261. Lord, We Cry to You for Help

Text Information
First Line: Lord, we cry to you for help
Title: Lord, We Cry to You for Help
Author: Ulrich Zwingli (1529)
Translator: Helen A. Dickinson (1940, alt.)
Meter: 77 77
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ;
Topic: Sickness & Health; Will of God; Confession and Forgiveness (6 more...)
Copyright: Text and harmonization © 1940, 1968, H. W. Gray Co., Inc.
Tune Information
Harmonizer: Clarence Dickinson (1940, alt.)
Composer: Ulrich Zwingli (1529)
Meter: 77 77
Key: E♭ Major
Copyright: Text and harmonization © 1940, 1968, H. W. Gray Co., Inc.

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Ps. 6:2-4, Ps. 102:1-2
st. 2 = Ps. 51:1,4, Ps. 123:3 (Kyrie)
st. 3 = Ps. 51:7, 10, 12, Ps. 143:8, 11
st. 4 = Ps. 102:12-22, Ps. 143:11-12

Although Ulrich Zwingli's famous Swiss battle hymn, "Herr, nun heb den Wagen selb!" originally written in three stanzas, is usually dated 1529, Markus Jenny, a Zwingli scholar, thinks Zwingli must have composed it in 1525 or 1526. The English text in the Psalter Hymnal is a loose translation by Helen A. Dickinson (b. Port Elmsley, ON, Canada, 1875; d. Tucson, AR, 1957). She deleted a "chariot" image, inserted a kyrie ("Lord, have mercy on us," st. 2), and changed the character of the hymn from a battle song into a more general lament and prayer for peace. The resulting text is a prayer similar to the penitential psalms (especially Ps. 51), which usually include a cry for help, healing, or peace (st. 1); confession of sin (st. 2); a prayer for purity or cleansing (st. 3); and a prayer for God's glory or victory (st. 4). For further commentary on the penitential psalms, see PHH 6, 32, 38, 51,102,130, and 143.

Zwingli (b. Wildhaus, Switzerland, 1484; d. Kappel, Switzerland, 1531) was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church after study in Vienna and Basel. He served briefly as a chaplain in the Swiss army and in 1518 became priest of the Great Church in Zurich, a position he retained for the rest of his life. Zwingli's rift with Rome was a gradual process. Influenced more by Erasmus than by Luther, he first began preaching against some of the abuses in the church and then developed his own theological views based on Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers. By 1519 he was preaching against purgatory and praying to the saints. In 1522 he advocated freedom from the papacy and caused the Zurich church to abolish the Mass in 1525. Eventually the break with Rome was complete–the Zurich church and several of the other cantons became Protestant. However, some of the Swiss cantons remained loyal to Rome, and a military struggle ensued–the Forest Cantons attacked the Zurich forces. In the battle at Kappel the Zurich army was routed, and Zwingli, the banner-bearing chaplain, was killed.

In matters of worship Zwingli is of interest especially on two issues. He disagreed with both Calvin and Luther as far as the Lord's Supper was concerned, believing it to be strictly a memorial meal rather than a means of grace. However, in his later writings he acknowledges the "spiritual presence" of Christ in the Supper. His view on church music also set him apart from the other reformers. Zwingli was a fine singer, instrumentalist, and composer. He encouraged singing in his home, but he came to the conclusion that singing during public worship was not appropriate. He banned not only choral and instrumental music but congregational singing as well, believing that the emphasis in the liturgy ought to be on silent, spiritual worship. For Zwingli, music was largely a physical activity with great psychological power, which would distract from spiritual worship.

Liturgical Use:
Service of confession and forgiveness, as with the penitential psalms; as a prayer for deliverance and for peace.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Zwingli arranged HERR, NUN HEB from a folk melody; thus it is a contrafactum (in other words, adapted from a folk/ court setting for use in worship). The tune is named after the opening words of Zwingli's text. HERR, NUN HEB consists of four lines: lines 2 and 3 are identical, but the opening and closing lines provide a suitable contrast to that repetition. The Psalter Hymnal setting deleted an extended melisma from the final line. Sing this tune quietly in unison or in parts, but increase volume and strength on the final stanza.

Clarence Dickinson (b. Lafayette, IN, 1873; d. New York, NY, 1969) harmonized the tune, and it was published as a setting for his wife's English paraphrase in a choral anthem in 1940. They often collaborated on hymns and anthems, with Helen providing texts and Clarence composing the music. Their most significant collaboration and lasting contribution was the establishment of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary. Clarence served as professor of music and served as its long-time director. Earlier he had studied at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, as well as in Berlin and Paris. As a church organist he served St. James Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the Presbyterian Brick Church in New York. Editor of the Presbyterian The Hymnal (1933), Dickinson composed music for organ and choir; many anthems had texts written by his wife.

For her part, Helen Dickinson was educated at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, and at the University of Heidelberg, where she was the first woman student to be admitted to the doctoral program in philosophy. She devoted much of her life to lecturing and publishing about church art and architecture and the history of church music, including A Treasury of Worship. In 1946 Clarence and Helen Dickinson were both honored as Fellows of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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