Love Well, Die Well

mary at the cross

It was an anonymous poem, originally written in Latin sometime during the Middle Ages.  Many years later it was translated into German, and later into English.  The tune associated with this poem was originally used as a love song, attributed to Hans Leo Hassler in 1601.  J. S. Bach harmonized the song in its present form in 1729.  This poem and tune combination eventually found its way into English hymnals entitled, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”  taken from the first line of the first stanza. While the hymn as we know it has only three verses, the original poem consists of eleven stanzas.

Because the third and last stanza found in our hymnals has always moved me deeply, I have memorized it and have incorporated it into my prayer life.  However, this powerful prayer becomes even more significant when it is considered in its context with the rest of the original poem.  While I have memorized only the second stanza below, what follows is the last seven stanzas of the original poem.

 

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.

I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;

Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

 

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love to Thee.

 

My shepherd, now receive me, my Guardian, own me Thine.

Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.

Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;

Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

 

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;

O Savior, do not chide me!  When breaks Thy loving heart.

When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,

Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

 

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,

When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.

O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,

Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

 

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door,

Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!

When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,

But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

 

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfolds Thee, who dieth thus dies well.

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