German: Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die schuld
Text: Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676). Tune: Wolfgang Dachstein (1487-1553)
1 A LAMB goes uncomplaining forth, The guilt of all men bearing; 'Tis laden with the sin of earth, None else the burden sharing; It goes its way, grows weak and faint, To slaughter led without complaint, Its spotless life to offer; Bears shame, and stripes, and wounds, and death, Anguish and mockery, and saith, "Willing all this I suffer."
2 This Lamb is Christ, the soul's great Friend And everlasting Savior; Him, Him God chose, sin's reign to end And bring us to His favor. "Go forth, my Son!" He said, "and tell The children, who are doomed to hell But for Thine intercession. The punishment is great, and dread The wrath, but Thou Thy blood shalt shed, And save them from perdition."
3 "Yea, Father, yea, most willingly I'll bear what Thou commandest; My will conforms to Thy decree, I do what Thou demandest." O wondrous Love! what hast Thou done! The Father offers up His Son, The Son content descendeth! O Love! O Love! how strong art Thou! In shroud and grave Thou lay'st Him low Whose word the mountains rendeth!
4 Thou lay'st him, Love, upon the cross, With nails and spear Him bruising; Thou slay'st Him as a lamb, His loss, From soul and body oozing; From body 'tis the crimson flood Of precious sacrificial blood, From soul, the strength of anguish: My gain it is; sweet Lamb to Thee What can I give, whose love to me For me doth make Thee languish?
5 Lord, all my life I'll cleave to Thee, Thy love fore'er beholding, Thee ever, as Thou ever me, With loving arms enfolding. Yea, Thou shalt be my Beacon-light, To guide me safe through death's dark night, And cheer my heart in sorrow; Henceforth myself and all that's mine to Thee, my Savior, I consign, From whom all things I borrow.
6 By morn and eve my theme shall be Thy mercy's wondrous measure; To sacrifice myself to Thee, My foremost aim and pleasure. My stream of life shall flow for Thee, Its steadfast current ceaselessly In praise to Thee outpouring; And all that Thou hast done for me, I'll treasure in my memory, Thy gracious love adoring.
7 Enlarge, shrine of my heart, and swell, To Thee shall now be given A treasure that doth far excel The worth of earth and heaven. Away with the Arabian gold, With treasures of an earthly mold! I've found a better jewel. My priceless treasure, Lord my God, Is Thy most holy, precious blood, Which flowed from wounds so cruel.
8 This treasure ever I'll employ, This ever aid shall yield me; In sorrow it shall be my joy, In conflict it shall shield me; In joy, the music of my feast, And when all else has lost its zest, This manna still shall feed me; In thirst my drink; in want my food; My company in solitude, To comfort and to lead me.
9 Death's poison cannot harm me now, Thy blood new life bestoweth; My Shadow from the heat art Thou, When noonday's sunlight gloweth. When I'm by inward grief opprest, On Thee my weary soul shall rest, As sick men on their pillows. Thou art my Anchor, when by woe My bark is driven to and fro On trouble's restless billows.
10 And when Thy glory I shall see And taste Thy kingdom's pleasure, Thy blood my royal robe shall be, And joy beyond at measure; It then shall be my glorious crown, Thus I'll appear before the throne Of God, and need not hide me; And shall, by Him to Thee betrothed, By Thee in bridal garments clothed, Stand as a bride beside Thee. Tr. Composite
This has been called the jewel of Lutheran passion hymns for its tender portrayal of the events around Jesus’ suffering and death, and its application to us.
Like Luther’s first hymn, "Nun Freut euch," this hymn also includes a dialogue between God the Father and the Son discussing what his mission is. The driving force is love. It causes Christ to suffer for us: “It is Love that lays him on the cross,/With nails and spear Him bruising;/Thou slay'st Him as a lamb, His loss,/From soul and body oozing;/From body 'tis the crimson flood/Of precious sacrificial blood.” This is vivid stuff. People may recoil from it. The current German hymnal has left these images out. The Baroque sensibility, however, loved them. When I translated the LBW version, which reduced the stanzas to four, the last stanza sounded like the conceit in a poem by the Baroque English poet, Richard Crashaw (1613-1649)
They have left thee naked, Lord, O that they had! This garment too I wish they had deny'd. Thee with thy self they have too richly clad; Opening the purple wardrobe in thy side. O never could there be garment too good For thee to wear, but this of thine own Blood.
Since I first read it in college, I have never forgotten Crashaw’s line “The purple wardrobe at his side.” To wear the purple is to be royalty, as the phrase goes.
One does have to be careful with these images. Count Zinzendorf wrote a hymn wishing to be a leech in Jesus’ veins drinking his blood. John Wesley was understandably repelled by the image.
On the other hand, Jesus’ sacrifice has to be faced. It took a sacrifice, like the lamb at Passover, for our sins to be forgiven. Jesus consented to be that sacrifice, once for all. Now it is finished. We remember it and give thanks it was done for us. Gerhardt' s last stanza refers to our royal robe. Christ's blood is now our wedding garment--now we can wear the purples, as the phrase goes for royalty. Quite a turn, from sinner to royal, just like that!
This hymn is very long, with ten line stanzas, and ten stanzas. It first appeared in 1647 in Crüger’s hymnal, Praxis Pietatis Melica. That means it was written while Gerhardt was serving the Mittenwald parish near Berlin. The tune was written for a setting of Psalm 137 by Dachstein, a Strausburger who studied music and theology with Luther. The tune and hymn have been used by many composers from Johann Walter to Hugo Distler.
Laestadian Lutheran Church
Concordia Publishing House https://youtu.be/_FRRfak00g0
Cantata on hymn by David Kampen https://youtu.be/tf7dU038y_g
Bach Chor Sieger https://youtu.be/5VVlU9E2VyA
Hugo Distler’s piece https://youtu.be/Uhq9fTRVDvg
Johann Walter’s Choral Prelude on the tune https://youtu.be/uBMtZ75RLkE