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Title: Hymns and Hymnwriters of Denmark
Author: Aaberg, J. C. (Jens Christian), 1877-1970
Language: English
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                    Hymns and Hymnwriters of Denmark

                              J. C. AABERG

                              Published by
                      The Committee on Publication
          of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
                             Des Moines, Ia.

                             Copyright 1945
                 The Danish Ev. Luth. Church In America

                  Printed in Lutheran Publishing House
                              Blair, Nebr.


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,
no adequate presentation 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
been presented.

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 movement
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 should convey an impression of
the main currents within the Danish church, and the men that helped to
create them.

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 comprehensive presentation of
their life and work in the following pages may fill a timely need.

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 and sentiment 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 is conscious 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 a
not unworthy contribution to American hymnody.

An examination 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 from a
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.


  Chapter                                                            Page
  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

                                                             Chapter One
                          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 stirring advent of Christianity might have
produced among a people so naturally gifted in poetry 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,
furthermore, expressly forbade congregational singing at the church
services, holding 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
effectively extended 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 sounds,
    Joy abounds
    When praising God, our Father,
    We gather.
    We were in bondage lying,
    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
    The tidings fraught with gladness
    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
    Brought relief.
    Each grateful heart His praises
    Now raises.
    With angels at the manger,
    We sing the Savior's birth,
    Who wrought release from danger
    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 neglected.

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
three manuscript 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 is
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.[1]

    With gladness we hail the blessed day
    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 wondrous midnight hour
    When Jesus was born of Mary!
    Then dawned in the East with mighty power
    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 singing,
    They could not His grace and glory voice,
    Though earth with their praise were ringing,
    For henceforth 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 night
    When skies in the sunset glisten.
    So sparkle 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.


[1]Other translations:
   "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

                                                             Chapter Two
                           Reformation Hymnody

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
spontaneous uprising 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 an
establishment that had exerted a powerful influence over the country for
more than seven centuries.

In this accomplishment Evangelical hymnody played a prominent part.
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 of hymns
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 Malmø 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 of
thirty new hymns and appropriate liturgies for the various other
services, that were held on the Sabbath day. Independent collections were
almost simultaneously 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 to
revise the various collections and to combine them into one hymnal. This
first common hymnal for the Danish church appeared in 1531, and served as
the hymnal of the church till 1544, when it was revised and enlarged by
Hans Tausen. Tausen's hymnal was replaced in 1569 by _The Danish
Psalmbook_, compiled by Hans Thomisson, a pastor of the Church of Our
Lady at Copenhagen, and the ablest translator and hymnwriter of the
Reformation period. _Hans Thomisson's Hymnal_--as it was popularly
named--was beyond question the finest hymnal of the transition period. It
was exceptionally well printed, contained 268 hymns, set to their
appropriate tunes, and served through innumerable reprints as the hymnal
of the Danish church for more than 150 years.

Thus the Reformation, in less than fifty years, had produced an
acceptable hymnal and had established congregational singing as an
indispensable part of the church service. The great upheaval had failed,
nevertheless, to produce a single hymnwriter of outstanding merit. The
leaders in the movement were able men, striving earnestly to satisfy a
pressing need. But they were not poets. Their work consisted of passable
translations, selections from Pre-Reformation material and a few original
hymns by Claus Mortensen, Arvid Petersen, Hans Thomisson and others. It
represented an honest effort, but failed to attain greatness. People
loved their new hymns, however, and clung to them despite their halting
metres and crude style, even when newer and much finer songs were
available. But when these at last had gained acceptance, the old hymns
gradually disappeared, and very few of them are now included in the
Danish hymnal. The Reformation produced a worthy hymnal, but none of the
great hymnwriters whose splendid work later won Danish hymnody an
honorable place in the church.

Hans Chrestensen Sthen, the first notable hymnwriter of the Danish
church, was already on the scene, however, when Hans Thomisson's Hymnal
left the printers. He is thought to have been born at Roskilde about
1540; but neither the date nor the place of his birth is now known with
certainty. He is reported to have been orphaned at an early age, and
subsequently, to have been adopted and reared by the renowned Royal
Chamberlain, Christopher Walkendorf. After receiving an excellent
education, he became rector of a Latin school at Helsingør, the Elsinore
of Shakespeare's _Hamlet_, and later was appointed to a pastorate in the
same city. In this latter office he was singularly successful. Lysander,
one of his biographers, says of him that he was exceptionally well
educated, known as a fine orator and noted as a successful author and
translator. His hymns prove that he was also an earnest and warm-hearted
Christian. The peoples of Helsingør loved him dearly, and for many years,
after he had left their city, continued to "remember him with gifts of
love for his long and faithful service among them". In 1583, to the
sorrow of his congregation he had accepted a call to Malmø, a city on the
eastern shore of the Sound. But in this new field his earnest Evangelical
preaching, provoked the resentment of a number of his most influential
parishioners, who, motivated by a wish to blacken his name and secure his
removal, instigated a suit against him for having mismanaged an
inheritance left to his children by his first wife. The children
themselves appeared in his defence, however, and expressed their complete
satisfaction with his administration of their property; and the trumped
up charge was wholly disproved. But his enemies still wanted to have him
removed and, choosing a new method of attack, forwarded a petition to the
king in which they claimed that "Master Hans Chrestensen Sthen because of
weakness and old age was incompetent to discharge his duties as a
pastor", and asked for his removal to the parishes of Tygelse and
Klagstrup. Though the king is reported to have granted the petition,
other things seem to have intervened to prevent its execution, and the
ill-used pastor appears to have remained at Malmø until his death, the
date of which is unknown.

Sthen's fame as a poet and hymnwriter rests mainly on two thin volumes of
poetry. _A Small Handbook, Containing Diverse Prayers and Songs Together
with Some Rules for Life, Composed in Verse_, which appeared in 1578, and
_A Small Wander Book_, published in 1591. The books contain both a number
of translations and some original poems. In some of the latter Sthen
readopts the style of the old folk songs with their free metre, native
imagery and characteristic refrain. His most successful compositions in
this style are his fine morning and evening hymns, one of which is given

    The gloomy night to morning yields,
    So brightly the day is breaking;
    The sun ascends over hills and fields,
    And birds are with song awaking.
      Lord, lend us Thy counsel and speed our days,
      The light of Thy grace surround us.

    Our grateful thanks to God ascend,
    Whose mercy guarded our slumber.
    May ever His peace our days attend
    And shield us from troubles somber.
      Lord, lend us Thy counsel and speed our days,
      The light of Thy grace surround us.

    Redeem us, Master, from death's strong hand,
    Thy grace from sin us deliver;
    Enlighten us till with Thine we stand,
    And make us Thy servants ever.
      Lord, lend us Thy counsel and speed our days,
      The light of Thy grace surround us.

    Then shall with praise we seek repose
    When day unto night hath yielded,
    And safe in Thine arms our eyelids close
    To rest by Thy mercy shielded.
      Lord, lend us Thy counsel and speed our days,
      The light of Thy grace surround us.

Sthen's hymns all breathe a meek and lowly spirit. They express in the
simplest words the faith, hope and fears of a humble, earnest Christian.
The following still beloved hymn thus presents a vivid picture of the
meek and prayerful spirit of its author.

    O Lord, my heart is turning
    To Thee with ceaseless yearning
    And praying for Thy grace.
    Thou art my sole reliance
    Against my foes' defiance;
    Be Thou my stay in every place.

    I offer a confession
    Of my severe transgression;
    In me is nothing good.
    But, Lord, Thou wilt not leave me
    And, like the world, deceive me;
    Thou hast redeemed me with Thy blood.

    Blest Lord of Life most holy,
    Thou wilt the sinner lowly
    Not leave in sin and death;
    Thine anger wilt not sever
    The child from Thee forever
    That pleads with Thee for life and breath.

    O Holy Spirit, guide me!
    With wisdom true provide me;
    Help me my cross to bear.
    Uphold me in my calling
    And, when the night is falling,
    Grant me Thy heavenly home to share.

Most widely known of all Sthen's hymns is his beloved "Lord Jesus Christ,
My Savior Blest". In its unabbreviated form this hymn contains eight
stanzas of which the initial letters spell the words: "Hans Anno"; and it
has become known therefore as "Sthen's Name Hymn". The method of thus
affixing one's name to a song was frequently practiced by authors for the
purpose of impressing people with their erudition. The meek and anxious
spirit that pervades this hymn makes it unlikely, however, that Sthen
would have employed his undoubted skill as a poet for such a purpose. The
hymn is thought to have been written at Malmø at the time its author
encountered his most severe trials there. And its intimate personal note
makes it likely that he thus ineradicably affixed his name to his hymn in
order to indicate its connection with his own faith and experience.
"Sthen's Name Hymn" thus should be placed among the numerous great hymns
of the church that have been born out of the sorrows and travails of
their authors' believing but anxious hearts. The translation given below
is from the abbreviated text now used in all Danish hymnals.

    Lord Jesus Christ,
    My Savior blest,
    My refuge and salvation,
    I trust in Thee,
    Abide with me,
    Thy word shall be
    My shield and consolation.

    I will confide,
    Whate'er betide,
    In Thy compassion tender.
    When grief and stress
    My heart oppress,
    Thou wilt redress
    And constant solace render.

    When grief befalls
    And woe appalls
    Thy loving care enfolds me.
    I have no fear
    When Thou art near,
    My Savior dear;
    Thy saving hand upholds me.

    Lord, I will be
    Alway with Thee
    Wherever Thou wilt have me.
    Do Thou control
    My heart and soul
    And make me whole;
    Thy grace alone can save me.

    Yea, help us, Lord,
    With one accord
    To love and serve Thee solely,
    That henceforth we
    May dwell with Thee
    Most happily
    And see Thy presence holy.

With Sthen the fervid spirit of the Reformation period appears to have
spent itself. The following century added nothing to Danish hymnody.
Anders Chrestensen Arrebo, Bishop at Tronhjem, and an ardent lover and
advocate of a richer cultivation of the Danish language and literature,
published a versification of the Psalms of David and a few hymns in 1623.
But the Danish church never became a psalm singing church, and his hymns
have disappeared. Hans Thomisson's hymnal continued to be printed with
occasional additions of new material, most of which possessed no
permanent value. But the old hymns entered into the very heart and spirit
of the people and held their affection so firmly that even Kingo lost
much of his popularity when he attempted to revise them and remove some
of their worst poetical and linguistic defects. They were no longer
imprinted merely on the pages of a book but in the very heart and
affection of a nation.

                Thomas Kingo, the Easter Poet of Denmark

                                                           Chapter Three
                       Kingo's Childhood and Youth

Thomas Kingo, the first of the great Danish hymnwriters, grew forth as a
root out of dry ground. There was nothing in the religious and secular
life of the times to foreshadow the appearance of one of the great
hymnwriters, not only of Denmark but of the world.

The latter part of the 16th and the first half of the 17th centuries mark
a rather barren period in the religious and cultural life of Denmark. The
spiritual ferment of the Reformation had subsided into a staid and
uniform Lutheran orthodoxy. Jesper Brochman, a bishop of Sjælland and the
most famous theologian of that age, praised king Christian IV for "the
zeal with which from the beginning of his reign he had exerted himself to
make all his subjects think and talk alike about divine things". That the
foremost leader of the church thus should recommend an effort to impose
uniformity upon the church by governmental action proves to what extent
church life had become stagnant. Nor did such secular culture as there
was present a better picture. The Reformation had uprooted much of the
cultural life that had grown up during the long period of Catholic
supremacy, but had produced no adequate substitute. Even the once
refreshing springs of the folk-sings had dried up. Writers were
laboriously endeavoring to master the newer and more artistic forms of
poetry introduced from other countries, but when the forms had been
achieved the spirit had often fled, leaving only an empty shell. Of all
that was written during these years only one song of any consequence,
"Denmark's Lovely Fields and Meadows", has survived.

Against this bleak background the work of Kingo stands out as an amazing
achievement. Leaping all the impediments of an undeveloped language and
an equally undeveloped form, Danish poetry by one miraculous sweep
attained a perfection which later ages have scarcely surpassed.

                              Thomas Kingo

Of this accomplishment, Grundtvig wrote two hundred years later: "Kingo's
hymns represent not only the greatest miracle of the 17th century but
such an exceptional phenomenon in the realm of poetry that it is
explainable only by the fates who in their wisdom preserved the seed of
an Easter Lily for a thousand years, and then returned it across the sea
that it might flower in its original soil". Kingo's family on the
paternal side had immigrated to Denmark from that part of Scotland which
once had been settled by the poetic Northern sea rovers, and Grundtvig
thus conceives the poetic genius of Kingo to be a revival of an ancestral
gift, brought about by the return of his family to its original home and
a new infusion of pure Northern blood. The conception, like so much that
Grundtvig wrote is at least ingenious, and it is recommended by the fact
that Kingo's poetry does convey a spirit of robust realism that is far
more characteristic of the age of the Vikings than of his own.

Thomas Kingo, the grandfather of the poet, immigrated from Crail,
Scotland, to Denmark about 1590, and settled at Helsingør, Sjælland,
where he worked as a tapestry weaver. He seems to have attained a
position of some prominence, and it is related that King James IV of
Scotland, during a visit to Helsingør, lodged at his home. His son, Hans
Thomeson Kingo, who was about two years old when the family arrived in
Denmark, does not appear to have prospered as well as his father. He
learned the trade of linen and damask weaving, and established a modest
business of his own at Slangerup, a town in the northern part of Sjælland
and close to the famous royal castle of Frederiksborg. At the age of
thirty-eight he married a young peasant girl, Karen Sørendatter, and
built a modest but eminently respectable home. In this home, Thomas
Kingo, the future hymnwriter, was born December 15, 1634.

It was an unusually cold and unfriendly world that greeted the advent of
the coming poet. The winter of his birth was long remembered as one of
the hardest ever experienced in Denmark. The country's unsuccessful
participation in the Thirty Year's War had brought on a depression that
threatened its very existence as a nation; and a terrible pestilence
followed by new wars increased and prolonged the general misery, making
the years of Kingo's childhood and youth one of the darkest periods in
Danish history.

But although these conditions brought sorrow and ruin to thousands, even
among the wealthy, the humble home of the Kingos somehow managed to
survive. Beneath its roof industry and frugality worked hand in hand with
piety and mutual love to brave the storms that wrecked so many and
apparently far stronger establishments. Kingo always speaks with the
greatest respect and gratitude of his "poor but honest parents". In a
poetic description of his childhood years he vividly recalls their
indulgent kindness to him.

    I took my pilgrim staff in hand
    Ere I attempted talking;
    I had scarce left my swaddling-band
    Before they set me walking.
    They coached me onward with a smile
    And suited me when tearful.
    One step was farther than a mile,
    For I was small and fearful.

But discipline was not forgotten. Parents in those days usually kept the
rod close to the apple, often too close. And Kingo's parents, despite
their kindness, made no exception to the rule. He was a lively,
headstrong boy in need of a firm hand, and the hand was not wanting.

    As a child my daily bread
    I with rod and penance had,

he wrote later, adding that the fruits of that chastisement are now sweet
to him. Nor do his parents ever appear to have treated him with the cold,
almost loveless austerity that so many elders frequently felt it their
duty to adopt toward their children. Their discipline was tempered by
kindness and an earnest Christian faith. Although Hans Kingo seems to
some extent to have been influenced by the strict Presbyterianism of his
Scotch forebears, he does not appear, like so many followers of that
stern faith, to have taught his children to believe in God as the strict
judge rather than as the loving Father of Jesus Christ. In his later
years the son at least gives us an attractive picture of his childhood

    I gratefully remember
    God's loving care for me
    Since from my nursery chamber
    I toddled fearfully.
    I lived contented in His care
    And trusted in His children's prayer.

These bright years of his happy childhood were somewhat darkened,
however, when, at the age of six, he entered the Danish and, two years
later, the Latin school of his home town. Nothing could be more unsuited
for a child of tender years than the average school of those days. The
curriculum was meager, the teaching poor and the discipline cruel. Every
day saw its whipping scenes. For a day's unexplained absence the
punishment for the smaller boys was three lashes on their bare seats and
for the larger an equal number on their bare backs. For graver offences
up to twenty lashes might be administered. On entering the Latin school
every boy had to adopt a new language. Only Latin could be spoken within
its classical confines; and woe be to the tike who so far forgot himself
as to speak a word in the native tongue anywhere upon the school
premises. The only way anyone, discovered to have perpetrated such a
crime, could escape the severest punishment was to report another culprit
guilty of the same offense. Under such conditions one cannot wonder that
Kingo complains:

    The daily round from home to school
    Was often hard and weary.
    It did my youthful ardour cool
    And made my childhood dreary.

At the age of fifteen Kingo, for reasons now unknown, was transferred
from the school of his home town to that at the neighboring city of
Hillerød. Here, on account of his outstanding ability, he was accepted
into the home of his new rector, Albert Bartholin, a young man of
distinguished family and conspicuous personal endowments.

Although the school at Hillerød was larger, it probably was not much
better than that at Slangerup; but the close association of the humble
weaver's son with his distinguished rector and his refined family, no
doubt, was a distinct advantage to him. The location of Hillerød on the
shores of the idyllic Frederiksborg Lake and close to the magnificent
castle of the same name is one of the loveliest in Denmark. The castle
had recently been rebuilt, and presented, together with its lovely
surroundings, a most entrancing spectacle. Its famous builder, Christian
IV, had just gone the way of all flesh; but the new king, Frederik, known
for his fondness for royal pomp, frequently resided at the castle
together with his court, and thus Kingo must often have enjoyed the
opportunity to see both the king and the outstanding men of his

It is not unlikely that this near view of the beauty and splendor of his
country, the finest that Denmark had to offer, served to awaken in Kingo
that ardent love for all things Danish for which he is noticed. While
still at Hillerød he, at any rate, commenced a comprehensive study of
Danish literature, a most unusual thing for a young student to do at a
time when German was the common language of all the upper classes and
Danish was despised as the speech of traders and peasants. As neither his
school nor the general sentiment of the intellectual classes did anything
to encourage interest in native culture, some other influence must have
aroused in the young Kingo what one of his early biographers calls "his
peculiar inclination for his native tongue and Danish poetry". A few
patriotic and forward looking men, it is true, had risen above the
general indifference and sought to inspire a greater interest in the use
and cultivation of the Danish language; but this work was still very much
in its infancy, and it is not likely that the young Kingo knew much about

He graduated from Hillerød in the spring of 1654, and enrolled at the
university of Copenhagen on May 6 of the same year. But a terrific
outbreak of the plague forced the university to close on May 30, and
Kingo returned to his home. The scourge raged for about eight months,
carrying away one third of the city's population, and it was winter
before Kingo returned to the school and enrolled in the department of
theology. The rules of the university required each student, at the
beginning of his course, to choose a preceptor, a sort of guardian who
should direct his charge in his studies and counsel him in his personal
life and conduct. For this very important position Kingo wisely chose one
of the most distinguished and respected teachers at the university, Prof.
Bartholin, a brother of his former rector. Professor Bartholin was not
only a learned man, known for his years of travel and study in foreign
parts, but he was also a man of rare personal gifts and sincere piety. In
his younger days he had spent four years at the castle of Rosenholm where
the godly and scholarly nobleman, Holger Rosenkrans, then gathered groups
of young nobles about him for study and meditation. Rosenkrans was a
close friend of John Arndt, a leader in the early Pietist movement in
Germany, to which the young Bartholin under his influence became deeply
attached. Nor had this attachment lessened with the years. And
Bartholin's influence upon Kingo was so strong that the latter, when
entering upon his own work, lost no time in showing his adherence to the
Arndt-Rosenkrans view of Christianity.

Meanwhile he applied himself diligently to his work at the university.
Like other disciplines the study of theology at that time was affected by
a considerable portion of dry-rust. Orthodoxy ruled the cathedra. With
that as a weapon, the student must be trained to meet all the wiles of
the devil and perversions of the heretics. Its greatest Danish exponent,
Jesper Brochman, had just passed to his reward, but his monumental work,
_The System of Danish Theology_, remained after him, and continued to
serve as an authoritative textbook for many years to come. Though dry and
devoted to hairsplitting as orthodoxy no doubt was, it probably was not
quite as lifeless as later generations represent it to have been. Kingo
is often named "The Singer of Orthodoxy", yet no one can read his
soul-stirring hymns with their profound sense of sin and grace without
feeling that he, at least, possessed a deeper knowledge of Christianity
than a mere dogmatic training could give him.

Kingo's last months at the university were disturbed by a new war with
Sweden that for a while threatened the independent existence of the
country, a threat which was averted only by the ceding of some of its
finest provinces. During these stirring events, Kingo had to prepare for
his final examinations which he passed with highest honors in the spring
of 1658.

Thus with considerable deprivation and sacrifice, the humble weaver's son
had attained his membership in the academic world, an unusual
accomplishment for a man of his standing in those days. His good parents
had reason to be proud of their promising and well educated son who now,
after his many years of study, returned to the parental home. His stay
there was short, however, for he obtained almost immediate employment as
a private tutor, first with the family of Jørgen Sørensen, the overseer
at Frederiksborg castle, and later, with the Baroness Lena Rud of Vedby
Manor, a position which to an impecunious but ambitious young man like
Kingo must have appeared especially desirable. Lena Rud belonged to what
at that time was one of the wealthiest and most influential families in
the country. Many of her relatives occupied neighboring estates, a
circumstance which enabled Kingo to become personally acquainted with a
number of them; and with one of them, the worthy Karsten Atke, he soon
formed a close and lasting friendship. He also appears to have made a
very favorable impression upon his influential patrons and, despite his
subordinate position, to have become something of a social leader,
especially among the younger members of the group.

Meanwhile the country once again had been plunged into a desperate
struggle. The Swedish king, Gustav X, soon repented of the peace he had
made when the whole country was apparently at his mercy, and renewed the
war in the hope of affixing the Danish crown to his own. This hope
vanished in the desperate battle of Copenhagen in 1659, where the Swedish
army suffered a decisive defeat by the hand of an aroused citizenry. But
detachments of the defeated army still occupied large sections of the
country districts where they, like all armies of that day, robbed,
pillaged and murdered at will, driving thousands of people away from
their homes and forcing them to roam homeless and destitute through the
wasted countryside. Acts of robbery and violence belonged to the order of
the day. Even Kingo received a bullet through his mouth in a fight with a
Swedish dragoon, whom he boldly attempted to stop from stealing one of
his employer's horses. When the country finally emerged from the
conflict, her resources were depleted, her trade destroyed, and large
sections of her country districts laid waste, losses which it required
years for her to regain. But youth must be served. Despite the gravity
and hardships of the day, the young people from Vedby managed to have
their parties and other youthful diversions. And at these, Kingo soon
became a welcome and valued guest. His attractive personality, sprightly
humor and distinct social gifts caused his highly placed friends to
accept him with delight.

This popularity, if he had cared to exploit it, might have carried him
far. In those days the usual road to fame and fortune for an obscure
young man was to attach himself to some wealthy patron and acquire a
position through him. With the aid of his wealthy friends Kingo could
easily enough have obtained employment as a companion to some young noble
going abroad for travel and study. It came, therefore, as a surprise to
all when he accepted a call as assistant to the Reverend Jacobsen Worm at
Kirkehelsinge, a country parish a few miles from Vedby. The position was
so far short of what a young man of Kingo's undoubted ability and
excellent connections might have obtained, that one may well ask for his
motive in accepting it. And although Kingo himself has left no direct
explanation of his action, the following verses, which he is thought to
have written about this time, may furnish a key.

    Wherever in the world I went
    Upon my work or pleasure bent,
    I everywhere my Lord did find,
    He so absorbed my heart and mind
    That I His blessed image traced
    In everything I saw or faced.

    My thoughts on heaven ever dwelt,
    For earth I but aversion felt.
    My heart exalted Jesus' name,
    His kingdom was my constant theme;
    My prayer was, by repentance true,
    All carnal passions to subdue.

It is understandable, at least, that a young man with such sentiments
should forego the prospect of worldly honor for a chance to serve his

Kingo was ordained in the Church of Our Lady at Copenhagen in September,
1661, and was installed in his new office a few weeks later. The seven
years that he spent in the obscure parish were, no doubt, among the most
fruitful years of Kingo's life, proving the truth of the old adage that
it is better that a man should confer honor on his position than that the
position should confer honor upon him. His fiery, forceful eloquence made
him known as an exceptionally able and earnest pastor, and his literary
work established his fame as one of the foremost Danish poets of his day.

While still at Vedby, Kingo had written a number of poems which, widely
circulated in manuscripts, had gained him a local fame. But he now
published a number of new works that attained nation-wide recognition.
These latter works compare well with the best poetry of the period and
contain passages that still may be read with interest. The style is
vigorous, the imagery striking and at times beautiful, but the Danish
language was too little cultivated and contemporary taste too uncertain
to sustain a work of consistent excellence. Most successful of Kingo's
early poems are "Karsten Atke's Farewell to Lion County", a truly felt
and finely expressed greeting to his friends, the Atkes, on their
departure from their former home, and "Chrysillis", a lovesong, written
in a popular French style that was then very much admired in Denmark.
Both poems contain parts that are surprisingly fine, and they attained an
immense popularity. But although Kingo throughout his life continued to
write secular poetry that won him the highest praise, that part of his
work is now well nigh forgotten. It is truly interesting to compare the
faded beauty of his secular poems with the perennial freshness of his

It was inevitable that Kingo, with his high ambitions and undoubted
ability should desire a larger field of labor. His salary was so small
that he had to live in the home of his employer, a circumstance that for
various reasons was not always pleasant. Pastor Worm had married thrice
and had a large family of children of all ages from a babe in arms to a
son at the university. This son, Jacob Worm, was a brilliant but
irascible and excessively proud youth only a few years younger than
Kingo. From what we know about him in later years, it is likely that
Kingo's contact with him during his vacations at home must have proved
exceedingly trying. The bitter enmity that later existed between the two
men probably had its inception at this time. In 1666, Kingo, therefore,
applied for a waiting appointment to his home church at Slangerup, where
the pastor was growing old and, in the course of nature, could be
expected ere long to be called to his reward. The application was
granted, and when the pastor did die two years later, Kingo at once was
installed as his successor.

Slangerup was only a small city, but it had a new and very beautiful
church, which still stands almost unchanged. One may still sit in the
same pews and see the same elaborately carved pulpit and altar which
graced its lofty chancel during the pastorate of the great hymnwriter. A
beautiful chandelier, which he donated and inscribed, still adorns the
arched nave. In this splendid sanctuary it must have been inspiring to
listen to the known eloquence of its most famous pastor as he preached
the gospel or, with his fine musical voice, chanted the liturgy before
the altar. The church was always well attended when Kingo conducted the
service. People soon recognized his exceptional ability and showed their
appreciation of his devoted ministry. The position of a pastor was then
much more prominent than it is now. He was the official head of numerous
enterprises, both spiritual and civic, and the social equal of the best
people in the community. With many people the custom of calling him
"Father" was then by no means an empty phrase. Parishioners sought their
pastor and accepted his counsel in numerous affairs that are now
considered to be outside of his domain. In view of Kingo's humble
antecedents, a position of such prominence might well have proved
difficult to maintain among a people that knew his former station. But of
such difficulties the record of his pastorate gives no indication. He
was, it appears, one exception to the rule that a prophet is not
respected in his own country.

When he moved to Slangerup, Kingo was still unmarried. But about two
years later he married the widow of his former superior, Pastor Worm,
becoming at once the head of a large family consisting of the children of
his wife and those of her first husband by his previous marriage. It was
a serious responsibility to assume, both morally and financially. The
parish was quite large, but his income was considerably reduced by the
payment of a pension to the widow of the former pastor and the salary to
an assistant. With such a drain on his income and with a large family to
support, Kingo's economic circumstances must have been strained. But he
was happy with his wife and proved himself a kind and conscientious
stepfather to her children who, even after their maturity, maintained a
close relationship with him.

Kingo's happiness proved, however, to be but a brief interlude to a
period of intense sorrows and disappointments. His wife died less than a
year after their marriage; his father, whom he loved and revered, passed
away the same year; and the conduct of his stepson, the formerly
mentioned Jacob Worm, caused him bitter trouble and humiliation. The
bright prospect of this brilliant but erratic youth had quickly faded.
After a number of failures, he had been forced to accept a position as
rector of the small and insignificant Latin school at Slangerup, thus
coming under the immediate authority of Kingo, who, as pastor, supervised
the educational institutions of the parish. Worm always seems to have
thought of Kingo as a former assistant to his father, and his position as
an inferior to a former inferior in his own home, therefore, bitterly
wounded his pride. Seeking an outlet for his bitterness, he wrote a
number of extremely abusive poems about his stepfather and circulated
them among the people of the parish. This unwarranted abuse aroused the
anger of Kingo and provoked him to answer in kind. The ensuing battle of
vituperation and name-calling brought no honor to either side. Worm's
conduct toward his superior, the man who was unselfishly caring for his
minor sisters and brothers, deserves nothing but condemnation; but it is
painful, nevertheless, to behold the great hymnwriter himself employing
the abusive language of his worthless opponent. The times were violent,
however, and Kingo possessed his share of their temper. Kingo's last act
in this drama between himself and his stepson throws a somewhat softening
light upon his conduct. Embittered by persistent failures, Worm continued
to pour out his bitterness not only upon his stepfather, but upon other
and much higher placed persons until at last he was caught and sentenced
to die on the gallows for "having written and circulated grossly
defamatory poems about the royal family". In this extremity, he appealed
to Kingo, who successfully exerted his then great influence to have the
sentence commuted to banishment for life to the Danish colony in India.

                                                            Chapter Four
                          Kingo, the Hymnwriter

Kingo's first hymns appeared shortly before Christmas, 1673, in a small
volume entitled _Spiritual Song-Choir, Part I_. The book contained
fifteen morning and evening hymns and seven paraphrases of the psalms.
Later editions were enlarged by seven "Morning and Evening Sighs" short
hymns that belong to the very best in the collection.

In a foreword addressed to the king, Kingo states that "he has written
these hymns with the hope that they might serve to edify his fellow
Christians, advance the teaching of the Gospel and benefit the royal
household at those daily devotions which it is the duty of every
Christian home to practice". He prays, therefore, he continues, that "the
king will graciously bestow the same approval upon this work that he has
so kindly given to his previous efforts, and thereby encourage him to
continue his endeavor until the Danes shall possess a hymnody that they
have neither begged nor borrowed from other nations. For the Danish
spirit," he concludes, "is assuredly neither so weak nor so poor that it
cannot fly as high toward heaven as that of other peoples without being
borne upon strange and foreign wings".

Commenting on the content of the book, Kingo further explains that he
expects sensitive readers will discover imperfections in his work which
he himself has failed to see, and that it would please him to have such
blemishes called to his attention so that they might be corrected in
future issues. His choice of tunes will, he fears, provoke criticism. He
has set a number of hymns to the melodies of popular songs in order that
"those, who for the sake of its tune, now gladly listen to a song of
Sodom may, if they be Christians, with the more pleasure use it with a
hymn about Zion. By examining the work of other hymnwriters possible
critics might assure themselves, however, that he had in this matter only
followed their example." But Kingo need not have apologized for his
choice of tunes, for they were on the whole fine and were received
without objection.

It would be difficult to overstate the enthusiasm with which Kingo's
hymns were received. Within a few years they were printed in numerous
editions and translated into several foreign languages. Their
enthusiastic reception was well deserved. Viewed against the background
of literary mediocrity that characterized the period, Kingo's hymns stand
out with amazing perfection. Danish hymnody contained nothing that could
compare with them, and other countries, as far as morning and evening
hymns were concerned, were in the same position. Paul Gerhardt's fine
hymn, "Now Rests Beneath Night's Shadow", which was written twenty years
earlier, had been ridiculed into disuse; Ken's famous morning hymn dates
from twenty years later; and none of these are as fine as the best of

As might be expected, the hymns are not all of the same merit. Some of
them are exceedingly fine; others show the defects of an imperfectly
developed language and a deficient literary taste. In the matter of style
and form the author had almost nothing to guide him. It is not
surprising, therefore, that his work shows crudities which no present day
writer would commit, but that it should contain so much that is truly
beautiful, even when measured by the standards of today.

Kingo had the true poet's ability to see things poetically. To him the
rays of the rising sun were not only shining but "laughing on the roof"
of his home. His imagery is rich and skillfully applied. Many of his
hymns abound in striking similes. Their outstanding characteristic,
however, is a distinctive, forceful realism. Kingo, when he chose to do
so, could touch the lyre with enhancing gentleness, but he preferred the
strong note and searched always for the most graphic expression,
sometimes too graphic, as when he speaks of the "frothing wrath of God"
and "the oozy slime of sin". Yet it is this trait of robust reality that
invests his hymns with a large part of their enduring merit. "When Kingo
sings of God, one feels as though He were right there with him", one of
his commentators exclaims. Nor is that realism a mere literary pose. Like
most great hymns, his best hymns are reflections of his own experiences.
Kingo never attained a state of saintly serenity. Whatever peace he found
was gained only through a continuous struggle with his own fiery and
passionate nature. Few hymns convey a more vivid impression of a
believing, struggling soul than Kingo's.

His morning hymns are among his best. He loved light and gloried in the
birth of each new day. The sun is his favorite symbol. Its rising
signifies to him the final triumph of life over death, and the new day is
a token thereof. It sounds a joyful call to wake and resume life anew.

    "Awake, my soul, the sun is risen,
    Upon my roof its rays now laugh,--"

Every Christian should rejoice in the newborn day and thank God for it:

    Break now forth in Jesus' name,
    Blessed morn, in all thy splendor!
    I will sweetest music render
    And thy wondrous gifts proclaim.
    All my spirit with rejoicing
    Thanks the Lord for rest and care
    And, His grace and goodness voicing,
    Wings its way to Him in prayer.

But the commencing day also calls for consecration lest its hours be
wasted and its opportunities lost:

    Grant me, Lord, that on this day
    Now with light and grace beginning,
    I shall not submit to sinning
    Nor Thy word and way betray.
    Blessed Jesus, hover ever
    Over me, my Sun and Shield,
    That I firm may stand and never
    Unto sin and Satan yield.

And the passing hours must admonish the Christian to work while it is day
and to prepare for the evening that is coming:

    Let each fleeting hour of grace
    And the chiming bells remind me
    That to earth I must not bind me
    But Thy life and gifts embrace.
    And when dawns my final morrow,
    Let me go to Thee for aye,
    Let my sin and care and sorrow
    With my dust be put away.

Finest of all Kingo's morning hymns is the splendid "The Sun Arises Now
in Light and Glory". This hymn presents all the finest traits of Kingo's
poetry, its vivid imagery, forceful style and robust faith. The following
translation is by the Rev. P. C. Paulsen.

    The sun arises now
    In light and glory
    And gilds the rugged brow
    Of mountains hoary.
    Rejoice, my soul, and lift
    Thy voice in singing
    To God from earth below,
    Thy song with joy aglow
    And praises ringing.

    As countless as the sand
    And beyond measure,
    As wide as sea and land
    So is the treasure
    Of grace which God each day
    Anew bestoweth
    And which, like pouring rain,
    Into my soul again
    Each morning floweth.

    Preserve my soul today
    From sin and blindness;
    Surround me on my way
    With loving kindness.
    Embue my heart, O Lord,
    With joy from heaven;
    I then shall ask no more
    Than what Thou hast of yore
    In wisdom given.

    Thou knowest best my needs,
    My sighs Thou heedest,
    Thy hand Thy children leads,
    Thine own Thou feedest.
    What should I more desire,
    With Thee deciding
    The course that I must take,
    Than follow in the wake
    Where Thou art guiding.

Evening naturally inspires a different sentiment than morning. The rising
sun calls for activity, the setting sun for reflection. As the sun sets,
as work ceases and the busy day merges into the quiet night the soul
begins to take account of its gains and losses, its assets and
liabilities. The dying day also conveys a sense of insecurity, of
approaching death and the need for pardon and protection. All these
sentiments, so different from the hopes and prospects of the morning, are
wonderfully portrayed in Kingo's evening hymns, as for instance:

    Vanish now all sinful dreaming,
    Let the joy from heaven streaming
    Occupy my soul and mind.
    Watch, my spirit, and prepare thee,
    Lest the cunning foe ensnare thee
    When repose hath made thee blind.

    Sleep now in God's care appeasing.
    While the noise of day is ceasing,
    Lean upon thy Savior's breast.
    He will guard thee through the somber
    Night and make thy final slumber
    Quiet, peaceful, happy, blest.

In the last line with its crescendo of peace and happiness one almost
sees the night merge into the final rest.

Among his evening hymns now available in English, the following, perhaps,
is the best known.

    Softly now the day is ending,
    Night o'er hill and vale descending,
    I will kneel before Thee, Lord.
    Unto Thee my thanks I render
    That Thou didst in mercy tender
    Life and peace to me accord.

    May Thy church Thy peace inherit,
    Guide our leaders by Thy spirit,
    Grant our country strength and peace.
    To the straying, sad and dreary,
    To each Christian faint or weary
    Grant Thou solace and surcease.

    Keep me, Jesus, while I slumber!
    From my perils without number,
    Shield me, Master, in Thy might,
    That, released from sin and sorrow,
    I may sing this song tomorrow:
    Jesus was my Sun this night.

The publication of these hymns firmly established Kingo's reputation as
the foremost poet of his country. Expressions of appreciation poured in
upon him from high and low. The king, to whom the hymns were dedicated,
so greatly appreciated the gift that, only three years later, he called
their otherwise obscure author to become bishop of Fyn, one of the
largest and most important dioceses of the country.

Kingo was only forty-two years old when he assumed his new position. His
quick elevation from an obscure parish to one of the highest offices
within the church might well have strained the abilities of an older and
more experienced man. But there can be no doubt that he filled his high
position with signal ability. He was both able and earnest, both
practical and spiritual. His diocese prospered under his care and his
work as a bishop, aside from his renown as a poet, was outstanding enough
to give him an enviable reputation in his own generation.

But since his permanent fame and importance rest upon his achievement as
a hymnwriter, his appointment as bishop probably must be counted as a
loss, both to himself and to the church. His new responsibilities and the
multifarious duties of his high office naturally left him less time for
other pursuits. He traveled, visited and preached almost continuously
throughout his large charge, and it appears like a miracle that under
these circumstances, he still found time to write hymns. But in 1684,
only two years after his consecration as bishop, he published the second
part of _Spiritual Song-Choir_.

This book bears a dedication to the queen, Charlotte Amalia. She was
German by birth and a pious, able and distinguished woman in her own
right. Kingo praises her especially for her effort to learn and speak the
Danish language. In this respect, he declares, "Her Majesty put many to
shame who have eaten the king's bread for thirty years without learning
to speak thirty words of Danish, because they hold it to be a homespun
language, too coarse for their silky tongues".

_Spiritual Song-Choir, Part II_ contains twenty hymns and seventeen
"sighs", thus outwardly following the arrangement of Part I. But the
content is very different. The hymns are songs of penitence, repentance
and faith. They show mastery of form, a wealth of imagery, a facility for
concentrated expression and a range of sentiment from stark despair to
the most confident trust that is, perhaps, unequalled in Danish poetry.
It is an embattled soul that speaks through these hymns, a soul that has
faced the abyss and clung heroically, but not always successfully, to the
pinnacle of faith. One feels that the man who penned the following lines
has not merely imagined the nearness of the pit but felt himself standing
on the very brink of it.

    Mountains of transgressions press
    On my evil burdened shoulders,
    Guilt bestrews my path with boulders,
    Sin pollutes both soul and flesh,
    Law and justice are proclaiming
    Judgment on my guilty head,
    Hell's eternal fires are flaming,
    Filling all my soul with dread.

Of an even darker mood is the great hymn: "Sorrow and Unhappiness", with
the searching verse:

    Is there then no one that cares,
    Is there no redress for sorrow,
    Is there no relief to borrow,
    Is there no response to prayers,
    Is the fount of mercy closing,
    Is the soul to bondage sold,
    Is the Lord my plea opposing,
    Is His heart to sinners cold?

The poet answers his questions in the following stanzas by assuring
himself that the Sun of God's grace can and will pierce even his "cloud
of despair", and that he must wait therefore in quietness and trust:

    O my soul, be quiet then!
    Jesus will redress thy sadness,
    Jesus will restore thy gladness,
    Jesus will thy help remain.
    Jesus is thy solace ever
    And thy hope in life and death;
    Jesus will thee soon deliver;
    Thou must cling to that blest faith.

The uncertainty of life and its fortunes furnished a favored theme for
many of his hymns, as for instance in the splendid--

    Sorrow and gladness oft journey together,
    Trouble and happiness swift company keep;
    Luck and misfortune change like the weather;
    Sunshine and clouds quickly vary their sweep.

which is, poetically at least, one of his finest compositions. The poet's
own career so far had been one of continuous and rather swift
advancement. But there was, if not in his own outward fortune, then in
the fortunes of other notables of his day, enough to remind him of the
inconstancy of worldly honor and glory. Only a few months before the
publication of his hymns, Leonora Christine Ulfeldt, the once beautiful,
admired and talented daughter of Christian IV, had been released from
twenty-two years of imprisonment in a bare and almost lightless
prison-cell; Peder Griffenfeldt, a man who from humble antecedents
swiftly had risen to become the most powerful man in the kingdom, had
been stript even more swiftly of all his honors and thrown into a dismal
prison on a rocky isle by the coast of Norway; and there were other and
well known instances of swift changes in the fortunes of men in those
days when they were subject not only to the ordinary vicissitudes of
human existence but to the fickle humor of an absolute monarch. It is,
therefore, as though Kingo at the height of his own fortune would remind
himself of the quickness with which it might vanish, of the evanescense
and vanity of all worldly glory. That idea is strikingly emphasized in
the following famous hymn:

      Vain world, fare thee well!
    I purpose no more in thy bondage to dwell;
    The burdens which thou hast enticed me to bear,
    I cast now aside with their troubles and care.
    I spurn thy allurements, which tempt and appall;
      'Tis vanity all!

      What merit and worth
    Hath all that the world puts so temptingly forth!
    It is naught but bubbles and tinctured glass,
    Loud clamoring cymbals and shrill sounding brass.
    What are their seductions which lure and enthrall;
      'Tis vanity all!

      O honor and gold,
    Vain idols which many with worship behold!
    False are your affluence, your pleasure and fame;
    Your wages are envy, deception and shame,
    Your garlands soon wither, your kingdom shall fall;
      'Tis vanity all!

      O carnal desire,
    Thou tempting, consuming and treacherous fire,
    That catches like tinder and scorches like flame,
    Consigning the victim to sorrow and shame,
    Thy honeyest potion is wormwood and gall;
      'Tis vanity all!

      Then, fare thee farewell,
    Vain world, with thy tempting and glamorous spell!
    Thy wiles shall no longer my spirit enslave,
    Thy splendor and joy are designed for the grave
    I yearn for the solace from sorrows and harm
      Of Abraham's arm!

      There shall all my years
    I bloom like the lily when summer appears;
    There day is not ruled by the course of the sun
    Nor night by the silvery light of the moon;
    Lord Jesus shall shine as my sun every day
      In heaven for aye.

This is an eloquent farewell, clothed in all the expressive wealth of
language and imagery of which Kingo was such a master. One cannot repress
the feeling, however, that it presents a challenge rather than a
farewell. A man that so passionately avows his repudiation of the world
must have felt its attraction, its power to tempt and enthrall. He fights
against it; the spirit contends with the flesh, but the fight is not
easy. And it is in part this very human trait in Kingo that endears his
song to us. What Christian does not recognize some of his own experiences
in the following characteristic song:

    Ever trouble walks beside me,[2]
    Ever God with grace provides me,
    Ever have I fear and grief,
    Ever Jesus brings relief.

    Ever sin my heart accuses,
    Ever Jesus help induces,
    Ever am I weighed with care,
    Ever full of praise and prayer.

    So is joy by grief attended,
    Fortune with misfortune blended;
    Blessings mixed with grief and strife
    Is the measure of my life.

    But, O Jesus, I am crying:
    Help that faith, on Thee relying,
    Over sin and grief alway
    Shall prevail and gain the day.

Some statements in this hymn have frequently been criticized as
contradictory, for how can one be "always" full of care and "always" full
of praise and prayer? The terms cancel each other. But are not such
contradictions expressive of life itself? Few--if any--are wholly one
thing or wholly another. People are complex. Their joys struggle with
their sorrows, their most earnest faith with their doubts and fears. It
brings Kingo nearer to us to know that he shared that struggle. His songs
have appealed to millions because they are both so spiritual and so
human. How expressive of human need and Christian trust are not the
following brief lines:

    Lord, though I may
    The whole long day
    Find no relief from sorrow,
    Yea, should the night
    Afford no light
    To ease my plight--
    Thou comest on the morrow.


[2]Another translation:
   "Ever is a peril near me" by C. Doving in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

                                                            Chapter Five
                            Kingo's Psalmbook

After the publication of _Spiritual Song-Choir II_, Kingo stood at the
very height of his fame. His hymns were sung everywhere, and nobles and
commoners vied with each other in chanting his praises. But a much more
difficult task now awaited him--that of preparing a new hymnal.

Hans Thomisson's hymnal had become antiquated after serving the church
for nearly one hundred and twenty-five years. It had served its purpose
well. Its hymns had been sung by high and low until they had entered into
the thoughts and conscience of all. A changing language and a fast
developing literary taste long ago had shown their need for revision; but
the people so far had opposed all attempts to change their beloved old
songs. Their defects by now had become so conspicuous, however, that even
the more conservative admitted the desirability of at least a limited
revision. And the only man for the undertaking of such a task was, of
course, Kingo.

In March, 1683, King Christian V, therefore, commissioned Thomas Kingo to
prepare and publish a new church hymnal for the kingdom of Denmark and
Norway. The carefully prepared instructions of his commission directed
him to eliminate undesirable hymns; to revise antiquated rhymes and
expressions; to adopt at least two new hymns by himself or another for
every pericope and epistle of the church year, but under no circumstances
to make any changes in Luther's hymns that would alter their meaning.

Kingo would undoubtedly have saved himself a great deal of disappointment
if he had conscientiously followed his instructions. But the draft of the
first half of the hymnal, which was sent to the king six years later,
showed that, intentionally or otherwise, he had ignored them almost
completely. The draft contained 267 hymns of which 137 were his own and
the remainder those of various authors, both old and new. Though Kingo
might reasonably have been criticized for adopting such a proportionally
large number of his own compositions, it was not, however, his selection
of new hymns but his treatment of the old hymns that provoked the
greatest opposition. For he had not contented himself with merely
revising the latter but in many instances had rewritten them so
completely that they were unrecognizable. And it mattered not that the
new texts were on the whole much finer than the old, for people were not
yet ready to relinquish these. The opposition grew so strong that the
king, though he had already approved the proposed hymnal, a few weeks
later revoked not only his approval but Kingo's commission.

This summary action came as an almost stunning blow to Kingo, affecting
seriously both his pride and his finances. On the strength of the king's
approval, he had already bought a printing press, acquired large
quantities of material and printed a large edition of the book. And these
investments, which represented a large part of his private fortune, were
now apparently lost. It helped but little that the king, in order to
salve the wound he had inflicted upon one of his most distinguished
subjects, elevated him to the nobility, for the hurt was too deep to be
healed by a mere gesture.

One cannot deny, however, that the monarch had serious reason for his
action. Not only had Kingo violated his instructions but he had planned a
book that hardly could have proved satisfactory. It would have been both
too large and too expensive for common use. He himself, on the other
hand, had reason to complain that he had not been consulted before the
work, on which he had spent so much of his time and substance, was
summarily rejected. No doubt the king had acted with unseemly haste and
lack of consideration.

The work was now held in abeyance for a few years. But the need for a new
hymnal was too pressing to be permanently ignored. The king, therefore,
appointed Søren Jonasson, a provost at the cathedral of Roskilde, to
undertake the work. Jonasson was known as an excellent translator of
German hymns, and the choice appeared reasonable. He worked fast and in
less than two years was able to present a draft of his work. This
contained a well balanced selection of the old hymns and about twenty new
hymns by himself and various German authors, but not a single hymn by
Kingo. The omission no doubt reflects the envy that the poet's quick rise
to fame had stirred up against him in certain influential circles. His
enemies, however, had overshot their mark. Even the king realized that it
would be impossible at this time to publish a hymnal that ignored the
work of the country's greatest hymnwriter. And so Jonasson's work
promptly shared the fate of his predecessor's.

The troublesome problem now rested again for a few years until it was
revived by the zealous efforts of the king's chaplain, Peter Jespersen, a
close friend of the Norwegian hymnwriter, Peter Dass and himself a native
of the northern country.

A committee was appointed to prepare and publish a new hymnal "that
should give due recognition" to the work of Kingo. Although it was not
specifically directed to do so, the committee proved its good will toward
the harshly treated poet by entering into correspondence with him and
asking him to forward the material he already possessed, and to write the
additional hymns that might be needed to complete the hymnal. With this
request Kingo gladly complied, hoping that thus after all the greater
part of his work would be put to use. In this, however, he was
disappointed. When the hymnal finally appeared it contained 297 hymns of
which only 85 were by Kingo. This represented, it is true, a great change
from Jonasson's proposal, but when it is remembered that the first half
of the work, proposed by himself, contained 136 of his own hymns, and
that he had written an additional number by the request of the committee,
it will be seen that even now less than half of his hymns found a place
in the hymnal.

Aside from this deplorable loss, it must be conceded that the committee
had done an excellent work and that its hymnal was much better suited for
general use than Kingo's proposed hymnal would have been. The committee
also had shown its fairness toward Kingo by commissioning him to print
the hymnal and to enjoy exclusive rights of its distribution for ten
years, so that he might recoup some of the losses he had sustained by the
rejection of his own book. He repaid the favor by turning out a most
excellent piece of work; and the book, both in content and appearance
undoubtedly rated as the finest hymnal the Danish church had so far
produced. It served the church for more than a hundred years, and was
always known as "Kingo's Hymnal", for, after all, his great hymns were
what gave it permanent value.

                                                             Chapter Six
                          Kingo's Church Hymns

Kingo's church hymns naturally differ from his spiritual songs. They are
more objective in form and less fiery in spirit. Most of them follow
their themes quite closely, reproducing in many instances even the words
of their text. Kingo is too vital, however, to confine himself wholly to
an objective presentation. Usually the last stanzas of his hymns are
devoted to a brief and often striking application of their text. He
possessed to a singular degree the ability to express a thought tersely,
as for instance in the following stanza, the last of a hymn on the
baptism of the Lord:

    Our Lord is then our brother
    In whom we may confide,
    The Church of God our mother,
    The Holy Ghost our guide;
    Our blest baptismal dower
    The bands of hell has riven
    And opened us God's heaven,
    This is our faith each hour.

The hymns may be classed under four headings: Festival Hymns, Sacramental
Hymns, Historical Hymns and Hymns on the Gospels and Epistles.

With the exception of his Easter anthem, his festival hymns cannot
compare with those of later authors. Some of his Pentecost hymns, such as
the hymns given below, are, however, still favorites.

    The day of Pentecost draws nigh;
    Come, Holy Spirit from on high,
    Who with the Father and the Son
    Is God eternal, three in one.

    O God triune, Thy grace impart
    Into my carnal, sinful heart,
    That it a temple blest may be
    Prepared and set aside for Thee.

    Come, Holy Ghost, and witness bear
    That I the life of Christ do share,
    And that I know no other name
    To save my soul from guilt and shame.

    O Counselor of truth and light,
    Teach me to know my Lord aright,
    That from the way of faith I may
    Not even for a moment stray.

    Blest Spirit of my God and Lord,
    Preserve me in Thy way and word,
    Imbue me with Thy life and breath,
    Console me in the hour of death.

Kingo frequently is referred to as "the Easter Singer of Denmark". His
claim to this title rests mainly on one song. Easter with its story of
triumphant victory appealed especially to him; and he wrote several
excellent hymns on the theme, but they are all overshadowed by the
splendid anthem presented below.

    Like the golden sun ascending
    In the darkly clouded sky
    And on earth its glory spending
    Until clouds and darkness fly,
    So my Jesus from the grave,
    From death's dark, abysmal cave,
    Rose triumphant Easter morning,
    Brighter than the sun returning.

    Thanks, O thanks, to Thee arisen
    Lord and God Immanuel,
    That the foe could not imprison
    Thee within his hell-dark cell.
    Thanks that Thou didst meet our foe
    And his kingdom overthrow.
    Jubilant my spirit raises
    New Thy never ending praises.

    Sin and death and every arrow
    Satan hence may point at me
    Fall now broken at the narrow
    Tomb that saw Thy victory;
    There Thou didst them all destroy
    Giving me the cup of joy
    That Thou glorious resurrection
    Wrought my pardon and protection.

    Thou wilt hence to life awake me
    By Thy resurrection power;
    Death may wound and overtake me,
    Worms my flesh and bones devour,
    But I face the threat of death
    With the sure and joyful faith
    That its fearful reign was ended
    When Thy might its portal rended.

    Blessed Jesus, let the Spirit
    So imbue my heart with grace
    That I walk by Thy blest merit
    And no more the way retrace
    To the vile and miry pit
    Where I lay condemned, unfit,
    Till redeemed to life victorious
    By Thy resurrection glorious.

In this rugged hymn Kingo is at his best--fiery, vital, a master of
imagery and graphic expression.

His hymns on the sacraments faithfully reflect the doctrines of the
Lutheran Church. Here he most clearly shows his ability to present
objective truths in a devotional spirit. We meet in these a Christian who
humbly and prayerfully accepts the whole mystery of God. For centuries
these rugged songs have served to express the sentiments of millions as
they met at the baptismal font or knelt before the altar. The following
is one of the most favored baptismal hymns both in the Danish and
Norwegian churches:

    Whoso believes and is baptized[3]
    God's kingdom shall inherit,
    For he is cleansed by Jesus Christ
    Who, by His grace and merit,
    Adopts him as His child and heir,
    Grants him in heaven's bliss to share
    And seals him with His Spirit.

    We ask with earnest faith of Thee,
    Our Lord and blest Defender,
    That Thou wilt guide us constantly
    And, in Thy mercy tender,
    Keep us in our baptismal grace
    Until at last we take our place
    With Thee 'midst heaven's splendor.

Kingo's communion hymns have to a large extent been superseded by later
hymns of Grundtvig and others. But some of them are still in common use.
The following characteristic hymn is frequently used before the

    Lord Jesus Christ receive me now
    As with a heart contrite I bow
    Before Thine altar, blessed Lamb,
    Who bore my sorrow, sin and shame.

    I am today my Saviour's guest.
    Bethink, my soul, the honor blest,
    That He, Thy Lord, will sup with thee
    And will Himself Thy nurture be.

    He offers to thee with the bread
    His body riven for thy aid,
    And with the wine His precious blood,
    The price of thy eternal good.

    How this can be, I cannot tell;
    He did not on the mystery dwell;
    No mind the secret can perceive,
    It is enough that I believe.

    Rejoice, then, O my soul today
    That God's appointed servant may
    Now offer thee the gift so free
    Through which thy Lord unites with thee.

    O Lord, I offer Thee my soul
    To nourish, strengthen and make whole.
    Uphold me by Thy means of grace
    Until I see Thee face to face.

The short hymn given below is a favorite after the communion in numerous
Danish and Norwegian churches.

    O dearest Lord, receive from me
    The heartfelt thanks I offer Thee,
    Who through Thy body and Thy blood
    Hast wrought my soul's eternal good.

    Break forth, my soul, in joy and praise;
    What wealth is mine this day of days!
    My Jesus dwells within my soul;
    Let every tongue His grace extol.

Kingo's historical hymns, that is, his hymns on the stories of the
Gospels, usually are not counted among the best. Yet there are many fine
hymns among them, such as the annunciation hymn, "There Came a Message
from the Sky"; the hymn about the wedding at Cana, "How Blessed Was that
Wedding Feast"; and the splendid hymn on the transfiguration of the Lord,
"I Lift My Eyes and Spirit Up unto the Hallowed Mountain Top Where Jesus
Once Ascended". Best known among this group of hymns is, however, his
great sequence of songs on our Lord's passion. In these inspired hymns we
meet again the Kingo that we know from his spiritual songs, fiery,
eloquent, imaginative, seeking to picture every detail and mood of the
Savior's suffering from the garden to the cross. Though it is difficult
to choose among hymns so universally fine, the one given below is, at
least, fairly representative of the group.

    Over Kedron Jesus passes
    Ready for His passion day,
    While the Prince of Darkness masses
    All his legions for the fray.
    Wily foes with evil hearts
    Bend their bows and point their darts,
    Aiming at the Savior solely,
    As the world forsakes Him wholly.

    David once in great affliction
    Crossed the Kedron's narrow stream,
    While his foes without restriction
    Hatched their vile and cunning scheme.
    Darker far the shadows now
    Bend about the Savior's brow
    As He hastens to His passion
    For the sinful world's salvation.

    See Him, torn by woe appalling,
    Kneeling in the garden still,
    And upon His Father calling
    That, if possible, He will
    Take the bitter cup away.
    But how meekly He doth pray!
    What the Father shall Him offer,
    He obediently will suffer.

    See, what agony assails Him
    In that dark and fearful hour;
    Every friend deserts or fails Him;
    Satan strikes with all his power;
    And the flowers beneath Him grow
    Crimson with the purple flow
    From His anguished frame distilling
    As His cup of woe is filling.

    But, O flower, whose tender blossom
    Caught that precious, purple dew
    From the Saviour's riven bosom,
    In a blessed hour you grew!
    Eden's flowers did not bear
    Fruits that could with yours compare:
    By the blood your petals staining,
    I am now salvation gaining.

    When I like the flower must wither,
    When I wilt and fade like grass,
    When the hour of death draws hither,
    When I from this world shall pass,
    When my heart has ceased to beat
    When I face God's judgment seat,
    Then His blood, which stained the garden,
    Shall procure my lasting pardon.

Kingo's hymns on the pericopes have proved less resistant to time than
most of his other work. They are in reality brief commentaries,
presenting a practical rather than a poetical exposition and application
of their texts. But even so, the singular freshness of their thought and
style has preserved many of them until our day. The following hymn on
Matthew 8, 23-27, the stilling of the storm, furnishes a characteristic
example of this group of hymns.

    What vessel is that passing
    Across the boundless deep,
    On which the billows massing
    In foaming fury sweep?
    She seems in sore distress
    As though she soon would founder
    Upon the shoals around her
    And sink without redress.

    It is the storm-tossed vessel
    Of God's own church on earth,
    With which the world doth wrestle,
    And send its fury forth,
    While Jesus oft appears
    As though He still were sleeping,
    With His disciples weeping
    And crying out in fears.

    But let the world with fury
    Against the church but rave,
    And spend its might to bury
    Her in the roaring wave!
    It only takes a word
    To hush the wild commotion
    And show the mighty ocean
    Her Lord is still aboard.

Kingo is often called the singer of orthodoxy. His hymns faithfully
present the accepted doctrines of his church. No hymnwriter is more
staunchly Lutheran than he. But he was too vital to become a mere
doctrinaire. With him orthodoxy was only a means to an end, a more
vigorous Christian life. Many of his hymns present a forceful and
straightforward appeal for a real personal life with God. The following
hymn may be called an orthodox revival hymn. It was a favorite with the
great Norwegian lay preacher, Hans Nielsen Hauge.

    The power of sin no longer
    Within my heart shall reign;
    Faith must grow ever stronger
    And carnal lust be slain;
    For when I was baptized,
    The bonds of sin were severed
    And I by grace delivered
    To live for Jesus Christ.

    Would I accept the merit
    Of my baptismal grace
    And with my faith and spirit
    The Savior's cross embrace,
    How great would be my blame
    Should I abide in evil
    And not renounce the devil
    In Christ my Savior's name.

    It can bestow no treasure
    On me that Christ arose.
    If I will not with pleasure
    The power of death oppose,
    And with my heart embrace
    The Savior, who is risen
    And has from error's prison
    Redeemed me by His grace.

    Lord Jesus, help me ever
    To fight "the old man" so
    That he shall not deliver
    Me to eternal woe,
    But that I here may die
    From sin and all offences
    And, by the blood that cleanses,
    Attain my home on high.

Thus, the permanent value of Kingo's hymns rests not only on their rugged
and expressive poetry but on the earnest and warm-hearted Christian
spirit that breathes through them. In the perennial freshness of this
spirit succeeding generations have experienced their kinship with the
poet and found expression for their own hope and faith. The following
ageless prayer expresses not only the spirit of the poet but that of
earnest Christians everywhere and of every age.

    Print Thine image pure and holy[4]
    On my heart, O Lord of Grace;
    So that nothing high nor lowly
    Thy blest likeness can efface.
    Let the clear inscription be:
    Jesus, crucified for me,
    And the Lord of all creation,
    Is my refuge and salvation.


[3]Another translation: "He that believes and is baptized" by G. T. Rygh
   in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

[4]Another translation: "On my heart imprint thine image" by P. O.
   Stromme in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

                                                           Chapter Seven
                           Kingo's Later Years

Kingo's work with the hymnal had brought him much disappointment and some
loss of popularity. He felt not without justification that he had been
ill treated. He did not sulk in his tent, however, but pursued his work
with unabated zeal. His diocese was large, comprising not only Fyn but a
large number of smaller islands besides. The work of making periodical
visits to all parishes within such a far-flung charge was, considering
the then available means of transportation, not only strenuous but
hazardous. Roads were bad and vessels weak and slow. Hardships and danger
beset his almost continuous voyages and journeys. A number of poems
relating the adventures of the traveler are reminiscenses of his own

But his work of visiting the churches constituted, of course, only a part
of his duties. He had to preach in the cathedral at Odense at least every
Wednesday in Lent and on all festival Sundays; examine the work and
conduct of all pastors within the diocese; act as an arbiter in disputes
between them and their parishioners; make sure that the financial affairs
of the church and its institutions were honestly conducted; attend to the
collection of church taxes; and superintend all schools, hospitals and
institutions of charity. The efficient accomplishment of all these tasks
might well test the strength and ability of any man.

His manifold duties also engendered numerous occasions for friction,
especially with the civil authorities, whose rights and duties often
overlapped his own. And he did not escape the danger of such bickerings
with their resultant ill-feeling. There is nothing to indicate that he
was contentious by nature. But he was no doubt zealous in defending the
prerogatives of his office. His temper was quick and somewhat martial.
"One could very well," one of his biographers declares, "envision him as
a knight in full armor leading a troop in the charge." With the exception
of his active enemies, most of his contemporaries agree, however, that he
was commonly more than patient in his dealings with others.

Kingo was an able administrator, and the institutions and finances of the
diocese prospered under his care. But it was as an earnest Christian and
a tireless worker for the spiritual improvement of his people that he won
their respect. He was known as an "eloquent man, mighty in the
Scriptures." One of his contemporaries said of him: "Were we not forced
after hearing him preach to say with the disciples, 'Did not our hearts
burn within us when he opened the Scriptures to us and, like a son of
thunder, published the sins of the house of Jacob, or, like Barnabas, the
son of comfort, bound up our wounds and comforted us with the comfort
with which he had himself been so richly comforted by God.'" The few
extracts of his sermons that have come down to us verify the truth of
this statement. They show us a man firmly grounded in his own faith and
zealous in impressing its truth upon others. His preaching was strictly
orthodox and yet fiery and practical. The poetical language and forceful
eloquence of his sermons remind one of the best of his spiritual songs.

Kingo's writings and frequent travels brought him into contact with most
of the outstanding personages of his country in his day. His charming
personality, lively conversation and fine sense of humor made him a
welcome guest wherever he appeared. On the island of Taasinge, he was a
frequent and beloved guest in the stately castle of the famous, pious and
revered admiral, Niels Juul, and his equally beloved wife, Birgitte
Ulfeldt. His friendship with this worthy couple was intimate and lasting.
When admiral Juul died, Kingo wrote the beautiful epitaph that still
adorns his tomb in the Holmen church at Copenhagen. On the island of
Falster he often visited the proud and domineering ex-queen, Carolina
Amalia. He was likewise a frequent visitor at the neighboring estate of
the once beautiful and adored daughter of king Christian IV, Leonora
Ulfeldt, whom the pride and hatred of the ex-queen had consigned for
twenty-two years to a dark and lonely prison cell. Years of suffering, as
we learn from her still famous book _Memories of Misery_, had made the
princess a deeply religious woman. Imprisonment had aged her body, but
had neither dulled her brilliant mind nor hardened her heart. She spent
her remaining years in doing good, and she was a great admirer of Kingo.

Thus duty and inclination alike brought him in contact with people of
very different stations and conditions in life. His position and high
personal endowments made him a notable figure wherever he went. But he
had his enemies and detractors as well as his friends. It was not
everyone who could see why a poor weaver's son should be raised to such a
high position. Kingo was accused of being greedy, vain, over-ambitious
and self-seeking, all of which probably contained at least a grain of
truth. We should have missed some of his greatest hymns, if he had been a
saint, and not a man of flesh and blood, of passionate feelings and
desires, a man who knew from his own experiences that without Christ he
could do nothing.

Despite certain peculiar complications, Kingo's private life was quite
happy. Four years after the death of his first wife, he entered into
marriage with Johanne Lund, a widow many years older than he. She brought
with her a daughter from her former marriage. And Kingo thus had the
exceptional experience of being stepfather to three sets of children, the
daughter of his second wife and the children and stepchildren of his
first. To be the head of such a family must inevitably have presented
confusing problems to a man who had no children of his own. But with the
exception of his stepson, all the children appear to have loved him and
maintained their relation to him as long as he lived.

His second wife died in 1694, when she was seventy-six and he sixty years
old. During the later years of her life she had been a helpless invalid,
demanding a great deal of patience and care of her busy husband.
Contemporaries comment on the frequent sight of the famous bishop
good-humoredly carrying his wife about like a helpless child. Less than a
year after her death, Kingo entered into a new marriage, this time with
an attractive young lady of the nobility, Birgitte Balslev, his junior by
more than thirty years. This new marriage provoked a great deal of gossip
and many predictions of disaster on account of the great disparity in
years of the contracting parties. But the predictions proved wholly
unfounded, and the marriage singularly happy. Kingo and Birgitte, a
contemporary tells us, were "inseparable as heart and soul." She was an
accomplished and highly intelligent woman, and Kingo found in her,
perhaps for the first time in his life, a woman with whom he could share
fully the rich treasure of his own heart and mind. He is credited with
the remark that he had done what all ought to do: married an elderly
woman in his young days, whom he could care for when she grew old, and a
young woman in his later years, who could comfort him in his old age.

But Kingo did not show the effect of his years. He was still as energetic
and vigorous as ever in the prosecution of his manifold duties. For a
number of years after his marriage, he even continued his strenuous
visits to all parts of his see, now always accompanied by his wife. His
leisure hours were usually spent on a beautiful estate a few miles from
Odense, which belonged to his wife. At this favored retreat and in the
company of friends, he still could relax and become the liveliest of them

The years, however, would not be denied. At the turn of the century, he
suffered a first attack of the illness, a bladder complaint, that later
laid him in his grave. He made light of it and refused to ease his
strenuous activity. But the attack returned with increasing frequency
and, on a visit to Copenhagen in the fall of 1702, he was compelled to
take to his bed. He recovered somewhat and was able to return home. But
it was now clear to all that the days of the great bishop were numbered.
Early in the new year he became bedfast and suffered excruciatingly at
times. "But he submitted himself wholly to God's will and bore his
terrible suffering with true Christian patience," one of his biographers
tells us. To those who asked about his condition, his invariable answer
was, that all was well with him. If anyone expressed sympathy with him,
he usually smiled and said that "it could not be expected that the two
old friends, soul and body, should part from each other without pain."
When someone prayed or sang for him he followed him eagerly, expressing
his interest with his eyes, hands and whole being.

A week before his death he called the members of his family to his bed,
shared the Holy Communion with them and thanked them and especially his
wife, for their great kindness to him during his illness. On October 13,
a Saturday, he slept throughout the day, but awoke in the evening and
exclaimed: "Lord God, tomorrow we shall hear wonderful music!" And on the
morning of October 14, 1703, just as the great bells of the cathedral of
St. Knud called people to the service, his soul departed peacefully to
join the Church above. God had heard at last the earnest prayer of his
own great hymns:

    But, O Jesus, I am crying:
    Help that faith, on Thee relying,
    Over sin and sorrow may
    Ever rise and win the day.

His body was laid to rest in a small village church a few miles outside
of Odense. There one still may see the stone of his tomb, bearing an
inscription that likens him to a sun which, although it has set, still
lights the way for all true lovers of virtue. Other monuments to his
memory have been raised at Slangerup, Odense and other places. But his
finest and most lasting memorials are his own great hymns. In these his
warm, passionate spirit still speaks to a larger audience than he ever
reached in his own day. The years have served only to emphasize the truth
of Grundtvig's beautiful epitaph to him on his monument at Odense:

    Thomas Kingo is the psalmist
    Of the Danish temple choir.
    This his people will remember
    Long as song their hearts inspire.

          Hans Adolph Brorson, the Christmas Singer of Denmark

                                                           Chapter Eight
                      Brorson's Childhood and Youth

Hans Adolph Brorson came from Schleswig, the border province between
Denmark and Germany which for centuries has constituted a battleground
between the two countries and cost the Danes so much in blood and tears.
His family was old in the district and presented an unbroken line of
substantial farmers until his grandfather, Broder Pedersen, broke it by
studying for the ministry and becoming pastor at Randrup, a small country
parish on the west coast of the province.

Broder Pedersen remained at Randrup till his death in 1646, and was then
succeeded by his son, Broder Brodersen, a young man only twenty-three
years old, who shortly before his installation had married Catherine
Margaret Clausen, a daughter of the manager of Trojborg manor, the estate
to which the church at Randrup belonged. Catherine Clausen bore her
husband three sons, Nicolaj Brodersen, born July 23, 1690, Broder
Brodersen, born September 12, 1692, and Hans Adolph Brodersen--or
Brorson--as his name was later written--born June 20, 1694.

Broder Brodersen was a quiet, serious-minded man, anxious to give his
boys the best possible training for life. Although his income was small,
he managed somehow to provide private tutors for them. Both he and his
wife were earnest Christians, and the fine example of their own lives was
no doubt of greater value to their boys than the formal instruction they
received from hired teachers. Thus an early biographer of the Brorsons
writes: "Their good parents earnestly instructed their boys in all that
was good, but especially in the fear and knowledge of God. Knowing that a
good example is more productive of good than the best precept, they were
not content with merely teaching them what is good, but strove earnestly
to live so that their own daily lives might present a worthy pattern for
their sons to follow."

Broder Brodersen was not granted the privilege of seeing his sons attain
their honored manhood. He died in 1704, when the eldest of them was
fourteen and the youngest only ten years old. Upon realizing that he must
leave them, he is said to have comforted himself with the words of Kingo:

    If for my children I
    Would weep and sorrow
    And every moment cry:
    Who shall tomorrow
    With needful counsel, home and care provide them?
    The Lord still reigns above,
    He will with changeless love
    Sustain and guide them.

Nor was the faith of the dying pastor put to shame. A year after his
death, his widow married his successor in the pastorate, Pastor Ole
Holbeck, who proved himself a most excellent stepfather to his adopted

Reverend Holbeck personally taught the boys until Nicolaj, and a year
later, Broder and Hans Adolph were prepared to enter the Latin school at
Ribe. This old and once famous school was then in a state of decay. The
town itself had declined from a proud city, a favored residence of kings
and nobles, to an insignificant village of about fifteen hundred
inhabitants. Of its former glory only a few old buildings and,
especially, the beautiful cathedral still remained. And the Latin school
had shared the fate of the city. Its once fine buildings were decaying;
its faculty, which in former times included some of the best known
savants of the country, was poorly paid and poorly equipped; and the
number of its students had shrunk from about 1200 to less than a score.
Only the course of study remained unchanged from the Middle Ages. Latin
and religion were still the main subjects of instruction. It mattered
little if the student could neither speak nor write Danish correctly, but
he must be able to define the finest points in a Latin grammar of more
than 1200 pages. Attendance at religious services was compulsory; but the
services were cold and spiritless, offering little attraction to an
adolescent youth.

The boys completed their course at Ribe and entered the university of
Copenhagen, Nicolaj in the fall of 1710 and the younger brothers a year
later. But the change offered them little improvement. The whole country
suffered from a severe spiritual decline. Signs of an awakening were here
and there, but not at the university where Lutheran orthodoxy still
maintained its undisputed reign of more than a hundred years, though it
had now become more dry and spiritless than ever.

The brothers all intended to prepare for the ministry. But after two
years Nicolaj for various reasons left the University of Copenhagen to
complete his course at the University of Kiel. Broder remained at
Copenhagen, completing his course there in the spring of 1715. Hans
Adolph studied for three years more and, even then, failed to complete
his course.

                           Hans Adolph Brorson

It was a period of transition and spiritual unrest. The spiritual revival
now clearly discernible throughout the country had at last reached the
university. For the first time in many years the prevailing orthodoxy
with its settled answers to every question of faith and conduct was
meeting an effective challenge. Many turned definitely away from
religion, seeking in other fields such as history, philosophy and
especially the natural sciences for a more adequate answer to their
problems than religion appeared to offer. Others searched for a solution
of their difficulty in new approaches to the old faith. The result was a
spiritual confusion such as often precedes the dawn of a new awakening.
And Brorson appears to have been caught in it. His failure to complete
his course was by no means caused by indolence. He had, on the contrary,
broadened his studies to include a number of subjects foreign to his
course, and he had worked so hard that he had seriously impaired his
health. But he had lost his direction, and also, for the time being, all
interest in theology.

It was, therefore, as a somewhat spiritually confused and physically
broken young man that he gave up his studies and returned to his home at
Randrup. His brothers were already well started upon their conspicuously
successful careers, while he was still drifting, confused and uncertain,
a failure, as some no doubt would call him. His good stepfather,
nevertheless, received him with the utmost kindness. If he harbored any
disappointment in him, he does not appear to have shown it. His stepson
remained with him for about a year, assisting him with whatever he could,
and had then so far recovered that he was able to accept a position as
tutor in the family of his maternal uncle, Nicolaj Clausen, at Løgum

Løgum Kloster had once been a large and powerful institution and a center
of great historic events. The magnificent building of the cloister itself
had been turned into a county courthouse, at which Nicolaj Clausen served
as county president, but the splendid old church of the cloister still
remained, serving as the parish church. In these interesting surroundings
and in the quiet family circle of his uncle, Brorson made further
progress toward normal health. But his full recovery came only after a
sincere spiritual awakening in 1720.

The strong revival movement that was sweeping the country and displacing
the old orthodoxy, was engendered by the German Pietist movement,
entering Denmark through Slesvig. The two conceptions of Christianity
differed, it has been said, only in their emphasis. Orthodoxy emphasized
doctrine and Pietism, life. Both conceptions were one-sided. If orthodoxy
had resulted in a lifeless formalism, Pietism soon lost its effectiveness
in a sentimental subjectivism. Its neglect of sound doctrine eventually
gave birth to Rationalism. But for the moment Pietism appeared to supply
what orthodoxy lacked: an urgent call to Christians to live what they
professed to believe.

A number of the early leaders of the movement in Denmark lived in the
neighborhood of Løgum Kloster, and were personally known to Brorson. But
whether or not any of these leaders was instrumental in his awakening is
now unknown. One of his contemporaries simply states that "Brorson at
this time sought to employ his solitude in a closer walk with God in
Christ and, in so doing, received a perfect assurance of the Lord's
faithfulness to those that trust in Him." Thus whatever influence
neighboring Pietists may have contributed to the great change in his
life, the change itself seems to have been brought about through his own
Jacob-like struggle with God. And it was a complete change. If he had
formerly been troubled by many things, he henceforth evinced but one
desire to know Christ and to be known by Him.

A first fruit of his awakening was an eager desire to enter the ministry.
He was offered a position as rector of a Latin school, but his
stepfather's death, just as he was considering the offer, caused him to
refuse the appointment and instead to apply for the pastorate at Randrup.
His application granted, he at once hastened back to the university to
finish his formerly uncompleted course and obtain his degree. Having
accomplished this in the fall of the same year, on April 6, 1722, he was
ordained to the ministry together with his brother, Broder Brorson, who
had resigned a position as rector of a Latin school to become pastor at
Mjolden, a parish adjoining Randrup. As his brother, Nicolaj Brorson,
shortly before had accepted the pastorate of another adjoining parish,
the three brothers thus enjoyed the unusual privilege of living and
working together in the same neighborhood.

The eight years that Brorson spent at Randrup where his father and
grandfather had worked before him were probably the happiest in his life.
The parish is located in a low, treeless plain bordering the North Sea.
Its climate, except for a few months of summer, is raw and blustery. In
stormy weather the sea frequently floods its lower fields, causing severe
losses in crops, stocks and even in human life. Thus Brorson's stepfather
died from a cold caught during a flight from a flood that threatened the
parsonage. The severe climate and constant threat of the sea, however,
fosters a hardy race. From this region the Jutes together with their
neighbors, the Angles and Saxons, once set out to conquer and settle the
British Isles. And the hardihood of the old sea-rovers was not wholly
lost in their descendants when Brorson settled among them, although it
had long been directed into other and more peaceful channels.

The parsonage in which the Brorsons lived stood on a low ridge, rising
gently above its surroundings and affording a splendid view over far
reaches of fields, meadows and the ever changing sea. The view was
especially beautiful in early summer when wild flowers carpeted the
meadows in a profusion of colors, countless birds soared and sang above
the meadows and shoals of fish played in the reed bordered streams. It
was without doubt this scene that inspired the splendid hymn "Arise, All
Things that God Hath Made."

Brorson was happy to return to Randrup. The parish was just then the
center of all that was dearest to him in this world. His beloved mother
still lived there, his brothers were close neighbors, and he brought with
him his young wife, Catherine Clausen, whom he had married a few days
before his installation.

Nicolaj and Broder Brorson had, like him, joined the Pietist movement,
and the three brothers, therefore, could work together in complete
harmony for the spiritual revival of their parishes. And they did not
spare themselves. Both separately and cooperatively, they labored
zealously to increase church attendance, revive family devotions,
encourage Bible reading and hymn singing, and minimize the many worldly
and doubtful amusements that, then as now, caused many Christians to
fall. They also began to hold private assemblies in the homes, a work for
which they were bitterly condemned by many and severely reprimanded by
the authorities. It could not be expected, of course, that a work so
devoted to the furtherance of a new conception of the Christian life
would be tolerated without opposition. But their work, nevertheless, was
blest with abundant fruit, both in their own parishes and throughout
neighboring districts. Churches were refilled with worshippers, family
altars rebuilt, and a new song was born in thousands of homes. People
expressed their love for the three brothers by naming them "The Rare
Three-Leafed Clover from Randrup." It is said that the revival inspired
by the Brorsons even now, more than two hundred years later, is plainly
evident in the spiritual life of the district.

Thus the years passed fruitfully for the young pastor at Randrup. He
rejoiced in his home, his work and the warm devotion of his people. It
came, therefore, as a signal disappointment to all that he was the first
to break the happy circle by accepting a call as assistant pastor at
Christ church in Tønder, a small city a few miles south of Randrup.

                                                            Chapter Nine
                          The Singer of Pietism

The city of Tønder, when Brorson located there, had about two thousand
inhabitants. At one time it had belonged to the German Dukes of Gottorp,
and it was still largely German speaking. Its splendid church had three
pastors, two of whom preached in German and the third, Brorson, in

The parish Pastor, Johan Herman Schraeder, was an outstanding and highly
respected man. Born at Hamburg in 1684, he had in his younger days served
as a tutor for the children of King Frederick IV, Princess Charlotte
Amalia and Prince Christian, now reigning as King Christian VI.

Pastor Schraeder was a zealous Pietist and a leader of the Pietist
movement in Tønder and its neighboring territory. Like the Brorsons he
sought to encourage family devotions, Bible reading and, especially, hymn
singing. People are said to have become so interested in the latter that
they brought their hymnals with them to work so that they might sing from
them during lunch hours. He himself was a noted hymnwriter and hymn
collector, who, shortly after Brorson became his assistant, published a
German hymnal, containing no less than 1157 hymns.

Schraeder, we are told, had been personally active in inducing Brorson to
leave his beloved Randrup and accept the call to Tønder. As Brorson was
known as an ardent Pietist, Schraeder's interest in bringing him to
Tønder may have originated in a natural wish to secure a congenial
co-worker, but it may also have sprung from an acquaintance with his work
as a hymnwriter. For although there is no direct evidence that any of
Brorson's hymns were written at Randrup, a number of circumstances make
it highly probable that some of them were composed there and that
Schraeder was acquainted with them. Such a mutual interest also helps to
explain why Brorson should leave his fruitful work at Randrup for an
inferior position in a new field. It is certain that the change brought
him no outward advantages, and his position as a Danish pastor in a
largely German speaking community must have presented certain unavoidable

Although Brorson to our knowledge took no part in the endless contest
between German and Danish, his personal preference was, no doubt, for the
latter. It is thus significant that, although he must have been about
equally familiar with both languages, he did not write a single hymn in
German. He showed no ill will toward his German speaking compatriots,
however, and worked harmoniously with his German speaking co-workers. But
this strongly German atmosphere does constitute a peculiar setting for
one of the greatest hymnwriters of the Danish church.

The congregation at Tønder had formed the peculiar custom of singing in
German--even at the Danish service. It is self-evident, however, that
such a custom could not be satisfactory to Brorson. He was a Pietist with
the fervent longing of that movement for a real spiritual communion with
his fellow Christians. But a custom that compelled the pastor and his
congregation to speak in different tongues was, of necessity, a hindrance
to the consummation of such a desire. And now Christmas was drawing near,
that joyful season which Brorson, as his hymns prove, loved so well and
must heartily have desired to share with his hearers, a desire which this
mixture of tongues to a certain extent, made impossible. He and his
congregation had to be one in language before they could wholly be one in

And so, shortly before the great festival in 1732, he published a small
and unpretentious booklet entitled: _Some Christmas Hymns, Composed to
the Honor of God, the Edification of Christian Souls and, in Particular,
of My Beloved Congregation during the Approaching Joyful Christmastide,
Humbly and Hastily Written by Hans Adolph Brorson_.

This simple appearing booklet at once places Brorson among the great
hymnwriters of the Christian church. It contains ten hymns, seven of
which are for the Christmas season. Nearly every one of them is now
counted among the classics of Danish hymnody.

Brorson seems at once to have reached the height of his ability as a
hymnwriter. His Christmas hymns present an intensity of sentiment, a
mastery of form and a perfection of poetical skill that he rarely
attained in his later work. They are frankly lyrical. Unlike his great
English contemporary, Isaac Watts, who held that a hymn should not be a
lyrical poem and deliberately reduced the poetical quality of his work,
Brorson believed that a Christian should use "all his thought and skill
to magnify the grace of God". The opinion of an English literary critic
"that hymns cannot be considered as poetry" is disproved by Brorson's
work. Some of his hymns contain poetry of the highest merit. Their
phrasing is in parts extremely lyrical, utilizing to the fullest extent
the softness and flexibility that is supposed to be an outstanding
characteristic of the Danish tongue; their metres are most skillfully
blended and their rhymes exceedingly varied. His masterly use of what was
often considered an inconsequential appendage to poetry is
extraordinarily skillful. Thus he frequently chooses a harsh or a soft
rhyme to emphasize the predominating sentiment of his verse.

Brorson is without doubt the most lyrical of all Danish hymnwriters.
Literary critics have rated some of his hymns with the finest lyrics in
the Danish language. Yet his poetry seldom degenerates to a mere form.
His fervid lyrical style usually serves as an admirable vehicle for the
warm religious sentiment of his song.

In their warm spirit and fervid style Brorson's hymns in some ways
strikingly resemble the work of his great English contemporaries, the
Wesleys. Nor is this similarity a mere chance. The Wesleys, as we know,
were strongly influenced first by the Moravians and later by the German
Pietists. Besides a number of Moravian hymns, John Wesley also translated
several hymns from the hymnbook compiled by the well-known Pietist, Johan
Freylinghausen. The fervid style and varied metres of these hymns
introduced a new type of church song into the English and American
churches. But Freylinghausen's _Gesang-Buch_ also formed the basis of the
hymnal compiled by Johan Herman Schraeder from which Brorson chose most
of the originals of his translations. Thus both he and the Wesleys in a
measure drew their inspiration from the same source. The Danish poet and
his English contemporaries worked independently and mediated their
inspiration in their own way, but the resemblance of their work is
unmistakable. In poetical merit, however, the work of Brorson far excels
that of the Wesleys. But his Christmas hymns also surpass most earlier
Danish hymns and even the greater part of his own later work.

One's first impression of the booklet that so greatly has enriched the
Christmas festival of Denmark and Norway, is likely to be disappointing.
At the time of Brorson the festival was frequently desecrated by a
ceaseless round of worldly amusements. People attended the festival
services of the church and spent the remainder of the season in a whirl
of secular and far from innocent pleasures. With his Pietistic views
Brorson naturally deplored such a misuse of the season. And his first
hymn, therefore, sounds an earnest call to cease these unseemly pleasures
and to use the festival in a Christian way.

    Cast out all worldly pleasure
    This blessed Christmastide,
    And seek the boundless treasure
    That Jesus doth provide.

But although such a warning may have been timely, then as now, it hardly
expresses the real Christmas spirit. In the next hymn, however, he at
once strikes the true festival note in one of the most triumphant
Christmas anthems in the Danish or any other language.

    This blessed Christmastide we will,
    With heart and mind rejoicing,
    Employ our every thought and skill,
    God's grace and honor voicing.
    In Him that in the manger lay
    We will with all our might today
    Exult in heart and spirit,
    And hail Him as our Lord and King
    Till earth's remotest bounds shall ring
    With praises of His merit.

    A little Child of Jesse's stem,
    And Son of God in heaven,
    To earth from heaven's glory came
    And was for sinners given.
    It so distressed His loving heart
    To see the world from God depart
    And in transgression languish,
    That He forsook His home above
    And came to earth in tender love
    To bear our grief and anguish.

    Therefore we hymn His praises here
    And though we are but lowly,
    Our loud hosannas everywhere
    Shall voice His mercy holy.
    The tent of God is now with man,
    And He will dwell with us again
    When in His name assembling.
    And we shall shout His name anew
    Till hell itself must listen to
    Our Christmas song with trembling.

    And though our song of joy be fraught
    With strains of lamentation,
    The burden of our cross shall not
    Subdue our jubilation.
    For when the heart is most distressed,
    The harp of joy is tuned so best
    Its chords of joy are ringing,
    And broken hearts best comprehend
    The boundless joy our Lord and Friend
    This Christmas day is bringing.

    Hallelujah, our strife is o'er!
    Who would henceforth with sadness
    Repine and weep in sorrow sore
    This blessed day of gladness.
    Rejoice, rejoice, ye saints on earth,
    And sing the wonders of His birth
    Whose glory none can measure.
    Hallelujah, the Lord is mine,
    And I am now by grace divine
    The heir of all His treasure!

Equally fine but more quietly contemplative is the next hymn in the
collection which takes us right to the focal point of Christmas worship,
the stable at Bethlehem.

    My heart remains in wonder
    Before that lowly bed
    Within the stable yonder
    Where Christ, my Lord, was laid.
    My faith finds there its treasure,
    My soul its pure delight,
    Its joy beyond all measure,
    The Lord of Christmas night.

    But Oh! my heart is riven
    With grief and sore dismay
    To see the Lord of heaven
    Must rest on straw and hay,
    That He whom angels offer
    Their worship and acclaim
    From sinful man must suffer
    Such scorn, neglect and shame.

    Why should not castles royal
    Before Him open stand,
    And kings, as servants loyal,
    Obey His least command?
    Why came He not in splendor
    Arrayed in robes of light
    And called the world to render
    Its homage to His might?

    The sparrow finds a gable
    Where it may build its nest,
    The oxen know a stable
    For shelter, food and rest;
    Must then my Lord and Savior
    A homeless stranger be,
    Denied the simplest favor
    His lowly creatures see.

    O come, my Lord, I pray Thee,
    And be my honored guest.
    I will in love array Thee
    A home within my breast.
    It cannot be a stranger
    To Thee, who made it free.
    Thou shalt find there a manger
    Warmed by my love to Thee.

Far different from this song of quiet contemplation is the searching hymn
that follows it.

    How do we exalt the Father
    That He sent His Son to earth.
    Many with indifference gather
    At His gift of boundless worth.

This is followed by another hymn of praise.

    Lift up your voice once more
    The Savior to adore.
    Let all unite in spirit
    And praise the grace and merit
    Of Jesus Christ, the Holy,
    Our joy and glory solely.

And then comes "The Fairest of Roses", which a distinguished critic calls
"one of the most perfect lyrics in the Danish language". This hymn is
inspired by a text from the Song of Songs "I am the rose of Sharon and
the lily of the valley". It is written as an allegory, a somewhat subdued
form of expression that in this case serves admirably to convey an
impression of restrained fire. Its style is reminiscent of the folk
songs, with the first stanza introducing the general theme of the song,
the appearance of the rose, that is, of the Savior in a lost and
indifferent world. The remainder of the verses are naturally divided into
three parts: a description of the dying world in which God causes the
rose to appear, a lament over the world's indifference to the gift which
it should have received with joy and gratitude, and a glowing declaration
of what the rose means to the poet himself.

Many chapters have been written about the poetic excellencies of this
hymn, such as the perfect balance of its parts, the admirable treatment
of the contrast between the rose and the thorns, and the skillful choice
of rhymes to underscore the predominating sentiment of each verse. But
some of these excellencies have no doubt been lost in the translation and
can be appreciated only by a study of the original. English translations
of the hymn have been made by German-, Swedish-, and Norwegian-American
writers, indicating its wide popularity. The following is but another
attempt to produce a more adequate rendering of this beautiful song.

    Now found is the fairest of roses,
    Midst briars it sweetly reposes.
    My Jesus, unsullied and holy,
    Abode among sinners most lowly.

    Since man his Creator deserted,
    And wholly His image perverted,
    The world like a desert was lying,
    And all in transgressions were dying.

    But God, as His promises granted,
    A rose in the desert hath planted,
    Which now with its sweetness endoweth
    The race that in sinfulness groweth.

    All people should now with sweet savor
    Give praise unto God for His favor;
    But many have ne'er comprehended
    The rose to the world hath descended.

    Ye sinners as vile in behavior
    As thorns in the crown of the Savior,
    Why are ye so prideful in spirit,
    Content with your self-righteous merit?

    O seek ye the places more lowly,
    And weep before Jesus, the Holy,
    Then come ye His likeness the nearest;
    The rose in the valley grows fairest.

    My Jesus, Thou ever remainest
    My wonderful rose who sustainest
    My heart in the fullness of pleasure;
    Thy sweetness alone I will treasure.

    The world may of all things bereave me,
    Its thorns may assail and aggrieve me,
    The foe may great anguish engender:
    My rose I will never surrender.

The last Christmas hymn of the collection is printed under the heading:
"A Little Hymn for the Children", and is composed from the text "Have ye
not read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected
praise". Said to be the oldest children's hymn in Danish, it is still one
of the finest. It is written as a processional. The children come
hastening on to Bethlehem to find the new-born Lord and offer Him their
homage. One almost hears their pattering feet and happy voices as they
rush forward singing:

    Here come Thy little ones, O Lord,
    To Thee in Bethlehem adored.
    Enlighten now our heart and mind
    That we the way to Thee may find.

    We hasten with a song to greet
    And kneel before Thee at Thy feet.
    O blessed hour, O sacred night,
    When Thou wert born, our soul's Delight!

    Be welcome from Thy heavenly home
    Unto this vale of tears and gloom,
    Where man to Thee no honor gave
    But stable, manger, cross and grave.

    But Jesus, oh! how can it be
    That but so few will think of Thee
    And of that tender, wondrous love
    Which drew Thee to us from above?

    O draw us little children near
    To Thee, our Friend and Brother dear,
    That each of us so heartily
    In faith and love may cling to Thee.

    Let not the world lead us astray
    That we our Christian faith betray,
    But grant that all our longings be
    Directed always unto Thee.

    Then shall the happy day once come
    When we shall gather in Thy home
    And join the angels' joyful throng
    In praising Thee with triumph song.

    We gather now about Thee close
    Like leaves around the budding rose,
    O grant us, Savior, that we may
    Thus cluster round Thy throne for aye.

His Christmas hymns were so well received that Brorson was encouraged to
continue his writing. During the following year he published no less than
five collections bearing the titles: _Some Advent Hymns_, _Some Passion
Hymns_, _Some Easter Hymns_, _Some Pentecost Hymns_, and _Hymns for the
Minor Festivals_. All of these hymns were likewise kindly received and
therefore he continued to send out new collections, publishing during the
following years a whole series of hymns on various phases of Christian
faith and life. In 1739, all these hymns were collected into one volume
and published under the title: _The Rare Clenod of Faith_.

This now famous book contains in all 67 original and 216 translated
hymns. The arrangement of the hymns follows in the main the order of the
Lutheran catechism, covering not only every division but almost every
subdivision of the book. Brorson, it appears, must have written his hymns
after a preconceived plan, a rather unusual method for a hymnwriter to

_The Rare Clenod of Faith_ fails as a whole to maintain the high standard
of the Christmas hymns. Although the language, as in all that Brorson
wrote, is pure and melodious, the poetic flight and fresh sentiment of
his earlier work is lacking to some extent in the latter part of the
collection. One reason for this is thought to be that Brorson, on
locating at Tønder, had come into closer contact with the more extreme
views of Pietism. The imprint of that movement, at least, is more
distinct upon his later than upon his earlier work. The great
preponderance of his translated over his original hymns also affects the
spirit of the collection. He was not always fortunate in the selection of
the original material for his translations. Some of these express the
excessive Pietistic contemplation of the Savior's blood and wounds;
others are rhymed sermons rather than songs of praise.

Despite these defects, _The Rare Clenod of Faith_, still ranks with the
great books of hymnody. It contains a wealth of hymns that will never
die. Even the less successful of its compositions present a true
Evangelical message, a message that, at times, sounds a stern call to
awake and "shake off that sinful sleep before to you is closed the open
door" and, at others, pleads softly for a closer walk with God, a deeper
understanding of His ways and a firmer trust in His grace. There are many
strings on Brorson's harp, but they all sound a note of vital faith.

Judging Brorson's original hymns to be far superior to his translations,
some have deplored that he should have spent so much of his time in
transferring the work of others. And it is, no doubt, true that his
original hymns are as a whole superior to his translations. But many of
these are so fine that their elimination would now appear like an
irreplaceable loss to Danish hymnody. The constant love with which many
of them have been used for more than two hundred years should silence the
claim that a translated hymn must of necessity be less valuable than an
original. A considerable number of the originals of Brorson's most
favored translations have long been forgotten.

As a translator Brorson is usually quite faithful to the originals,
following them as closely as the differences in language and mode of
expression permit. He is not slavishly bound, however, to his text. His
constant aim is to reproduce his text in a pure and idiomatic Danish. And
as his own poetic skill in most cases was superior to that of the
original writer, his translations are often greatly superior to their
originals in poetical merit.

Although the translation of a translation of necessity presents a very
unreliable yard-stick of a man's work, the following translation of
Brorson's version of the well-known German hymn, "Ich Will Dich Lieben,
Meine Starke" may at least indicate the nature of his work as a

    Thee will I love, my strength, my Treasure;
    My heart in Thee finds peace and joy.
    Thee will I love in fullest measure,
    And in Thy cause my life employ.
    Thee will I love and serve alone.
    Lord, take me as Thine own.

    Thee will I love, my Life Eternal,
    My Guide and Shepherd on Life's way.
    Thou leadest me to pastures vernal,
    And to the light of endless day.
    Thee will I love, Whose blood was spilt
    To cleanse my soul from guilt.

    Long, long wert Thou to me a stranger,
    Though Thou didst love me first of all,
    I strayed afar in sin and danger
    And heeded not Thy loving call
    Until I found that peace of heart
    Thou canst alone impart.

    Lord, cast not out Thy child, returning
    A wanderer, naked and forlorn.
    The tempting world, I sought with yearning,
    Had naught to give but grief and scorn.
    In Thee alone for all its grief
    My heart now finds relief.

    Thee will I love and worship ever,
    My Lord, my God and Brother dear!
    Must every earthly tie I sever
    And naught but sorrow suffer here,
    Thee will I love, my Lord divine;
    O Jesus, call me Thine.

Equally characteristic of his work is his translation of the less-known
but appealing German hymn "Der Schmale Weg Ist Breit Genug zum Leben".

    The narrow way is wide enough to heaven
    For those who walk straight-forward and with care
    And take each step with watchfulness and prayer.
    When we are by the Spirit driven,
    The narrow way is wide enough to heaven.

    The way of God is full of grace and beauty
    For those who unto Him in faith have turned
    And have His way with love and ardor learned.
    When we accept His call and duty,
    The way of God is full of grace and beauty.

    The yoke of God is not too hard to carry
    For those who love His blessed will and way
    And shall their carnal pride in meekness slay.
    When we with Him in faith will tarry,
    The yoke of God is not too hard to carry.

    O Jesus, help me Thy blest way to follow.
    Thou knowest best my weak and fainting heart
    And must not let me from Thy way depart.
    I shall Thy name with praises hallow,
    If Thou wilt help me Thy blest way to follow.

But fine as many of his translations are, Brorson's main claim to fame
must rest, of course, upon his original compositions. These are of
varying merit. His Christmas hymns were followed by a number of hymns for
the festivals of the church year. While some of these are excellent,
others are merely rhymed meditations upon the meaning of the season and
lack the freshness of his Christmas anthems. The triumphant Easter hymn
given below belongs to the finest of the group.

    Christians, who with sorrow
    On this Easter morrow
    Watch the Savior's tomb,
    Banish all your sadness,
    On this day of gladness
    Joy must vanquish gloom.
    Christ this hour
    With mighty power
    Crushed the foe who would detain Him;
    Nothing could restrain Him.

    Rise, ye feeble-hearted,
    Who have pined and smarted,
    Vexed by sin and dread.
    He has burst the prison
    And with might arisen,
    Jesus, Who was dead.
    And His bride
    For whom He died,
    He from sin and death now raises;
    Hail Him then with praises.

    When our sins aggrieve us,
    Jesus will receive us,
    All our debt He paid.
    We, who were transgressors
    Are now blest possessors
    Of His grace and aid.
    When in death
    He gave His breath
    To the cruel foe He yielded
    That we should be shielded.

    Earth! where are thy wonders!
    Hell! where are thy thunders!
    Death, where is thy sting!
    Jesus rose victorious,
    Reigns in heaven glorious
    As our Lord and King.
    Him, the Lord,
    Who did accord
    Us so great a joy and favor,
    We will praise forever.

Brorson's other hymns are too numerous to permit a more than cursory
review. Beginning with the subject of creation, he wrote a number of
excellent hymns on the work and providence of God. Best known among these
is the hymn given below, which is said to have so pleased the king that
he chose its author to become bishop. The hymn is thought to have been
written while Brorson was still at Randrup. But whether this be so or
not, it is evidently inspired by the natural scenery of that locality.

    Arise, all things that God hath made[5]
    And praise His name and glory;
    Great is the least His hand arrayed,
    And tells a wondrous story.

    Would all the kings of earth display
    Their utmost pomp and power,
    They could not make a leaflet stay
    And grow upon a flower.

    How could the wisdom I compass
    To show the grace and wonder
    Of but the smallest blade of grass
    On which the mind would ponder.

    What shall I say when I admire
    The verdant meadows blooming,
    And listen to the joyful choir
    Of birds above them zooming.

    What shall I say when I descry
    Deep in the restless ocean
    The myriad creatures passing by
    In swift and ceaseless motion.

    What shall I say when I behold
    The stars in countless numbers
    Display their light and charm untold
    While nature sweetly slumbers.

    What shall I say when I ascend
    To Him Who made creation,
    And see the angel host attend
    His throne with adoration.

    What shall I say--vain are my words
    And humble my opinion!
    Great is Thy wisdom, Lord of lords,
    Thy glory and dominion!

    Lift up your voice with one accord
    Now, every tribe and nation:
    Hallelujah, great is our Lord
    And wondrous His creation!

The Pietist movement is known for its fervid glorification of the Savior,
and particularly of His blood and wounds, a glorification which at times
appears objectionable because of the too-familiar and realistic terms in
which it is expressed. Brorson did not wholly escape the excesses of the
movement in this respect, especially in his translations. In his original
hymns the excesses are less apparent. However faithful he might be to the
movement he possessed a wholesome restraint which, when he was not
following others, caused him to moderate its most inappropriate
extravagances. What can be more reverent than this beautiful tribute to
the Savior:

    Jesus, name of wondrous grace,
    Fount of mercy and salvation,
    First fruit of the new creation,
    Weary sinners' resting place,
    Banner of the faith victorious,
    Anchor of our hope and love,
    Guide us in Thy footsteps glorious,
    Bear us to Thy home above.

Or more expressive than this jubilant hymn of adoration:

    O Thou blest Immanuel!
    What exceeding joy from heaven
    Hast Thou caused in me to dwell
    By Thy life for sinners given.
    Thou hast broke the bands at last
    Which my yearning soul held fast.

    In Thine arms I find relief,
    Soon Thy home I shall inherit,
    Sin and sorrow, death and grief
    Nevermore shall vex my spirit.
    For Thy word confirms the pledge
    Of my lasting heritage.

    Lord, my praise ascends to Thee
    For these days of joy and sorrow;
    They shall end in jubilee
    On that blest eternal morrow
    When the Sun of Paradise
    Shall for me in splendor rise.

    Rise in joyful faith, my soul!
    Banish all thy grief and sadness.
    Strong the stream of life shall roll
    Through my heart with constant gladness.
    Jesus, Who mine anguish bore,
    Be now praised for evermore.

Most beautiful is also his hymn to the Lamb of God, translated by Pastor
D. G. M. Bach.

    I see Thee stand, O Lamb of God,
    On Zion's mountain peak.
    But Oh the way that Thou hast trod,
    So long, so hard, so bleak!
    What Thou didst suffer for our woe,
    No man can ever know.

Though Brorson made a number of excellent translations of hymns to the
Spirit such as the beautiful, "Come, Rains from the Heavens, to
Strengthen and Nourish the Languishing Field," he wrote no outstanding
Pentecost hymns of his own composition. It remained for Grundtvig to
supply the Danish church with a wealth of unexcelled hymns on the Holy

Aside from his Christmas hymns, Brorson's greatest contribution to
hymnody is perhaps his revival hymns, a type in which the Lutheran church
is rather poor. The special message of the Pietist movement was an
earnest call to awake, and Brorson repeated that call with an appealing
insistence and earnestness. The word of God has been sown, but where are
its fruits?

    O Father, may Thy word prevail
    Against the power of Hell!
    Behold the vineyard Thou hast tilled
    With thorns and thistles filled.
    'Tis true, the plants are there,
    But ah, how weak and rare,
    How slight the power and evidence
    Of word and sacraments.

It is, therefore, time for all Christians to awake.

    Awaken from your idle dreaming!
    Ye lukewarm Christians, now arise.
    Behold, the light from heaven streaming
    Proclaims the day of mercy flies.
    Throw off that sinful sleep before
    To you is closed the open door.

Many are heedless, taking no thought of the day when all shall appear
before the judgment of God. Such people should arouse themselves and
prepare for the rendering of their account.

    O heart, prepare to give account
    Of all thy sore transgression.
    To God, of grace and love the Fount,
    Make thou a full confession.
    What hast thou done these many years
    The Lord hath thee afforded.
    Nothing but sin and earthly cares
    Is in God's book recorded.

He realizes that many continue in their sin because of ignorance, and
with these he pleads so softly:

    If thou but knew the life that thou are leading
    In sin and shame is Satan's tyranny,
    Thou wouldest kneel and with the Lord be pleading
    That He thy soul from bondage would set free.
    Oh, how the Saviour would rejoice
    If thou today should'st listen to His voice!

And the day of salvation is now at hand.

    O, seek the Lord today,
    Today He hath salvation.
    Approach Him while He may
    Still hear thy supplication.
    Repent and seek His grace
    While yet His call doth sound,
    Yea turn to Him thy face
    While still He may be found.

Orthodoxy had instilled a formal, but often spiritless faith. Pietism
aimed to awaken the great mass of formal believers to a new life, a
living and active faith. This is strongly expressed in the very popular
hymn below.

    The faith that Christ embraces[6]
    And purifies the hearts
    The faith that boldly faces
    The devil's fiery darts,
    That faith is strong and must
    Withstand the world's temptation
    And in all tribulation,
    In Christ, the Saviour, trust.

    The faith that knows no struggle
    Against the power of sin,
    The faith that sounds no bugle
    To waken, fight and win,
    That faith is dead and vain,
    Its sacred name disgracing,
    And impotent when facing
    The devil's mighty reign.

    A Christian wears his armor
    To wage the war of faith
    Against the crafty charmer,
    His foe in life and death.
    With Jesus he must stand
    Undaunted and victorious,
    If he would win his glorious
    Reward at God's right hand.

    It is a comfort pleasing
    In our embattled life,
    To feel our strength increasing
    In trying days of strife.
    And as our days shall be
    The Lord will help accord us
    And with His gifts reward us
    When striving faithfully.

    O Lord, my hope most fervent,
    My refuge in all woe,
    I will hence be Thy servant
    Through all my days below.
    Let come whatever may,
    I will exalt Thee ever,
    And ask no other favor
    Than live with Thee for aye.

Although Brorson knew that--

    The cost is greater than at first expected
    To be in God's unbounded gifts perfected.

he holds that

    It does not cost too hard a strife
    To be a Christian, pure and heaven-minded,--

But a Christian must be steadfast and persevering, as he admonishes
himself and others in the following very popular hymn. The translation is
by Pastor P. C. Paulsen.

    Stand fast, my soul, stand fast
    In Christ, thy Saviour!
    Lose not the war at last
    By faint behaviour.
    It is of no avail
    That thou hast known Him
    If when thy foes assail,
    Thou shalt His banner fail,
    And thus disown Him.

    To brandish high thy sword,
    With calm assurance,
    And face the devil's horde
    With brave endurance,
    Is meet and well begun,
    And merits praising.
    But from the strife to run,
    When blows thy courage stun,
    Is most disgracing.

    Let Satan rave and rage
    By hosts attended,
    The war for Christ I wage
    Until it's ended.
    When leaning on His arm
    With firm reliance,
    I need not take alarm,
    To me can come no harm
    From Hell's defiance.

    When Jesus' love I see,
    It me constraineth,
    So that from carnal glee
    My soul abstaineth.
    When heaven to me is dear,
    Its joys attractive,
    Of hell I have no fear,
    For Christ, my Lord, is near,
    In battle active.

    In just a little while
    The strife is ended,
    And I from Satan's guile
    For aye defended.
    Then I, where all is well,
    In heaven's glory,
    Among the saints shall dwell,
    And with rejoicing tell
    Salvation's story.

Therefore children of God should rejoice.

    Children of God, born again by His Spirit,
    Never ye cease in His name to rejoice;
    Jesus believing and saved by His merit,
    Come we to Him with a jubilant voice.

But even a child of God must not expect to escape from the common trials
and perils of life. God promises assistance but not exemption to those
who love Him. In the following striking hymn, Brorson vividly pictures
both the trials and the comfort of a child of God.

    I walk in danger everywhere,[7]
    The thought must never leave me,
    That Satan watches to ensnare
    And with his guile deceive me.
    His cunning pitfalls may
    Make me an easy prey
    Unless I guard myself with care;
    I walk in danger everywhere.

    I walk through trials everywhere;
    The world no help can offer.
    The burdens I am called to bear
    I must with patience suffer;
    Though often I discern
    No place where I may turn
    When clouds surround me far and near;
    Death walks beside me everywhere.

    Death walks besides me everywhere;
    Its shadows oft appall me.
    I know not when the hour is here
    When God from earth shall call me.
    A moment's failing breath,
    And I am cold in death,
    Faced with eternity fore'er;
    Death walks besides me everywhere.

    I walk 'mongst angels everywhere;
    They are my sure defenders;
    The hordes of hell in vain prepare
    Against such strong contenders.
    All doubts and fears must flee,
    With angels guarding me;
    No foe can harm me in their care;
    I walk 'mongst angels everywhere.

    I walk with Jesus everywhere;
    His goodness never fails me.
    I rest beneath His shielding care
    When trouble sore assails me.
    And by His footsteps led,
    My path I safely tread.
    Despite all ills my foes prepare:
    I walk with Jesus everywhere.

    I walk to heaven everywhere,
    Preparing for the morrow
    When God shall hear my anxious prayer
    And banish all my sorrow.
    Be quiet then, my soul,
    Press onward to thy goal.
    All carnal pleasures thou forswear,
    And walk to heaven everywhere.

Unlike Kingo and Grundtvig, Brorson wrote no outstanding hymns on the
sacraments. Pietism was in the main a revival movement and placed no
special emphasis on the means of grace. And although Brorson remained a
loyal son of the established church, he wrote his finest hymns on those
phases of Christianity most earnestly emphasized by the movement to which
he belonged. While this is only what could be expected, it indicates both
his strength and limitation as a hymnwriter. He was above all the sweet
singer of Pietism.

The hymns of Brorson that appeared during his lifetime were all written
within the space of four years. In that brief period he composed a volume
of songs that rank with the finest in the Christian church, and just as
he might have been expected to produce his finest work, he discontinued
his effort. The hymns of the _Swan-Song_--which we shall discuss
later--though written for his own edification, indicate what he might
have attained if he had continued to write for publication. His reason
for thus putting aside the lyre, which for a little while he had played
so appealingly, is unknown. Some have suggested that he wrote his hymns
according to a preconceived plan, which, when completed, he felt no
inclination to enlarge; others have surmised that the new and ardent
duties, bestowed upon him about this time, deprived him of the leisure to
write. But as Brorson himself expressed no reason for his action, no one
really knows why this sweet singer of Pietism so suddenly ceased to sing.


[5]Another translation with the same first line by A. M. Andersen in
   "Hymnal for Church and Home".

[6]Another translation: "The faith that God believeth" by P. C. Paulsen
   in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

[7]Another translation: "I walk in danger all the way" by D. G. Ristad in
   "Hymnal for Church and Home".

                                                             Chapter Ten
                           Brorson's SWAN-SONG

The Pietist movement, new and numerically small when the Brorsons aligned
themselves with it, made such sweeping progress that within a few years
it became the most powerful movement within the Danish church. And in
1739, it ascended the throne in the persons of King Christian VI and his
consort, Queen Sophia Magdalene of Kulmbach, an event of great
significance to the fortunes of the Brorsons.

In Denmark the king is officially the head of the church. At the time of
Brorson all church appointments belonged to him, and King Christian VI,
if he had so wanted, could thus have filled all vacancies with adherents
of the movement in which he sincerely believed. He was, however, no
fanatic. Earnestly concerned, as he no doubt was, to further the
spiritual welfare of his subjects, his only desire was to supply all
church positions at his disposal with good and able men. And as such the
Brorsons were recommended to him by his old tutor and adviser in church
affairs, John Herman Schraeder. On this recommendation, he successively
invited the brothers to preach at court. Their impression upon him was so
favorable that within a few years he appointed Nicolaj to become pastor
of Nicolaj church in Copenhagen, one of the largest churches in the
capital, Broder to become Provost of the cathedral at Ribe and, two years
later, Bishop of Aalborg, and Hans Adolph to succeed his brother at Ribe
and, four years later, to become bishop of that large and historically
famous bishopric. Thus the brothers in a few years had been elevated from
obscurity to leading positions within their church.

Contemporaries express highly different estimates of Brorson as a bishop.
While praised by some, he is severely criticized by others as unfit both
by ability and temperament for the high office he occupied. This last
estimate now is generally held to be unjust and, to some extent at least,
inspired by jealousy of his quick rise to fame and by antagonism to his
pietistic views. A close examination of church records and his official
correspondence proves him to have been both efficient in the
administration of his office and moderate in his dealings with others. He
was by all accounts an eloquent and effective speaker. Although Ribe was
a small city, its large cathedral was usually crowded whenever it was
known that Brorson would conduct the service. People came from far away
to hear him. And his preaching at home and on his frequent visits to all
parts of his large bishopric bore fruit in a signal quickening of the
Christian life in many of the parishes under his charge. He was, we are
told, as happy as a child when he found pastors and their people working
faithfully together for the upbuilding of the kingdom. But his own zeal
caused him to look for the same earnestness in others. And he was usually
stern and, at times, implacable, in his judgment of neglect and
slothfulness, especially in the pastors.

His private life was by all accounts exceptionally pure and simple, a
true expression of his sincere faith and earnest piety. A domestic, who
for many years served in his home has furnished us with a most
interesting account of his home life. Brorson, she testifies, was an
exceptionally kind and friendly man, always gentle and considerate in his
dealing with others except when they had provoked him by some gross
neglect or inattention to right and duty. He was generous to a fault
toward others, but very frugal, even parsimonious in his home and in his
personal habits. Only at Christmas or on other special occasion would he
urge his household to spare nothing. He was a ceaseless and industrious
worker, giving close personal attention to the multiple duties of his
important position and office. His daily life bore eloquent witness of
his sincere piety. When at home, no matter how busy, he always gathered
his whole household for daily devotions. Music constituted his sole
diversion. He enjoyed an evening spent in playing and singing with his
family and servants. If he chanced to hear a popular song with a pleasing
tune, he often adopted it to his own words, and sang it in the family
circle. Many of the hymns in his Swan-Song are said to have been composed
and sung in that way.

His life was rich in trials and suffering. His first wife died just as he
was preparing to go to Copenhagen for his consecration as a bishop, and
the loss affected him so deeply that only the pleading of his friends
prevented him from resigning the office. He later married a most
excellent woman, Johanne Riese, but could never forget the wife of his
youth. Several of his children preceded him in death, some of them while
still in their infancy, and others in the prime of their youth. His own
health was always delicate and he passed through several severe illnesses
from which his recovery was considered miraculous. His heaviest cross
was, perhaps, the hopeless insanity of his first-born son, who throughout
his life had to be confined to a locked and barred room as a hopeless and
dangerous lunatic. A visitor in the bishop's palace, it is related, once
remarked: "You speak so often about sorrows and trials, Bishop Brorson,
but you have your ample income and live comfortably in this fine mansion,
so how can you know about these things?" Without answering, Brorson
beckoned his visitor to follow him to the graveyard where he showed him
the grave of his wife and several of his children, and into the palace
where he showed him the sad spectacle of his insane son. Then the visitor
understood that position and material comfort are no guaranty against

A very sensitive man, Brorson was often deeply afflicted by his trials,
but though cast down, he was not downcast. The words of his own beloved
hymn, "Whatever I am called to bear, I must in patience suffer," no doubt
express his own attitude toward the burdens of his life. His trials
engendered in him, however, an intense yearning for release, especially
during his later years. The hymns of his _Swan-Song_ are eloquent
testimonies of his desire to depart and be at home with God.

With the passing years his health became progressively poorer and his
weakening body less able to support the strain of his exacting office. He
would listen to no plea for relaxation, however, until his decreasing
strength clearly made it impossible for him to continue. Even then he
refused to rest and planned to publish a series of weekly sermons that he
might thus continue to speak to his people. But his strength waned so
quickly that he was able to complete only one of the sermons.

On May 29, 1764, he begged a government official to complete a case
before him at his earliest convenience "for I am now seventy years old,
feeble, bedridden and praying for release from this unhappy world." Only
a day later, his illness took a grave turn for the worse. He sank into a
stupor that lasted until dusk when he awoke and said clearly, "My Jesus
is praying for me in heaven. I see it by faith and am anxious to go. Come
quickly, my Lord, and take me home!" He lingered until the morning of
June 3, when he passed away peacefully just as the great bells of the
cathedral announced the morning service.

Several fine memorials have been raised to his memory, among them an
excellent statue at the entrance to the cathedral at Ribe, and a tablet
on the inside wall of the building right beside a similar remembrance of
Hans Tausen, the leader of the Danish reformation and a former bishop of
the diocese. But the finest memorial was raised to him by his son through
the publication of _Hans Adolph Brorson's Swan-Song_, a collection of
hymns and songs selected from his unpublished writings.

The songs of the _Swan-Song_ were evidently written for the poet's own
consolation and diversion. They are of very different types and merit,
and a number of them might without loss have been left out of the
collection. A few of them stand unexcelled, however, for beauty,
sentiment and poetic excellence. There are songs of patience such as the

    Her vil ties, her vil bies,
    Her vil bies, o svage Sind.
    Vist skal du hente, kun ved at vente,
    Kun ved at vente, vor Sommer ind.
    Her vil ties, her vil bies,
    Her vil bies, o svage Sind.

which one can hardly transfer to another language without marring its
tender beauty. And there are songs of yearning such as the greatly

    O Holy Ghost, my spirit
    With yearning longs to see
        That precious gem,
    Where I shall soon inherit
    The home prepared for me.

    But O the stormy waters!
    How shall I find my way
        Mid hidden shoals,
        Where darkness rolls,
    And join thy sons and daughters
    Who dwell in thee for aye.

    Lord, strengthen my assurance
    Of dwelling soon with Thee,
        That I may brave
        The threatening wave
    With firm and calm endurance;
    Thyself my pilot be.

And there is "The Great White Host", most beloved of all Brorson's hymns,
which Dr. Ryden, a Swedish-American Hymnologist, calls the most popular
Scandinavian hymn in the English language. Several English translations
of this song are available. The translation presented below is from the
new English hymnal of the Danish Lutheran churches in America.

    Behold the mighty, whiterobed band[8]
    Like thousand snowclad mountains stand
        With waving palms
        And swelling psalms
    Above at God's right hand.
    These are the heroes brave that came
    Through tribulation, war and flame
        And in the flood
        Of Jesus' blood
    Were cleansed from sin and shame.
    Now with the ransomed, heavenly Throng
    They praise the Lord in every tongue,
        And anthems swell
        Where God doth dwell
    Amidst the angels' song.

    They braved the world's contempt and might,
    But see them now in glory bright
        With golden crowns,
        In priestly gowns
    Before the throne of light.
    The world oft weighed them with dismay.
    And tears would flow without allay,
        But there above
        The Saviour's love
    Has wiped their tears away.
    Theirs is henceforth the Sabbath rest,
    The Paschal banquet of the blest,
        Where fountains play
        And Christ for aye
    Is host as well as guest.

    All hail to you, blest heroes, then!
    A thousand fold is now your gain
        That ye stood fast
        Unto the last
    And did your goal attain.
    Ye spurned all worldly joy and fame,
    And harvest now in Jesus' name
        What ye have sown
        With tears unknown
    Mid angels' glad acclaim.
    Lift up your voice, wave high your palm,
    Compass the heavens with your psalm:
        All glory be
    To God and to the Lamb.

Brorson's hymns were received with immediate favor. _The Rare Clenod of
Faith_ passed through six editions before the death of its author, and a
new church hymnal published in 1740 contained ninety of his hymns.
Pietism swept the country and adopted Brorson as its poet. But its reign
was surprisingly short. King Christian VI died in 1746, and the new king,
a luxury-loving worldling, showed little interest in religion and none at
all in Pietism. Under his influence the movement quickly waned. During
the latter part of the eighteenth century it was overpowered by a wave of
religious rationalism which engulfed the greater part of the intellectual
classes and the younger clergy. The intelligentsia adopted Voltaire and
Rousseau as their prophets and talked endlessly of the new age of
enlightenment in which religion was to be shorn of its mysteries and
people were to be delivered from the bonds of superstition.

In such an atmosphere the old hymns and, least of all, Brorson's hymns
with their mystic contemplation of the Saviour's blood and wounds could
not survive. The leading spirits in the movement demanded a new hymnal
that expressed the spirit of the new age. The preparation of such a book
was undertaken by a committee of popular writers, many of whom openly
mocked Evangelical Christianity. Their work was published under the title
_The Evangelical Christian Hymnal_, a peculiar name for a book which, as
has been justly said, was neither Evangelical nor Christian. The
compilers had eliminated many of the finest hymns of Kingo and Brorson
and ruthlessly altered others so that they were irrecognizable. To
compensate for this loss, a great number of "poetically perfect hymns" by
newer writers--nearly all of whom have happily been forgotten--were

But while would-be leaders discarded or mutilated the old hymns and, with
a zeal worthy of a better cause, sought to force their new songs upon the
congregations, many of these clung tenaciously to their old hymnal and
stoutly refused to accept the new. In places the controversy even
developed into a singing contest, with the congregations singing the
numbers from the old hymnal and the deacons from the new. And these
contests were, of course, expressive of an even greater controversy than
the choice of hymns. They represented the struggle between pastors,
working for the spread of the new gospel, and congregations still
clinging to the old. With the highest authorities actively supporting the
new movement, the result of the contest was, however, a foregone
conclusion. The new enlightenment triumphed, and thousands of Evangelical
Christians became homeless in their own church.

During the subsequent period of triumphant Rationalism, groups of
Evangelical laymen began to hold private assemblies in their own homes
and to provide for their own spiritual nourishment by reading Luther's
sermons and singing the old hymns. In these assemblies Brorson's hymns
retained their favor until a new Evangelical awakening during the middle
part of the nineteenth century produced a new appreciation of the old
hymns and restored them to their rightful place in the worship of the
church. And the songs of the Sweet Singer of Pietism have, perhaps, never
enjoyed a greater favor in his church than they do today.


[8]Another translation: "Like thousand mountains brightly crowned" by S.
   D. Rodholm in "World of Song".

                   Nicolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig
                         the Singer of Pentecost

                                                          Chapter Eleven
                         Grundtvig's Early Years

The latter part of the eighteenth and the earlier part of the nineteenth
century produced a number of great changes in the spiritual, intellectual
and economic life of Denmark. The strong Pietist movement at the time of
Brorson, as we have seen, lost much of its momentum with the death of
King Christian VI, and within a few years was overwhelmed by a wave of
the intellectual and religious Rationalism then engulfing a large part of
Europe. Religion, it was claimed, should be divested of its mysteries and
reason made supreme. Whatever could not justify itself before the bar of
the human intellect should be discarded as outworn conceptions of a less
enlightened age. The movement, however, comprised all shades of opinions
from pure agnosticism to an idealistic belief in God, virtue and

Although firmly opposed by some of the most influential Danish leaders of
that day, such as the valiant bishop of Sjælland, Johan Edinger Balle,
Rationalism swept the country with irresistible force. Invested in the
attractive robe of human enlightenment and appealing to man's natural
intellectual vanity, the movement attracted the majority of the upper
classes and a large proportion of the clergy. Its adherents studied
Rousseau and Voltaire, talked resoundingly of human enlightenment,
organized endless numbers of clubs, and--in some instances--worked
zealously for the social and economic uplift of the depressed classes.

In this latter endeavor many pastors assumed a commendable part. Having
lost the old Gospel, the men of the cloth became eager exponents of the
"social gospel" of that day. While we may not approve their Christmas
sermons "on improved methods of stable feeding," or their Easter sermons
"on the profitable cultivation of buckwheat," we cannot but recognize
their devoted labor for the educational and economic uplift, especially
of the hard-pressed peasants.

Their well-meant efforts, however, bore little fruit. The great majority
of the people had sunk into a slough of spiritual apathy from which
neither the work of the Rationalists nor the stirring events of the time
could arouse them.

The nineteenth century began threateningly for Denmark, heaping calamity
after calamity upon her. England attacked her in 1801 and 1807, robbing
her of her fine fleet and forcing her to enter the European war on the
side of Napoleon. The war wrecked her trade, bankrupted her finances and
ended with the severance of her long union with Norway in 1814. But
through it all Holger Danske slept peacefully, apparently unaware that
the very existence of the nation was threatened.

It is against this background of spiritual and national indifference that
the towering figure of Grundtvig must be seen. For it was he, more than
any other, who awakened his people from their lethargic indifference and
started them upon the road toward a happier day spiritually and

Nicolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig, like so many of Denmark's greatest
men, was the son of a parson. He was born September 8, 1783, at Udby, a
country parish in the south-eastern part of Sjælland. His father, Johan
Ottesen Grundtvig, was a pastor of the old school, an upright, earnest
and staunch supporter of the Evangelical Lutheran faith. His mother,
Catherine Marie Bang, was a high-minded, finely educated woman with an
ardent love for her country, its history, traditions and culture. Her son
claimed that he had inherited his love of "song and saga" from her.

The Grundtvigs on both sides of the family were descendants of a long
line of distinguished forebears, the most famous of whom was Archbishop
Absalon, the founder of Copenhagen and one of the most powerful figures
in 13th Century Denmark. And they still had relatives in high places.
Thus Johan Edinger Balle, the formerly mentioned bishop of Sjælland, was
a brother-in-law of Johan Grundtvig; Cathrine Grundtvig's brother, Dr.
Johan Frederik Bang, was a well-known professor of medicine and the
stepfather of Jacob Peter Mynster; and her younger sister, Susanna
Kristine Steffens, was the mother of Henrik Steffens, a professor at the
universities of Halle and Breslau, a friend of Goethe and Schiller, and a
leader of the early Romantic movement, both in Germany and Denmark.

Cathrine Grundtvig bore her husband five children, of whom Nicolaj was
the youngest. But even with such a large household to manage, she found
time to supervise the early schooling of her youngest son. She taught him
to read, told him the sagas of his people and gave him his first lessons
in the history and literature, both of his own and of other nations.

It was a period of stirring events. Wars and revolutions raged in many
parts of Europe. And these events were eagerly followed and discussed in
the parsonage. Listening to his elders, Grundtvig saw, as it were,
history in its making and acquired an interest in the subject that
produced rich fruits in later years. The wholesome Christian life of his
home and the devotional spirit of the services in his father's church
also made a deep impression upon him, an impression that even the
scepticism of his youth could not eradicate.

But his happy childhood years ended all too quickly. At the age of nine
he left his home to continue his studies under a former tutor, Pastor L.
Feld of Thyregod, a country parish in Jylland. There he spent six lonely
but quite fruitful years, receiving among other things a solid training
in the classical languages. In 1798, he completed his studies with Rev.
Feld and enrolled in the Latin school at Aarhus, the principal city of
Jylland. But the change proved most unfortunate for young Grundtvig.
Under the wise and kindly guidance of Rev. Feld he had preserved the
wholesome, eager spirit of his childhood, but the lifeless teaching, the
compulsory religious exercises and the whole spiritless atmosphere of his
new school soon changed him into an indifferent, sophisticated and
self-satisfied cynic with little interest in his studies, and none at all
in religion.

At the completion of his course, however, this attitude did not deter him
from enrolling at the University of Copenhagen with the intention of
studying for the ministry. A university education was then considered
almost indispensable to a man of his social position, and his parents
earnestly wished him to enter the church. Nor was his attitude toward
Christianity greatly different from that of his fellow students or even
from that of many pastors already preaching the emasculated gospel of
God, Virtue, and Immortality which the Rationalists held to be the true
essence of the Christian religion. Believing the important part of the
Gospel to be its ethical precepts, Grundtvig, furthermore, prided himself
upon the correctness of his own moral conduct and his ability to control
all unworthy passions. "I was at that time," he later complained,
"nothing but an insufferably vain and narrow-minded Pharisee."

From this spirit of superior self-sufficiency, only two things
momentarily aroused him during his university years--the English attacks
upon Copenhagen; and a series of lectures by his cousin, Henrik Steffens.

Steffens, as a student at Jena, had met and become an enthusiastic
disciple of Schelling, the father of natural philosophy, a pantheistic
colored conception of life, opposed to the narrowly materialistic views
of most Rationalists. Lecturing at the university during the years
1802-1803, Steffens aroused a tremendous enthusiasm, both among the
students and some of the older intellectuals. "He was a fiery speaker,"
Grundtvig remarks later, "and his lectures both shocked and inspired us
although I often laughed at him afterward."

Despite his attempt to laugh away the impression of the fiery speaker,
Grundtvig, nevertheless, retained at least two lasting memories from the
lectures--the power of the spoken word, a power that even against his
will could arouse him from his cynical indifference, and the reverence
with which Steffens spoke of Christ as "the center of history." The human
race, he contended, had sunk progressively lower and lower from the fall
of man until the time of Nero, when the process had been reversed and man
had begun the slow upward climb that was still continuing. And of this
progress the speaker in glowing terms pictured Christ as the living

Grundtvig was graduated from the university in the spring of 1803. He
wished to remain in Copenhagen but could find no employment and was
forced, therefore, to return to his home. Here he remained for about a
year, after which he succeeded in obtaining a position as tutor for the
son of Lieutenant Steensen Leth of Egelykke, a large estate on the island
of Langeland.

Except for the fact that Egelykke was far from Copenhagen, Grundtvig soon
became quite satisfied with his new position. Both the manor and its
surroundings were extremely beautiful, and his work was congenial. His
employer, a former naval officer, proved to be a rough, hard-drinking
worldling; but his hostess, Constance Leth, was a charming, well-educated
woman whose cultural interests made the manor a favored gathering place
for a group of like-minded ladies from the neighborhood. And with these
cultured women, Grundtvig soon felt himself much more at home than with
his rough-spoken employer and hard-drinking companions.

But if Grundtvig unexpectedly was beginning to enjoy his stay at
Egelykke, this enjoyment vanished like a dream when he suddenly
discovered that he was falling passionately in love with his attractive
hostess. It availed him nothing that others as he well knew might have
accepted such a situation with complacence; to him it appeared an
unpardonable reproach both to his intelligence and his honor. Having
proudly asserted the ability of any intelligent man to master his
passions, he was both horrified and humiliated to discover that he could
not control his own.

                   Nicolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig

Grundtvig never consciously revealed his true sentiment to Constance
Leth. At the cost of an intense struggle, he managed outwardly to
maintain his code of honorable conduct. But he still felt humbled and
shaken by his inability to suppress his inner and as he saw it guilty
passion. And under this blow to his proud self-sufficiency, he felt,
perhaps for the first time in his life, the need for a power greater than
his own. "To win in this struggle," he wrote in his diary, "lies beyond
my own power. I must look for help from above or sink as the stone sinks
while the lightly floating leaves mock it and wonder why it cannot float
as they do."

The struggle against his passion engendered a need for work. "In order to
quiet the storm within me," he writes, "I forced my mind to occupy itself
with the most difficult labor." Although he had paid small attention to
the suggestion at the time, he now remembered and began to read some of
the authors Steffens had recommended in his lectures: Goethe, Schiller,
Schelling, Fichte, Shakespeare and others. He also studied the work of
newer Danish writers, such as Prof. Jens Møller, a writer on Northern
mythology, and Adam Oehlenschlaeger, a young man who, inspired by
Steffens, was becoming the foremost dramatic poet of Denmark. He even
renewed the study of his long neglected Bible. The motive of his
extensive reading was, no doubt, ethical rather than esthetic, a search
for that outside power of which the battle within him revealed his urgent
need. Thus he wrote:

    My spirit opened its eyes,
    Saw itself on the brink of the abyss,
    Searched with trembling and fear
    Everywhere for a power to save,
    And found God in all things,
    Found Him in the songs of the poets,
    Found Him in the work of the sages,
    Found Him in the myths of the North,
    Found Him in the records of history,
    But clearest of all it still
    Found Him in the Book of Books.

The fate that appears to crush a man may also exalt him. And so it was
with Grundtvig. His suffering crushed the stony shell of cynical
indifference in which he had long enclosed his naturally warm and
impetuous spirit and released the great latent forces within him. In the
midst of his struggle, new ideas germinated springlike in his mind. He
read, thought and wrote, especially on the subject that was always near
to his heart, the mythology and early traditions of the Northern peoples.
And after three years of struggle, he was at last ready to break away
from Egelykke. If he had not yet conquered his passion, he had so far
mastered it that he could aspire to other things.

Thus ended what a modern Danish writer, Skovgaard-Petersen, calls "the
finest love story in Danish history." The event had caused Grundtvig much
pain, but it left no festering wounds. His firm refusal to permit his
passion to sully himself or degrade the woman he loved had, on the
contrary, made it one of the greatest incitations to good in his whole

On his return to Copenhagen Grundtvig almost at once obtained a position
as teacher in history at Borch's Collegium for boys. His new position
satisfied him eminently by affording him a chance to work with his
favorite subject and to expand his other intellectual interests. He soon
made friends with a number of promising young intellectuals who, in turn,
introduced him to some of the outstanding intellectual and literary
lights of the country, and within a short while the list of his
acquaintances read like a Blue Book of the city's intelligentsia.

Although Grundtvig was still quite unknown except for a few articles in a
current magazine, there was something about him, an originality of view,
an arresting way of phrasing his thoughts, a quiet sense of humor, that
commanded attention. His young friends willingly acknowledged his
leadership, and the older watched him with expectation. Nor were they
disappointed. His _Northern Mythology_ appeared in 1808, and _Episodes
from the Decay of Northern Heroism_ only a year later. And these
strikingly original and finely written works immediately established his
reputation as one of the foremost writers of Denmark. There were even
those who in their enthusiasm compared him with the revered
Oehlenschlaeger. A satirical poem, "The Masquerade Ball of Denmark,"
inspired by the frivolous indifference with which many people had reacted
to the English bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, showed his power of
burning scorn and biting satire.

In the midst of this success and the preparation of plans for new and
more ambitious works, Grundtvig received a request from his old father to
come home and assist him with his parish work. The request was not at all
pleasing to him. His personal attitude toward Christianity was still
uncertain, and his removal from the capital would interfere with his
literary career. But as the wish of his good parents could not be
ignored, he reluctantly applied for ordination and began to prepare his
probation sermon.

This now famous sermon was delivered before the proper officials March
17, 1810. Knowing that few besides the censors would be present to hear
him and feeling that an ordinary sermon would be out of place before such
an audience, Grundtvig prepared his sermon as an historical survey of the
present state of the church rather than as an Evangelical discourse.

His study of history had convinced him of the mighty influence
Christianity had once exerted upon the nations, and he, therefore, posed
the question why this influence was now in decline. "Are the glad
tidings," he asked, "which through seventeen hundred years passed from
confessing lips to listening ears still not preached?" And the answer is
"no". Even the very name of Jesus is now without significance and worth
to most people of the younger generation, "for the Word of God has
departed from His house and that which is preached there is not the Word
of God, but the earth-bound speculations of men. The holy men of old
believed in the message they were called to preach, but the human spirit
has now become so proud that it feels itself capable of discovering the
truth without the light of the Gospel, and so faith has died. My
Brethren!" he exclaims, "Let us not, if we share this blindness and
contempt for the heavenly light, be false and shameless enough to
desecrate the Holy Place by appearing there as preachers of a
Christianity in which we ourselves do not believe!"

The sermon was delivered with much force and eloquence. Grundtvig felt
himself stirred by the strength of his own argument; and a comparison of
the warm devotional spirit of a church service, as he remembered it from
his childhood, with the cold indifference of later days moved him to
sentimental tears, the first pious tears that he had shed for many years,
he said later. Even the censors were so impressed that they unanimously
awarded him the mark of excellent, a generosity they bitterly regretted a
few weeks later. For Grundtvig, contrary to his promise--as the censors
asserted but Grundtvig denied--published his sermon. And it was warmly
received by the Evangelicals as the first manna that had fallen in a
desert for many years. But the Rationalists violently condemned it and
presented the Committee on Church Affairs with an indignant protest
against its author "for having grossly insulted the Danish clergy."

Considering the enthusiastic approval the sermon had received in various
quarters, the committee would gladly have squashed the complaint. But the
complainers, comprising many of the most influential pastors in the city,
were too powerful to be ignored. And so Grundtvig was found guilty "of
having willfully insulted the Danish clergy, both individually and as a
body," and sentenced to receive a reprimand by the dean of the
theological faculty.

When Grundtvig on January 11, 1811, presented himself before the dean to
receive his reprimand, he looked so pale and shaken that even the worthy
official took compassion upon him and advised him privately that he must
not take his sentence too seriously. It was not, however, the stern
reprimand of the dean but an experience of far greater consequence that
so visibly blanched the cheeks of the defendant.

The prospect of entering the active ministry caused Grundtvig to examine
seriously his own attitude toward Christianity. And although the bishop
vetoed his assignment to Udby and thus released him from the immediate
prospect of entering the pulpit, this did not stop the trend of his
thoughts. He had lost his former indifference toward religion and
discovered the historical significance of Christianity, but just what did
the Christian faith mean to him personally?

He was still pondering this question, when in the fall of 1810, he
commenced a study of the Crusades, "the heroic age of Christianity," as
one historian called the period. The phrase appealed to him. He had
lately wandered through the mystic halls of Northern gods and heroes and
deplored the decay of their heroic spirit. He admired the heroic, and his
heart still wavered between the mighty Wodin and the meek and lowly
Christ. But the heroic age of Christianity--was it possible then that
Christianity too could rise to the heroic?

In the course of his study he read _The Early History of Prussia_ by A.
von Kotzebue in which the author, after ridiculing "the missionary zeal
that, like a fire on the steppes, caught the kings of Poland and
Scandinavia and moved them to frantic efforts for the conversion of
neighboring peoples," proudly stated, "But while her neighbors all
accepted Christianity and the withered cross drew steadily nearer to the
green oak, Prussia remained faithful to her ancient gods."

"The withered Cross!" The words stung Grundtvig to the quick. He hurled
the book away, sprang up and stormed about the room, vowing that he would
henceforth dedicate his life to the cause of the spurned emblem.

A few weeks of restless exaltation followed. He read his Bible, studied
Luther's catechism and pondered the ways and means of accomplishing a
reform of his church, especially a reform inspired by pen and ink. But
his _New Year's Night_, a small book published during this period, shows
his still troublesome uncertainty, his constant wavering between the old
gods and the Christ of the Gospels, between various degrees of
Rationalism and a full acceptance of the mystery of the cross. In a
mighty hymn of praise to the suffering Savior, he wrote many years later:
"Yes, my heart believes the wonder of Thy cross, which ages ponder"--but
he had yet to pass through the depths before he could say that. Even so,
he now exultingly wrote: "On the rim of the bottomless abyss toward which
our age is blindly hastening, I will stand and confront it with a
picture, illumined by two shining lights, the Word of God, and the
testimony of history. As long as God gives me strength to lift up my
voice, I will call and admonish my people in His name."

But from this pinnacle of proud exultation, he was suddenly hurled into
the abyss when, like a bolt of lightning, the thought struck him: But are
you yourself a Christian, have you received the forgiveness of your sin?

"It struck me like a hammer, crashing the rock," he said later, "what the
Lord tells the ungodly: 'What hast thou to declare my statutes or that
thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing that thou hatest
my instruction and castest my word behind thee!'" Gone like a dream were
now all his proud fancies. Only one thought filled his whole being--to
obtain the forgiveness of his sin and the assurance of God's grace. But
so violent became his struggle that his mind at times reeled on the brink
of insanity. His young friends stood loyally by him, comforting and
guarding him as far as they could. And when it became clear that he must
be removed from the noise of the city, one of them, F. Sibbern,
volunteered to take him home. There his old parents received him with
understanding, even rejoicing that anxiety for his soul and not other
things had so disturbed his mind.

The peace of the quiet countryside, the understanding care of his parents
and the soothing influence of their firm Evangelical faith acted as a
balm to Grundtvig's struggling spirit. He loved to enter the old church
of his childhood, to hear his father preach, or sit alone before the
altar in meditation and prayer. And there before the altar of the church
in which he had been baptized and confirmed, he at last found peace, the
true peace of God that passeth all understanding.

After the great change in his life, Grundtvig now wished most heartily to
become his father's assistant. The elder Grundtvig had already forwarded
his resignation from the pastorate but was more than happy to apply for
its return and for the appointment of his son as his assistant. And so,
Grundtvig was ordained at Copenhagen, May 11, 1811, and installed at Udby
a few days later. He was back again in the old church of his childhood.

                                                          Chapter Twelve
                    The Lonely Defender of the Bible

Grundtvig began his work at Udby with all the zeal of a new convert. He
ministered to young and old, spent himself in work for the sick and the
poor, and preached the Gospel with a fervor that was new, not only to the
people of Udby, but to most people of that generation. If other things
had not intervened, like his father, he might have spent his life as a
successful country pastor. But his father died January 5, 1813. The
authorities refused to confirm Grundtvig in the vacant charge, and he and
his mother, shortly afterward, were compelled to leave the parsonage that
had been their home for more than forty years. His mother settled in
Prastø, a small city a few miles from Udby, and Grundtvig returned to
Copenhagen to search for a new position, a task that this time proved
both long and painful.

Among available positions, Grundtvig especially coveted a professorship
in history at the newly founded university of Oslo, Norway, at which
three of his friends, S. B. Hersleb, Niels Trechow and George Sverdrup,
had already obtained employment. But although these friends worked
zealously for his appointment, even after the separation of Norway from
Denmark, their efforts were fruitless. Grundtvig was not destined to
leave his native land. Nor were his attempts to secure other work
successful. In spite of the fact that he applied for almost every vacancy
in the church, even the smallest, his powerful enemies among the
Rationalists were influential enough to prevent his appointment to any of

Meanwhile he was by no means idle. Following his conversion, he felt for
a time like a man suddenly emerging from darkness into the brightness of
a new day. Old things had passed away, but the brilliance of the new
light confused him. What could he do? How many of his former interests
were reconcilable with his new views? Could he, for instance, continue
his writings? "When my eyes were opened," he writes, "I considered all
things not directly concerned with God a hindrance to the blessed
knowledge of my Lord, Jesus Christ." After a time he saw, however, that
his ability to write might be accepted as a gift from God to be used in
His service. "The poet when inspired," he says, "may proclaim a message
from above to the world below," and so, "after dedicating it to Himself,
the Lord again handed me the harp that I had placed upon His altar."

During his brief stay at Udby, Grundtvig published three larger works:
_Episodes from the Battle between Ases and Norns_, _Saga_ and _A New
Year's Gift for 1812_.[9] The first of these was nearly completed before
his conversion, and as he now reread the manuscript, its content almost
shocked him. Was it possible that he had felt and written thus only a few
months ago! He thought of destroying the work but decided to recast it in
conformity with his present views and to express these clearly in a
preface. With the completion of this task, however, he took a long leave
from the "ice-cold giants of the North" that had so long engrossed his

After his brief visit with the heroes of the past, Grundtvig again turned
his attention to their descendants in the present. And the contrast was
almost startling. The war still was dragging on and the country sinking
deeper and deeper into the morass of political, commercial and economic
difficulties. But the majority of the people seemed completely
indifferent to her plight. "They talked of nothing," Grundtvig says, "but
of what they had eaten, worn and amused themselves with yesterday, or
what they would eat, wear and amuse themselves with tomorrow." Was it
possible that these people could be descendants of the giants whose valor
and aggressive spirit had once challenged the greater part of Europe?

Grundtvig was convinced that the spiritual apathy of his people resulted
from the failure of their spiritual leaders to uphold the Evangelical
faith, and that the salvation of the nation depended on a true revival of
Evangelical Christianity. For this reason he now exerted every means at
his command to induce the people and, especially, their leaders to return
to the old paths. In numerous works, both in verse and in prose, he urged
the people to renew the faith of their fathers and challenged their
leaders to take a definite stand for Biblical Christianity. He became the
lonely defender of the Bible.

Among outstanding personalities of that day, there were especially two
that attracted widespread attention: J. P. Mynster, assistant pastor at
the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, and Adam Gottlieb Oehlenschlaeger,
the dramatic poet, then at the height of his fame. With their influence
these men, as Grundtvig saw it, might give a strong impetus to the much
needed awakening; and, he therefore, approached them personally.

Rev. Mynster, a stepson of Grundtvig's maternal uncle, after a period of
rationalism, had experienced a quiet conversion to Evangelical faith and
won a respected name as a faithful and gifted preacher of the Gospel, a
name which he retained throughout his conspicuous career as pastor of the
Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen and, later, as Bishop of Sjælland. He
and Grundtvig, working to the same purpose, ought to have united with
another, but they were both too individualistic in temperament and views
to join forces. Mynster was coldly logical, calm and reserved, a lover of
form and orderly progress. Grundtvig was impetuous, and volcanic, in
constant ferment, always in search of spiritual reality and wholly
indifferent to outward appearances. His own experience had led him to
believe that a return to Evangelical Christianity could be effected only
through a clean break with Rationalism, and he could not understand
Mynster's apparent attempt to temporize and bring about a gradual
transition from one to the other. There should be no compromise between
truth and falsehood. All believers in the Gospel should stand up and
proclaim it fearlessly, no matter what the consequences.

And so Grundtvig wrote to Mynster: "Dear Rev. Mynster, I owe you an
apology for asking a question that in our days may appear inexcusable:
What is your real belief regarding the Bible and the faith of Jesus
Christ? If you humbly believe in God's Word, I shall rejoice with you
even if you differ with me in all other things. Dear Rev. Mynster--for
you are that to me--if my question appears unseemly, you must not let it
hurt you, for I have written only as my heart dictates." But Mynster did
feel offended and answered Grundtvig very coldly that his questions
implied an unwarranted and offensive doubt of his sincerity that must
make future intercourse between them difficult--if not impossible.

Nor was Grundtvig more successful with a letter of similar purport to
Oehlenschlaeger whose later writings he found lacked the spiritual
sincerity of his earlier work. "My concern about this," he wrote, "is
increased by the thought that this lessening of spirituality must be
expressive of a change in your own spiritual outlook, your inner
relationship with God whom all spiritual workers should serve, counting
it a greater achievement to inspire their fellow men with a true
adoration of our Lord than to win the acclaim of the world." But like
Mynster the highly feted poet accepted this frank questioning of his
inner motive as an unwarranted impertinence, the stupid intrusion of an
intolerable fanatic with whom no friend of true enlightenment could have
anything to do. Grundtvig was fast finding out what it means to be
counted a fool for Christ's sake--or for what he thought was Christ's

In the midst of these troubles Grundtvig again turned his attention to
history, his favorite subject from childhood days. His retreat from the
present to the past implied no abolition, however, of his resolve to
dedicate himself to a spiritual revival of his people. Through his
historical work he wished to show the influence of Christianity upon the
people of Europe. "That the life of every people," he writes, "is and
must be a fruit of faith should be clear to all. For who can dispute that
every human action--irrespective of how little considered it may have
been--is expressive of its doer's attitude, of his way of feeling and
thinking. But what determines a man's way of thinking except his
essential thoughts concerning the relationship between God and the world,
the visible and the invisible? Every serious thinker, therefore, must
recognize the importance of faith in the furtherance of science, the
progress of nations and the life of the state. It is a fearful delusion
that man can be immoral, an unbeliever, even an enemy of the cross of
Christ, and yet a furtherer of morality and science, a good neighbor and
a benefactor to his country."

_A Brief Survey of the World's History_, which Grundtvig published in
1812, is thus the opposite of an objective presentation of historical
events. It is a Christian philosophy of history, an attempt to prove the
truth of the Gospel by its effect upon the nations. With the Bible before
him Grundtvig weighs and evaluates people and events upon the scale of
the revealed word. And his judgment is often relentless, stripping both
persons and events of the glorified robes in which history and traditions
invested them. In answer to countless protests against such a method of
reading history, Grundtvig contends that the Christian historian must
accept the consequences of his faith. He cannot profess the truth of
Christianity and ignore its implication in the life of the world. If the
Gospel be true, history must be measured by its relation to its truth.

Grundtvig's history caused a sensation, especially on account of its
frank appraisal of many well-known persons. Nearly all praised its lucid
style; a few, such as George Sverdrup, spoke highly of its strikingly
original estimate and correlation of events; but the intelligentsia
condemned it as the work of an impossible fanatic. With this work, they
claimed, Grundtvig had clearly removed himself from the pale of
intelligent men.

But while his enemies raged, Grundtvig was already busy with another
work: _A Brief Account of God's Way with the Danish and Norwegian
Peoples_. This history which, written in verse and later published under
the title of _Roskilde Rhymes_, was first read at a diocesan convention
in Roskilde Cathedral, the Westminster Abbey of Denmark. Although the
poem contained many urgent calls to the assembled pastors to awake and
return to the way of the fathers, whose bones rested within the walls of
the historic sanctuary, its reading caused no immediate resentment. Most
of the reverend listeners are reported, in fact, to have been peacefully
asleep when late in the evening Grundtvig finished the reading of his
lengthy manuscript. But a paper on "Polemics and Tolerance" which he read
at another convention two years later kept his listeners wide awake.

"Our day has inherited two shibboleths from the eighteenth century:
enlightenment and tolerance. By the last of these words most people
understand an attitude of superior neutrality toward the opinions of
others, even when these opinions concern the highest spiritual welfare of
man. Such an attitude has for its premise that good and evil, truth and
falsehood are not separate and irreconcilable realities but only
different phases of the same question. But every Christian, thoroughly
convinced of the antagonism and irreconcilability of truth with
falsehood, must inevitably hate and reject such a supposition. If
Christianity be true, tolerance toward opinions and teachings denying its
truth is nothing but a craven betrayal of both God and man. It is
written, 'Judge and condemn no one' but not 'Judge and condemn nothing.'
For every Christian must surely both judge and condemn evil.

"There are times when to fight for Christianity may not be an urgent
necessity; but that cannot be so in our days when every one of its divine
truths is mocked and assailed.

"You call me a self-seeking fanatic, but if I be that, why are you
yourself silent? If I be misleading those who follow me, why are you, the
true watchmen of Zion, not exerting yourself to lead them aright? I stand
here the humblest of Danish pastors, a minister without a pulpit, a man
reviled by the world, shorn of my reputation as a writer, and held to be
devoid of all intelligence and truth. Even so I solemnly declare that the
religion now preached in our Danish church is not Christianity, is
nothing but a tissue of deception and falsehood, and that unless Danish
pastors bestir themselves and fight for the restoration of God's word and
the Christian faith there will soon be no Christian church in Denmark."

The immediate effect of this bold challenge was a stern reprimand from
Bishop Frederik Munter, accompanied by a solemn warning that if he ever
again ventured to voice a similar judgment upon his fellow pastors,
sterner measures would at once be taken against him. Besides this, his
enemies raved, some of his few remaining friends broke with him, and H.
C. Ørsted, the famous discoverer of electro-magnetism, continued an
attack upon him that for bitterness has no counterpart in Danish letters.
In the midst of this storm Grundtvig remained self-possessed, answering
his critic quite calmly and even with a touch of humor. Although
relentless in a fight for principles, he was never vindictive toward his
personal enemies. In 1815, he published a collection of poems,
_Kvaedlinger_, in which he asks, "Who knoweth of peace who never has
fought, whoso has been saved and suffered naught?" And these lines no
doubt express his personal attitude toward the battles of life.

Being without a pulpit of his own, Grundtvig, after his return to
Copenhagen, frequently accepted invitations to preach for other pastors.
But as the opposition against him grew, these invitations decreased and,
after the Roskilde affair, only one church, the church of Frederiksberg,
was still open to him. Grundtvig felt his exclusion very keenly, but he
knew that even friendly pastors hesitated to invite him for fear of
incurring the disapproval of superiors or the displeasure of influential
parishioners. And so, at the close of a Christmas service in the
Frederiksberg church in 1815, he solemnly announced that he would not
enter a pulpit again until he had been duly appointed to do so by the
proper authorities.

Grundtvig's withdrawal from the church, though pleasing to his active
enemies, was a great disappointment to his friends. His services had
always been well attended, and his earnest message had brought comfort to
many, especially among the distressed Evangelicals. But others, too, felt
the power of his word. Thus a man in Copenhagen, after attending one of
his services, wrote to a friend, "that he had laughed at the beginning of
the sermon and wept at its conclusion" and that "it was the only earnest
testimony he had ever heard from a pulpit." And a reporter writing to a
Copenhagen newspaper about his last service said, "Our famous Grundtvig
preached yesterday at Frederiksberg church to such a crowd of people that
the church was much too small to accommodate them. Here were people from
all walks of life, and the speaker, we are convinced, stirred them to the
bottom of their souls. Here was a Mynster's clarity, a Fallesen's
earnestness, and a Balle's appeal united with a Nordahl Brun's manliness
and admirable language." And this about a man for whom his church had no

Thus Grundtvig instead of the friendly co-operation he had hoped for
especially from the spiritual and intellectual leaders of the people
found himself virtually shut out from the circle to which he naturally
belonged, and from the church he loved, perhaps better than any man of
his generation.

But if his hope of enlisting the leaders in a campaign to revive the
spiritual life of the common people had been disappointed, his own
determination to devote his life to that purpose remained unshaken. If he
could look for no help from the recognized leaders of his nation, he must
somehow gain a hearing from the common people themselves. His personal
contact with these, however, was rather slight. Except for his brief work
as a pastor, he had so far spent the greater part of his life in
intellectual pursuits quite removed from the interest of the common man.
And the question was then how he, a man without any special position and
influence, could reach the ears of his countrymen.

In searching for an answer to this question, he remembered the two things
that most profoundly had influenced his own spiritual outlook, his study
of the traditions and history of his people, and his religious awakening
in 1810. Was it not possible then that a like change might be engendered
in others by presenting them with a picture of their own glorious past
or, as his friend Ingemann later expressed it, by calling forth the
generations that died to testify against the generation that lived? In
presenting such a picture he would not have to rely on his own
inventiveness but could use material already existing, foremost among
which were the famous _Sagas of Norwegian Kings_ by Snorra Sturlason, and
_Denmark's Chronicle_ by Saxo Grammaticus, the former written in
Icelandic, and the latter in Latin.

When Grundtvig presented this plan to his remaining friends, they
received it at once with enthusiasm and began the organization of
societies both in Denmark and Norway for the purpose of sponsoring its
execution, in itself a most herculean task.

The two books contain together about fifteen hundred large and closely
printed pages and present a circumstantial account of the early
mythological and factual history of the two nations. Even a merely
literal translation of them might well consume years of labor. But
Grundtvig's plan went much farther than mere literal translation. Wishing
to appeal to the common people, he purposed to popularize the books and
to transcribe them in a purer and more idiomatic Danish than the accepted
literary language of the day, a Danish to be based on the dialects of the
common people, the folk-songs, popular proverbs, and the old hymns. It
was a bold undertaking, comparable to the work of Luther in modelling the
language of the German Bible after the speech of the man in the street
and the mother at the cradle, or to the great effort of Norway in our
days to supplant the Danish-Norwegian tongue with a language from the
various dialects of her people. Nor can it be said that Grundtvig was
immediately successful in his attempt. His version of the sagas sounds
somewhat stilted and artificial, and it never became popular among the
common people for whom it was especially intended. Eventually, however,
he did develop his new style into a plain, forceful mode of expression
that has greatly enriched the Danish language of today.

For seven years Grundtvig buried himself in "the giant's mount," emerging
only occasionally for the pursuit of various studies in connection with
his work or to voice his views on certain issues that particularly
interested him. He discovered a number of errors in the Icelandic version
of Beowulf and made a new Danish translation of that important work; he
engaged in a bitter literary battle with Paul Mueller, a leader among the
younger academicians, in defence of the celebrated lyric poet, Jens
Baggesen, who had aroused the wrath of the students by criticising their
revered dramatist, Oehlenschlaeger; and he fought a furious contest with
the greatly admired song and comedy writer, John L. Heiberg, in defence
of his good friend, Bernhard Severin Ingemann, whose excellent but overly
sentimental lyrics had invited the barbed wit of the humorist. But
although Grundtvig's contributions to these disputes were both able and
pointed, their main effect was to widen the breach between him and the
already antagonistic intellectuals.

In 1817 Grundtvig published the second part of _World Chronicles_, and a
few issues of a short-lived periodical entitled "Dannevirke" which among
other excellent contributions presented his splendid poem, "The Easter
Lily," a poetic dramatization of our Lord's resurrection, about which the
poet, Baggesen, said that "it outweighed all Oehlenschlaeger's tragedies
and that he himself had moments when he would rather have been the author
of this incomparably beautiful poem than of everything he himself had

Grundtvig began his translation of the sagas on a wave of high
enthusiasm. But as the years multiplied, the interest of his supporters
waned and he himself wearied of the task. He began, besides, to doubt his
ability to resurrect the heroic dead in such a manner that they could
revive the dropping spirit of the living.

In a welcome to Ingemann, on his return from a tour abroad, he expresses
the hope that the poet will now devote his gifts to a reincarnation of
his country's old heroes. He himself has tried to do this. "He has made
armor, shields and swords for them of saga's steel, and borrowed horses
for them from the ancient bards, but he has no cloth fit for the coats of
such elegant knights nor feathers beautiful enough to adorn their
helmets. He can sound a challenge but has no voice for singing; he can
ring a bell but can not play the lute." In other words, he can depict the
thoughts and ideals of the old heroes but lacks the poetical ability to
recreate them as living personalities--a remarkably true estimate of his
own limitations.

The discovery that his translation of the sagas was not accomplishing its
intended purpose, and a growing apprehension that the written word was,
perhaps, impotent to revive the spiritual life of his people, engendered
in him an increasing wish to leave "the mount of the dead" and re-enter
the world of the living. His economic circumstances also necessitated a
change. In 1818 he had married Elizabeth Blicher, the daughter of a
brother pastor, and he found it well nigh impossible to support his wife
and growing family on the meager returns from his writings and a small
pension which the government allowed him for his work with the sagas.

Spurred by these reasons, he applied for almost every vacancy in the
church, even the smallest, and, in 1821, succeeded in obtaining an
appointment to the pastorate at Prastø, a small city on the south-eastern
shores of Sjælland.

Grundtvig was well satisfied with his new charge. He was kindly received
by his congregation; the city was quite close to his beloved Udby, and
his mother still lived there. "In the loveliest surroundings my eyes have
ever seen and among a friendly people," he writes, "my strength soon
revived so that I could continue my literary work and even complete my
wearisome translation of the sagas."

An incident is related from his work at Prastø which throws a somewhat
revealing light upon his ability as a pastor. At his only confirmation
service there, the confirmants, we are told, wept so that he had to pause
several times in his address to them in order to let them regain their
composure. Since he was always quite objective in his preaching and
heartily disbelieved in the usual revival methods, the incident
illustrates his rare ability to profoundly stir even the less mature of
his hearers by his objective presentation of the Gospel. Even his
bitterest enemies could not deny the evident effectiveness of his
ministry in every charge he served.

His work at Prastø was, however, of brief duration. In 1822, less than
two years after his installation, he received and accepted a call as
assistant pastor at Our Savior's Church in Copenhagen, thus attaining his
long deferred wish for a pulpit in the capital.


[9]The printed text is corrupt here. _Saga: A New Year's Gift for 1812_
   is one work. Possibly the third work referenced is _World Chronicles_,
   the first part of which was published in 1812.

                                                        Chapter Thirteen
                             The Living Word

Grundtvig began his ministry in the capital with high hopes, but he was
soon disappointed. His services as usual attracted large audiences,
audiences that frequently overflowed the spacious sanctuary. But these
came from all parts of the city, an ever changing throng from which it
was quite impossible to create a real congregation. The parish itself was
so large that the mere routine duties of his office consumed much of his
time. There were mass weddings, mass baptisms, mass funerals for people
of whom he knew little and could have no assurance that he was not
"giving the holy unto dogs or casting pearls before swine." With the
prevailing decay of church-life most pastors accepted these conditions
with equanimity, but to Grundtvig they constituted an increasingly heavy

He was still lonely. Awakened Christians were few, and his fellow pastors
were nearly all Rationalists who looked upon him as a dangerous fanatic
whom it was best to avoid. Grundtvig's opinion about them, though
different, was scarcely higher. It provoked him to observe pastors openly
repudiating doctrines and ordinances which they had sworn to defend. To
his mind such a course was both dishonorable to themselves and unjust
toward their congregations which, whether or not they approved of these
unlawful acts, had to be served by their parish pastors. The majority, it
is true, accepted the new doctrines with indifference. Rationalism then
as now promoted apathy rather than heresy. But Grundtvig observed its
blighting effect everywhere, even upon himself.

Signs of a new awakening, nevertheless, were appearing here and there,
especially in certain rural communities. Influenced by the Haugean
movement in Norway and Grundtvig's own earlier work, scattering groups of
Evangelicals and Pietists began to evince new life and activity. Peasants
in a number of parishes in Jutland refused to accept the Evangelical
Christian hymnal and a new rationalistic colored catechism, choosing to
go to jail rather than to compromise their faith; and groups of
Evangelical laymen on the island of Fyn began to hold private assemblies
at which they nourished themselves by reading Luther's sermons and
singing Kingo's and Brorson's hymns. Most if not all of these groups
admired Grundtvig for his bold defiance of Biblical Christianity and
looked hopefully to him for encouragement. If, as his enemies charged, he
had wished to make himself the head of a party, he could easily have done
so by assuming the leadership of the private assemblies.

But Grundtvig never compromised his views for the sake of attracting a
following, and he did not approve of private assemblies. Such groups, he
wrote, had frequently disrupted the church, bred contempt for Scripture,
and fostered a perverted form of piety. Even as a release from the
present deplorable situation, they might easily produce more harm than

Although Grundtvig could not approve of the assemblies he, nevertheless,
sympathized deeply with the distressed laity. A layman was then bound to
his parish, and Grundtvig clearly understood the difficulty of laymen who
had to accept the ministry, have their children baptized, instructed and
confirmed by pastors denying fundamental doctrines of their faith. With
his usual frankness he therefore threw caution to the winds and reminded
the pastors that it was their own failure to preach and defend the
Lutheran faith that was forcing Evangelical laymen to seek in the
assemblies what was arbitrarily withheld from them in the church.
"Whether it be good or bad, recommendable or deplorable," Grundtvig
wrote, "it is, at any rate, a fact that the spirit of the church service
has changed so greatly during the last half century that it is almost
impossible for an Evangelical Christian to derive any benefit from it,
and it is this situation that has forced earnest laymen to invent such a
substitute for the church as the private assemblies evidently are."

For a number of years Grundtvig thought and wrote almost ceaselessly
about this problem. With conditions so perverted that the lawbreakers
were imprisoning the victims of their own lawlessness, something ought
evidently to be done about it. But what could he do?

He tried to attack Rationalism from new angles. In a carefully written
article in "The Theological Monthly," a magazine that he published in
collaboration with the learned but crusty Dr. G. A. Rudelbach, he argued
that any inquiry concerning the nature of Christianity should distinguish
between the questions: What is true Christianity? and Is Christianity
True? The first was a historical question, and could be answered only by
an examination of the original teachings of Christianity; the second was
a question of conscience and depended on the attitude of the individual.
He was he asserted, perfectly willing to recognize the right of the
Rationalists to believe what ever they choose, but as a historian he had
to protest against the propagation of any belief under the name of
Christianity that clearly denied what Christianity originally affirmed.

His writing, however, produced no evident result. The rationalists either
maintained a contemptuous silence or answered him by their favorite cry
of ignorance and fanaticism. The true teachings of Christianity, they
asserted, could be ascertained only by the trained theologian, able to
read the Bible in the original and trained to interpret it in the light
of current knowledge. Such men knew, it was claimed, that many of the
doctrines formerly held by the church, such as the divinity of Christ,
the atonement and the triunity of God, were not found in the Scriptures
at all or were based on misread or misinterpreted texts.

Although these contentions were almost as old as Christianity itself,
Grundtvig still found that a clear refutation of them was practically
impossible. He could not disprove them by Scripture, for the Rationalists
would claim their interpretation of the Bible to be as trustworthy as his
own; nor could he appeal to the confessions, for his opponents openly
repudiated these as antiquated conceptions of a less enlightened age. His
only hope of giving any real guidance to the confused and distressed
laity of his church thus appeared to depend on the possibility of
discovering an expression of Christianity so authoritative that the most
learned perverter of the faith could not repudiate it and so plain that
the humblest believer could understand it. In his anxiety it even seemed
to him that the Lord had failed adequately to provide for His little ones
if He had not supplied them with such a shield against the storm of
confusing doctrines.

"Being greatly distressed with the thought that all humble Christians
must either fall into doubt concerning their only Savior and His Gospel
or build their faith on the contradictory teachings of learned
theologians," he wrote, "I perceived clearly the pressing need of the
church for a simpler, more dependable and authoritative statement of that
word of God which shall never pass away than all the book-worms of the
world could ever produce. But while my anxiety for the distressed laity
of my church grew and I sought night and day for a clear testimony of
Jesus that would enable them to try the spirits whether they be of God, a
good angel whispered to me: 'Why seekest thou the living among the dead?'
Then the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw clearly that the word of God
which I so anxiously sought could be no other than that which at all
times, in all churches and by all Christians has been accepted as a true
expression of their faith and the covenant of their baptism, the
Apostolic Creed."

In his search for an effective means of arming the laity against the
confusing claims of the Rationalists, Grundtvig thus came to place the
Creed above the Bible, or rather to assert that the two should stand side
by side, and that all explanations of the latter should agree with the
plain articles of the former so that every Christian personally could
weigh the truth or error of what was taught by comparing it with his
baptismal covenant.

Grundtvig supported his "great discovery" with passages from the Bible
and the church fathers, especially Irenaeus. He advanced the theory that
Jesus had taught the Creed to His disciples during the forty days after
His resurrection in which He remained with them, "speaking of the things
pertaining to the kingdom of God"; that the Creed through the early
centuries had been regarded as too sacred to commit to writing and,
therefore had been transmitted orally; and that it constituted, together
with the words of institution of the sacraments and the Lord's prayer, in
a special sense "the living word of God" by which He builds and vivifies
His church. It should be stated, however, that Grundtvig's intention by
distinguishing between what he called "the living" and "the written
word," was not to belittle the Bible but only to define its proper place,
the place of enlightening and guiding those, who through God's living
covenant with them in their baptism already have become Christians. A
Christian, he believed, is reborn in his baptism, nourished in the
Communion and enlightened by the Word.

A critical examination of Grundtvig's theory, about which thousands of
pages have been written, lies beyond the scope of this work. Grundtvig
himself felt that his "discovery" had given him a solid foundation for
his stand against the Rationalists. And his theory unquestionably did
enable him, in the midst of an almost hopeless religious confusion, to
reassert the essentials of Evangelical Christianity, to refute the
contentions of the Rationalists by weighing them on an acknowledged
historical basis of faith, and to reemphasize that the Christian church
is not a creation of theological speculations but of God's own work in
His word and sacraments.

Grundtvig for some time previous to his discovery had felt exceedingly
depressed. His long struggle for the reawakening of his people to a
richer Christian and national life appeared fruitless. Most of the
intellectual and spiritual leaders of his time looked upon the very idea
of sharing the richer cultural and spiritual values of life with the
common man as a visionary conception of an unstable and erratic mind. One
ought naturally, they admitted, to be interested in improving the social
and economic conditions of the lower classes, but the higher treasures of
mind and spirit belonged in the very nature of things to the cultured few
and could not be shared with the common herd.

In spite of these discouragements, Grundtvig somehow experienced a
wonderful rebirth of his hope in the spring of 1824, an experience to
which he gave eloquent expression in his great poem, "New Year's
Morning." He writes in the preface that he has "long enough battled with
a witch called indifference, and has discovered that the battle wherein
one is most likely to be defeated is the battle against nothing." He
therefore urges his friends to ignore the witch and join him in a
determined crusade for a reawakening of the Northern spirit to the
accomplishment of Christian deed.

Grundtvig's hope for a season of quiet and peaceful cooperation with his
friends was, however, soon shattered. In the summer of 1825, a young
professor of theology, H. N. Clausen, published a book entitled: _The
Constitution, Doctrine and Rituals of Catholicism and Protestantism_. As
Prof. Clausen enjoyed a great popularity among his students and, as a
teacher of theology, might influence the course of the Danish church for
many years, Grundtvig was very much interested in what he had to say. He
obtained the book and read it quickly but thoughtfully, underscoring the
points with which he disagreed. And these were numerous. At the very
beginning of the book, he found the author asserting that "the Protestant
theologian, since he need recognize no restriction of his interpretations
by creeds, traditions, or ecclesiastical authorities, is as once
infinitely more free and important than his Catholic colleague. For as
the Protestant church unlike the Catholic possesses no conclusive and
authoritative system of belief either in her creeds or in Scripture, it
devolves upon her trained theologians to set forth what the true
teachings of Christianity really are. "Why, O why!" the professor
exclaims, "should eternal Wisdom have willed revelation to appear in a
form so imperfect? What other purpose, I ask you, can an all-wise
Providence have had with such a plan than to compel the children of man
to recognize that it is only through the exercise of their own, human
intelligence that the revelation of God can be comprehended!"

As Grundtvig mused upon these assertions so expressive of all that he had
denied and fought against, he felt at once that they constituted a
challenge which he could not leave unanswered. He had shortly before
written to a friend: "Since the perverters of Christianity have become so
self-confident that they will not answer any charge against them except
when it is addressed to themselves personally and by name, one may
eventually have to employ that form of attack." And that was the form he
chose to use in his now famous book. _The Reply of the Church to Prof. H.
N. Clausen_.

"By the publication of this book," he writes, "Prof. Clausen has put
himself forward as a leader among the enemies of the church and the
perverters of God's word in this country. A church, such as he advocates,
that has no determinable form, exists only in the brains of the
theologians, and must be construed from theological speculations on the
basis of a discredited Bible and according to the changing thoughts and
opinions of man, is plainly nothing but a fantastic dream, a comic if it
were not so tragic conception of a Christian congregation which claims to
confess the same faith, but knows not what it is, and holds that it is
instituted by God, but cannot tell for what purpose before the
theologians have found it out.

"Against such a church, I place the historical church, that is the church
of the Gospel, instituted by Christ Himself, created by His word and
vivified by His Spirit. For I contend that the Christian church now as
always consists of that body of believers who truly accept the faith of
their baptismal covenant, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper as the faith
and means of salvation."

_The Reply of the Church_ caused a sensation. It was read and discussed
everywhere. But if Grundtvig had hoped to force a general discussion of
the plight of the church, he was disappointed. Prof. Clausen answered him
with a lawsuit "for malicious injury to his professional honor"; his
enemies all condemned him, and his friends were silent. If they approved
of the substance of his charges, they disapproved of their form.
Grundtvig appeared to have thrown away the last remnant of his already
tattered reputation, and only the years would reveal that in doing so he
had struck a deadlier blow against Rationalism than he had expected, that
he had, in fact, for years to come made Rationalism impossible in Denmark
as a form of Christianity.

Meanwhile the Danish church was preparing to celebrate its thousandth
anniversary in May, 1826. Grundtvig looked forward to the event with
almost child-like anticipation, hoping that the celebration might serve
to awaken a new appreciation of the old church. To heighten the
festivities the authorities had authorized pastors to select the hymns
for the services in their own churches, and Grundtvig had written and
published a pamphlet of hymns to be used in his church. But shortly
before the festival, his bishop informed him that only hymns from the
authorized hymnal could be chosen. As no one else had composed hymns for
the occasion, Grundtvig could not doubt that this new ruling was aimed
solely at him, and this new evidence at the length to which his enemies
would go for the sake of humiliating him appeared to him like the last
straw. He had long suffered under the difficulty of serving a church
which honored the law-breaker and persecuted the law-abiding and thought
of resigning. But he had a family to support. And while he himself would
gladly bear the poverty his resignation would inevitably bring him, he
doubted his right to impose such a burden upon his family. The difficulty
was finally solved for him by his wife, who one day came into his study
and said: "Father, I know what is troubling you. You wish to resign and
hesitate to do so for our sake. But I want you to do whatever you think
is right. The Lord will provide for us."

And so it was settled. His resignation was handed to the authorities a
few days before the festival, and it was accepted so quickly that he was
released from office before the following Sunday. When the festive Sunday
came which he had looked forward to with so much pleasure, he sat idly in
his study across from the church and watched people come for the service,
but another pastor preached the sermon, he had earnestly wished to
deliver, and other hymns than his own beloved songs served as vehicles
for the people's praise.

Public sentiment regarding Grundtvig's resignation varied. His friends
deplored the action, holding that he should have remained in his
pastorate both for the sake of his congregation and the cause which he
had so ably championed. But his opponents rejoiced, seeing in his
resignation just another proof of an erratic mentality. For who had ever
heard of a normal person withdrawing from a secure and respectable
position without even asking for the pension to which he was entitled?

The six years during which Grundtvig remained without a pulpit were among
the busiest and most fruitful of his life. He published his
_Sunday-Book_, a collection of sermons which many still rate among the
finest devotional books in Danish; made extended visits to England in
1829-1831, for the purpose of studying the old Anglo Saxon manuscripts
kept there, an undertaking that awakened the interest of the English
themselves in these great treasures; wrote his splendid _Northern
Mythology or Picture Language_, and _The World's History after the Best
Sources_, works in which he presents the fundamental aspects of his
historical, folk and educational views that have made his name known not
only in Scandinavia but in almost every country in the world.

Meanwhile he again had entered the pulpit. As a compensation for the loss
of his ministry, a group of his friends shortly after his resignation
began to hold private assemblies. When Grundtvig still firmly refused to
take part in these, they decided to organize an independent congregation,
petition the government for permission to use an abandoned German
Lutheran church and call Grundtvig as their pastor. The petition was
promptly refused, though Grundtvig himself pleaded with the authorities
to permit the organization of an independent congregation as the best
means of relieving the dissatisfied members of the church and declared
that he would himself join the assemblies unless some such measure of
relief was granted. When the authorities ignored his plea, Grundtvig made
good his threat and appeared at the assemblies, drawing such a crowd that
no private home could possibly hold it, whereupon it was decided to
secure a public hall for future meetings. But when the authorities heard
this, they suddenly experienced a change of heart and offered the
troublesome preacher and his friends the use of Frederik's church for a
vesper service each Sunday.

The eight years Grundtvig served as an independent preacher at the
Frederik's church were among the happiest in his life. He rejoiced to
know that the large, diversified audience crowding the sanctuary each
Sunday came wholly of its own free will. It also pleased the now
gray-haired pastor to see an increasing number of students become
constant attendants at his services. Even so, his position had its
drawbacks. He was permitted neither to administer the sacraments nor to
instruct the young people, and the authorities even denied him the right
to confirm his own sons. Grundtvig felt especially this refusal so keenly
that he again was thinking of resigning his pulpit when the king offered
him an appointment as pastor of Vartov, a large institution for the aged.

Thus from 1839 until Grundtvig's death the chapel at Vartov became his
home and that of his friends and the center of the fast growing
Grundtvigian movement. People from all walks of life, from the Queen to
the common laborer, became regular attendants at the unpretentious
sanctuary, and the eyes of some old people still shine when they recall
the moving spirit of the services there, the venerable appearance and
warm monotone voice of the pastor, and, especially, the hearty,
soul-stirring singing. Many of Grundtvig's own great hymns were
introduced at Vartov. From there they spread throughout the church. And
it was to a large extent the hearty, inspiring congregational singing at
Vartov which made the Danish church a singing church.

                                                        Chapter Fourteen
                             The Hymnwriter

    Splendid are the heavens high,
    Beautiful the radiant sky,
    Where the golden stars are shining,
    And their rays, to earth inclining,
    -: Beckon us to heaven above :-

    It was on a Christmas night,
    Darkness veiled the starry height;
    But at once the heavens hoary
    Beamed with radiant light and glory,
    -: Coming from a wondrous star :-

    When this star so bright and clear
    Should illume the midnight drear,
    Then, according to tradition,
    Should a king of matchless vision
    -: Unto earth from heaven descend :-

    Sages from the East afar
    When they saw this wondrous star,
    Went to worship and adore Him
    And to lay their gifts before Him
    -: Who was born that midnight hour :-

    Him they found in Bethlehem
    Without crown or diadem,
    They but saw a maiden lowly
    With an infant pure and holy
    -: Resting in her loving arms :-

    Guided by the star they found
    Him whose praise the ages sound.
    We have still a star to guide us
    Whose unsullied rays provide us
    -: With the light to find our Lord :-

    And this star so fair and bright
    Which will ever lead aright,
    Is God's word, divine and holy,
    Guiding all His children lowly
    -: Unto Christ, our Lord and King :-

This lovely, childlike hymn, the first to appear from Grundtvig's pen,
was written in the fall of 1810 when its author was still battling with
despair and his mind faltering on the brink of insanity. Against this
background the hymn appears like a ray of sunlight breaking through a
clouded sky. And as such it must undoubtedly have come to its author. As
an indication of Grundtvig's simple trust in God, it is noteworthy that
another of his most childlike hymns, "God's Child, Do Now Rest Thee," was
likewise composed during a similar period of distress that beset him many
years later.

For a number of years Grundtvig's hymn of the Wise Men represented his
sole contribution to hymnody. Other interests engaged his attention and
absorbed his energy. During his years of intense work with the sagas he
only occasionally broke his "engagement" with the dead to strike the lyre
for the living. In 1815 he translated "In Death's Strong Bonds Our Savior
Lay" from Luther, and "Christ Is Risen from the Dead" from the Latin. The
three hundredth anniversary of the Reformation brought his adaptation of
Kingo's "Like the Golden Sun Ascending" and translations of Luther's "A
Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and "The Bells Ring in the Christmastide." In
1820 he published his now popular "A Babe Is Born at Bethlehem" from an
old Latin-Danish text, and 1824 saw his splendid rendering of "The Old
Day Song," "With Gladness We Hail the Blessed Day," and his original "On
Its Rock the Church of Jesus Stood Mongst Us a Thousand Years."

These songs constitute his whole contribution to hymnody from 1810 to
1825. But the latter year brought a signal increase. In the midst of his
fierce battle with the Rationalists he published the first of his really
great hymns, a song of comfort to the daughters of Zion, sitting
disconsolately at the sickbed of their mother, the church. Her present
state may appear so hopeless that her children fear to remember her
former glory:

    Dares the anxious heart envision
    Still its morning dream,
    View, despite the world's derision,
    Zion's sunlit height and stream?
    Wields still anyone the power
    To repeat her anthems strong,
    And with joyful heart embower,
    Zion with triumphant song.

Her condition is not hopeless, however, if her children will gather about

    Zion's sons and daughters rally
    Now upon her ancient wall!
    Have her foemen gained the valley,
    Yet her ramparts did not fall.
    Were her outer walls forsaken
    Still her cornerstone remains,
    Firm, unconquered and unshaken,
    Making futile all their gains.

Another of his great hymns dates from the same year. Grundtvig was in the
habit of remaining up all night when he had to speak on the following
day. The Christmas of 1825 was particularly trying to him. He had
apparently forfeited his last vestige of honor by publishing his _Reply
of the Church_; the suit started against him by Professor Clausen still
dragged its laborious way through the court; and his anxiety over the
present state of the church was greatly increased by the weight of his
personal troubles. He felt very much like the shepherds watching their
flocks at night, except that no angels appeared to help him with the
message his people would expect him to deliver in the morning. Perhaps he
was unworthy of such a favor. He rose, as was his custom, and made a
round into the bedrooms to watch his children. How innocently they slept!
If the angels could not come to him, they ought at least to visit the
children. If they heard the message, their elders might perchance catch
it through them.

Some such thought must have passed through the mind of the lonely pastor
as he sat musing upon his sermon throughout the night, for he appeared
unusually cheerful as he ascended his pulpit Christmas morning, preached
a joyful sermon, and said, at its conclusion, that he had that night
begotten a song which he wished to read to them. That song has since
become one of the most beloved Christmas songs in the Danish language. To
give an adequate reproduction of its simple, childlike spirit in another
language is perhaps impossible, but it is hoped that the translation
given below will convey at least an impression of its cheerful welcome to
the Christmas angels.

    Be welcome again, God's angels bright
    From mansions of light and glory
    To publish anew this wintry night
    The wonderful Christmas story.
    Ye herald to all that yearn for light
    New year after winter hoary.

    With gladness we hear your sweet refrain
    In praise of God's glory solely;
    Ye will not this wintry night disdain
    To enter our dwellings lowly.
    And bring to each yearning heart again
    The joy that is pure and holy.

    In humble homes as in mansions rare
    With light in the windows glowing,
    We harbor the babes as sweet and fair
    As flowers in meadows growing.
    Oh, deign with these little ones to share
    The joy from your message flowing.

    Reveal the child in the manger still
    With angels around Him singing
    The song of God's glory, peace, good-will
    That joy to all hearts is bringing,
    While far over mountain, field and hill,
    The bells are with gladness ringing.

    God's angels with joy to earth descend
    When hymns to His praise are chanted;
    His comfort and peace our Lord will lend
    To all who for peace have panted;
    The portals of heaven open stand;
    The Kingdom to us is granted.

In 1826 Grundtvig, as already related, published his hymns for the
thousand years' festival of his church. But a few months later he again
buried himself in his study, putting aside the lyre, which for a little
while he had played so beautifully. Many had already noticed his hymns,
however, and continued to plead with him for more. The new Evangelical
revival, which he had largely inspired, intensified the general
dissatisfaction with the rationalistic Evangelical Christian Hymnal, and
called for hymns embodying the spirit of the new movement. And who could
better furnish these than Grundtvig? Of those who pleaded with him for
new hymns, none was more persistent than his friend, Pastor Gunni Busck.
When Grundtvig wrote to him in 1832 that his _Northern Mythology_ was
nearing completion, Busck at once answered: "Do not forget your more
important work; do not forget our old hymns! I know no one else with your
ability to brush the dust off our old songs." But Grundtvig was still too
busy with other things to comply with the wish of his most faithful and
helpful friend.

During the ensuing years, however, a few hymns occasionally appeared from
his pen. A theological student, L. C. Hagen, secured a few adapted and
original hymns from him for a small collection of _Historical Hymns and
Rhymes for Children_, which was published in 1832. But the adaptations
were not successful. Despite the good opinion of Gunni Busck, Grundtvig
was too independent a spirit to adjust himself to the style and mode of
others. His originals were much more successful. Among these we find such
gems as "Mongst His Brothers Called the Little," "Move the Signs of Grief
and Mourning from the Garden of the Dead," and "O Land of Our King,"
hymns that rank with the finest he has written.

In 1835 Grundtvig at last wrote to Gunni Busck that he was now ready to
commence the long deferred attempt to renew the hymnody of his church.
Busck received the information joyfully and at once sent him a thousand
dollars to support him during his work. Others contributed their mite,
making Grundtvig richer financially than he had been for many years. He
rented a small home on the shores of the Sound and began to prepare
himself for the work before him by an extensive study of Christian
hymnody, both ancient and modern.

"The old hymns sound beautiful to me out here under the sunny sky and
with the blue water of the Sound before me," he wrote to Busck. He did
not spend his days day-dreaming, however, but worked with such intensity
that only a year later he was able to invite subscriptions on the first
part of his work. The complete collection was published in 1837 under the
title: _Songs of the Danish Church_. It contains in all 401 hymns and
songs composed of originals, translations and adaptations from Greek,
Latin, German, Icelandic, Anglo-Saxon, English and Scandinavian sources.
The material is of very unequal merit, ranging from the superior to the
commonplace. As originally composed, the collection could not be used as
a hymnal. But many of the finest hymns now used in the Danish church have
been selected or adapted from it.

Although _Songs for the Danish Church_ is now counted among the great
books in Danish, its appearance attracted little attention outside the
circle of Grundtvig's friends. It was not even reviewed in the press. The
literati, both inside and outside the church, still publicly ignored
Grundtvig. But privately a few of them expressed their opinion about the
work. Thus a Pastor P. Hjort wrote to Bishop Mynster, "Have you read
Grundtvig's _Songs of the Danish Church_? It is a typical Grundtvigian
book, wordy, ingenious, mystical, poetical and full of half digested
ideas. His language is rich and wonderfully expressive. But he is not
humble enough to write hymns."

Meanwhile the demand for a new hymnal or at least for a supplement to the
old had become so insistent that something had to be done. J. P. Mynster
who, shortly before, had been appointed Bishop of Sjælland, favored a
supplement and obtained an authorization from the king for the
appointment of a committee to prepare it. The only logical man to head
such a committee was, of course, Grundtvig. But Mynster's dislike of his
volcanic relative was so deep-rooted that he was incapable of giving any
recognition to him. And so in order to avoid a too obvious slight to his
country's best known hymnwriter, he assigned the work to an already
existing committee on liturgy, of which he himself was president. Thus
Grundtvig was forced to sit idly by while the work naturally belonging to
him was being executed by a man with no special ability for the task. The
supplement appeared in 1843. It contained thirty-six hymns of which six
were written by Kingo, seven by Brorson, and one by Grundtvig, the latter
being, as Grundtvig humorously remarked, set to the tune of the hymn,
"Lord, I Have Done Wrong."

Mynster's influence was great enough to secure the supplement a wide
circulation. The collection, nevertheless, failed to satisfy the need of
the church. Dissatisfaction with it was so general that the pastors'
conference of Copenhagen appointed a committee consisting of Grundtvig,
Prof. Martensen, Mynster's own son-in-law, Rev. Pauli, his successor as
Provost of the Church of Our Lady, and two other pastors to prepare and
present a proposal for a new hymnal. It was an able committee from which
a meritorious work might reasonably be expected.

Grundtvig was assigned to the important work of selecting and revising
the old hymns to be included in the collection. He was an inspiring but
at times difficult co-worker. Martensen recalls how Grundtvig at times
aroused the committee to enthusiasm by an impromptu talk on hymnody or a
recitation of one of the old hymns, which he loved so well. But he also
recalls how he sometimes flared up and stormed out of the committee room
in anger over some proposed change or correction of his work. When his
anger subsided, however, he always conscientiously attempted to effect
whatever changes the committee agreed on proposing. Yet excellent as much
of his own work was, he possessed no particular gift for mending the work
of others, and his corrections of one defect often resulted in another.

The committee submitted its work to the judgment of the conference in
January 1845. The proposal included 109 hymns of which nineteen were by
Kingo, seven by Brorson, ten by Ingemann, twenty-five by Grundtvig and
the remainder by various other writers, old and new. It appeared to be a
well balanced collection, giving due recognition to such newer writers as
Boye, Ingemann, Grundtvig and others. But the conference voted to reject
it. Admitting its poetical excellence and its sound Evangelical tenor,
some of the pastors complained that it contained too many new and too few
old hymns; others held that it bore too clearly the imprint of one man, a
complaint which no doubt expressed the sentiment of Mynster and his
friends. A petition to allow such churches as should by a majority vote
indicate their wish to use the collection was likewise rejected by the

Grundtvig was naturally disappointed by the rejection of a work upon
which he had spent so much time and energy. The rejection furthermore
showed him that he still could expect no consideration from the
authorities with Mynster in control. He was soon able, however, to
comfort himself with the fact that his hymns were becoming popular in
private assemblies throughout the country, and that even a number of
churches were beginning to use them at their regular services in defiance
of official edicts. The demand for granting more liberty to the laymen in
their church life, a demand Grundtvig long had advocated, was in fact
becoming so strong that the authorities at times found it advisable to
overlook minor infractions of official rulings. Noting this new policy,
Grundtvig himself ventured to introduce some of the new hymns into his
church. In the fall of 1845, he published a small collection of Christmas
hymns to be used at the impending Christmas festival. When the innovation
passed without objections, a similar collection of Easter hymns was
introduced at the Easter services, after which other collections for the
various seasons of the church year appeared quite regularly until all
special prints were collected into one volume and used as "the hymnal of

The work of preparing a new authorized hymnal was finally given to
Grundtvig's closest friend, Ingemann. This hymnal appeared in 1855, under
the title, _Roskilde Convent's Psalmbook_. This book served as the
authorized hymnal of the Danish church until 1899, when it was replaced
by _Hymnal for Church and Home_, the hymnal now used in nearly all Danish
churches both at home and abroad. It contains in all 675 hymns of which
96 are by Kingo, 107 by Brorson, 29 by Ingemann and 173 by Grundtvig,
showing that the latter at last had been recognized as the foremost
hymnwriter of the Danish church.

                                                         Chapter Fifteen
                            Grundtvig's Hymns

Grundtvig wrote most of his hymns when he was past middle age, a man of
extensive learning, proved poetical ability and mature judgment,
especially in spiritual things. Years of hard struggles and unjust
neglect had sobered and mellowed but not aged or embittered him.

His long study of hymnology together with his exceptional poetical gift
enabled him to adopt material from all ages and branches of Christian
song, and to wield it into a homogenous hymnody for his own church. His
treatment of the material is usually very free, so free that it is often
difficult to discover any relationship between his translations and their
supposed originals. Instead of endeavoring to transfer the metre,
phrasing and sentiment of the original text, he frequently adopts only a
single thought or a general idea from its content, and expresses this in
his own language and form.

His original hymns likewise bear the imprint of his ripe knowledge and
spiritual understanding. They are for the most part objective in content
and sentiment, depicting the great themes of Biblical history, doctrine
and life rather than the personal feeling and experiences of the
individual. A large number of his hymns are, in fact, faithful but often
striking adaptations of Bible stories and texts. For though he was
frequently accused of belittling the Book of Books, his hymns to a larger
extent than those of any other Danish hymnwriter are directly inspired by
the language of the Bible. He possessed an exceptional ability to absorb
the essential implications of a text and to present it with the terseness
and force of an adage.

Although Grundtvig's hymns at times attain the height of pure poetry,
their poetic merit is incidental rather than sought. In the pride of his
youth he had striven, as he once complained, to win the laurel wreath,
but had found it to be an empty honor. His style is more often forceful
than lyrical. When the mood was upon him he could play the lyre with
entrancing beauty and gentleness, but he preferred the organ with all
stops out.

His style is often rough but expressive and rich in imagery. In this he
strove to supplant time-honored similes and illustrations from Biblical
lands with native allusions and scenes. Pictures drawn from the Danish
landscape, lakes and streams, summer and winter, customs and life abound
in his songs, giving them a home-like touch that has endeared them to

His poetry is of very unequal merit. He was a prolific writer, producing,
besides many volumes of poetry on various subjects, about three thousand
hymns and songs. Among much that is excellent in this vast production
there are also dreary stretches of rambling loquacity, hollow rhetoric
and unintelligible jumbles of words and phrases. He could be
insupportably dull and again express more in a single stanza, couplet or
phrase than many have said in a whole book. A study of his poetry is,
therefore, not unlike a journey through a vast country, alternating in
fertile valleys, barren plains and lofty heights with entrancing views
into far, dim vistas.

This inconsistency in the work of a man so eminently gifted as Grundtvig
is explainable only by his method of writing. He was an intuitive writer
and preferred to be called a "skjald" instead of a poet. The distinction
is significant but somewhat difficult to define. As Grundtvig himself
understood the term, the "skjald", besides being a poet, must also be a
seer, a man able to envision and express what was still hidden to the
common mortal. "The skjald is," he says, "the chosen lookout of life who
must reveal from his mountain what he sees at life's deep fountain. When
gripped by his vision," he says further, the skjald is "neither quiescent
nor lifeless but, on the contrary, lifted up into an exceptional state of
sensitiveness in which he sees and feels things with peculiar vividness
and power. I know of nothing in this material world to which the skjald
may more fittingly be likened than a tuned harp with the wind playing
upon it."

A skjald in Grundtvig's conception was thus a man endowed with the gift
of receiving direct impressions of life and things, of perceiving
especially the deeper and more fundamental truths of existence
intuitively instead of intellectually. Such perceptions, he admitted,
might lack the apparent clarity of reasoned conclusions, but would
approach nearer to the truth. For life must be understood from within,
must be spiritually discerned. It could never be comprehended by mere
intellect or catalogued by supposed science.

He knew, however, that his work was frequently criticized for its
ambiguity and lack of consistency. But he claimed that these defects were
unavoidable consequences of his way of writing. He had to write what he
saw and could not be expected to express that clearly which he himself
saw only dimly. "I naturally desire to please my readers," he wrote to
Ingemann, "but when I write as my intuition dictates, it works well;
ideas and images come to me without effort, and I fly lightly as the
gazelle from crag to crag, whereas if I warn myself that there must be a
limit to everything and that I must restrain myself and write sensibly, I
am stopped right there. And I have thus to choose between writing as the
spirit moves me, or not writing at all."

This statement, although it casts a revealing light both upon his genius
and its evident limitations, is no doubt extreme. However much Grundtvig
may have depended on his momentary inspiration for the poetical
development of his ideas, his fundamental views on life were
exceptionally clear and comprehensive. He knew what he believed regarding
the essential verities of existence, of God and man, of good and evil, of
life and death. And all other conceptions of his intuitive and
far-reaching spirit were consistently correlated to these basic beliefs.

Bishop H. Martensen, the celebrated theologian, relates an illuminating
conversation between Grundtvig and the German theologian, P. K.
Marheincke, during a visit which the Bishop had arranged between the two
men. Dr. Marheincke commenced a lengthy discourse on the great opposites
in life, as for instance between thinking and being, and Grundtvig
replied, "My opposites are life and death" (Mein Gegensatz ist Leben und

"The professor accepted my statement somewhat dubiously," Grundtvig said
later, "and admitted that that was indeed a great contrast, but--" The
difference between the two men no doubt lay in the fact that Prof.
Marheincke, the speculative theologian, was principally interested in the
first part of the assumed contrast--thinking, whereas Grundtvig's main
concern was with the last--being, existence, life. In real life there
could be no more fundamental, no farther reaching contrast than the
continuous and irreconcilable difference between life and death. The
thought of this contrast lies at the root of all his thinking and colors
all his views. From the day of his conversion until the hour of his
death, his one consuming interest was to illuminate the contrast between
the two irreconcilable enemies and to encourage anything that would
strengthen the one and defeat the other.

Grundtvig loved life in all its highest aspects and implications, and he
hated death under whatever form he saw it. "Life is from heaven, death is
from hell," he says in a characteristic poem. The one is representative
of all the good the Creator intended for his creatures, the other of all
the evil, frustration and destruction the great destroyer brought into
the world. There can be no reconciliation or peace between the two, the
one must inevitably destroy or be destroyed by the other. He could see
nothing but deception in the attempts of certain philosophical or
theological phrasemakers to minimize or explain away the eternal
malignity of death, man's most relentless foe. A human being could fall
no lower than to accept death as a friend. Thus in a poem:

    Yea, hear it, ye heavens, with loathing and grief;
    The sons of the Highest now look for relief
        In the ways of damnation
        And find consolation
    In hopes of eternal death.

But death is not present only at the hour of our demise. It is present
everywhere; it is active in all things. It destroys nations, corrupts
society, robs the child of its innocence, wipes the bloom from the cheeks
of youth, frustrates the possibilities of manhood and makes pitiful the
white hair of the aged. For death, as all must see, is only the wage of
sin, the ripe fruit of evil.

    I recognize now clearly;
    Death is the wage of sin,
    It is the fruitage merely
    Of evil's growth within.

And its danger is so actual because it is active in every individual in
himself as well as in others:

    When I view the true condition
    Of my troubled, restless heart,
    Naught but sin can I envision
    Even to its inmost part.

Such then is his fundamental view of the condition of man, a being in the
destructive grip of a relentless foe, a creature whose greatest need is
"a hero who can break the bonds of death". And there is but one who can
do that, the Son of God.

Grundtvig's hymns abound in terms of adoration for the Savior of Man. He
names Him the "Joy of Heaven", "The Fortune of Earth", "The Fount of
Light", "The Sovereign of Life", "The Fear of Darkness", "The Terror of
Death", and speaks of the day when all the "nations of the earth shall
offer praise in the offer bowl of His name." But he sees the Christ less
as the suffering Lamb of God than as the invincible conqueror of death
and the heroic deliverer of man.

Like his other hymns most of his hymns to the Savior are objective rather
than subjective. They present the Christ of the Gospels, covering his
life so fully that it would be possible to compile from them an almost
complete sequence on His life, work and resurrection. The following
stately hymn may serve as an appropriate introduction to a necessarily
brief survey of the group:

    Jesus, the name without compare;
    Honored on earth and in heaven,
    Wherein the Father's love and care
    Are to His children now given.
    Saviour of all that saved would be,
    Fount of salvation full and free
    Is the Lord Jesus forever.

    Jesus, the name alone on earth
    For our salvation afforded.
    So on His cross of precious worth
    Is in His blood it recorded.
    Only in that our prayers are heard,
    Only in that when hearts are stirred
    Doth now the Spirit us comfort.

    Jesus, the name above the sky
    Wherein, when seasons are ended,
    Peoples shall come to God on high,
    And every knee shall be bended,
    While all the saved in sweet accord
    Chorus the praise of Christ, the Lord,
    Savior beloved by the Father.

Grundtvig sang of Christmas morning "as his heaven on earth", and he
wrote some of the finest Christmas hymns in the Danish language. A number
of these have already been given. The following simple hymn from an old
Latin-Danish text is still very popular.

    A babe is born in Bethlehem,
    Rejoice, rejoice Jerusalem;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    A lowly virgin gave Him birth,
    Gave Him birth,
    Who rules the heavens and the earth;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    He in a simple manger lay,
    Manger lay,
    Whom angels praise with joy for aye;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    And wise men from the East did bring,
    East did bring,
    Gold, myrrh and incense to the King;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    Now all our fears have passed away,
    Passed away,
    The Savior blest was born today;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    God's blessed children we became,
    We became,
    And shall in heaven praise His name;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    There like the angels we shall be,
    We shall be,
    And shall the Lord in glory see;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

    With gladsome praises we adore,
    We adore,
    Our Lord and Savior evermore;
    Hallelujah, hallelujah.

His hymns on the life and work of our Lord are too numerous to be more
than indicated here. The following hymn on the text, "Blessed are the
eyes that see what ye see, and the ears that hear what ye hear", is
typical of his expository hymns.

    Blessed were the eyes that truly
    Here on earth beheld the Lord;
    Happy were the ears that duly
    Listened to His living word.
    Which proclaimed the wondrous story
    Of God's mercy, love and glory.

    Kings and prophets long with yearning
    Prayed to see His day appear;
    Angels with desire were burning
    To behold the golden year
    When God's light and grace should quicken
    All that sin and death had stricken.

    He who, light and life revealing,
    By His Spirit stills our want;
    He, who broken hearts is healing
    By His cup and at the font,
    Jesus, Fount of joy incessant,
    Is with light and grace now present.

    Eyes by sin and darkness blinded
    May now see His glory bright;
    Hearts perverse and carnal minded
    May obtain His Spirit's light.
    When, contrite and sorely yearning,
    They in faith to Him are turning.

    Blessed are the eyes that truly
    Now on earth behold the Lord;
    Happy are the ears that duly
    Listen to His living word!
    When His words our spirits nourish
    Shall the kingdom in us flourish.

Grundtvig reaches his greatest height in his hymns of praise to Christ,
the Redeemer. Many of his passion hymns have not been translated into
English. In the original, the following hymn undoubtedly ranks with the
greatest songs of praise to the suffering Lord.

    Hail Thee, Savior and Atoner!
    Though the world Thy name dishonor,
    Moved by love my heart proposes
    To adorn Thy cross with roses
    And to offer praise to Thee.

    O what moved Thee so to love us,
    When enthroned with God above us,
    That for us Thou all wouldst offer
    And in deep compassion suffer
    Even death that we might live.

    Love alone Thy heart was filling
    When to suffer Thou wert willing.
    Rather givest Thou than takest,
    Hence, O Savior, Thou forsakest
    All to die in sinner's place.

    Ah, my heart in deep contrition
    Now perceives its true condition,
    Cold and barren like a mountain,
    How could I deserve the fountain
    Of Thy love, my Savior dear.

    Yet I know that from thy passion
    Flows a river of salvation
    Which can bid the mountain vanish,
    Which can sin and coldness banish,
    And restore my heart in Thee.

    Lord, with tears I pray Thee ever:
    Lead into my heart that river,
    Which with grace redeeming cleanses
    Heart and soul of all offences,
    Blotting out my guilt and shame.

    Lord, Thy life for sinners giving,
    Let in Thee me find my living
    So for Thee my heart is beating,
    All my thoughts in Thee are meeting,
    Finding there their light and joy.

    Though all earthly things I cherish
    Like the flowers may fade and perish,
    Thou, I know, wilt stand beside me;
    And from death and judgment hide me;
    Thou hast paid the wage of sin.

    Yes, my heart believes the wonder
    Of Thy cross, which ages ponder!
    Shield me, Lord, when foes assail me,
    Be my staff when life shall fail me;
    Take me to Thy Paradise.

Grundtvig's Easter hymns strike the triumphant note, especially such
hymns as "Christ Arose in Glory", "Easter Morrow Stills Our Sorrow", and
the very popular,

    Move the signs of gloom and mourning[10]
    From the garden of the dead.
    For the wreaths of grief and yearning,
    Plant bright lilies in their stead.
    Carve instead of sighs of grief
    Angels' wings in bold relief,
    And for columns, cold and broken,
    Words of hope by Jesus spoken.

His Easter hymns fail as a whole to reach the height of his songs for
other church festivals. In this respect, they resemble the hymnody of the
whole church, which contains remarkably few really great hymns on the
greatest events in its history. It is as though the theme were too great
to be expressed in the language of man.

Grundtvig wrote a number of magnificent hymns on the themes of our Lord's
ascension and His return to judge the quick and the dead. Of the latter,
the hymn given below is perhaps the most favored of those now available
in English.

    Lift up thy head, O Christendom!
    Behold above the blessed home
    For which thy heart is yearning.
    There dwells the Lord, thy soul's delight,
    Who soon with power and glory bright
    Is for His bride returning.

    And when in every land and clime,
    All shall behold His signs sublime,
    The guilty world appalling,
    Then shalt with joy thou lift thine eyes
    And see Him coming in the skies,
    While suns and stars are falling.

    While for His coming thou dost yearn,
    Forget not why His last return
    The Savior is delaying,
    And ask Him not before His hour
    To shake the heavens with His power,
    Nor judge the lost and straying.

    O saints of God, for Sodom pray
    Until your prayers no more can stay
    The judgment day impending.
    Then cries the Lord: "Behold, I come!"
    And ye shall answer: "To Thy home
    We are with joy ascending!"

    Then loud and clear the trumpet calls,
    The dead awake, death's kingdom falls,
    And God's elect assemble.
    The Lord ascends the judgment throne,
    And calls His ransomed for His own,
    While hearts in gladness tremble.

Grundtvig is often called the Singer of Pentecost. And his hymns on the
nature and work of the Spirit do rank with his very best. He believed in
the reality of the Spirit as the living, active agent of Christ in His
church. As the church came into being by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost
on the day of Pentecost, so our Lord still builds and sanctifies it by
the Spirit, working through His words and sacraments. His numerous hymns
on the Spirit are drawn from many sources, both ancient and modern. His
treatment of the originals is so free, however, that it is difficult in
most cases to know whether his versions should be accepted as adaptations
or originals. Of mere translations there are none. The following version
of the widely known hymn, "Veni Sancte Spiritus," may serve to illustrate
his work as a transplanter of hymns.

    Holy Spirit, come with light,
    Break the dark and gloomy night
    With Thy day unending.
    Help us with a joyful lay
    Greet the Lord's triumphant day
    Now with might ascending.

    Comforter so wondrous kind,
    Noble guest of heart and mind
    Fix in us Thy dwelling.
    Give us peace in storm and strife,
    Fill each troubled heart and life
    With Thy joy excelling.

    Make salvation clear to us,
    Who despite our sin and dross
    Would exalt the Spirit.
    For without Thine aid and love
    All our life and work must prove
    Vain and without merit.

    Raise or bow us with Thine arm,
    Break temptation's evil charm,
    Clear our clouded vision.
    Fill our hearts with longing new,
    Cleanse us with Thy morning dew,
    Tears of deep contrition.

    Blessed Fount of life and breath,
    Let our hope in view of death
    Blossom bright and vernal;
    And above the silent tomb
    Let the Easter lilies bloom,
    Signs of life eternal.

Many of Grundtvig's original hymns evince a strong Danish coloring, a
fact which is especially evident in a number of his Pentecost hymns.
Pentecost comes in Denmark at the first breath of summer when nature,
prompted by balmy breezes, begins to unfold her latent life and beauty.
This similarity between the life of nature and the work of the Spirit is
strikingly expressed in a number of his Pentecost hymns.

The following hymn, together with its beautiful tune, is rated as one of
the most beautiful and, lyrically, most perfect hymns in Danish. Because
of its strong Danish flavor, however, it may not make an equal appeal to
American readers. The main thought of the hymn is that, as in nature, so
also in the realm of the Spirit, summer is now at hand. The coming of the
Spirit completes God's plan of salvation and opens the door for the
unfolding of a new life. The translation is by Prof. S. D. Rodholm.

    The sun now shines in all its splendor,
    The fount of life and mercy tender;
    Now bright Whitsunday lilies grow
    And summer sparkles high and low;
    Sweet songsters sing of harvest gold
    In Jesus' name a thousand fold.

    The peaceful nightingales are filling
    The quiet night with music thrilling.
    Thus all that to the Lord belong
    May rest in peace and wake with song,
    May dream of life beyond the skies,
    And with God's praise at daylight rise.

    It breathes from heaven on the flowers,
    It whispers home-like in the bowers,
    A balmy breeze comes to our coast
    From Paradise, no longer closed,
    And gently purls a brooklet sweet
    Of life's clear water at our feet.

    This works the Spirit, still descending,
    And tongues of fire to mortals lending,
    That broken hearts may now be healed,
    And life with grace and love revealed
    In Him, who came from yonder land
    And has returned to God's right hand.

    Awaken then all tongues to honor
    Lord Jesus Christ, our blest Atoner;
    Let every voice in anthems rise
    To praise the Savior's sacrifice.
    And thou, His Church, with one accord
    Arise and glorify the Lord.

Of his other numerous hymns on the Spirit, the one given below is,
perhaps, one of the most characteristic.

    Holy Ghost, our Interceder,
    Blessed Comforter and Pleader
    With the Lord for all we need,
    Deign to hold with us communion
    That with Thee in blessed union
    We may in our life succeed.

    Heavenly Counsellor and Teacher,
    Make us through Thy guidance richer
    In the grace our Lord hath won.
    Blest Partaker of God's fullness,
    Make us all, despite our dullness,
    Wiser e'en than Solomon.

    Helper of the helpless, harken
    To our pleas when shadows darken;
    Shield us from the beasts of prey.
    Rouse the careless, help the weary,
    Bow the prideful, cheer the dreary,
    Be our guest each passing day.

    Comforter, whose comfort lightens
    Every cross that scars and frightens,
    Succor us from guilt and shame.
    Warm our heart, inspire our vision,
    Add Thy voice to our petition
    As we pray in Jesus' name.

Believing in the Spirit, Grundtvig also believed in the kingdom of God,
not only as a promise of the future but as a reality of the present.

    Right among us is God's kingdom
    With His Spirit and His word,
    With His grace and love abundant
    At His font and altar-board.

Among his numerous hymns on the nature and work of God's kingdom, the
following is one of the most favored.

    Founded our Lord has upon earth a realm of the Spirit
    Wherein He fosters a people restored by His merit.
          It shall remain
          People its glory attain,
    They shall the kingdom inherit.

    Forward like light of the morning its message is speeding,
    Millions receive and proclaim it with gladness exceeding
          For with His word
          God doth His Spirit accord,
    Raising all barriers impeding.

    Jesus, our Savior, with God in the highest residing,
    And by the Spirit the wants of Thy people providing,
          Be Thou our life,
          Shield and defender in strife,
    Always among us abiding.

    Then shall Thy people as Lord of the nations restore Thee,
    Even by us shall a pathway be straightened before Thee
          Till everywhere,
          Bending in worship and prayer,
    All shall as Savior adore Thee.

The kingdom of God is the most wonderful thing on earth.

    Most wonderful of all things is
    The kingdom Jesus founded.
    Its glory, treasure, peace and bliss
    No tongue has fully sounded.

    Invisible as mind and soul,
    And yet of light the fountain,
    It sheds its light from pole to pole
    Like beacons from a mountain.

    Its secret is the word of God,
    Which works what it proposes,
    Which lowers mountains high and broad
    And clothes the wastes with roses.

    Though foes against the kingdom rage
    With hatred and derision,
    God spreads its reign from age to age,
    And brings it to fruition.

    Its glory rises like a morn
    When waves at sunrise glitter,
    Or as in June the golden corn
    While birds above it twitter.

    It is the glory of the King
    Who bore affliction solely
    That he the crown of life might bring
    To sinners poor and lowly.

    And when His advent comes to pass,
    The Christian's strife is ended,
    What now we see as in a glass
    Shall then be comprehended.

    Then shall the kingdom bright appear
    In glory true and vernal,
    And usher in the golden year
    Of peace and joy eternal.

But the kingdom of God here on earth is represented by the Christian
church, wherein Christ works by the Spirit through His word and
sacraments. Of Grundtvig's many splendid hymns of the church, the
following, in the translation of Pastor Carl Doving, has become widely
known in all branches of the Lutheran church in America. Pastor Doving's
translation is not wholly satisfactory, however, to those who know the
forceful and yet so appealing language of the original, a fate which, we
are fully aware, may also befall the following new version.

    Built on a rock the church of God
    Stands though its towers be falling;
    Many have crumbled beneath the sod,
    Bells still are chiming and calling,
    Calling the young and old to come,
    But above all the souls that roam,
    Weary for rest everlasting.

    God, the most high, abides not in
    Temples that hands have erected.
    High above earthly strife and sin,
    He hath his mansions perfected.
    Yet He, whom heavens cannot contain,
    Chose to abide on earth with man
    Making their body His temple.

    We are God's house of living stones,
    Built for the Spirit's indwelling.
    He at His font and table owns
    Us for His glory excelling.
    Should only two confess His name,
    He would yet come and dwell with them,
    Granting His mercy abounding.

    Even the temples built on earth
    Unto the praise of the Father,
    Are like the homes of hallowed worth
    Whence we as children did gather.
    Glorious things in them are said,
    God there with us His covenant made,
    Making us heirs of His kingdom.

    There we behold the font at which
    God as His children received us;
    There stands the altar where His rich
    Mercy from hunger relieved us.
    There His blest word to us proclaim:
    Jesus is now and e'er the same,
    So is His way of salvation.

    Grant then, O Lord, where'er we roam,
    That, when the church bells are ringing,
    People in Jesus' name may come,
    Praising His glory with singing.
    "Ye, not the world, my face shall see;
    I will abide with you," said He.
    "My peace I leave with you ever."

As a believer in objective Christianity, Grundtvig naturally exalts the
God-given means of grace, the word and sacraments, through which the
Spirit works. In one of the epigrammatic expressions often found in his
writings, he says:

    We are and remain,
    We live and attain
    In Jesus, God's living word
    When His word we embrace
    And live by its grace,
    Then dwells He within us, our Lord.

This firm belief in the actual presence of Christ in His word and
sacraments lends an exceptional realism to many of his hymns on the means
of grace. Through the translation by Pastor Doving the following brief
hymn has gained wide renown in America.

    God's word is our great heritage,
    And shall be ours forever.
    To spread its light from age to age,
    Shall be our chief endeavor.
    Through life it guards our way,
    In death it is our stay.
    Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
    We keep its teachings pure
    Throughout all generations.

Of his numerous hymns on baptism, the following, which an American
authority on hymnody calls the finest baptismal hymn ever written, is
perhaps the most representative.

    O let Thy spirit with us tarry,
    Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
    So that the babes we to Thee carry
    May be unto Thy death baptized.

    Lord, after Thee we humbly name them,
    O let them in Thy name arise!
    If they should stumble, Lord, reclaim them,
    That they may reach Thy paradise.

    If long their course, let them not falter.
    Give to Thine aged servants rest.
    If short their race, let by Thine altar
    Them like the swallows find a rest.

    Upon their heart, Thy name be written,
    And theirs within Thine own right hand,
    That even when by trials smitten,
    They in Thy covenant firm may stand.

    Thine angels sing for children sleeping,
    May they still sing when death draws nigh.
    Both cross and crown are in Thy keeping.
    Lord, lead us all to Thee on high.

His communion hymns are gathered from many sources. Of his originals the
following tender hymn is perhaps the most typical.

    Savior, whither should we go
    From the truest friend we know,
    From the Son of God above,
    From the Fount of saving love,
    Who in all this world of strife
    Hath alone the word of life.

    No, I dare not turn from Thee,
    Though Thy word oft chasten me,
    For throughout this world, O Lord,
    Death is still the cruel word.
    Whoso saves the soul from death
    Brings redemption, life and breath.

    "Eat my flesh and drink my blood."
    Saith our Lord, so kind and good.
    "Whoso takes the bread and wine,
    Shall receive my life divine,
    Be redeemed from all his foes
    And arise as I arose."

    Hear Him then, my heart distressed,
    Beating anxious in my breast.
    Take Thy Savior at His word,
    Meet Him at His altar-board,
    Eat His body, drink His blood,
    And obtain eternal good.

Grundtvig also produced a great number of hymns for the enrichment of
other parts of the church service. Few hymns thus strike a more
appropriate and festive note for the opening service than the short hymn
given below.

    Come, Zion, and sing to the Father above;
    Angels join with you
    And thank Him for Jesus, the gifts of His love.
          We sing before God in the highest.

    Strike firmly, O Psalmist, the jubilant chord;
    Golden be your harp
    In praise of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord.
          We sing before God in the highest.

    Then hear we with rapture the tongues as of fire,
    The Spirit draws nigh,
    Whose counsels with comforts our spirits inspire,
          We sing before God in the highest.

Equally fine is his free rendering of the 84th psalm.

    Fair beyond telling,
    Lord, is Thy dwelling,
    Filled with Thy peace.
    Oh how I languish
    And, in my anguish,
    Wait for release
    That I may enter Thy temple, O Lord,
    With Thee communing in deepest accord.

    With Thy compassion,
    Lord of Salvation,
    Naught can compare.
    Even the sparrow
    Safe from the arrow
    Rests in Thy care.
    And as Thou shieldest the bird in its nest,
    So let my heart in Thy temple find rest.

    Years full of splendors,
    Which to offenders
    Earth may afford,
    Never can measure
    One day of pleasure
    Found with Thee, Lord,
    When on the wings of Thy quickening word
    Souls are uplifted and Thou art adored.

    Quicken in spirit,
    Grow in Thy merit
    Shall now Thy friends.
    Blessings in showers
    Filled with Thy powers
    On them descends
    Until at home in the city of gold
    All shall in wonder Thy presence behold.

Grundtvig's hymns are for the most part church hymns, presenting the
objective rather than the subjective phase of Christian faith. He wrote
for the congregation and held that a hymn for congregational singing
should express the common faith and hope of the worshippers, rather than
the personal feelings and experiences of the individual. Because of this
his hymns are frequently criticized for their lack of personal sentiment.
The personal note is not wholly lacking in his work, however, as
witnessed by the following hymn.

          Suffer and languish,
          Tremble in anguish
    Must every soul that awakes to its guilt.
          Sternly from yonder,
          Sinai doth thunder:
    Die or achieve what no sinner fulfilled.

          Tremble with gladness,
          Smile through their sadness
    Shall all that rest in the arms of the Lord.
          Grace beyond measure,
          Comfort and treasure
    Gathers the heart from His merciful word.

          Bravely to suffer,
          Gladly to offer
    Praises to God 'neath the weight of our cross,
          This will the Spirit
          Help us to merit
    Granting a breath from God's heaven to us.

Even stronger is the personal sentiment of this appealing hymn.

    With her cruse of alabaster,
    Filled with ointment rare and sweet,
    Came the woman to the Master,
    Knelt contritely at His feet,
    Feeling with unfeigned contrition
    How unfit was her condition
    To approach the Holy One.

    Like this woman, I contritely
    Often must approach the Lord,
    Knowing that I cannot rightly
    Ask a place beside His board.
    Sinful and devoid of merit,
    I can only cry in spirit:
    Lord, be merciful to me.

    Lord of Grace and Mercy, harken
    To my plea for grace and light.
    Threatening clouds and tempests darken
    Now my soul with gloomy night.
    Let, despite my guilt and error,
    My repenting tears still mirror
    Thy forgiving smile, O Lord.

The following hymn likewise voices the need for personal perseverance.

    Hast to the plow thou put thy hand
    Let not thy spirit waver,
    Heed not the world's allurements grand,
    Nor pause for Sodom's favor.
    But plow thy furrow, sow the seed,
    Though tares and thorns thy work impede;
    For they, who sow with weeping,
    With joy shall soon be reaping.

    But should at times thy courage fail--
    For all may fail and falter--
    Let not the tempting world prevail
    On thee thy course to alter.
    Each moment lost in faint retreat
    May bring disaster and defeat.
    If foes bid thee defiance,
    On God be thy reliance.

    If steadfast in the race we keep,
    Our course is soon completed.
    And death itself is but a sleep,
    Its dreaded might defeated.
    But those who conquer in the strife
    Obtain the victor's crown of life
    And shall in constant gladness
    Forget these days of sadness.

It is, perhaps, in his numerous hymns on Christian trust, comfort and
hope that Grundtvig reaches his highest. His contributions to this type
of hymns are too numerous to be more than indicated here. But the hymn
given below presents a fair example of the simplicity and poetic beauty
that characterize many of them.

    God's little child, what troubles you!
    Think of your Heavenly Father true.
    He will uphold you by His hand,
    None can His might and grace withstand.
          The Lord be praised!

    Shelter and food and counsel tried
    God for His children will provide.
    They shall not starve, nor homeless roam,
    Children may claim their Father's home.
          The Lord be praised!

    Birds with a song toward heaven soar,
    Neither they reap nor lay in store,
    But where the hoarder dies from need,
    Gathers the little bird a seed.
          The Lord be praised!

    Clad are the flowers in raiment fair,
    Wondrous to see on deserts bare.
    Neither they spin nor weave nor sew
    Yet no king could such beauty show.
          The Lord be praised!

    Flowers that bloom at break of dawn
    Only to die when day is gone,
    How can they with the child compare
    That shall the Father's glory share?
          The Lord be praised!

    God's little child, do then fore'er
    Cast on the Lord your every care.
    Trust in His love, His grace and might
    Then shall His peace your soul delight.
          The Lord be praised!

    God will your every need allay
    Even tomorrow as yesterday,
    And when the sun for you goes down
    He will your soul with glory crown.
          The Lord be praised!

Grundtvig's friends were sometimes called the "Merry Christians." There
was nothing superficial or lighthearted, however, about the Christianity
of their leader. It had been gained through intense struggles and
maintained at the cost of worldly position and honor. But he did believe
that God is love, and that love is the root and fount of life, as he says
in the following splendid hymn. The translation is by the Reverend

    Love, the fount of light from heaven,
    Is the root and source of life;
    Therefore God's decrees are given
    With His lovingkindness rife.
    As our Savior blest declareth
    And the Spirit witness beareth,
    As we in God's service prove;
    God is light and God is love.

    Love, the crown of life eternal,
    Love the brightness is of light;
    Therefore on His throne supernal
    Jesus sits in glory bright.
    He the Light and Life of heaven,
    Who Himself for us hath given,
    Still abides and reigns above
    In His Father's boundless love.

    Love, alone the law fulfilling,
    Is the bond of perfectness;
    Love, who came, a victim willing,
    Wrought our peace and righteousness.
    Therefore love and peace in union
    Ever work in sweet communion
    That through love we may abide
    One with Him who for us died.

But the fruit of God's love is peace. As Grundtvig, in the hymn above,
sings of God's love, so in the sweet hymn given below he sings of God's
peace. The translation is by Pastor Doving.

    Peace to soothe our bitter woes
    God in Christ on us bestows;
    Jesus wrought our peace with God
    Through His holy, precious blood;
    Peace in Him for sinners found
    Is the Gospel's joyful sound.

    Peace to us the church doth tell.
    'Tis her welcome and farewell.
    Peace was our baptismal dower;
    Peace shall bless our dying hour.
    Peace be with you full and free
    Now and in eternity.

In this peace Christians find refuge and rest.

    The peace of God protects our hearts
    Against the tempter's fiery darts.
    It is as sure when evening falls
    As when the golden morning calls.

    This peace our Savior wrought for us
    In agony upon the cross,
    And when He up to heaven soared,
    His peace He left us in His word.

    His word of peace new strength imparts
    Each day to faint and troubled hearts,
    And in His cup and at the font
    It stills our deepest need and want.

    This blessed peace our Lord will give
    To all who in His Spirit live.
    And even at their dying breath
    Its comfort breaks the sting of death.

    When Christ for us His peace hath won
    He asked for faith and faith alone.
    By faith and not by merits vain,
    Our hearts God's blessed peace obtain.

    Peace be with you, our Savior saith
    In answer to the word of faith.
    Whoso hath faith, shall find release
    And dwell in God's eternal peace.

Grundtvig's hymns of comfort for the sick and dying rank with the finest
ever written. He hates and fears death, hoping even that Christ may
return before his own hour comes; but if He does not, he prays that the
Savior will be right with him.

    Lord, when my final hours impend,
    Come in the person of a friend
    And take Thy place beside me,
    And talk to me as man to man
    Of where we soon shall meet again
    And all Thy joy betide me.

For though he knows he cannot master the enemy alone, if the Savior is

    Death is but the last pretender
    We with Christ as our defender
    Shall engage and put to flight.

And His word will dispel all fear of the struggle:

    Like dew upon the meadow
    So falls the word of life
    On Christians in the shadow
    Of mortal's final strife.
    The first fruit of its blessing
    Is balm for fears distressing,
    So gone is like a breath
    The bitterness of death.

    Like sun, when night is falling,
    Sets stilly in the west
    While birds are softly calling
    Each other from their nest,
    So when its brief day closes
    That soul in peace reposes
    Which knows that Christ the Lord
    Is with it in His word.

    And as we shiver slightly
    An early summer morn
    When blushing heavens brightly
    Announce a day new-born,
    So moves the soul immortal
    With calmness through death's portal
    That through its final strife
    Beholds the Light of Life.

He could therefore exclaim:

    Christian! what a morn of splendor
    Full reward for every fear,
    When the ransomed host shall render
    Praises to its Savior dear,
    Shall in heaven's hall of glory
    Tell salvation's wondrous story,
    And with the angelic throng
    Sing the Lamb's eternal song.


[10]Another translation: "Take away the signs of mourning" by P. C.
   Paulsen in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

                                                         Chapter Sixteen
                         Grundtvig's Later Years

Grundtvig's later years present a striking contrast to the years of his
earlier manhood. The lonely Defender of the Bible became a respected sage
and the acknowledged leader of a fast growing religious and folk
movement, both in Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries. His long
years of continuous struggles were followed by years of fruitful work and
an extensive growth of his religious and educational ideals until he was
generally recognized as one of the most vital spiritual leaders of

The first break in the wall of isolation that surrounded him came with an
invitation from a group of students to "the excellent historian, N. F. S.
Grundtvig, who has never asked for a reward but only for a chance to do
good," to deliver a series of historical lectures at Borch's Collegium in
Copenhagen. These lectures--seventy-one in all--were delivered before
packed audiences during the summer and fall of 1838, and were so
enthusiastically received that the students, on the evening of the
concluding lecture, arranged a splendid banquet for the speaker, at which
one of them sang:

    Yes, through years of lonely struggle
    Did you bravely fight,
    Bearing scorn without complaining
    Till your hair turned white.

During his most lonely years Grundtvig once comforted himself with the
words of a Greek sage: "Speak to the people of yesterday, and you will be
heard by the people of tomorrow." Thus it was, no doubt, a great
satisfaction to him that the first public honor bestowed upon him should
be accorded him by his nation's youth.

From that day his reputation and influence grew steadily. He became an
honored member of several influential societies, such as the Society for
Northern Studies, and the Scandinavian Society, an association of
academicians from all the Scandinavian countries for the purpose of
effecting a closer spiritual and cultural union between them. He also
received frequent invitations to lecture both on outstanding occasions
and before special groups. His work as a lecturer probably reached its
culmination at a public meeting on the Skamlingsbanke, a wooded hill on
the borders of Slesvig, where he spoke to thousands of profoundly stirred
listeners, and at a great meeting of Scandinavian students at Oslo,
Norway, in 1851, to which he was invited as the guest of honor and
acclaimed both by the students and the Norwegian people. When Denmark
became a constitutional kingdom in 1848, he was a member of the
constitutional assembly and was elected several times to the Riksdag.

Meanwhile he worked ceaselessly for the development of his folk and
educational ideals. After his conversion, he felt for a time that his new
outlook was incompatible with his previous enthusiasm for the heroic life
and ideals of the old North, and that he must now devote himself solely
to the preaching of the Gospel. But the formerly mentioned decline of all
phases of Danish life during the early part of the nineteenth century and
the failure of his preaching to evoke any response from an indifferent
people caused him to suspect a closer relationship between a people's
religious and national or folk-life than he had hitherto recognized. Was
not the folk life of a people, after all, the soil in which the Word of
God must be sown, and could the Word bear fruit in a soil completely
hardened and unprepared to receive it? If it could not, was not a folk
awakening a necessary preparation for a Christian?

Under the spur of this question he undertook the translation of the sagas
and developed his now widely recognized ideas of folk life and folk
education, which later were embodied in the Grundtvigian folk schools.
The first of these schools was opened at Rødding, Slesvig in 1844. The
war between Denmark and Germany from 1848 to 1850 delayed the
establishment of other similar schools. But in 1851, Christian Kold, the
man who more than any other realized Grundtvig's idea of a school for
life--as the folk schools were frequently called--opened his first school
at Ryslinge, Fyn. From there the movement spread rapidly not only to all
parts of Denmark but also to Norway, Finland and Sweden. The latter
country now has more schools of the Grundtvigian type than Denmark, and
Norway and Finland have about have as many.[11]

To extend the influence of the movement lecture societies, reading
circles, gymnastic societies, choral groups and the like were organized
in almost every parish of Denmark. Thus before Grundtvig died, he had the
satisfaction of seeing his work bear fruit in one of the most vital folk
and educational movements of Scandinavia, a movement which has made a
tremendous imprint upon all phases of life in the Northern countries and
which today is spreading to many other parts of the world.

Grundtvig held that the life of a nation, Christian as well as national,
never rose above the real culture of its common people. To be real, a
culture had to be national, had to be based on a people's natural
characteristics and developed in accordance with native history and
traditions. The aim of all true folk-education was the awakening and
enrichment of life and not a mere mental or practical training. The
natural means for the attainment of this aim was a living presentation of
a people's own cultural heritage, their native tradition, history,
literature and folk life. But in all cases the medium of this
presentation was the living, that is the spoken word by men and women who
were themselves spiritually alive. Christianity, in his opinion, had not
come to destroy but to cleanse and vivify the folk life of a people, and,
since the latter was the soil in which the former had to grow, the
fruitfulness of both demanded a living inter-action so that national life
might become Christian and Christianity national.

In the practical application of these educational theories, Grundtvig
took no active part. Aside from his conception of the idea and the
development of much of the material used in the folk-school, his greatest
contributions to their work are probably, his innumerable Biblical,
historical and folk songs that were and are used in the schools.

Meanwhile he by no means neglected his religious work. Rationalism had
been defeated, a sound Evangelical movement was fast revitalizing the
church, and he could therefore concentrate his energy on a further
development of the view that had come to him during his years of
struggle. Among innumerable other works, he produced during his later
years the splendid _Enlightenment of the Church_, published 1840-1844;
_Teachings of Our Christian Childhood_, published 1855-1862; _The Seven
Stars of the Churches_, published 1854-1855; and _The Church Mirror_, a
series of lectures on the main currents of church history, published

Although Grundtvig's views, and especially his distinction between the
"living" and the "written" word, were strongly opposed by many, his
profoundly spiritual conception of the church, as the body of Christ, and
of the sacraments, as its true means of life, has greatly influenced all
branches of the Danish church. In emphasizing the true indwelling of
Christ in the creed and sacraments, he visualized the real presence of
Him in the church and underscored the vital center of congregational
worship with a realism that no theological dissertation can ever convey.
Nor did he feel that in so doing he was in any sense diverging from true
Lutheranism. The fact that Luther himself chose the creed and the words
of institution of the sacrament as a basis for his catechism, showed, he
contended, that the great Reformer also had recognized their distinction.

Despite frequent charges to the contrary, Grundtvig had no desire to
engender a separatist movement in the church. He constantly warned his
followers against any such tendency. In a closing speech to the Meeting
of Friends in 1863, he said, "You can no more forbid the world to call
you Grundtvigians than those whom Luther called to the Lord could forbid
anyone to call them Lutherans, but do not yourself adopt that name. For
history shows that some have let themselves be called Lutherans until
they have almost lost the name of Christians. If anyone wishes to name us
after any other than Christ, we ought to tell them that we accept nothing
unto salvation except what the Christian church has taught and confessed
from generation to generation. To or from that we neither add nor
detract. We acknowledge without reservation that word of faith which Paul
says is believed to righteousness and confessed unto salvation. The
manner of teaching and believing that faith so that the Old Adam may be
put off and the new put on, we hold to be a matter of enlightenment in
which we shall be guided by Grundtvig, as we are guided by Luther, only
in so far as we are convinced that he has been guided by Scripture and
the Spirit. We also disclaim any intention of making our conception of
Scripture an article of faith which must be accepted by the church."
Grundtvig's followers would, no doubt, have profited greatly by
remembering this truly liberal view of their leader.

Thus his years passed quietly onward, filled with fruitful labor even
unto the end. In contrast to his often stormy public career, Grundtvig's
private life was quite peaceful and commonplace, subject only to the
usual trials and sorrows of human existence. During the greater part of
his life he was extremely poor, subsisting on a small government pension,
the meager returns from his writings and occasional gifts from friends.
For his own part this did not trouble him; his wants were few and easily
satisfied. But he "liked to see shining faces around him," as he once
wrote, and he had discovered that the face of a child could often be
brightened by a small gift, which he was frequently too poor to give.
"But if we would follow the Lord in these days," he wrote to a friend,
"we must evidently be prepared to renounce all things for His sake and
cast out all these heathen worries for dross and chaff with which we as
Christians often distress ourselves."

Grundtvig was thrice married. His first wife, Lise Grundtvig, died
January 4, 1851, after a long illness. Her husband said at her grave, "I
stand here as an old man who is taking a decided step toward my own grave
by burying the bride of my youth and the mother of my children who for
more than forty years with unfailing loyalty shared all my joys and
sorrows--and mostly latter."

But Grundtvig did not appear to be growing old. During the following
summer he attended the great meeting of Scandinavian students at Oslo,
where he was hailed as the youngest of them all. And on October 4 of the
same year, he rejoiced his enemies and grieved many of his friends by
marrying Marie Toft, of Rennebeck's Manor, a wealthy widow and his junior
by thirty years. And despite dire predictions to the contrary, the
marriage was very happy. Marie Toft was a highly intelligent and
spiritual-minded woman who wholeheartedly shared her husband's spiritual
views and ideals; and her death in 1854 came, therefore, as an almost
overwhelming blow. In a letter to a friend a few weeks after her death,
Grundtvig writes, "It was wonderful to be loved as unselfishly as Marie
loved me. But she belonged wholly to God. He gave and He took; and
despite all objections by the world and our own selfish flesh, the
believing heart must exclaim, His name be praised. When I consider the
greatness of the treasure that the Lord gave to me by opening this loving
heart to me in my old age, I confess that it probably would have proved
beyond my strength continuously to bear such good days; for had I not
already become critical of all that were not like her, and indifferent to
all things that were not concerned with her?"

The last remark, perhaps, refers to a complaint by his friends that he
had become so absorbed in his wife that he neglected other things. If
this had been the case, he now made amends by throwing himself into a
whirl of activity that would have taxed the strength of a much younger
man. During the following years, he wrote part of his formerly mentioned
books on the church and Christian education, delivered a large number of
lectures, resumed his seat in the Riksdag and, of course, attended to his
growing work as a pastor. As he was also very neglectful of his own
comfort in other ways, it was evident to all that such a strenuous life
must soon exhaust his strength unless someone could be constantly about
him and minister to his need. For this reason a high-minded young widow,
the Baroness Asta Tugendreich Reetz, entered into marriage with him that
she might help to conserve the strength of the man whom she considered
one of the greatest assets her country possessed.

Grundtvig once said of his marriages that the first was an idyl, the
second a romance and the third a fairy-tale. Others said harsher things.
But Asta Grundtvig paid no attention to the scandal mongers. A very
earnest Christian woman herself, she devoted all her energy to create a
real Christian home for her husband and family. As Grundtvig had always
lived much by himself, she wished especially to make their home a ready
gathering place for all his friends and co-workers. In this she succeeded
so well that their modest dwelling was frequently crowded with visitors
from far and near, many of whom later counted their visit with Grundtvig
among the richest experiences of their life.

Grundtvig's fiftieth anniversary as a pastor was celebrated with
impressive festivities on May 29, 1861. The celebration was attended by
representatives from all departments of government and the church as well
as by a host of people from all parts of Scandinavia; and the celebrant
was showered with gifts and honors. The king conferred upon him the title
of bishop; the former queen, Carolina Amalia, presented him with a seven
armed candlestick of gold from women in Norway, Sweden and Denmark; his
friend, Pastor P. A. Fenger, handed him a gift of three thousand dollars
from friends in Denmark and Norway to finance a popular edition of his
_Hymns and Songs for the Danish Church_; and another friend, Gunni Busck,
presented him with a plaque of gold engraved with his likeness and a line
from his hymns, a gift from the congregation of Vartov.

Many of those who participated in this splendid jubilee felt that it
would be of great benefit to them to meet again for mutual fellowship and
discussion of pressing religious and national questions. And with the
willing cooperation of Asta Grundtvig, it was decided to invite all who
might be interested to a meeting in Copenhagen on Grundtvig's eightieth
birthday, September 8, the following year. This Meeting of Friends--as it
was named--proved so successful that it henceforth became an annual
event, attended by people from all parts of Scandinavia. Although
Grundtvig earnestly desired that these meetings should actually be what
they were designed to be, meetings of friends for mutual help and
enlightenment, his own part in them was naturally important. His powers
were still unimpaired, and his contributions were rich in wisdom and
spiritual insight. Knowing himself surrounded by friends, he often spoke
with an appealing heartiness and power that made the Meetings of Friends
unforgettable experiences to many.

Thus the once loneliest man in Denmark found himself in his old age
honored by his nation, surrounded by friends, and besieged by visitors
and co-workers, seeking his help and advice. He was always very
approachable. In his younger days he had frequently been harsh and
self-assertive in his judgment of others; but in his latter years he
learned that kindness is always more fruitful than wrath. Sitting in his
easy chair and smoking his long pipe, he talked frankly and often wittily
with the many who came to visit him. Thus Bishop H. Martensen, the
theologian, tells us that his conversation was admirably eloquent and
interspersed with wit and humor. And a prominent Swedish author, P.
Wisselgren, writes: "Some years ago I spent one of the most delightful
evenings of my life with Bishop Grundtvig. I doubt that I have ever met a
greater poet of conversation. Each thought was an inspiration and his
heart was in every word he said."

Grundtvig's outward appearance, especially during his later years, was
extremely charming. His strong countenance framed by long white locks and
a full beard bore the imprint of a profound spiritual intellect and a
benevolent calmness. The queen, Caroline Amalia, after her first meeting
with him wrote, "Grundtvig has a most beautiful countenance, and he
attracted me at once by his indescribably kind and benevolent appearance.
What an interesting man he is, and what a pleasure it is to listen to his
open and forthright conversation."

And so, still active and surrounded by friends, he saw his long, fruitful
life drawing quietly toward its close. In 1871, he opened the annual
Meeting of Friends by speaking from the text: "See, I die, but the Lord
shall be with you," and said in all likelihood this meeting would be the
last at which he would be present. He lived, however, to prepare for the
next meeting, which was to be held on September 11, 1872. On September 1,
he conducted his service at Vartov as usual, preaching an exceptionally
warm and inspiring sermon. But the following morning he passed away
quietly while sitting in his easy chair and listening to his son read for

He was buried September 11, three days after his 89th birthday, in the
presence of representatives from all departments of the government, one
fourth of the Danish clergy and a vast assembly of people from all parts
of Scandinavia.

An American writer recently named Grundtvig "The Builder of Modern
Denmark." And there are few phases of modern Danish life which he has not
influenced. His genius was so unique and his work so many-sided that with
equal justice one might call him a historian, a poet, an educator, a
religious philosopher, a hymnologist and a folk-leader. Yet there is an
underlying unity of thought and purpose in all his work which makes each
part of it merely a branch of the whole. This underlying unity is his
clear conception of the spiritual and of man as a spiritual being who can
attain his fullest development only through the widest possible
realization of the spiritual in all his divine and human relationships.
In every part of his work Grundtvig, therefore, invariably seeks to
discover the spiritual realities. The mere form of a thing, the form of
religion, of knowledge, of education, of government, of all human
institutions and endeavors have no intrinsic value, are only skeletons
and dead bones until they become imbued and vivified by the spirit. Thus
Professor Martensen, who by no means belonged to the Grundtvigian party,
writes, "But among the many things I owe to Grundtvig, I cherish above
all his conception of the spiritual as the reality besides which all
other things are nothing but shadows, and of the spirit inspired word as
the mightiest power in human life. And he gave that to me not as a theory
but as a living truth, a spiritual reality about which there could be not
even a shadow of doubt."

Grundtvig found the spiritual in many things, in the myth of the North,
in history, literature and, in fact, in all things through which man has
to express his god-given nature. He had no patience with the Pietists who
looked upon all things not directly religious as evils with which a
Christian could have nothing to do. Yet he believed above all in the Holy
Spirit as the "Spirit of spirits," the true agent of God in the world.
The work of the Spirit was indispensable to man's salvation, and the
fruit of that work, the regenerated Christian life, the highest
expression of the spiritual. Since he believed furthermore, that the Holy
Spirit works especially in the church through the word and sacraments,
the church was to him the workshop of the Spirit.

In his famous hymn to the church bell, his symbol for the church, he
writes "that among all noble voices none could compare with that of the
ringing bell." Despite the many fields in which he traced the imprint of
the spiritual, the church remained throughout his long life his real
spiritual home, a fact which he beautifully expresses in the hymn below.

    Hallowed Church Bell, not for worldly centers
    Wast thou made, but for the village small
    Where thy voice, as home and hearth it enters,
    Blends with lullabies at evenfall.

    When a child and in the country dwelling,
    Christmas morning was my heaven on earth,
    And thy chimes, like angel voices swelling,
    Told with joy of my Redeemer's birth.

    Louder still thy joyful chimes resounded,
    When on wings of early morning borne,
    They proclaimed: Awake with joy unbounded,
    Christ arose this blessed Easter morn.

    Sweeter even were thy tolls when blending
    With the calm of summer eventide
    And, as though from heaven above descending,
    Bid me cast all grief and care aside.

    Hence when now the day is softly ending,
    Shadows fall and birds ascend their nest,
    Like the flowers my head in silence bending,
    I am chanting with my soul at rest:

    When at last, O Church Bell, thou art tolling
    O'er my grave while loved grieve and sigh,
    Say to them, their troubled heart consoling,
    He is resting with his Lord on high.


[11]The printed text is corrupt, but the correction is not obvious.
   Norway and Finland might have "about as many" or "about half as many".

                        Other Danish Hymnwriters

                                                       Chapter Seventeen

The Danish church has produced a large number of hymnwriters, who, except
for the greatness of Kingo, Brorson and Grundtvig, would have commanded
general recognition. The present hymnal of the church contains
contributions by about sixty Danish writers. Though the majority of these
are represented by only one or two hymns, others have made large

Kingo, Brorson and Grundtvig, peculiarly enough, had few imitators. A
small number of writers did attempt to imitate the great leaders, but
they formed no school and their work for the most part was so
insignificant that it soon disappeared. Thus even Kingo's great work
inspired no hymnwriter of any consequence, and the fifty years between
Kingo and Brorson added almost nothing to the hymnody of the church.
Contemporary with Brorson, however, a few writers appeared whose songs
have survived to the present day. Foremost among these is Ambrosius Stub,
a unique and sympathetic writer whose work constitutes a distinct
contribution to Danish poetry.

Ambrosius Stub was born on the island of Fyn in 1705, the son of a
village tailor. Although extremely poor, he managed somehow to enter the
University of Copenhagen, but his poverty compelled him to leave the
school without completing his course. For a number of years, he drifted
aimlessly, earning a precarious living by teaching or bookkeeping at the
estates of various nobles, always dogged by poverty and a sense of
frustration. Although he was gifted and ambitious, his lack of a degree
and his continuous poverty prevented him from attaining the position in
life to which his ability apparently entitled him. During his later
years, he conducted a small school for boys at Ribe, a small city on the
west coast of Jutland, where he died in abject poverty in 1758, only 53
years old.

Stub's work remained almost unknown during his lifetime, but a small
collection of his poems, published after his death, gained him a
posthumous recognition as the greatest Danish poet of the 18th century.
Stub's style is extremely noble and expressive, devoid of the excessive
bombast and sentimentality that many writers then mistook for poetry. He
was of a cheerful disposition with a hopeful outlook upon life that only
occasionally is darkened by the hardships and disappointments of his own
existence. Even the poems of his darker moods are colored by his inborn
love of beauty and his belief in the fundamental goodness of life. Many
of his best poems are of a religious nature, and expressive of his warm
and trustful Christian faith. In view of the discouraging hardships and
disappointments of his own life, the following much favored hymn throws a
revealing light upon the spirit of its author.

    Undismayed by any fortune
    Life may have in store for me,
    This, whatever be my portion,
    I will always try to be.
        If I but in grace abide,
        Undismayed whate'er betide.

    Undismayed when others harry
    Mind and soul with anxious care;
    If the Lord with me will tarry,
    All my troubles disappear.
        If I but in grace abide,
        Undismayed whate'er betide.

    Undismayed when others sighing,
    Quail before the evil day,
    On God's grace I am relying;
    Nothing can me then dismay.
        If I but in grace abide,
        Undismayed whate'er betide.

    Undismayed when others fearing,
    See the hour of death draw nigh.
    With the victor's crown appearing,
    Why should I repine and sigh.
        If I but in grace abide,
        Undismayed whate'er betide.

    Dearest Lord, if I may treasure
    Thy abundant grace each day,
    I shall cherish Thy good pleasure,
    Be my portion what it may.
        If I but in grace abide,
        Undismayed whate'er betide.

The age of Rationalism discarded most of the old hymns but produced no
worthwhile hymns of its own. The most highly praised hymnwriter of the
period, Birgitte Boye, the wife of a forester, wrote a great number of
hymns of which no less than 150 were included in a new hymnal published
in 1870, by the renowned statesman, Ove Hoegh Guldberg. Although
excessively praised by the highest authorities of the period, Birgitte
Boye's hymns contain nothing of permanent value, and have now happily
been forgotten.

The Evangelical revival about the middle of the 19th century restored the
old hymns to their former favor, and produced besides, a number of new
hymnwriters of real merit. Among these, Casper J. Boye is, perhaps, the
most prominent. Born of Danish parents at Kongsberg, Norway, in 1791,
Boye entered the University of Copenhagen in 1820 where he first took up
the study of law and then, of theology. After graduating from this
department, he became a teacher at a Latin school and some years later, a
pastor of the large Garrison Church in Copenhagen, where he remained
until his death in 1851. Boye was a gifted writer, both on secular and
religious themes. His numerous hymns appeared in six small volumes
entitled: _Spiritual Songs_. They are marked by a flowing but at times
excessively literary style and a quiet spiritual fervor. The following
still is a favorite opening hymn.

    Day is breaking, night is ended,
    And the day of rest ascended
    Upon church and countryside.
    Like the day in brightness growing,
    Grace from God is richer flowing;
    Heaven's portals open wide.

    O what joy this day is bringing,
    When the chiming bells are ringing,
    Calling man to prayer and praise!
    All the angel host rejoices
    And with gladsome, mellow voices
    Thanks the Lord for light and grace.

    Sin and death with fear and sorrow
    And the burden of tomorrow
    Shall not weigh my heart with care.
    Unto all in tribulation
    Doth the Lord of our salvation
    On this day His peace declare.

    Be it hushed in solemn stillness,
    Must I weep in grief or illness,
    Or confess my guilt and shame,
    It is blessed to be weeping
    When the hungry heart is reaping
    Grace and peace in Jesus' name.

    O Thou Fount of grace unbounded,
    Who our wisdom hath confounded,
    Whom but faith can comprehend!
    In Thy love my soul reposes;
    Heaven's portal never closes
    Till before Thy throne we stand.

Herman Andreas Timm, a younger contemporary of Boye, also wrote a large
number of excellent hymns. He was born at Copenhagen in 1800, and was for
many years pastor of the church on Amager, a suburb of the capital city.
He died in 1866. His hymns appeared in a small volume of poems, published
in 1834, under the title: _Spiritual Songs_. They are characterized by an
easy literary style and an urgent spiritual appeal. The following very
popular hymn is perhaps the best-known of those now available in English.

    Dost thou know the living fountain
    Whence the stream of grace doth flow?
    Dry the streams from snowcapped mountain,
    Yet this stream shall fuller grow.
    From the very heart of God
    Flows its currents deep and broad,
    Unto every land and nation,
    Bringing mercy and salvation.

    Come unto the living waters!
    Cried the prophets, do not shrink!
    God invites His sons and daughters:
    He that thirsteth come and drink.
    With this water God imparts
    Health and strength to sin-sick hearts.
    Why are ye then hesitating
    While the Lord with grace is waiting.

    With us is the day appointed,
    God has kept His gracious word.
    He has come, the Lord's annointed;
    Men have seen the promised Lord.
    Saints of God from every race
    Found in Him the fount of grace,
    And, with joy that never ceases,
    Said: The Fount of Life is Jesus.

    Hasten then! Let all assemble
    At this fountain pure and strong.
    Come, ye souls that fear and tremble,
    Come, ye old, and come ye young.
    Now the hour of grace is here,
    Draw then to its fountain near.
    Soon, ah soon! the day is over.
    Quickly night the world may cover.

Another contemporary of these writers, and perhaps the most prominent of
the group, was Theodore Vilhelm Oldenburg. Oldenburg was born at
Copenhagen in 1805, son of the Royal Chamberlain, Frederik Oldenburg. His
mother died while he was still a boy, but his excellent father managed to
give him a most careful training and a splendid education. He graduated
"cum laude" from the University of Copenhagen in 1822, obtained the
degree of Master of Arts during the following year, entered the
department of theology and graduated from there three years later, also
"cum laude." In 1830 he accepted a call to become pastor of the parish of
Otterup and Sorterup on the island of Fyn. Here he won high praise for
his conspicuously able and faithful work. Together with the gifted Bishop
P. C. Kirkegaard, he was editor for a number of years of the influential
periodical "Nordisk Tidsskrift for Kristelig Teologi," and also of the
outstanding foreign mission paper, "Dansk Missionsblad." Through these
papers he exerted a powerful and always beneficent influence upon the
churches of both Denmark and Norway. His outstanding and richly blest
service was cut short by death in 1842 when he was only 37 years old. He
was carried to the grave to the strains of his own appealing hymn:
"Thine, O Jesus, Thine Forever."

Oldenburg's quite numerous hymns were printed from time to time in
various periodicals. They express in a noble and highly lyrical style the
firm faith and warm religious fervor of his own consecrated life.

The hymn given below was written for a foreign mission convention shortly
before his death.

    Deep and precious,
    Strong and gracious
    Is the word of God above,
    Gently calling
    Sinners falling,
    To the Savior's arm of love.
    Unto all the word is given:
    Jesus is the way to heaven.

    Blessed Savior,
    Wondrous favor
    Hast Thou shown our fallen race!
    Times may alter,
    Worlds may falter,
    Nothing moves Thy word of grace.
    With Thy word Thy grace abideth,
    And for all our needs provideth.

    By Thy merit,
    Through the Spirit
    Draw all sinners, Lord, to Thee.
    Sin and error,
    Death and terror
    By Thy word shall vanquished be.
    Guide us all through life's straight portal,
    Bear us into life immortal.

Besides Grundtvig the foremost hymnwriter of this period was his close
friend, Bernhard Severin Ingemann, one of Denmark's most popular and
beloved writers. He was born in 1789 in a parsonage on the island of
Falster. His father died in 1800 when the son was only 11 years old, and
his mother left the parsonage to settle in Slagelse, an old city on the
island of Sjælland. Having graduated from the Latin school there in 1806,
Ingemann entered the University of Copenhagen in the fall of the same
year. During the English attack on Copenhagen in 1807, he enrolled in the
student's volunteer corps and fought honorably in defense of the city.
After graduating from the University, he was granted free board and room
at Walkendorf's Collegium, an institution for the aid of indigent but
promising young students. Here he devoted most of his time to literary
pursuits and, during the following three years, he published a large
number of works which won him a favorable name as a gifted lyrical poet
of a highly idealistic type. As an encouragement to further efforts, the
government granted him a two year stipend for travel and study in foreign
parts. He visited Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, and became
acquainted with many famous literary leaders of that day, especially in
Germany. On his return from abroad in 1822 he was appointed a lector at
the famous school at Sorø on the island of Sjælland. In this charming old
city with its splendid cathedral and idyllic surroundings he spent the
remainder of his life in the peace and quiet that agreed so well with his
own mild and seraphic nature. He died in 1862.

Inspired by Oehlenschlaeger and strongly encouraged by Grundtvig,
Ingemann in 1824 began the issuance of his famous historical novels,
based upon episodes from the romantic period of Danish history during the
13th and 14th centuries. To some extent the novels are modeled upon the
similar works of Walter Scott but are written in a livelier style and
more idealistic spirit than their English prototype. In later years their
historical veracity has been gravely questioned. Enjoying an immense
popularity both in Denmark and in Norway, these highly idealized pictures
of the past did much to arouse that national spirit which especially
Grundtvig had labored long to awaken. After completing his historical
novels, Ingemann again resumed his lyrical and fictional writings,
producing a large number of poems, fairy-tales and novels that further
increased his already immense popularity.

                        Bernhard Severin Ingemann

Despite the great popularity of Ingemann's secular writings, it is,
nevertheless, his hymns and spiritual songs which will preserve his name
the longest. His first collection of hymns, a small volume of morning and
evening songs, appeared in 1822. This collection was followed in 1825 by
a volume of church hymns, which was enlarged and reprinted in 1843. The
favorable reception of these hymns caused Ingemann to be selected to
prepare the new church hymnal, published in 1855, a task which he
accomplished to the general satisfaction of all.

Ingemann's hymns faithfully reflect his own serene and idealistic nature.
Their outstanding merits are a limpid, lyrical style and an implicit
trust in the essential goodness of life and its Author. Of Kingo's
realistic conception of evil or Grundtvig's mighty vision of existence as
a heroic battle between life and death, he has little understanding. The
world of his songs is as peaceful and idyllic as the quiet countryside
around his beloved Sorø. If at times he tries to take the deeper note,
his voice falters and becomes artificial. But though his hymns on such
themes as sin and redemption are largely a failure, he has written
imperishable hymns of idealistic faith and childlike trust in the
goodness and love of God.

The extreme lyrical quality and highly involved and irregular metre of
many of Ingemann's hymns make them extremely difficult to translate, and
their English translations fail on the whole to do justice. The
translation given below is perhaps one of the best. It is the work of the
Rev. P. C. Paulsen.

    As wide as the skies is Thy mercy, O God;
    Thy faithfulness shieldeth creation.
    Thy bounteous hand from the mountains abroad
    Is stretched over country and nation.

    Like heaven's embrace is Thy mercy, O Lord;
    In judgment profound Thou appearest.
    Thou savest our souls through Thy life-giving word,
    The cries of Thy children Thou hearest.

    How precious Thy goodness, O Father above,
    Where children of men are abiding.
    Thou spreadest through darkness the wings of Thy love;
    We under their pinions are hiding.

    For languishing souls Thou preparest a rest;
    The quivering dove Thou protectest;
    Thou givest us being, eternal and blest,
    In mercy our life Thou perfectest.

The following hymn is also quite popular.

    The sun is rising in the east,
    It gilds the heavens wide,
    And scatters light on mountain crest,
    On shore and countryside.

    It rises from the valley bright,
    Where Paradise once lay,
    And bringeth life, and joy and light
    To all upon its way.

    It greets us from the land afar
    Where man with grace was crowned,
    And from that wondrous Morning Star,
    Which Eastern sages found.

    The starry host bow down before
    The sun that passes them;
    It seems so like that star of yore
    Which shone on Bethlehem.

    Thou Sun of Suns, from heaven come,
    In Thee our praises rise
    For every message from Thy home
    And from Thy Paradise.

The most beloved of all Ingemann's hymns is his splendid "Pilgrim Song."

    Dejlig er Jorden,
    Prægtig er Guds Himmel,
    Skøn er Sjælenes Pilgrimsgang.
    Gennem de fagre
    Riger paa Jorden
    Gaa vi til Paradis med Sang.

This hymn is written to the tune of "Beautiful Savior" which Ingemann, in
common with many others, accepted as a marching tune from the period of
the crusades. Although this historic origin has now been disproved, the
tune united with Ingemann's text undoubtedly will remain the most beloved
pilgrim song among the Danish and Norwegian peoples. Though fully aware
of the impossibility of translating this tenderly beautiful song so that
it is acceptable to those who know the original, the author presents the
following translation in the hope that it may interest those who cannot
read the original.

    Fair is creation,[12]
    Fairer God's heaven,
    Blest is the marching pilgrim throng.
    Onward through lovely
    Regions of beauty
    Go we to Paradise with song.

    Ages are coming,
    Ages are passing
    Nations arise and disappear.
    Never the joyful
    Message from heaven
    Wanes through the soul's brief sojourn here.

    Angels proclaimed it
    Once to the shepherds,
    Henceforth from soul to soul it passed:
    Unto all people
    Peace and rejoicing,
    Us is a Savior born at last.

Of other hymns by Ingemann, which are now available in English, we may
mention "Jesus, My Savior, My Shepherd Blest," "The Country Lies in Deep
Repose" and "I Live and I Know the Span of My Years."


[12]Another translation: "Beauty around us" by S. D. Rodholm in "A World
   of Song."

The last half of the 19th century also brought forth a number of Danish
hymnwriters of considerable merit, such as Chr. Richardt, Pastor J. P. M.
Paulli, Pastor Olfert Ricard and Pastor J. Schjorring. The latter is
especially known by one song which has been translated into many
languages and with which it seems appropriate to close this survey of
Danish hymnody.

    Love from God our Lord,
    Has forever poured
    Like a fountain pure and clear.
    In its quiet source,
    In its silent course
    Doth the precious pearl appear.

    Love from God our Lord,
    Comes with sweet accord,
    Like a pure and lovely bride.
    Dwell within my heart,
    Peace from God impart,
    Heaven doth with Thee abide.

    Love from God our Lord,
    Has to man restored
    Life and peace from heaven above.
    Who in love remains,
    Peace from God obtains;
    God Himself is ever love.

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