This “Christliches Freudenlied” has an especial interest, for it seems to have been the hymn that was most comforting to Gerhardt. We know that in his last moments he repeated stanza VIII:
Kann uns doch kein Tod nicht tödten,
Sondern reiszt Unsern Geist
Aus viel tausend Nöten;
Schleuszt das Thor der bittern Leiden
Und macht Bahn, Da man kann
Gehn zur Himmelsfreuden.
It was fitting that one whose hymns are so replete with expressions of earthly and the far greater heavenly joys should go to his final rest comforted by the full realization of their meaning.
The translator in the 1754 edition of the Moravian Hymn Book has with a few characteristic exceptions treated the peculiar rhythm and metre skillfully. Although the line “Han’t I still Christ my Hill,”(line 2) would not be acceptable today, still our attention is forcibly drawn to the rhythm and note of genuine fervor in the reproduction of our poet’s last words:
Conquered Death cannot destroy us,
But cuts short grief and Smart
That doth here annoy us;
Shuts the door on sin and sadness
And makes way for the Day
Of eternal gladness.
John Kelly in his Paul Gerhardt’s Spiritual Songs although he does not retain much of the lyric grace of the original translates the poem with scrupulous faithfulness. His stanza 8 suffers greatly by comparison with that of the Moravian version-given above.
Death can never kill us even,
From all grief
To us then is given.
It does close life’s mournful story
Make a way
That we may
Pass to heavenly glory.