Text:O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
Translator (English):James W. Alexander
Translator (German):Paul Gerhardt
Adapter and Harmonizer:Johann S. Bach
Composer:Hans L. Hassler
Media:MIDI file

383. O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

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1 O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory
and blessing you have known!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I claim you as my own.

2 My Lord, what you did suffer
was all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but yours the deadly pain.
So here I kneel, my Savior,
for I deserve your place;
look on me with your favor
and save me by your grace.

3 What language shall I borrow
to thank you, dearest Friend,
for this, your dying sorrow,
your mercy without end?
Lord, make me yours forever,
a loyal servant true,
and let me never, never
outlive my love for you.

Text Information
First Line: O sacred head, now wounded
Title: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
Original Language: German
Translator (German): Paul Gerhardt (1656)
Translator (English): James W. Alexander (1830, alt.)
Meter: 76 76 D
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ;
Topic: Cross of Christ; Epiphany & Ministry of Christ; Love: Our Love to God (6 more...)
Source: Latin, medieval
Tune Information
Adapter and Harmonizer: Johann S. Bach (1729)
Composer: Hans L. Hassler (1601)
Meter: 76 76 D
Key: a minor
Source: St. Matthew's Passion, 1729, in

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Matt 27:29, Mark 15:17-18, John 19:2-3, Isa. 53:3-5

Originally from a Latin poem beginning "Salve mundi salutare" and attributed to either Bernard of Clairvaux (twelfth century) or Arnulf von Loewen (thirteenth century), "O Sacred Head" is one of seven sections to be used for meditation during Holy Week. Each section focuses on one aspect of Christ's dying body.

Paul Gerhardt (PHH 331) translated the seventh section ("Salve caput cruenta¬turn"), which addresses Christ's head, into German ("O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"). His ten-stanza translation was published in Johann Crüger's (PHH 42) Praxis Pietatis Melica (1656).

The English translation is mainly the work of James W. Alexander (b. Hopewell, Louisa County, VA, 1804; d. Sweetsprings, VA, 1859). It was published in Joshua Leavitt's The Christian Lyre (1830) and revised by Henry W. Baker (PHH 342) for Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). Alexander was often overshadowed by his father, the renowned Archibald Alexander, first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. But James Alexander was also a fine preacher, teacher, and writer. He studied at New Jersey College (now Princeton University) and Princeton Seminary. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church, he alternated his career between teaching and pastoring; for two years (1849-1851) he was professor of ecclesiastical history and church government at Princeton Seminary. Alexander translated a number of hymns from Greek, Latin, and German but is mainly known today for his translation of "O Sacred Head."

"O Sacred Head" has enjoyed great popularity since 1656; the hymn appears in all modern hymnals, in many languages and translations, and with various numbers of stanzas. Deeply devotional, the text makes a very personal application of Christ's atoning death (st. 1-2) and confesses our gratitude and commitment to Christ (st. 3).

Liturgical Use:
Good Friday

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

The tune HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN has been associated with Gerhardt's text since they were first published together in 1656. The tune's first association with a sacred text was its attachment in 1913 [sic: should read 1613] to Christoph Knoll's funeral text "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" (hence the tune name). It was originally a court song by the great Renaissance composer Hans Leo Hassler (b. Nuremberg, Germany, 1564; d. Frankfurt, Germany, 1612), published in his Lustgarten neuer teutscher Gesäng (1601).

Hassler came from a family of famous musicians. He received his early education from his father in Nuremberg, then studied in Venice with Andrea Gabrieli and became friends with Giovanni Gabrieli. In Venice he learned the polychoral style, for which the Gabrielis were justly famous, and brought this practice back with him to Germany. Hassler served as organist and composer for Octavian Fugger, the princely art patron of Augsburg (1585-1601), as director of town music and organist in the Frauenkirche in Nuremberg (1601-1608), and finally as court musician for the Elector of Saxony in Dresden (1608-1612). A Lutheran, Hassler composed for both the Roman Catholic liturgy and for Lutheran churches. Among his many works are two volumes of motets (1591, 1601), a famous collection of court songs, Lustgarten neuer Deutscher Gesang (1601), chorale motets, Psalmen und christliche Gesänge (1607), and a volume of simpler hymn settings, Kirchengesänge, Psalmen und geistliche Lieder (1608).

The isorhythmic (all equal rhythms) setting was adapted from one of the harmonizations composed by Johann S. Bach (PHH 7) for his St. Matthew Passion (1729). Many composers have written organ music based on this tune; various melodic and rhythmic versions exist.

HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN (also known as ACH HERR, MICH ARMEN SUNDER, and PASSION CHORALE) is a bar form tune (AAB) with a glorious melody whose beauty has done much to fit the private devotional text onto the lips of congregations. Sing stanzas 1 and 3 in unison and stanza 2 in harmony (possibly unaccompanied with a confident congregation or choir). Keep a subdued registration on the organ and always accompany at a sustained pace.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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