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What had I been if Thou wert not?

What had I been if Thou wert not?

Author: Novalis (1795); Translator: Catherine Winkworth (1855)
Published in 2 hymnals

Full Text

What had I been if Thou wert not?
What were I now if Thou wert gone?
Ah, fear and anguish were my lot,
In this wide world I stood alone;
Whate'er I love were safe no more,
The future were a dark abyss;
To whom could I my sorrows pour,
If Thee my laden heart should miss?

Longing for love through lonely years,
The gloom of night came o'er my day;
I followed, yet with secret tears,
The world's wild joys, and owned her sway;
Till restless from her turmoil driven,
I turned within,--and grief was there:
Ah, had we not a Friend in heaven,
Who, who his lot on earth could bear!

But when Thou mak'st Thy presence felt,
And when the soul hath grasped Thee right,
How fast the dreary shadows melt
Beneath Thy warm and living light!
In Thee I find a nobler birth,
A glory o'er the world I see,
And paradise returns to earth,
And blooms again for us in Thee.

Thou strong and loving Son of Man,
Redeemer from the bonds of sin,
'Tis Thou the living spark dost fan
That sets my heart on fire within.
Thou openest heaven once more to men,
The soul's true home, Thy Kingdom, Lord,
And I can trust and hope again,
And feel myself akin to God.

Brethren, go forth beside all ways,
The wanderer greet with outstretched hand,
And call him back who darkly strays,
And bid him join our gladsome band.
That Heaven hath stooped to earth below,
Proclaim the glad news everywhere,
That all may learn our faith, and know
They too may find an entrance there.

Source: Lyra Germanica: The Christian Year #41

Author: Novalis

Pseudonym of Georg Friedrich Phillip von Hardenberg. Go to person page >

Translator: Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth is "the most gifted translator of any foreign sacred lyrics into our tongue, after Dr. Neale and John Wesley; and in practical services rendered, taking quality with quantity, the first of those who have laboured upon German hymns. Our knowledge of them is due to her more largely than to any or all other translators; and by her two series of Lyra Germanica, her Chorale Book, and her Christian Singers of Germany, she has laid all English-speaking Christians under lasting obligation." --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: What had I been if Thou wert not?
German Title: Was wär ich ohne dich gewesen
Author: Novalis (1795)
Translator: Catherine Winkworth (1855)
Language: English