Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Psalm 90:1
Words: Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) (Herr Gott, du bist ja für und für). Translated from German to English by John Kelly, Paul Gerhardt’s Spiritual Songs (London: Alexander Strahan, 1867), pages 312–16, alt.
Of Death and Dying.
Lord God! Thou art for evermore
Thy people’s habitation,
And Thou existence hadst before
Was laid the earth’s foundation!
Ere yet the hills began to be
Thou lived’st in eternity,
Of all things the beginning!
Thou lettest all the crowds of men
Through death’s dark portals wander,
And biddest them return again,
Those others follow yonder.
With Thee a thousand years are aye
Like watch of night or yesterday
When it is gone for ever.
Thou lettest the base hosts of men
E’en as a stream be flowing,
And as a ship upon the main
That favoring winds are blowing,
And as a sleep and dream of night
That when men wake at morning light
They can no more remember.
We’re like an herb that early dies,
Or grass in fields that groweth,
That in the morning flourishes,
Ere night the mower moweth.
So ’tis with man: he blooms to-day,
Tomorrow he is borne away
If but a breath doth touch him!
Because Thy wrath ’gainst us doth glow,
Lord! we so early vanish,
And for our sins Thou lay’st us low,
And from Thy face dost banish.
Our sins Thou sett’st before Thine eyes,
Then doth Thine indignation rise
In Thine heart ever holy!
This fire it is consumes in all
Our bones the marrow ever;
And hence it is that great or small
From death escapeth never.
And hence our days are passing o’er
Like tales that oft beguile an hour
And that are soon forgotten.
And scarcely doth our life on earth
To seventy years last even;
And what are all our labors worth
If four-score years be given?
What is the sum of all our gain
From youth to age, but toil and pain,
Heart-sorrow and vexation?
We’re ever toiling full of care,
And ere we do bethink us
To stop our work, lo! death is there,
Into the grave to sink us.
And speedily we pass away,
Yet of their end none ever stay
To think, nor of God’s anger.
O teach us, Lord! to think each day
Upon this earth’s affliction,
That when we think on death we may
Grow wiser by reflection.
Ah! turn on us again Thy face
And be at peace, O God of grace!
With Thy rebellious children.
And early with Thy mercy free
Be soul and body filling,
And late and early, Lord, may we
Thy glorious praise be telling.
O chiefest joy! our hearts now cheer,
And once more give us good times here,
The days have been so evil.
We’ve borne the cross these weary years,
Now let Thy sun be shining,
Vouchsafe us laughter after tears,
And pleasure after pining.
And evermore, O Lord! make known
Thy works of wonder to Thine own,
Thine honor to Thy children.
Be Thou our faithful friend and God,
Establish us for ever!
And when we err from wisdom’s road
Give penitence and favor!
Turn Thou our hearts again to Thee,
May all our works established be,
Crown all we do with blessing!