Last week my beloved aunt Carolyn Wedin died. Today at her funeral, we are singing a hymn that she helped me translate. I wrote about the song before on this blog, but that was part of a train of thought linking back to this one and this one as well as forward to this one. It’s too convoluted for a direct approach to the song needed today.
I should say that Carolyn’s role was not so direct as to give her credit or blame as co-author. That goes triple for my commentaries. However, we often collaborated on similar projects—fashioning Scandinavian songs into singable English lyrics. She had a huge hand in the project that started me down this road, which was to translate “Halsa Dem Darhemma”—a cry in your beer song about Swedish immigrants remembering their homeland. I sang that song at my mom’s funeral, and for a time I thought I might play it for Carolyn, too, although we switched to the hymn.
You can read about the hymn in far more detail using the above links, but a short version is this. There are two key European lyrics, not just one, for the tune typically sung in English as “Beautiful Savior” or “Fairest Lord Jesus.” One leads back to Germany, and the standard English version follows it.
Another is Danish, by B.S. Ingemann, and I like it quite a bit better. Other people have created solid English versions—an excellent place to approach the history is here—but I wondered if I could do any better. It is not for me to judge whether I managed that, but I did came up with something that may be worth sharing. I know that Carolyn liked it. Here is my loose paraphrase, which aims less for literal precision than for flow in singing.
This earth is beautiful
Strong and pure the skies above
Filled with the songs of our pilgrim choir
Rising falling empires
We move with song toward paradise
Hard times will surely come
Waves of time roll over us
Like our elders, we too must pass
Always we hear the sound
Ringing true through all our strife
To train our ears and guide our path
Angels once taught this song
Shepherds learned it in the night
Still it sounds from soul to soul
Peace to a broken world
Joy to all broken hearts
The grace of God proclaimed for all.
Here it is again in a pdf file version. Most standard hymnbooks have the music.
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