Reformation Day

Being born on the thirty-first of October often caused me no little grief growing up. I hated seeing the horrible images people put up, on my birthday! I hated having trick-or-treaters showing up on the doorstep in the middle of my party, and, to top it off, I hated having  people call me a "boo baby" in stores!
But their was one consolation; I always knew that my birthday was also the commemoration of a very special event in History, that of the sparking of the fire of reformation and revival in the town of Wittenburg, Germany by a fiery  monk named Martin Luther. When He nailed his Ninety-five theses to the door of Wittenburg chapel.
 So that is what I focus on now. Forget about Halloween!
           But this is a music blog so I am about to share with you once again the most popular hymn of the reformation. (Next year, I promise, I'll find some obscure hymn that no one has ever heard of to post instead!)
    A Mighty Fortress is Our God, or, Ein Feste Burg ist Unsrer Gott.
Last year I shared the German version of the song with you, see my post from then if you want to hear it: http://joyfullysinging.blogspot.com/2012/10/ein-feste-burg-ist-unser-gott.html
 But this time I want to share the actual translations of this hymn into English. The differences between the words we know and what Luther actually wrote are quite striking.
                 So here is the Original German and below is its literal translation.


Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,
ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alte böse Feind,
mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
groß Macht und viel List
sein grausam Rüstung ist,
auf Erd ist nicht sein gleichen.

Mit unser Macht ist nichts getan,
wir sind gar bald verloren,
es streit für uns der rechte Mann,
den Gott hat selbst erkoren;
fragst du, wer der ist?
Er heißt Jesu Christ;
der Herr Zebaoth,
und ist kein and’rer Gott;
das Feld muß er behalten.

Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär,
und wolltn uns gar verschlingen,
so fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
es soll uns doch gelingen,
Der Fürst dieser Welt,
wie saur er sich stellt,
Tut er uns doch nicht,
das macht, er ist gericht;
ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn,
und kein Dank darzu haben.
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan,
mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie uns den Leib,
Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib,
laß fahren dahin;
sie haben’s keinen Gwinn.
Das Reich muß uns doch bleiben.




 English Translation

A mighty fortress is our God,
a good defense and armory,
he helps us get free from every difficulty
that befalls us.
The ancient wicked foe,
grim is his intent,
great might and much deceit
are his ruthless weapons,
on earth he has no equal.
 
With our might naught can be done;
soon were we lost.
But for us fights the valiant one,
whom God himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this?
He is called Jesus Christ;
the Lord of Sabaoth;
and there is no other God;
He holds the field forever.
 
And if the world were full of devils
wanting to devour us,
we would not be all that afraid,
for we would nonetheless succeed.
The prince of this world,
however bad-tempered he may appear,
can do nothing to us,
The result: he stands condemned;
one little word can fell him.
 
The Word they still shall let remain
nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain,
with his good gifts and spirit,
And take they our life,
goods, fame, child and wife,
let all these go;
they have won nothing.
The kingdom remains ours.

I also want to share a more literal translation of the hymn in poetry as the one above is in prose. And then I will show you the words we all are familiar with.



"A Mighty Fortress is Our God"
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Composite Translation from the Pennsylvania Lutheran CHURCH BOOK of 1868
1. A mighty Fortress is our God,
A trusty Shield and Weapon;
He helps us free from every need
That hath us now o'ertaken.
The old evil Foe
Now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might
Are his dread arms in fight;
On Earth is not his equal.

2. With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord,
And there's none other God;
He holds the field forever.

3. Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They shall not overpower us.
This world's prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He's judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

4. The Word they still shall let remain
Nor any thanks have for it;
He's by our side upon the plain
With His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone,
They yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom our remaineth.

~
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.




So, which one do you like best?
 

3 Responses
  1. Happy Birthday!

    I don't know which I like best....both are good.


  2. Lenyer Says:

    Wow! I had never read the prose or poetry versions! They are so beautiful. This hymn has always been special in our house as my mom walked down the aisle to it. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Thank you, Rebekah!
    Lenyer, what a wonderful memory! That is an unusual processional song but a good one, I'll have to keep that in mind. Thank YOU for sharing!