This hymn and the previous one (the prayer for a pious mate) are part of a single concept - a kind of extended litany about the times of life that people generally experience, and the added meaning Christ brings to them. Because the idea of a litany came to me early in the planning process for this series of hymns (and there will be a least a couple more), I'm planning to set each one to a different tune in the same meter, as it were, the "litany" meter (126.96.36.199.). In fact, two of the eight tunes I have curated in that meter are titled LITANY, and more than one of them have been paired with a hymn that has the general character of a litany: an extended prayer calling on God for mercy in a full range of contexts. The tune, in this instance, is SCHEFFLER, from the 1657 book Heilige Seelenlust by Johann Scheffler (a.k.a. Angelus Silesius), whose conversion (only four years earlier) from Lutheranism to Catholicism led many Protestant hymnals to downplay his authorship of the hymns they took from him - a testimony not only to the offense caused by his caustic invective against the Reformation, but also to the undeniable beauty and devotional value of his hymns, such as "Come, follow Me, the Savior spake" and "Where wilt Thou go, since night draws near." Without embarrassment, I give him full credit for publishing the first known instance of this tune.*
In the blessed Virgin’s womb,
Sown to reap the serpent’s doom:
Help all hopeful parents.
2. From her first, unconscious glow,
Guard the mother’s embryo;
Health and cheer on both bestow,
3. Shelter, like a precious flame,
New life’s miracle, and tame,
By the music of Your name,
Two hearts’ clashing rhythms.
4. If their term be fraught with pain,
Send your servants to sustain
Their endurance, lest in vain,
Father, they may suffer.
5. Should You, in mysterious love,
Summon one or both above,
Give us the conviction of
6. Comes the grueling time of birth,
Ease her pain with love and mirth;
Introduce her child to earth,
Cradled in Your mercy.
7. Bless them with the means to live;
Willing hands, relief to give;
Faith, to share the hope of Eve
In Your gospel promise.
8. By baptism, soon unite,
Christ, to You that little mite;
Death and darkness change to light
And to life eternal.
*Extra credit: This may be the first hymn in history to incorporate a line that its author initially thought of adding as a joke at the expense of its own tune. Have you spotted it?
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