Danish: Som tørstige hjort monne skrige
Norwegian: Som hjorten så klagende skriker
Text: Nicolaj Fredrik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872). Tune: Ludvig Lindemann (1812-1887)
1. As after the waterbrooks panteth
The hart when it sinks in the chase,
So thirsteth. My soul, as it fainteth,
For Thee, O my God, and Thy grace;
For Thou art the fount ever living,
Who unto the thirty art giving
The water of life that I need.
2. Why art thou disquiet within me?
Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
Confide in thy God, let Him win thee!
Still hope in thy God, Him extol!
For surely once dawneth a morrow,
When, freed from thy care and thy sorrow,
Thou praises shalt sing to thy God.
3. His light and his truth, they shall lead me
In peace to his temple at last;
I rest on his word, He will speed me,
And conflict and sorrow are past;
Yes, joyful I anthems will raise Him,
With heart and with voice will I praise Him—
My heart and my life and my God!
Tr. Carl Døving
Psalm 42 is among the “Golden” psalms—if you ask people what their favorite psalm is, it may not be the first or second, but it will be on the list. The text has been paraphrased by a good number of hymn writers, among them "As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams," by Nahum Tate (1652-1715) and Nicholas Brady (1659-1726) the second generation of English paraphrasers of psalms into English. I am choosing the Grundtvig hymn simply to remind people, either those who know the Danish or Norwegian hymn, or those who grew up with the Lutheran Hymnary or the Concordia, of one of the gems left behind—admittedly it needs an updated translation—but you can get the idea.
Go to the psalm and read it all. These stanzas are selected from Grundtvig’s seven stanzas in which he also uses Psalm 43, thought to be part of the same psalm. It has comforted me many times during the shut down. I too have thirsted for God and his Word and have wondered where God was in all of this. Remembering times in the past during festival services can make me sad because they seem over and done, but as the psalmist shows me, their memory can give me hope again.
For if God were faithful in the past, I can trust he will be faithful in the future. And with that assurance his song in the night can be my prayer. I can even chide God and ask why he seems to have forgotten us and remind him of what he has done for us in the past, hoping he will do so again.
Memories of those moments are sustaining. One I remember just now is a Hymn Jam with John Ylvisaker in the Luther Seminary Chapel of the Incarnation. We were singing “How Great Thou Art.” The organ was wide open, the electronic speakers were blaring, and we were singing with all our might. The congregation even overpowered the instruments. It was a transcendent moment. Unforgettable!
Planners of worship services should remember their call is to give worshipers moments like this, good memories, in case one day, should people need something to remember all that God has done, they have such moments to recall. The psalm teaches us these moments give hope. I remember that moment and trust the Lord shall lead me “In peace to his temple at last." Our hope is in the Lord!
Grundtvig wrote this early in his career, 1812. It was not a hymn but a poem that he later worked into a hymn. Ludvig Lindemann, the great Norwegian church composer of the 19th century, wrote a tune for it when he was setting texts in the Landstad hymnal. The hymn with the Lindeman tune has lasted in Norway. There is a Danish tune by Oluf Ring (1884-1946) in Denmark, but neither was taken up in the Service Book and Hymnal because of its archaic translation. One can see from the variety of versions of it on Youtube that it is still known and sung in Denmark and Norway. Carl Døving's translation needs updating, but it gets the meaning right.
Ring's Danish tune stanzas 6-7
Lindemann tune/Norwegian choir
Organ plays Lindemann tune
Iver Kleive, Poul Disse and Knut Reiersrud
Anne-Lise Berntsen and Nils Henrik Asheim/Norsk folk tune/