Now God Be With Us

Canada is in mourning. Most of my Christian friends are in mourning. You can hardly blame them. Canada has only one main media outlet (and a state-sponsored one at that), so their grasp of the US election is, shall we say, superficial.

To be honest, my own grasp of the election has been superficial. I didn’t vote this year. Both candidates looked so bad back in June that I couldn’t bring myself to send in the paperwork for an absentee ballot.

But as we are now slowly finding out, everyone’s grasp of the election has been superficial. In fact, everyone’s grasp of the last eight years has been superficial. Over the weekend I finally went slogging into the cesspool of documents clogging the pipes at Wikileaks. I found nasty things within only a few minutes of looking. I don’t need to say what they are, because they’re only what independent journalists have already been divulging to us… with less exaggeration than one could have hoped.

Nobody, as far as I can tell, is enthusiastic about our president-elect. His chief virtue is that he is not our former secretary of state. But, as Wikileaks increasingly reveals: what a virtue.

What is one to do with times like these? There are days when all options seem bad. But times like these have come before. For some reason, they seem to have come especially to the Germans. Or, rather, perhaps the German propensity for Angst just made them more adept at verbally responding to such times.

I’ve already posted hymns here from Paul Gerhardt and Johannes Scheffler, all written during the troubles of this life. Here is a poem from another German, Petrus Herbert. It’s an evening poem (but when is the world not drawing near to its evening?), and it is as thorough as you could wish in its prayers for the world and all men.

*        *        *       *        *

Now God Be With Us

Now God be with us, for the night is closing:
The light and darkness are of His disposing,
And ’neath His shadow here to rest we yield us,
For He will shield us.

Let evil thoughts and spirits flee before us;
Till morning cometh, watch, O Master, o’er us;
In soul and body Thou from harm defend us,
Thine angels send us.

Let holy thoughts be ours when sleep o’ertakes us,
Our earliest thoughts be Thine when morning wakes us,
All day to serve Thee, in all that we are doing,
Thy praise pursuing.

As Thy belovèd, soothe the sick and weeping,
And bid the prisoner lose his griefs in sleeping;
Widows and orphans, we to Thee commend them,
Do Thou befriend them.

We have no refuge, none on earth to aid us,
Save Thee, O Father, who Thine own hast made us;
But Thy dear presence will not leave them lonely
Who seek Thee only.

Father, Thy name be praised, Thy kingdom given,
Thy will be done on earth as ’tis in Heaven;
Keep us in life, forgive our sins, deliver
Us now and ever!

~ Petrus Herbert (1566), trans. Catherine Winkworth (1863)


About middlingpoet

From the Gawain poet to Rainer Maria Rilke: I love traditional poetry.
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