Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness

Text: Johann Franck (1618-1677)
Music: Johann Crüger (1598-1662)
Tune name: SCHMÜCKE DICH

 

THE TEXT

This is one of many German hymns translated into English by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). The complete text (with nine stanzas) first appeared in a 1653 Gesangbuch published by Johann Crüger, who wrote the tune. Franck practiced law for many years and held many civil posts including mayor of Guben. He wrote about 110 hymns, and was one of the most noted poets of his day.

In his classic text, A Dictionary of Hymnology (2nd. ed. 1907), John Julian summarized the text of this hymn as

an exhortation to the soul to arise and draw near to partake of the Heavenly Food and to meditate on the wonders of Heavenly Love; ending with a prayer for final reception at the Eternal Feast.

THE TUNE

Johann Crüger composed this tune especially for Franck’s text (which is actually a rather uncommon practice in hymn history). It is in bar form (AABC), and evokes the holy delight described in the hymn’s text.

Johann Sebastian Bach used this melody (and Franck’s text) in three of the movements in Cantata #180, Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele. Here is the final chorale from that cantata, performed by the Gabrieli Consort and Players, conducted by Paul McCreesh.

Bach also based his chorale prelude, Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (BWV 654) on this melody. That piece is played here by organist Ton Koopman.

 

“Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness” sung by
the All Saints Choir, Wallace Hornady, organ