None of Gerhardt’s poetry has so well lent itself to English words as this hymn of praise for God’s goodness and of contemplation of the joys in the next world, and the translators have without exception reproduced most successfully the exquisite feeling for nature which Gerhardt manifests, whether he be singing of forest and brook, or of flowers and fields. Only Miss Winkworth and Dr. Alexander of the four or five prominent translators omit stanza XIV, and they do so apparently on the ground that it contains a complexity of figures. Dr. Massie whose version except for the last stanza has more truly poetic lines than any other offers this paraphrase:
Make for thy spirit ample room,
That thus I may forever bloom.
Like plants which root have taken:
Oh let me in thy garden be
A flourishing and righteous tree,
Which never shall be shaken.
So well have all the translators succeeded that it would be perhaps merely a matter of individual taste as to which of the many excellent lines are deserving of highest praise. Of stanza III Dr. Massie’s verses are both more literal and harmonious than the others. Gerhardt sings:
Die Lerche schwingt sich in die Luft,
Das Täublein fleugt aus seiner Kluft
Und macht sich in die Wälder.
Dr. Massie interprets:
The lark mounts singing to the skies:
The dove forsakes her clefts, and flies
To shady groves and alleys.
The lark soars singing into space,
The dove forsakes her hiding-place,
And coos the woods among.
The lark aspiring soars on high,
Flies from her cleft the dove so shy,
And seeks the woodland shadow.
The lark floats high before the breeze,
The dove toward the forest-trees
From covert speeds along.
This last version is marred by the accent’s falling on the unstressed syllable of “toward” in line 2. Several of our American hymnals contain the cento of four stanzas from Miss Winkworth’s version (Gerhardt stanzas VIII-XI incl.) whose ring gives the freshness appropriate in an outdoor hymn of Spring and Summer.