HYMN 150 I Know of a Sleep in Jesus' Name
Updated: Feb 2, 2021
Norwegian: Jeg vet meg en søvn i Jesu navn
Swedish: Jag vet mig en sömn i Jesu namn
Text: Magnus Brostrup Landstad (1802-1880) Tune: Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse (1774-1842)
1. I know of a sleep in Jesus' name, A rest from all toil and sorrow; Earth folds in her arms my weary frame And shelters it till the morrow. My soul is at home with God in heav'n; Her sorrows are past and over.
2. I know of a peaceful eventide; And when I am faint and weary, At times with the journey sorely tried, Through hours that are long and dreary, Then often I yearn to lay me down And sink into blissful slumber.
3. I know of a morning bright and fair When tidings of joy shall wake us, When songs from on high shall fill the air And God to His glory take us, When Jesus shall bid us rise from sleep-- How joyous that hour of waking!
4. O that is a morning dear to me, And oft, o'er the mountains streaming, In spirit its heav'nly light I see As golden the peaks are beaming. Then sing I for joy like birds at dawn That carol in lofty lindens.
5. God's Son to our graves then takes His way, His voice hear all tribes and nations; The portals are rent that guard our clay, And moved are the sea's foundations. He calls out aloud: "Ye dead, come forth!" In glory we rise to meet Him.
6. Now opens the Father's house above, The names of the blest are given: Lord, gather us there; let none we love Be missed in the joys of heaven. Vouchsafe Thou us all a place with Thee; We ask through our dear Redeemer.
7. O Jesus, draw near my dying bed And take me into Thy keeping And say when my spirit hence is fled, "This child is not dead, but sleeping." And leave me not, Savior, till I rise To praise Thee in life eternal. Tr. Carl Døving
To lose a child is more devastating than anything. One poet called losing a child something like a heart’s needle that kept stabbing him through the rest of his life. Pastor Magnus Brostrup Landstad wrote these words as he was facing such a time.
Landstad composed it Easter morning, April 20, 1851, just after his son, Haakon, had died of typhus. Serving in Fredrikshalden church at this time, he had lost a little daughter, Maria Sophie, that same year, in January. His grief was overwhelming. Two lovely children now in the grave. His last stanza is not quite right in the translation: it should read "And say this boy, this little girl/is not dead but sleeping." It is very personal.
He needed to write this hymn, one of his greatest. The best words he could think of were Jesus’ words on seeing Jairus’ daughter. announcing that she was not dead but sleeping. That gave him the language--death as sleep--for the entire hymn. With the image also from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 of Jesus returning in the clouds to call us out of the grave where we are sleeping as a parent calls a child out of bed in the morning.
The image of earth receiving us like a blanket, folding us in, was one my father loved. The thought of rest, of earth folding him into rest, comforted him as the struggles to live grew more and more wearisome. He would make a gesture of being folded into a blanket and sigh with joy, Ah! Yes. To be held close, like a child. And rest, waiting the call of the Lord.
Life is filled with great sorrows. From which we need rest. All we have in the face of these tragedies is the word of God. Landstad fled to the Word so he could make it through the days following this tragedy. God's Word gave him rest and hope, as it does for us. There is nothing else.
This hymn was published in 1861 and in what became the Landstad hymnal for Norway in 1869. It quickly became his most beloved hymn and was sung at his funeral. Landstad is the most important figure in Norwegian hymnody in the 19th century. He was asked to compile a hymnal for Norwegians by the church department of Norway and Sweden. A pastor’s son, he had been born in the northern most parish in Norway, Måsøy in Finnmark. His father was called to serve in Telemark when Magnus was a young boy. He grew up in Seljord where his father served. When he became a pastor he was called to the Seljord parish and served there for some years. During that time he collected folk tales, riding out on his horse to gather up stories from the people in the surrounding area. When he was asked to compile a hymnal for Norwegians, he took seriously the language issues, wanting to use Norwegian rather than the Dano-Norwegian which had been the language of the hymnal and church in Norway ever since the Reformation. Like most hymnal compilers, he had difficulties getting the manuscript he prepared accepted by the church officials, but in 1869 it came out. The Norwegian immigrants to American brought it with them after that year. Landstad came to mean hymnal to them. His hymnal survived revisions over the century until the 1984 Norwegian hymnal. Mindekirken used Landstad until 1993. In addition to being able to compile a hymnal, Landstad himself wrote many hymns for it. Over ten of them were translated and included in American Lutheran hymnals over time. This one is probably the one that will survive in English.
The tune in America is the same as that for "O Day Full of Grace." Now the Norwegian church uses another tune, and there are several that can be used.
LINKS Organ version of the Den Signede Dag https://youtu.be/JrBuAPA19KY
The other tune in Norway https://youtu.be/-SJ_GgFC8AA
Unaccompanied Kveding to a folk tune https://youtu.be/cB2Yy0N07P4
Organ version https://youtu.be/XvratOWI7Dg