Not Just a One-Hit Wonder by Ken Myers

From Heavenly Harmony

Not Just a One-Hit Wonder

by Ken Myers

If the name of the composer Hans Leo Hassler is recognized at all, it is probably in connection with a melody frequently sung and heard during Holy Week. In hymnals, the tune is often identified as the Passion Chorale, and it is the melody to which we sing the Passiontide hymn, “O sacred Head, now wounded.” The tune first appeared in print in 1601, in a collection of secular songs by Hassler. The text that originally accompanied that tune was a wistful five-stanza song of unrequited love, Mein G’muth ist mir verwirret. The opening lines of that sad ballad lamented: “My mind’s confused within me, made thus by a tender maiden. I am utterly astray. My heart hurts badly.” And so on, for five anguished stanzas.

Ten years after that song was published, the melody was appropriated for use with another downcast poem, this time an eleven-stanza Lutheran hymn, Herzlich tut mich verlangen, “My heart is filled with longing.” The grief in this case was a response to severe physical torment and a sense of futility occasioned by an outbreak of plague. The poet longs to leave the prison of all-too-mortal flesh and be united with God, clothed in a body “transfigured in beauty through Christ.” The melody that Hassler wrote with the intent of expressing the melancholy of failed romance was repurposed to convey a much deeper hope within the context of a more severe suffering.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also served as editor of Eternity, the Evangelical monthly magazine, and This World, the quarterly predecessor to First Things. He also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.


more on music from the online archives

33.3—May/June 2020

Consolation in Death

Bach's Cantata BWV 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbesteZeit (God's time is the very best time) by Ken Myers

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

30.2—March/April 2017

Keep Them from Idols

The Education of Children Takes Generations of Fidelity by W. Ross Blackburn

19.8—October 2006

The Best Fears of Our Lives

on the Good Father’s Quiet Desperation by Russell D. Moore

18.6—Nov/Dec 2005

Lesson Plan

on Fifteen Principles of Christian Parenting by Paige Patterson

00