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Christian Singers Of Germany by Catherine Winkworth

Johann Frank

The other is that of Johann Frank (1618-1677), who ranks only second to Gerhardt as a hymn-writer, and with him marks the transition from the earlier to the later school of German religious poetry. In the former, the congregational hymn -- |the church-song| as Germans call it -- had furnished the type for all compositions of this class, even for those, like the |Ode| of Gryphius given above, which were not meant for church use. Hence it was required that the poem should be capable of being set to music, and should embody such phases of feeling and experience as might fairly be attributed to any large gathering of sincere Christians. These conditions necessitated a certain compression and finish in form, and a certain breadth and vigour in thought; but they also excluded much both in rhythm and sentiment which might legitimately claim a place in Christian poetry. From this time onwards a more personal and individual tone is to be remarked even in congregational hymns, and with it a tendency to reproduce special forms of Christian experience, often of a mystical character. Gerhardt stands precisely on the culminating point between the two schools. His whole tone and style of thought belong to the elder school, but the distinct individuality and expression of personal sentiment which are impressed on his poems already point to the newer. Frank stands near him, but on the side of the newer school; his leading thought is the union of the soul with its Redeemer; |that Christ be in you the hope of glory| is the keynote of his hymns. The style both of his religious and secular poetry is curiously unlike what we should have anticipated from the little we know of his life. He was the son of an advocate in the little town of Güben in Saxony. Having lost his father early, he was brought up by relations, who sent him to the university of Königsberg when Simon Dach and his friends were living there; he travelled a little, and then settled down as an advocate in Güben, and became successively councillor, burgomaster of the town, and representative of the province. It sounds like the career of a diligent, sensible, quiet German citizen, but he was also one of the principal poets of the day, and a very voluminous one. His secular poems, like those of his contemporary George Neumarck, belong to the pastoral school, and are long-winded and affected to an extraordinary degree. His religious songs, on the other hand, published in 1674 under the title of the |Spiritual Zion,| are remarkably fine; condensed, and polished in style, with a fervid and impassioned movement of thought. The following is one of his most celebrated hymns, but from its peculiar metre it loses much in translation: --
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