13 Jul “Be Still, My Soul” | Music Mondays
“Be Still, My Soul”
The formation of “Be Still, My Soul” as it appears in [most hymnals] covers three countries – Germany, Scotland, and Finland – and well over 100 years.
Little is known about the author of this hymn. Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel was born in 1697. Other than she was connected with a small court at Köthen, north of Halle, in Germany, little is known of her life. The hymn comes to us via [an English] translation by Jane L. Borthwick (1813-1897), a member of the Free Church of Scotland.
The tune FINLANDIA complements this stirring poem wonderfully. The melody comes from a symphonic tone poem by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) by the name of Finlandia, Op. 26. Sibelius wrote it as a patriotic offering in 1899 reflecting portions of Finnish history. Out of agitated and tumultuous opening music, symbolizing the struggles of the Finnish people, emerges the serenity of the hymn-like melody we know as FINLANDIA, symbolizing hope and resolution.
Finally, David Evans (1874-1948), a Welsh Oxford-trained organist-choirmaster and music professor, matched the translation with the tune for the Revised Church Hymnary (London, 1927). This pairing was brought to the United States when it was used in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. for The Hymnal (1933).
-Dr. Michael Hawn
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.