Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

A More Brotherly Song, a Less Passionate Passion: Abstraction and Ecumenism in the Translation of the Hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” from Bloodier Antecedents

Abstract

When nineteenth-century American Presbyterian pastor James Waddel Alexander wrote the lyrics of the hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” he created what has become the most popular of numerous English translations of seventeenth-century German Lutheran pastor Paul Gerhardt's hymn “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden.” That text was, in turn, a translation of part of an anonymous thirteenth-century cycle of passion poems, one dedicated to each of Christ's wounds. From the medieval original through Gerhardt to Alexander, each subsequent translation has diminished its depictions of blood and rendered its narrator's interaction with the crucified body of Christ less passionate, dictated by the theological needs and aesthetic sensibilities of the translator's religious tradition. At the same time, both Gerhardt and Alexander included significant elements from the original that were anomalous in their own contexts. The inclusion of a medieval poem in the worship of seventeenth-century Lutherans and nineteenth-century Presbyterians may reveal an ecumenical bent on their part, albeit with clear limits. A comparison of the various versions of the hymn demonstrates the complex interrelationship between an original text and translations of it, some of which may properly be called versions of it and some of which may have become something altogether different.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Philip Sheldrake , ed., The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 2005)

Sven Gross , Gott und das Leid in den Liedern Paul Gerhardts (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 240243

Christian Bunners , “Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676),” in Carter Lindberg , ed., The Pietist Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005), 6883

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 5 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 138 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.