German Psalmody -- By: Edward Ulback

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 095:377 (Jan 1938)
Article: German Psalmody
Author: Edward Ulback


German Psalmody

Edward Ulback

The traveler, desirous of turning aside from the great continental highways crowded with summer tourists, would do well to tarry for a while in the old imperial city of Nürnberg. Standing on one of the ancient bridges that span the clear-flowing Pegnitz, encircled by the triple wall, whose towers were once as the days of the year in number, he will seem to see again the grand heroic age, when the weak ones of the earth strove with the mighty, and counted not their lives dear if by losing them they might hold fast for their country the liberty which was their born heritage. Many a rude storm has spent its fury against those time-honored battlements. Again and again have men, fiercer than the heathen, furiously raged together to destroy once and forever that stronghold of freedom. Once at least the fate of Europe lay in the hands of the Nürnbergers; they did not fail in time of trial; the champion of Christendom found them faithful friends in his hour of need. The three-fold plague of famine, war, and pestilence could not shake their allegiance to the bravest, noblest, most true-hearted captain that ever unsheathed the sword.

Just about a century before Gustavus Adolphus saw the light, in the year 1494, on the fifth of November, the wife of a tailor living in the old Franconian city gave birth to a son, who was named after his father, Hans Sachs. Young Hans early applied himself to study, but severe illness forced him to relinquish his favorite pursuits, and adopt others, which make fewer demands upon the brain. He became a shoemaker, wisely choosing an employment which required little mental exertion. The disciples of St. Crispin have not

seldom been philosophers or poets. Most mystical of theosophists was Jacob Boehme, cordwainer, of Görlitz; most prolific of rhymesters (saving always Lope de Vega) was Hans Sachs, the “cobbler bard,” of Nürnberg.

Hans appears to have joined one of those singing clubs which had then recently been established in Mayence, Colmar, Ulm, and his native town. The simple-hearted artisans of those places, though possessing more piety than poetic talent, had a larger share in the events of the sixteenth century than is generally attributed to them. It was not merely that they cherished the social spirit in a degree which might well put the inhabitants of our modern million-peopled solitudes to shame, spite of mechanics’ institutes and popular lectures, but they were the upholders of purity of manners in a time of great and general depravity. When priests and nobles vied with each other in wickedness, the “canaille” could oppose to the manifold forms of vice only decent lives and a virtuous education. They protested, as wise men ...

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