Ah, holy Jesu, how hast thou offended

Ah, holy Jesu, how hast thou offended. Johann Heermann* (1585-1647), translated by Robert Bridges* (1844-1930).

From the Yattendon Hymnal, Part II (1897). This is Bridges’s translation of ‘Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen’*, first published in Heermann’s Devoti Musica Cordis (Leipzig and Breslau, 1630) together with its tune, HERZLIEBSTER JESU. This was itself a translation of a text at one time attributed to St Augustine* and then to St Anselm, but now thought to be by Jean de Fécamp*. The Latin began ‘Quid commisisti, dulcissime puer, ut sic judicareris?’

Bridges followed Heermann for the first three verses, though loosely (there is no equivalent in line 1 for ‘herzliebster’/ ‘dulcissime’ - most beloved/ most sweet). The two final verses are Bridges’s continuation of the idea: he said that ‘the weak apologetic latter half’ was ‘out of key with the pathetic grief of the beginning’. Like most of Bridges’s texts, this has been subject to much alteration, often of doubtful quality, from ‘Jesus’ (instead of the original ‘Jesu’) onwards. It is a magnificent hymn for Passion-tide, and is found in most 20th-century British hymnbooks, from EH (1906) onwards, and in American Episcopal books from 1916 to the present. It is in UMH and in VU (in the ‘you’ form).


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