Monday, November 19, 2012

Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me

Here is another hymn! I am sorry for the delay, but life gets in the way sometimes. I will keep posting no matter what happens or how busy I get, I promise!

Title: Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me

Tune: So Nimm Denn Meine Hande

Meter: D

Author: Julie von Hausmann (1825-1901)

Composer: Fridrich Silcher (1789-1860)

                Originally written in German, this hymn has had many different translations, but two stand out prominently. The two translations were written by Rudolph John (1859-1938) and Herman Brueckner. Though, for the most part, the two agreed on the text, both translations came up with a different beginning, Brueckner’s came as “O take my hand, dear Father,” and was published in the American Lutheran Hymnal (1930). Rudolph John’s translation began “Take thou my hand and lead me,” and was published in The Evangelical Hymnal (St. Louis, 1917). Though both translations were successful on their own, the text that is found today comes from a compilation of the two translations, Brueckner’s first verse (altered substantially), and John’s second and third verse. Published in the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, the hymn remained the same until it was published in the new Lutheran hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, where even then, only one word in the entire hymn was altered (“then” instead of “and” in stanza three, line three).
                The author, Julie von Hausmann, was a brilliant young woman from Latvia, but despite her brilliance, she always had to fight to stay ahead with her studies because of massive migraines. Born as Julie Katarina Hausmann in Riga, Latvia, Julie’s father taught in a Gymnasium there for several years. After some time, Hausmann’s father began to work as a counselor in the town, which made him a member of the Russian Aristocracy, and changed the family name to von Hausmann. As Hausmann grew up, she made plans to marry a young Theology graduate who had been sent to east Africa as a missionary. Upon arriving in Africa, the young Hausmann found that missionary had died prior to her arrival from Tropical Fever. Heartbroken, she returned to Latvia where she became a governess for nearly 14 years. It was during this time that Hausmann penned the text for this hymn. During her time back in Latvia, Hausmann’s life was anything but stable. During her time back, she took care of her father who eventually passed away in 1864, after which she moved in with her younger sister (who was an organist in an English church in Southwestern France), and eventually Hausmann and her younger sister met with their two other sisters, and they all moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, where the oldest sister was the director of a school at St. Anne’s Church. Spending most of her life working with the poor, Hausmann would stay up at night writing poetry while suffering from insomnia, no doubt caused by her migraines. While caring for her father, Hausmann’s poetry was noticed by Pastor Gustav Knak, who upon seeing her work asked if he could publish the collection. Though Hausmann had published a devotional book entitled Hausbrat, she was hesitant to publish her poems. Finally, Hausmann agreed to let Knak publish her works on a few conditions, the works had to remain anonymous, and all of the proceeds from the works were to go to a school and orphanage in Hong Kong. This agreement led to the publication of Maiblumen in three volumes by Knak himself, and a fourth volume by Knak’s son.
                The translator, Rudolph John, was born in Washington, Missouri, where his father. R.A. John was a pastor at St. Peter’s Evangelical Church and eventually became a respected faculty member at the Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. As Rudolph grew up, he began to take an interest in the church, and eventually he studied at Washington University and at the Eden Seminary where he became ordained in 1878. After he was ordained, he served calls in Illinois, Missouri, and Virginia before he settled at St. Paul’s church in Chicago, Illinois. He remained at this post for over 40 years. During his time at St. Paul’s church, Rudolph held many different positions in the Evangelical Synod of North America, and he became a prominent member of the church.
                The tune “So Nimm Denn Meine Hande” was written by Fridrich Slicher (June 27th 1789-August 26th, 1860 and was published as a part of his 1842 collection Kinderlieder Fur Schule und Haus. Paired with the text “Wie konnt ich ruhig shlaffen,” the tune did not get its name until it was published with the text “So nimm den meine Hande” in the Grosse Missionsharfe (1883). Born near Schorndorf, which is near Berlin, Germany, Slicher studied music with his Father, who was an organist and schoolmaster, Slicher also studied music with N. F. Auberlin. Between 1806 and 1817, Slicher served many different teaching positions around Suttgart, but eventually he would land a position as the director of music an dorganist at the University of Tubingen, where he started an orchestra and a choir, earning him a PhD in 1852. Slicher is known for having published five books: Melodien aus dem Wurttemberg Choralbuch (1819), Sechs vierstimmige Hymnen (1827), Kinderlieder fur Schule und Haus (1842), the Geschichte der evangelischer kirchengesange (1844), and a twele-volume collection of folk songs, the Sammlung Deutscher Volkslider.
The Text:
(1)    Lord, take my hand and lead me
Upon life's way;
Direct, protect and feed me
From day to day.
Without your grace and favour
I go astray;
So take my hand, O Savior,
And lead the way.

(2)    Lord, when the tempest rages,
I need not fear;
For you, the Rock of Ages,
Are always near.
Close by your side abiding,
I fear no foe,
For when your hand is guiding,
In peace I go.

(3)   Lord, when the shadows lengthen
And night has come,
I know that you will strengthen
My steps toward home,
And nothing can impede me,
O blessed Friend!
So take my hand and lead me
Unto the end.

My Take on the Hymn

                This hymn could not have come at a better time for me, making this all the more important to hear. The message of this hymn is that we need to put all of our trust and all of our faith in Christ, because he will not lead us away from where we need to be. If we put our focus on God, and on the things in heaven, there is nothing on earth that we need to fear, because we know that Christ is with us. The third stanza is my favorite, because it mentions the end of life, in the metaphor of the sun shining in a day. “Lord, when the shadows lengthen and night has come” describes what is happening in towards the end of our lives. Much like the end of a summer day, we know when our lives are drawing near to a close, but those days should not be filled with fear of the unknown, but rather should be filled with joy and happiness, especially knowing that Christ is walking right beside you on your walk to go home. Being home with Christ is a wonderful feeling, because we can finally meet our maker face-to-face, and say thank you for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us throughout our lives, so that we may be better for Christ our Lord!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just play the Youtube video and follow along!


Westermeyer, Paul. "Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 629-31. Print.


  1. We share common interests, Evan, and I'm glad to read your compilation of facts and your personal testimony about this well-loved German song! I hope you can read the song in its original form as written by Julie von Hausmann. The original text is better than any of the English translations. The German is personal and direct. Most churched national-German people know this song, and it is sung at weddings and funerals. May all who know these words come to understand, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the truth contained in the text the way you have come to appreciate it. Best wishes to you in all of your good pursuits!

    With your desire to learn and to express yourself, I hope you're considering the teaching field. You have enthusiasm that our profession needs!

    Ed Rea

  2. Thank you for this interesting research on this well-loved hymn. One correction: The name of the composer is “Silcher,” not Slicher.