son of God

becomes

Child of God

and

thy

becomes

your.

I started thinking about the lyrics of Silent Night late last night, when I picked up my copy of Concordia:  A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1917) and flipped through its Christmas section.  There I found different lyrics, which The Lutheran Hymnary (1935) replicates.  These words follow:

1.  Holy night! peaceful night!

Through the darkness beams a light,

Yonder, where they sweet vigils keep

O’er the Babe who in silent sleep,

Rests in heavenly peace,

Rests in heavenly peace.

2.  Silent night! holiest night!

Darkness flies, and all is light!

Shepherds hear the angels sing:

Jesus the Savior is here!

Jesus the Savior is here!

3.  Silent night! holiest night!

Guiding Star, O lend thy light!

See the eastern wise men bring

Gifts and homage to our King!

Jesus the Savior is here!

Jesus the Savior is here!

4.  Silent night! holiest night!

Wondrous Star, O lend thy light!

With the angels let us sing,

Hallelujah to our King!

Jesus our Savior is here!

Jesus our Savior is here!

I have seen this fourth stanza accompany the Young lyrics in modern hymnals.  Sometimes these volumes attribute the final verse to Bishop Young, sometimes to Anonymous, and to Jane Montgomery Campbell (1817-1878) on other occasions.  I do not know how many other stanzas she translated, but I know that she deserves the credit for the first verse of the version of the hymn from The Hymnal (1933), Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.:

1.  Silent night! holy night!

All is dark, save the light

Yonder, where they sweet vigil keep

O’er the Babe who in silent sleep

Rests in heavenly peace,

Rests in heavenly peace.

2.  Peaceful night! holiest night!

Darkness flies, all is light;

Shepherds hear the angels sing:

“Alleluia! hail the King!

Christ the Saviour is here!

Christ the Saviour is here!”

3.  Silent night! holiest night!

Child of heaven, O how bright

Thou didst smile on us when Thou wast born!

Blest indeed that happy morn,

Full of heavenly joy!

Full of heavenly joy!

I have found various composite versions in The Evangelical Hymnal (1921) and The Methodist Hymnal (1935), both forebears of The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), as well as in the American Lutheran Hymnal (1930).  The latter volume contains the John Freeman Young version then an alternative rendering, a composite which includes the second Young verse.  The first and third stanzas of that composite version follow:

1.  Silent night, holy night!

Golden stars shed their light.

While yon virgin tenderly wakes

At the manger till morning breaks

O’er the heavenly Child,

O’er the heavenly Child.

3.  Silent night, holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Shines so sweetly out of Thine eyes;

‘Tis the light of salvation we prize,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

In 1881 Stopford Brooke (1832-1916), an Irish Anglican clergyman who had converted recently to Unitarianism, published Christian Hymns, reissued twelve years later.  This book included his translation of the Mohr text:

1.  Still the night, holy the night!

Sleeps the world! yet the light

Shines where Mary watches there,

Her child Jesus loved and fair.

Sleeping in heavenly rest;

Sleeping in heavenly rest.

2.  Still the night, holy the night!

Shepherds first told aright

How the Angel of the star

Sang so clear from near and far–

Jesus, a Saviour, is born;

Jesus, a Saviour, is born.

3.  Still the night, holy the night!

Little child, O how bright

Love is smiling from thy face!

Now strikes sweet the hour of grace;

Jesus, our Master, is here,

Jesus, our Master, is here.

The Church Hymnary (1927), Presbyterian, contains a related translation based on the Brooke version:

1.  Still the night, holy the night!

Sleeps the world; hid from sight,

Mary and Joseph in stable bare

Watch o’er the Child beloved and fair,

Sleeping in heavenly rest,

Sleeping in heavenly rest.

2.  Still the night, holy the night!

Shepherds first saw the light,

Heard resounding clear and long,

Far and near, the angel-song,

“Christ the Redeemer is here!

Christ the Redeemer is here!”

3.  Still the night, holy the night!

Son of God,O how bright

Love is smiling from Thy face!

Strikes for us now the hour of grace,

Saviour, since Thou art born!

Saviour, since Thou art born!

I wonder how many other English-language versions I will find.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++