1 Comfort, comfort ye My people,
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning 'neath their sorrows' load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them!
Tell her that her sins I cover
and her warfare now is over.
2 Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
blotting out each dark misdeed;
all that well deserved His anger
He no more will see nor heed.
She hath suffered many a day,
now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness
into ever-springing gladness.
3 For Elijah's voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
bidding all men to repentance,
since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey,
now prepare for God a way;
let the valley rise to meet Him,
and the hills bow down to greet Him.
4 Make ye straight what long was crooked,
make the rougher places plain,
let your hearts be true and humble,
as befits His holy reign;
for the glory of the LORD
now o'er earth is shed abroad,
and all flesh shall see the token
that His Word is never broken.
Source: Hymns to the Living God #94
|First Line:||Comfort, comfort ye my people|
|German Title:||Tröstet, tröstet meine Lieben|
|Author:||Johann Olearius (1671)|
|Liturgical Use:||Scripture Songs|
The original German text was written by Johannes Olearius in 1671 for St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24. He published it in his huge collection of hymns, Geistliche Singe-Kunst, as one of about three hundred hymns he had written (the collection contained more than twelve hundred hymns in its first edition). Catherine Winkworth translated the text into English in 1863. The hymn has four stanzas, though some hymnals omit the second, which focuses on God's wrath as punishment for sin. Some hymnals edit gently for modernization, but except for those hymnals that somewhat de-emphasize the theme of sin and God's wrath, the meaning is not significantly altered.
The tune associated with this hymn has two names: GENEVAN 42 and FREU DICH SEHR. Which title is used depends on the church tradition through which a particular hymnal acquired the tune. Those from a Reformed background call it GENEVAN 42, because it was used for Psalm 42 in the French Genevan Psalter. It is likely that Louis Bourgeois either composed or adapted this tune for the Genevan Psalter. It first appeared here in 1551. Lutherans call the tune FREU DICH SEHR because those are the opening words of a funeral hymn that this tune was paired with in Rhamba's Harmoniae sacrae (1613). J. S. Bach also used this tune in seven of his cantatas.
This hymn is usually sung during Advent, although it could also be sung for any service where the sermon is on Isaiah 40:1-5 or on John the Baptist, as was the original intent of the author. Keep a sprightly tempo to uphold the joyous nature of the text. The leader and accompanist should clearly indicate the pulse of the hymn, since it alternates regularly between two groups of three beats and three groups of two beats.
Because “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” is often sung only once a year, it might be wise to use this hymn as a prelude before the congregation is asked to sing it, for familiarity's sake and because of the shifting meter. John Ferguson has written a short, delicate setting for organ as part of his “An Advent Triptych” that could be used for an extended hymn introduction. Another more substantial setting is found in “Four Organ Preludes for Advent” by Kenneth T. Kosche. The lilting main theme of this setting recalls the hymn tune, which appears phrase by phrase. A brass quintet arrangement of FREU DICH SEHR by David Giardiniere is included in his collection “In Dulci Jubilo”. The optional organ merely supports the brass, which makes this suitable for situations where the entire quintet is not available, or where additional musical support is advisable. A congregational accompaniment for organ and handbells is found in “Festive Hymn Settings, Set 1” by Michael Burkhardt.
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org