Hymns and Hymnwriters of Denmark
J. C. AABERG
The Committee on Publication
of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Des Moines, Ia.
The Danish Ev. Luth. Church In America
Printed in Lutheran Publishing House
This book deals with a subject which is new to most English readers. For
though Danish hymnody long ago became favorably known in Northern Europe,
of the subject has appeared in English. Newer
American Lutheran hymnals contain
a number of Danish hymns, some of which
have gained considerable
popularity, but the subject as a whole has not
A hymn is a child both of its author and of the time in which he lived. A
proper knowledge of the writer
and the age that gave it birth will
enhance our understanding both of the hymn and of the spiritual
it represents. No other branches of literature
furnish a more
illuminating index to the inner life of Christendom than the great lyrics
of the Church. Henry Ward Beecher said truly: "He who knows the way that
hymns flowed, knows where the blood of true piety ran, and can trace its
veins and arteries to its very heart."
Aside from whatever
value they may have in themselves, the hymns
presented on the following pages therefore
the main currents within the Danish church, and the men that helped to
The names of Kingo, Brorson and Grundtvig are known to many, but so far
no biographies of these men except of the sketchiest kind have appeared
in English. It is hoped that the fairly comprehensivepresentation
their life and work in the following pages may fill a timely
In selecting the hymns care has been taken to choose those that are most
characteristic of their authors, their times and the movements out of
which they were born. While the translator has sought to produce
faithfully the metre, poetry
of the originals, he has
attempted no slavishly literal reproduction. Many of the finest Danish
hymns are frankly
lyrical, a fact which greatly increases the difficulty
of translation. But while the writer
that his translations
at times fail to reproduce
the full beauty of the originals, he still
hopes that they may convey
a fair impression
of these and constitute
to American hymnody.
of any standard American church hymnal will prove that
American church song has been greatly enriched by transplantations of
hymns from many lands and languages. If the following contribution
heretofore meagerly represented branch of hymnody adds even a little to
that enrichment, the writer
will feel amply rewarded for the many hours
of concentrated labor he has spent upon it.
Most of the translations are by the writer
himself. When translations by
others have been used, credit has been given to them except where only
parts of a hymn have been presented.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 21st, 1944.
Table of Contents 7
I Early Danish Hymnody 9
II Reformation Hymnody 11
III Kingo's Childhood and Youth 21
IV Kingo, the Hymnwriter 31
V Kingo's Psalmbook 41
VI Kingo's Church Hymns 44
VII Kingo's Later Years 51
VIII Brorson's Childhood and Youth 59
IX Brorson, the Singer of Pietism 65
X Brorson's Swan Song 84
XI Grundtvig's Early Years 93
XII The Lonely Defender of the Bible 103
XIII The Living Word 112
XIV Grundtvig, the Hymnwriter 121
XV Grundtvig's Hymns 128
XVI Grundtvig's Later Years 150
XVII Other Danish Hymnwriters 161
Early Danish Hymnody
Danish hymnody, like that of other Protestant countries, is largely a
child of the Reformation. The Northern peoples were from ancient times
lovers of song. Much of their early history is preserved in poetry, and
no one was more honored among them than the skjald who most skillfully
presented their thoughts and deeds in song. Nor was this love of poetry
lost with the transition
from paganism to Christianity. The splendid folk
songs of the Middle Ages prove conclusively that both the love of poetry
and the skill in writing
it survived into the new age. One can only
wonder what fine songs the stirringadvent
of Christianity might have
produced among a people so naturally gifted
if the church had
encouraged rather than discouraged this native gift.
But the Church of Rome evinced little interest in the ancient ways of the
people among whom she took root. Her priests received their training in a
foreign tongue; her services were conducted in Latin; and the native
language and literature
were neglected. Except for a few lawbooks, the
seven hundred years of Catholic supremacy
in Denmark did not produce a
single book in the Danish language. The ordinances of the church,
congregational singing at the church
that, since it was unlawful for the laity to preach, it
was also impermissible for them to sing in the sanctuary. It is thus
likely that a Danish hymn had never been sung, except on a few special
occasions in a Danish church before the triumph
of the Reformation.
It is not likely, however, that this prohibition
of hymn singing could be
to the homes or occasional
private gatherings. Hans
Thomisson, who compiled the most important of the early Danish hymnals,
thus includes five "old hymns" in his collection
with the explanation
that he had done so to show "that even during the recent times of error
there were pious Christians who, by the grace of God, preserved the true
Gospel. And though these songs were not sung in the churches--which were
filled with songs in Latin that the people did not understand--they were
sung in the homes and before the doors".
Most of these earlier hymns no doubt were songs to the Virgin Mary or
legendary hymns, two types of songs which were then very common and
popular throughout the church. Of the few real hymns in use, some were
composed with alternating lines of Danish and Latin, indicating that they
may have been sung responsively. Among these hymns we find the oldest
known Danish Christmas hymn, which, in the beautiful recast of Grundtvig,
is still one of the most favored Christmas songs in Danish.
Christmas with gladness
When praising God, our Father,
We were in bondage
But He hath heard our prayer.
Our inmost need supplying,
He sent the Savior here.
Therefore with praises ringing,
Our hearts for joy are singing:
All Glory, praise and might
Be God's for Christmas night.
Right in a golden year,
Came He here.
Throughout a world confounded
For every tribe of man
That He hath borne our sadness
And brought us joy again,
That He in death descended,
Like sun when day is ended,
And rose on Easter morn
With life and joy reborn.
He hath for every grief
heart His praises
With angels at the manger,
We sing the Savior's birth,
And peace to man on earth,
Who satisfies our yearning,
And grief to joy is turning
Till we with Him arise
And dwell in Paradise.
The earliest Danish texts were translations from the Latin. Of these the
fine translations of the well known hymns, "Stabat Mater Dolorosa", and
"Dies Est Laetitia in Ortu Regali", are still used, the latter especially
in Grundtvig's beautiful recast "Joy is the Guest of Earth Today".
At a somewhat later period, but still well in advance of the Reformation,
the first original Danish hymns must have appeared. Foremost among these,
we may mention the splendid hymns, "I Will Now Hymn His Praises Who All
My Sin Hath Borne", "On Mary, Virgin Undefiled, Did God Bestow His
Favor", and the beautiful advent
hymn, "O Bride of Christ, Rejoice", all
hymns that breathe a truly Evangelical spirit and testify
to a remarkable
skill in the use of a language then so sorely
Best known of all Pre-Reformation songs in Danish is "The Old Christian
Day Song"--the name under which it was printed by Hans Thomisson. Of the
copies of this song, which are preserved in the library
of Upsala, Sweden, the oldest is commonly
dated at "not later than 1450".
The song itself, however, is thought to be much older, dating probably
from the latter part of the 14th century. Its place of origin
uncertain, with both Sweden and Denmark contending for the honor. The
fact that the text printed by Hans Thomisson is identical, except for
minor variations in dialect, with that of the oldest Swedish manuscript
proves, at least, that the same version
was also current in Danish, and
that no conclusion
as to its origin
can now be drawn from the chance
preservation of its text in Sweden. The following translation
is based on
Grundtvig's splendid revision
of the song for the thousand years'
festival of the Danish church.
we hail the blessed
Now out of the sea ascending,
Illuming the earth upon its way
And cheer to all mortals lending.
God grant that His children everywhere
May prove that the night is ending.
How blest was that wondrousmidnight
When Jesus was born of Mary!
Then dawned in the East with mighty
The day that anew shall carry
The light of God's grace to every soul
That still with the Lord would tarry.
Should every creature in song rejoice,
And were every leaflet
They could not His grace and glory voice,
Though earth with their praise were ringing,
now shines the Light of Life,
Great joy to all mortals bringing.
Like gold is the blush of morning bright,
When day has from death arisen.
Blest comfort too holds the peaceful
When skies in the sunset
the eyes of those whose hearts
In peace for God's summons listen.
Then journey we to our fatherland,
Where summer reigns bright and vernal.
Where ready for us God's mansions stand
With thrones in their halls supernal.
So happily there with friends of light
We joy in the peace eternal.
In this imperishable song, Pre-Reformation hymnody reached its highest
excellence, an excellence
that later hymnody seldom has surpassed. "The
Old Christian Day Song" shows, besides, that Northern hymnwriters even
"during the time of popery" had caught the true spirit of Evangelical
hymnody. Their songs were few, and they were often bandied about like
homeless waifs, but they embodied the purest Christian ideals of that day
and served in a measure
to link the old church with the new.
"O day full of grace, which we behold" by C. Doving in "Hymnal for
Church and Home."
"The dawn from on high is on our shore" by S. D. Rodholm in "World of
The Danish Reformation began quietly about 1520, and culminated
peacefully in the establishment
of the Lutheran church as the church of
the realm in 1536. The movement
was not, as in some other countries, the
work of a single outstanding
reformer. It came rather as an almost
of the people under several independent leaders,
among whom men like Hans Tausen, Jorgen Sadolin, Claus Mortensen, Hans
Spandemager and others merely stand out as the most prominent. And it was
probably this very spontaneity which invested the movement
with such an
irresistible force that within in a few years it was able to overthrow
establishment that had exerted a powerful influence over the country for
more than seven centuries.
In this accomplishment
Evangelical hymnody played a prominent
Though the Reformation gained little momentum before 1526, the Papists
began as early as 1527, to preach
against "the sacrilegious custom of
roaring Danish ballads at the church service". As no collection
had then been published, the hymns thus used must have been circulated
privately, showing the eagerness
of the people to adopt the new custom.
The leaders of the Reformation were quick to recognize the new interest
and make use of it in the furtherance of their cause. The first Danish
hymnal was published at Malmoe in 1528 by Hans Mortensen. It contained ten
hymns and a splendid liturgy for the morning service. This small
collection proved so popular that it was soon enlarged by the addition
thirty new hymns and appropriate
liturgies for the various other
services, that were held on the Sabbath day. Independent collections were
published by Hans Tausen, Arvid Petersen and
others. And, as these different collections all circulated throughout the
country, the result was confusing. At a meeting in Copenhagen of
Evangelical leaders from all parts of the country, it was decided
adequate [´ædikwit] a.足够的；适当的 (初中英语单词)contain [kən´tein] v.包含；容纳；抑制 (初中英语单词)considerable [kən´sidərəbəl] a.重要的；值得重视 (初中英语单词)writer [´raitə] n.作者；作家 (初中英语单词)spiritual [´spiritʃuəl] a.精神(上)的；神圣的 (初中英语单词)literature [´litərətʃə] n.文学；文献；著作 (初中英语单词)whatever [wɔt´evə] pron.&a.无论什么 (初中英语单词)therefore [´ðeəfɔ:] ad.&conj.因此；所以 (初中英语单词)convey [kən´vei] vt.运送；传达；转让 (初中英语单词)impression [im´preʃən] n.印刷；印象；效果 (初中英语单词)poetry [´pəuitri] n.诗；诗意 (初中英语单词)sentiment [´sentimənt] n.情绪；多愁善感 (初中英语单词)frankly [´fræŋkli] ad.直率地；慷慨地 (初中英语单词)conscious [´kɔnʃəs] a.意识的；自觉的 (初中英语单词)constitute [´kɔnstitju:t] vt.组成；构成；指定 (初中英语单词)examination [ig,zæmi´neiʃən] n.检查；考试；检验 (初中英语单词)contents [´kɔ:ntents] n.容纳物；要旨 (初中英语单词)childhood [´tʃaildhud] n.幼年(时代)；早期 (初中英语单词)singer [´siŋə] n.歌手，演唱者 (初中英语单词)lonely [´ləunli] a.孤独的；无人烟的 (初中英语单词)writing [´raitiŋ] n.书写；写作；书法 (初中英语单词)catholic [´kæθəlik] a.天主教 n.天主教徒 (初中英语单词)preach [pri:tʃ] v.宣扬；鼓吹 n.训诫 (初中英语单词)triumph [´traiəmf] n.胜利 vi.得胜，战胜 (初中英语单词)prohibition [,prəuhi´biʃən] n.禁止；禁令；禁酒 (初中英语单词)occasional [ə´keiʒənəl] a.偶然的；临时的 (初中英语单词)collection [kə´lekʃən] n.收集；征收；募捐 (初中英语单词)grateful [´greitful] a.感谢的；令人愉快的 (初中英语单词)wrought [rɔ:t] work 的过去式(分词) (初中英语单词)release [ri´li:s] vt&n.释放；放松；赦免 (初中英语单词)bestow [bi´stəu] vt.(把…)赠给；使用 (初中英语单词)christ [kraist] n.基督 int.天啊! (初中英语单词)origin [´ɔridʒin] n.起源；由来；出身 (初中英语单词)dialect [´daiəlekt] n.方言，土语，地方话 (初中英语单词)conclusion [kən´klu:ʒən] n.结束；结论；推论 (初中英语单词)midnight [´midnait] n.午夜；漆黑 (初中英语单词)henceforth [´hens´fɔ:θ] ad.今后；从今以后 (初中英语单词)peaceful [´pi:sfəl] a.和平的；平静的 (初中英语单词)sunset [´sʌnset] n.日落；晚霞 (初中英语单词)sparkle [´spɑ:kəl] vi.闪耀；焕发 n.火花 (初中英语单词)measure [´meʒə] n.量度；范围 vt.测量 (初中英语单词)establishment [i´stæbliʃmənt] n.建(成)立；研究所 (初中英语单词)movement [´mu:vmənt] n.活动；运动；动作 (初中英语单词)prominent [´prɔminənt] a.突起的；凸出的 (初中英语单词)addition [ə´diʃən] n.加；加法；附加物 (初中英语单词)popularity [,pɔpju´læriti] n.普及；流行；名望 (高中英语单词)comprehensive [,kɔmpri´hensiv] a.综合的；理解的 (高中英语单词)translation [træns´leiʃən, trænz-] n.翻译；译文；译本 (高中英语单词)reproduce [,ri:prə´dju:s] v.繁殖；复制；翻版 (高中英语单词)contribution [,kɔntri´bju:ʃən] n.贡献；捐献；投稿 (高中英语单词)minnesota [,mini´səutə] n.明尼苏达 (高中英语单词)protestant [´prɔtistənt] a.新教的 n.新教徒 (高中英语单词)christianity [,kristi´æniti] n.基督教；基督精神 (高中英语单词)denmark [´denmɑ:k] n.丹麦 (高中英语单词)virgin [´və:dʒin] a.处女(般)的 n.处女 (高中英语单词)tidings [´taidiŋz] n.消息，音信 (高中英语单词)easter [´i:stə] n.(耶稣)复活节 (高中英语单词)foremost [´fɔ:məust] a.最重要的；最先的 (高中英语单词)testify [´testifai] v.证明；证实；表明 (高中英语单词)manuscript [´mænjuskript] a.手抄的 n.手稿 (高中英语单词)sweden [´swi:dn] n.瑞典 (高中英语单词)commonly [´kɔmənli] ad.一般地；通常 (高中英语单词)identical [ai´dentikəl] a.完全相同的 (高中英语单词)mighty [´maiti] a.强有力的 ad.很 (高中英语单词)outstanding [aut´stændiŋ] a.突出的；显著的 (高中英语单词)overthrow [´əuvəθrəu] n.推翻；打倒 (高中英语单词)accomplishment [ə´kʌmpliʃmənt] n.完成；成就；才艺 (高中英语单词)eagerness [´i:gənis] n.渴望；热忱 (高中英语单词)appropriate [ə´prəupri-it, ə´prəuprieit] a.适宜的 vt.私占；拨给 (高中英语单词)decided [di´saidid] a.明显的；决定的 (高中英语单词)danish [´deiniʃ] a.&n.丹麦人(语)(的) (英语四级单词)presentation [,prezən´teiʃən] n.介绍；赠送；提出 (英语四级单词)reproduction [,ri:prə´dʌkʃən] n.繁殖；翻版；再现 (英语四级单词)unworthy [ʌn´wə:ði] a.不值得的；不足道的 (英语四级单词)defender [di´fendə] n.保卫者；辩护者 (英语四级单词)transition [træn´ziʃən, -´si-] n.转变；过渡 (英语四级单词)stirring [´stə:riŋ] a.活跃的；热闹的 (英语四级单词)advent [´ædvent] n.来临；降临 (英语四级单词)gifted [´giftid] a.有天赋的，有才华的 (英语四级单词)supremacy [sju´preməsi] n.优越性；最高地位 (英语四级单词)forbade [fə´beid] forbid的过去式 (英语四级单词)sanctuary [´sæŋktʃuəri] n.圣殿；寺院；避难所 (英语四级单词)gladness [´glædnis] n.愉快，高兴，喜悦 (英语四级单词)bondage [´bɔndidʒ] n.奴役；束缚 (英语四级单词)swedish [´swi:diʃ] a.瑞典人 n.瑞典语 (英语四级单词)version [´və:ʃən, ´və:rʒən] n.翻译；说明；译本 (英语四级单词)blessed [´blesid] a.享福的；神圣的 (英语四级单词)wondrous [´wʌndrəs] a.极好的 ad.惊人地 (英语四级单词)leaflet [´li:flit] n.小叶；散页印刷品 (英语四级单词)excellence [´eksələns] n.优秀；杰出；优点 (英语四级单词)sabbath [´sæbəθ] n.安息日 (英语四级单词)simultaneously [,siməl´teinjəsli] ad.同时，一起 (英语四级单词)christendom [´krisəndəm] n.基督教徒 (英语六级单词)timely [´taimli] a.及时的；适合的 (英语六级单词)expressly [ik´spresli] ad.明白地；特意地 (英语六级单词)holding [´həuldiŋ] n.保持，固定，存储 (英语六级单词)extended [iks´tendid] a.伸长的；广大的 (英语六级单词)fraught [frɔ:t] a.充满…的 (英语六级单词)sorely [´sɔ:li] ad.痛苦地；剧烈地 (英语六级单词)revision [ri´viʒən] n.修订(本)；修改 (英语六级单词)reformer [ri´fɔ:mə] n.改革者；革新者 (英语六级单词)uprising [ʌp´raiziŋ] n.叛乱；起义，暴动 (英语六级单词)