Updated: May 3
Danish: Som den Gyldne Sol Frembryder
Text: Thomas Hansen Kingo (1636-1703) Tune: Johann Schop (1590-1667)
1. Like the golden sun ascending
Breaking through the gloom of night,
On the earth his glory spending
So that darkness took to flight.
Thus my Jesus from the grave
And death’s dismal, dreadful cave
Rose triumphant Easter morning
At the early purple dawning.
2. Thanks to you, O Christ victorious!
Thanks to you, O Lord of life!
Death now has no power o’er us,
You have conquered in the strife.
Thanks because you did arise
And have opened Paradise.
None can fully sing the glory
Of the resurrection story.
3. For my heart finds consolation
And my fainting soul goes brave
When I stand in contemplation,
At your dark and dismal grave.
When I see where you did sleep
In death’s dungeon dark and deep
Yet you broke all bonds asunder,
Should I not rejoice and wonder.
4. Though I am by sin o’ertaken
Though I lie in helplessness
Though I am by friends forsaken
And must suffer great distress.
Though I am without a friend
And by all the world condemned
Though the dark grave yawn before me
Yet the light of hope shines o’er me.
5. You have died for my transgression,
All my sins on you were laid;
You have won for me salvation,
On the cross my debt was paid.
From the grave I shall arise
And shall meet you in the skies.
Death itself is transitory,
I shall lift my head in glory.
6. Satan’s arrows all lie broken,
Death and hell have met their doom.
Christ, your rising is the token:
You have triumphed o’er the tomb,
Buried all my sin and woe,
And my cup has overflown.
By your resurrection glorious
I shall wave my palms victorious.
7. As the Son of God, you show me
All your love and sov’reign pow’r.
Sin and death cannot o’erthrow me
Even in my dying hours.
For your resurrection is
Given for my heav’nly bliss,
And my baptism a reflection
Of your death and resurrection.
8. Unto life you soon will raise me
By your resurrection’s pow’r;
Though the hideous grave embrace me
And my flesh the worms devour.
Fire and water may destroy
My frail body, yet with joy
I shall rise as you have risen
From the deep sepulchral prison.
9. Grant me grace, O blessed Savior,
And your Holy Spirit send,
So my walk and my behavior
May be pleasing to the end,
That I may not fall again
Into death’s dark pit of pain,
Out of which you have retrieved me,
When by grace you did relieve me.
10. For the joy your birth does give me,
For your holy, precious word;
For your baptism, which does save me,
For your blest communion board;
For your death, the bitter scorn,
For your resurrection morn,
Lord, with thanks I now extol you,
As at last I will behold you.
Tr. George Alfred Taylor Rygh 1860-1943
O sulla bya O sulla bya. My father would sing this lullaby, the rest of which I cannot recall, to us, rocking us to sleep. The tune felt old as the hills of Telemark where his parents came from. He was kveding, a form of sung speech that people have sung in folk traditions around the world since the beginning of time. It uses quartertones so its scale is thought to be more expressive than the eight-tone scale. Keyboard instruments cannot play it; in fact, the cantors/klokkers in the north disliked the organ when it came because it took their music away from them. For a long time they had led services in the North with their stentorian voices, suggesting local folk tunes for the texts in the hymnal their people brought from home to church.
Where my father learned to do this, I do not know. His father came from an old farm above
Seljord, Telemark, the region where this kind of singing developed into a high art I recognized it as kveding immediately when I heard Sondre Bratland, the chief exponent of the art in Norway, singing the first time.
The tunes sound minor to the American ear, often dark and forbidding. But if you have been raised on them, they go to the center of the earth from which they arose, like folk instruments carved out of old roots.
I can hear my old great-great grandmothers, sitting in their cold houses, knitting, facing the fire, with their grandchildren swarming around them, singing stanza after stanza of the hymns in Kingo’s hymnal, until 1869 when it was supplanted by Landstad’s hymnal. Only the sound of needles clicking and the fire crackling as they sang could be heard after the children had retired, with an occasional inhaled sigh from other family members with her doing their handwork.
One of the hymns they would have sung was this Easter hymn by Kingo. All ten stanzas. By Easter when the sun was breaking more strongly than it had through the long dark winter, the image of Jesus’ resurrection being like the sunrise chasing away the dark vividly portrayed the change that his rising makes for us.
This hymn has been sung to a couple familiar tunes, one Werde Munter, which Kingo suggested. In the past fifty years folksingers in the Nordic countries have increasingly searched for tunes that were sung by their grandparents and klokkers in the valleys and mountains of the north.
Now these folk tunes seem to be preferred. Both tunes appear in the latest Norwegian hymnal, the folk tune suggested by Henning Sommerro, is such a tune. Joined with this text, the folk tune makes the hymn speak to those who grew up with this kind of music.
Missionaries talk about indigenizing the Christian faith wherever they go, using the language and music, especially, of the new mission. This happened a millennium ago when the monks came north with the Gospel. Soon the church began using these folk melodies. One can hear how they taught the faith using the local culture in these folk hymns of the north.
Now they attract the interest of singers who may not care for the message, but love the music and sing the words. I was astonished to see on Youtube how this fairly formal Danish hymn text has been performed in jazz settings, choral anthems, and folk tunes in the north. Anne Lise Berntsen and Nil Henrik Åsheim appeared in a concert at Luther Seminary just after the CD Engelskyts came out. Anne Lise sang classic hymns by Kingo, Petter Dass and Hans Adolph Brorson, in the old folk tunes, to creative organ accompaniments by Nils Henrik, one of Norway’s most accomplished organists. The evening was thrilling. After the performance my father who knew every hymn came to her in tears saying, “Tusen takk, that was God’s Word you were preaching.” It took her by surprise. It probably wasn't her purpose, but God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform! The sun breaks through the dark. Christ is arisen!
Kingo’s very long Easter hymn has become the hymn for the second day of Easter, but is
appropriate for the entire Easter season. All ten stanzas were printed in the early hymnals, but fewer are included today. The last stanza was often used by itself as a closing hymn. Kingo’s hymnal continued to be used by the immigrants long after it was supplanted in Denmark and Norway. Here are just a few wide ranging examples of a variety of settings.
Lyngå kirken in Denmark/the tune in the Danish hymnal, Werde Munter
Carl Nielsen tune
Engelskyts Anne Lise Berntsen/Nils Henrik Åsheim
Norwegian tune/Henning Sommerro
Faroese Eivör Pálsdattir