BWV 138 Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Poet unknown.

1. Verse 1 of the hymn, Nürnberg, 1561, (1) with interpolated recitative; 3. verse 2 with interpolated recitative; 7. verse 3 of the hymn.

5 September 1723, Leipzig.

BG 28; NBA I/22.


1. Chorus [Verse 1] (S, A, T, B) and Recit. (A)

(S, A, T, B)
Why art thou troubled, O my heart?
Art anxious and bowed down with grief
For merely temporal worth?

(A)
Ah, I am poor,
Bowed down with heavy sorrow.
From evening until morning
Endures my wonted need.
May God forgive!
Who will me yet deliver
From out the belly of this
Malignant world?(2)
How wretchedly am I disposed!
Ah! Were I only dead!

(S, A, T, B)
Put trust in this thy Lord and God,
Who ev'rything created hath.

2. Recit. (B)

I am despised,
The Lord hath made me suffer
Upon the day of his great wrath.
Provisions for my keeping
Are rather small;
They pour for me as wine of gladness
The bitter chalice filled with tears.
How can I now my post maintain in calmness
When sighing is my portion and tears are all I have to drink?(3)

3. Chorale [Verse 2] (S, A, T, B) and Recit. (S, A)

(S, A, T, B)
He can and would thee not forsake,
He knows full well what thou dost lack;
Heaven and earth are his.

(S)
Ah! What?
God clearly careth for the kine,
He gives the birds their proper nurture,
He filleth the fledgling ravens.(4)
But I, I know not in what manner
I, wretched child,
My bit of bread shall garner;
Where is the man who will for my deliv'rance strive?

(S, A, T, B)
Thy Father and the Lord thy God,
Who stands by thee in ev'ry need.

(A)
I am forsaken,
It seems
As if e'en God himself in my poor state would hate me.
Though he hath ever meant the best for me.
Ah sorrows,
Will ye then be ev'ry morning
And ev'ry day again made new?
I cry continually ;
Ah! Poorness, cruel word!
Who will stand by me then in my distress?

(S, A, T, B)
Thy Father and the Lord thy God,
Who stands by thee in ev'ry need.

4. Recit. (T)

Ah, comfort sweet! If God will not forsake me,
And not abandon me,(5)
Then can I in repose
And patience find courage.
The world may just the same despise me,
But I will cast my sorrows
With joy upon the Lord,
If he helps not today,
He'll help me yet tomorrow.
Now I'll most gladly lay
My cares beneath my pillow
And want to know no more than this for my true comfort:

5. Aria (B)

With God stands all my confidence,
My faith shall let him govern.

    Now can no apprehension nag me,
    Nor can now any want yet plague me.
    For e'en amidst the greatest sadness
    Bides he my Father, my true gladness,
    He shall in wond'rous wise protect me.

6. Recit. (A)

Well then!
Thus I'll as well find soft repose.
My sorrows, your divorcement(6) bill receive now!
Now I can live as though in heaven.

7. Chorale [Verse 3] (S, A, T, B)

Since thou my God and Father art,
Thy child wilt thou abandon not,
A father's heart thou hast!
I am a wretched clump of earth,
On earth I know not any hope.


1. This hymn is sometimes attributed to Hans Sachs.

2. Cf. Rom. 7:24.

3. Cf. Ps. 42:3.

4. Cf. Ps. 147:9.

5. Cf. Heb. 13:5.

6. The metaphorical Scheidebrief is probably inspired by Mt. 5:31, a passage near the Gospel lection appointed for this day.


© Copyright  Z. Philip Ambrose


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