Sunday, October 7, 2012

Be Still, My Soul

Here is another hymn! This one goes out to a good friend, and a very talented woman (who also happens to have a birthday today), Morgan. I hope you enjoy and have a good Birthday!

Title: Be Still, My Soul

Tune: Finlandia


Composer: Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Author: Kathrina Von Schlegel (1697-c. 1797), Translated by: Jane Borthwick (1813-1897)

                Though this hymn is very popular and famous, there is very little known about Katherin Von Schlegel, other than she didn’t write many hymns, and the only one to have been translated from German to English, was in fact, “Be Still, My Soul.” Born in 1697, Von Schlegel was known to be the "Stiftsfräulein" in the Evangelical Lutheran Stift (similar to a protestant nunnery) at Cothen. All though she was involved with the courts in Cothen, her name did not appear in the records, but by word of mouth it is known that she was involved there. “Stille, meine wille, dein Jesus Hilft siegen” appeared in 1752 and contained six stanza’s with six lines each, and later it was published again in 1837 in Knapp’s Evangelischer Lieder-Schatz. The translation, written by Jane Borthwick, maintained much of the original text (but Borthwick omitted the third stanza), and was published in Borthwick’s 1855 Hymns from the Land of Luther, 2nd series (there were four editions, 1st series, 1854; 2nd, 1855; 3rd 1858; 4th, 1862). More is known about Jane Borthwick than of Kathrina Von Schlegel.  Jane Borthwick was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to James Borthwick, who was the manager of the North British Insurance Office in Edinburgh. She began translating many of the hymns from German in to her hymnal in 1854, but was also known for having written some prose of her own. She published most of her works in the 1857 collection Thoughts for Thoughtful hours.  In 1875 she published a selection of poems translated from Meta Heusser-Schweizer, under the title of Alpine Lyrics, which were included in the 1884 edition of the Hymns from the Land of Luther.
                The tune, “Finlandia” was originally composed by Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, as part of a larger work aimed at supporting the Finnish press against Russian oppression in 1899. Originally composed as one of Six Tableaux in a work for the pageant, Sibelius took the last Tableau and rewrote it as an orchestral tone poem, naming it “Finlandia.” The Chorale-like opening to the tone poem is most commonly used for the hymnal. The tune was first used in the Scottish Hymnal in 1927, and was used later in the Presbyterian Hymnal in 1933. Though the melody is simple, it is difficult for most congregations to maintain a steady tempo with all the stops and rests in the melody, which requires great leadership from the organist.  Sibelius began his musical career by studying piano and violin, and at one point in his life, he considered becoming a Concert Violinist. Although Sibelius may have been successful as a Violinist, he began his compositional career at the age of ten. Much like Beethoven, Sibelius used each of his seven symphonies to build his musical styling’s. In 1897, Sibelius received a pension for life from the Finnish Government, allowing him to travel all around Europe from 1900 until the beginning of World War I. He was famous for conducting his own pieces, and was well received when he came to visit the United States of America in 1914. Though Sibelius did not compose any works in the final 26 years of his life, he did maintain a well-founded reputation from  the works he had done earlier in his career.

The Text:

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

My Take on the Hymn:
This is one of my favorite tunes to sing in church, especially because both my Father and I enjoy Jean Sibelius (at one point in my musical career, I won a piano competition by performing Sibelius’ Romance in Db) and we can always have a good laugh because we both know Sibelius well. This hymn is very powerful in the words it uses to tell us to sit back and relax, everything will be okay because God has your best interests in mind. God has a plan for us, and sometimes that is very difficult to see and to accept, but we as Christians should attempt to gain peace of mind through scripture, and time of prayer with Christ. In Matthew 6: 25-34, Jesus tells us not neither to worry about the days ahead nor to worry about the little things in life, God has us taken care of. To paraphrase some of what C.S. Lewis says in his book,  A Grief Observed, if we stop focusing on God and instead focus on the pain and the sorrows of everyday life, we will struggle every day to see the happiness that is promised to us all. If God maintains his position of the focus for our lives, everything else will fall in to place, leaving our souls at peace!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just start the youtube video and follow along!

and just because this one is one of my favorite versions:

Julian, John, and Psalter Hymnal Handbook. "Be Still, My Soul." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <>.


1 comment:

  1. This song has brought such comfort to my soul. Thank you for being my healer Jesus. And thank you for posting this info on the song:)