Updated: Mar 14
Danish: Guds Søn har gjort meg fri
John 8:36; Romans 7
Text: Hans Adolph Brorson (1694-1764) Tune: Norwegian folk tune
1. God's Son has made me free
From Satan's tyranny,
From sin and shame,
From earthly blame,
From death's domain and hellish flame.
My Savior, it was he
Who stood 'twixt God and me,
Who pardon gave to sin's poor slave
By painful death and grave.
Thus was his love bestowed on me
And all mankind eternally.
Is not the sinful state
Where nought there is to pleasure me
Save fruit from Eden's apple tree,
And mouth and hand
The Devil's vile command.
2. Now God is by my side,
The serpent is defied!
I'll ne'er take fright
Whilst in his sight
In freedom's purple raiment bright.
It makes my heart rejoice
To answer Jesu's voice,
His path is clear,
No sorrow's here –
It leads to heav'nly cheer!
The world of sin I now remind
That ne'er to truth shall I be blind.
No more from it I'll stray!
No more shall I now tempted be t
O try the devil's lottery!
My trump I'll raise
In heav'nly praise;
Farewell to earthly days!
3. My heart with laughter bold
The grave can now behold.
No flow'ry combe,
No princely room
Gives sweeter rest than stony tomb.
Kind Death will ferry me
Across oblivion's sea;
Thus God above
To me will prove
His everlasting love.
He'll make to blow
His cleansing winds
To purge my blood of all its sins.
My being shall be pure,
So, happy as the hind and roe,
I'll cease to suffer earthly woe.
Yea, I am thine,
The Cross my sign,
Salvation shall be mine!
After the vespers in the medieval Løgumkloster church, warm and rich in its
glorious sounds, where we sang two hymns, before and after the Scripture reading
and prayers, I stepped out into the dark night. The stars filled the sky over the quiet
of the small town in the far southwest of Jutland. I walked through the graveyard,
the gravel crunching under my feet.
On sabbatical, I was on my way toward the library building where there was a
computer with internet connections. There was no light. I had a key to let me into
the building, a former castle where Brorson, my favorite hymn text writer, had lived
for a few years, after an illness, taking a job as tutor in his uncle’s employ as a young
man as he struggled with vocational questions.
I made my way past the graveyard beside me I thought of one of Brorson’s hymn,
among the last he wrote, “God’s Son has Made me Free.” His line about laughing at
the grave. Laughing in the face of death is an old Christian tradition. Kingo, in the
“Golden Sun Ascending” used the idea as well. It was the tradition even during
Brorson’s text is almost giddy, rather unlike the image we get of him as a pious
pastor. It is odd to think he wrote this while quite ill and facing death himself. While
he had written a large collection of hymns for the church, these did not appear until
his son found them after his death. Such joy and glee to come from such pain and
sorrow. The image of the dying bishop lying in his bed of pain, giddy with the hope of heaven is salutary. The old bishop uses images from Old Testament—Eve and the apple; classical—Death acting as Charon taking the dead across the river; the New, even a reference to a park Sorgenfri owned by the king. The compulsive rhymes and short lines make it kind of fizzy. Exactly what we need when we want to describe Christ’s victory over death. Laughter and joy.
This text is still in both the current Norwegian and Danish hymnals, to the folk tune
Grieg used. When Grieg, at the very end of his life, was looking to set some texts for
choral anthems, he looked at Brorson’s SvaneSang. The folk tunes that had become
associated with the texts fit well with Grieg’s promotion of the folk sound in his
work. Why Grieg, who considered himself a Unitarian, was attracted to such pious,
Christian texts at the end of his life has puzzled many critics over time.
The anthem by Grieg one of his Four Psalms, made it a favorite of choirs around the
world. The Waldorf Choir used it as its signature anthem for many years. It remains
a part of the choral repertoire as you can hear below.