HYMN 183 The Sun Has Gone Down
Norwegian: Nu solen går ned
Text: Samuel Olsen Bruun (1656-1694). Tune: Norwegian Folk
1. The sun has gone down And peace has descended on country and town; The songbirds in silence have flown to their nest, And flowers are closing their petals in rest; So closes my heart to annoyance and care, In homage and pray'r, In homage and pray'r.
2. I praise for this day The Father in heaven who prospered my way, Who shielded from danger, protected from harm, Promoted my labor, and strengthened my arm; For hours that passed lightly as birds on the wing, Thanksgiving I bring, Thanksgiving I bring.
3. Forgive me, O Lord, My sins and transgressions in deed and in word! Thou knowest my heart and my innermost thought, The words I have spoken, the deeds I have wrought, My errors and failings I deeply regret, Forgive and forget, Forgive and forget!
4. I ask for no more; My light I extinguish and fasten the door, And seeking my chamber, betake me to rest; Assured that my slumber this night will be blest, I fondly confide to Thy care and control My body and soul, My body and soul. Tr. O. T. Sanden
MEDITATION “The Sun has Gone Down” the ever-dwindling number of people who remember the Concordia hymnal will say, if you ask “What is your favorite hymn from that collection?” The tune is part of the reason, but the text is so vivid it makes it even better. It describes in concrete detail what the father of the house, the singer, does before going to bed, preparing for the night, thanksgiving, regret for one's failings and a request for forgiveness and then safety through the night. It teaches us how to prepare for the night.
This is clearly in the tradition of the Lutheran hymn. It describes nature and is concrete about our living situtations. Isaac Watts, who taught most English speakers how to write hymns, was a classicist and preferred generalities to specifics, but was also deeply wedded to the notion that a hymn should be Scriptural. This hymn is not based on a Scripture text, but is the prayer and confession of a Christian describing his life as a faithful Christian, completely in the tradition of Luther’s “Evening Prayer:
“We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have this day so graciously protected us. We beg you to forgive us all our sins and the wrong which we have done. By your great mercy defend us from the perils and dangers of this night. Into your hands we commend our bodies and souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels have charge of us, that the wicked one have no power over us. Amen. (Luther’s Evening Prayer.)
Looking at Bruun's text we can see the same themes in Luther's prayer. Hearing the hymn again brings me the kind of peace I need to feel. Simply taking one's body and soul, and "confiding them into God's care and control," quiets me and "assures me that my slumber will be blest." The anxieties that seem overwhelming just now need to be put to rest in God. Sleep does not come easily to the anxious and perturbed. The hymn brings a quiet ending to the day, something we all need to have no matter where we are. It gives us a lovely and peaceful description of someone praying as they get ready for the night. They give me lovely words to pray. Very little more need be said. Amen.
HYMN INFO Samuel Olsen Bruun was born in Arendal, Norway, to a wealthy merchant. He chose not to follow in his father’s profession, but went to Aalborg University and then to Copenhagen for his theological studies. While there he may well have met the Bishop of Odense, Thomas Kingo, the most accomplished hymn writer in Denmark at the time and the compiler of the 1699 Dano-Norwegian hymnal. Bruun returned to Norway to serve the congregation in Kragerø where he married and raised a family. His wife was a daughter of the pastor in Bamble, a nearby parish. When that call was free, the congregation asked the king to name Bruun as their pastor which he did. He was never really well and found joy in his writing—he translated many German hymns into Dano-Norwegian. This hymn appeared in a book of his hymns Den Siungende Tids-fordrif Eller Korsets Frugt, published in 1695, the year after his death. His early death kept him from writing more hymns. If he had lived longer, many think he would have been one of Norway’s greatest hymn writers, on par with Kingo and Engelbretsdatter. O. T. Sanden's translation is very fine and is one reason the hymn took in English--at least for those who know it.
The National Lutheran Choir dir. David Cherwien
Choir A Cappellissimo Grete Pedersen directing in Trondheim and Serbia https://youtu.be/x37CIbZ6AQk
Milwaukee Choral artists arr. Linn Andrea Fuglseth https://youtu.be/jv6Gzg7X5Z8
Oslo Kammerkor/Sondre Bratland/dir. Berit Opheim https://youtu.be/w9vPyIZl8bg
Sondre Bratland https://youtu.be/o2GUsR2Oj68
Telle Kvifte in a Bagpipe version https://youtu.be/O5p1Wha2BQQ