Feast of Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer and Frances Elizabeth Cox (September 8)   2 comments

Holy Roman Empire 1648

Above:  The Holy Roman Empire, 1648

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1967)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER (JULY 11, 1635-SEPTEMBER 8, 1699)

German Lutheran Attorney and Hymn Writer

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FRANCES ELIZABETH COX (MAY 10, 1812-SEPTEMBER 23, 1897)

English Hymn Writer and Translator

With this post I add two holy people–a pious lawyer and the translator of at least one of his hymns–to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days.

Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer (1635-1699), among the greatest hymn writers of his generation, was a native of Naumberg, Saxony, where his father was the senior burgomaster.  The saint was a capable poet from an early age.  For his literary ability he received honors from the Emperor of Austria later in life.  Sacer wrote 65 hymns, which his son-in-law published as Geistliche Liebliche Lieder (1714).  The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal (1942) described his hymns as having

poetic flow, dramatic force, euphony of expression, Scriptural content, and excellent style.

–page 573

And most of them have remained untranslated from German into English.

Sacer’s day job was usually in law, but sometimes in education.  He studied law and philosophy at the University of Jena from 1655 to 1657.  Then he tutored some young noblemen until 1665, when he started his two years of military service.  A tour (with some young noblemen from Holstein) of Denmark and Holland followed immediately upon our saint’s return to civilian life.  By 1670 he was practicing law at Brunswick.  He received his J.D. degree the following year.  Sacer relocated to Wolfenbuttel in 1683; there remained for the rest of his life.  At first he was the lawyer of the exchequer; he advanced to the position of counselor of the exchequer after seven years.  Our saint did much pro bono work for poor clients and earned a reputation as a statesman and a conscientious lawyer.

Unfortunately, only one of Sacer’s hymns seems to be in use in the English-speaking world today.  That means that up to 64 gems of Sacer’s composition are not in use in the English-speaking world.  At least we have “Lo! God to Heaven Ascendeth” (1665), which Frances Elizabeth Cox (1812-1897) translated.  It is a text for the Feast of the Ascension.

Information about the life of Ms. Cox is scarce.  I can, in fact, state just a few facts about her:

  1. She entered the world at Oxford, England, on May 10, 1812.
  2. Her father was George V. Cox.
  3. She earned her reputation as one of the finest translators of German hymns into English.
  4. One Baron Bunsen, the Prussian ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1841 to 1854, was one of her friends.  He suggested texts for her to translate.
  5. She translated about 80 texts.
  6. She published Sacred Hymns from the German (1841), containing 49 texts.
  7. She published Hymns from the German (1864), containing 56 texts.
  8. She also wrote hymns, few of which have survived.
  9. She was apparently a devout Anglican.
  10. She died at Headington, England, on September 23, 1897.

I have added three of her translations to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  Other wonderful hymn translations by Ms. Cox include:

  1. “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above” (1864),
  2. “Heavenward Still Our Pathway Leads” (1841),
  3. “Who Are These Like Stars Appearing” (1841), and
  4. “Jesus Lives! Thy Terrors Now” (1864).

These two saints left fine legacies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LEE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer, Frances Elizabeth Cox, and others,

who have composed and/or translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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2 responses to “Feast of Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer and Frances Elizabeth Cox (September 8)

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  1. Pingback: Lo, God to Heaven Ascendeth! | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: Frances Elizabeth Cox | GATHERED PRAYERS

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