1 From depths of woe I raise to thee
the voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
and hear my supplication:
if thou iniquities dost mark,
our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before thee?
2 To wash away the crimson stain,
grace, grace alone, availeth;
our works, alas! are all in vain;
in much the best life faileth:
no man can glory in thy sight,
all must alike confess thy might,
and live alone by mercy.
3 Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
and not in mine own merit;
on him my soul shall rest, his Word
upholds my fainting spirit:
his promised mercy is my fort,
my comfort, and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.
4 What though I wait the live-long night,
and 'til the dawn appeareth,
my heart still trusteth in his might;
it doubteth not nor feareth:
do thus, O ye of Israel's seed,
ye of the Spirit born indeed;
and wait 'til God appeareth.
5 Though great our sins and sore our woes,
his grace much more aboundeth;
his helping love no limit knows,
our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is he,
who will at last his Israel free
from all their sin and sorrow.
Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #503
Aus tiefer Woth schrei ich zu dir. Martin Luther. [Ps. cxxx.] This beautiful, though free, version of Ps. cxxx. was written in 1523. Ps. cxxx. was a great favourite with Luther, one of those he called Pauline Psalms —the others being Ps. xxxii., li., and cxliii. With its versification he took special pains, and the final result ranks with the finest of German Psalm versions. It first appeared in 4 stanzas of 7 lines in Etlich cristlich lider, Wittenberg, 1524, and in Eyn Enchiridion, Erfurt, 1524. The form now in use considerably altered, and with stanza ii. rewritten as ii., iii., appeared in the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, Wittenberg, 1524, in 5 stanzas was included as No. 1 in Luther's Christliche Geseng zum Begrebnis, Wittenberg, 1542, and since in almost all German hymn-books, as recently in the Unverfälschter Liedersegen, 1851, No. 362. Both forms are included in Wackernagel’s D. Kirchenlied, iii. pp. 7-8, and in Schircks's ed. of Luther's Geistliche Lieder, 1854, pp. 66-68.
The fine melody (in the Irish Church Hymnal called De profundis; elsewhere, Luther's 130th, &c.) is possibly by Luther, and first appeared, with the 5 stanza form, in 1524.
The hymn was sung, May 9, 1525, at the funeral of the Elector Friedrich the Wise in the Court church at Wittenberg; by the weeping multitude at Halle when, on Feb. 20, 1546, Luther's body was being taken to its last resting-place at Wittenberg; and again as the last hymn in the Cathedral at Strasburg before the city was captured by the French in 1681. Stanza v. comforted the last hours of Christian, Elector of Saxony, 1591, of Johann Georg L, Elector of Saxony, 1656, and of King Friedrich I. of Prussia, 1723 (Koch, viii. 211-216).
Translations in common use:—
5. From depths of woe I raise to Thee. Good and full by R. Massie in his M. Luther's Spiritual Songs, 1854, p. 73. Thence unaltered as No. 64 in the 1857 edition of Mercer's Church Psalm & Hymn Book (Ox. ed., 1864, No. 150), and since in the Scottish Hymnal, 1870, the Scottish Presbyterian Hymnal, 1876 (omitting stanza iv,), and the Canadian Presbyterian Hymn Book, 1880. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]
-- Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)