BWV 186 Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht

Seventh Sunday after Trinity.

Poet unknown; movements 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 based on Salomo Franck, Evangelische Sonn- und Fest-Tages-Andachten (Weimar and Jena, 1717); Cf. Facs. to BWV 186a: Neumann T, p. 291.

6. Paul Speratus, verse 12 of "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her," 1524 (Wackernagel, III, #55); 11. verse 11 of the hymn.

11 July 1723, Leipzig; 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 <--- BWV 186a.

BG 37; NBA I/18.



First Part

1. Chorus (S, A, T, B)

Vex thyself, O spirit, not,
That the all-surpassing light,
God's true image shining bright,
Self in servant's form doth veil;
Vex thyself, O spirit, not!(1)

2. Recit. (B)

The servant form, the need, the wanting
Strike Christ's own members not alone,
For he, your head, himself seeks poor to be.
And is not plenty, is not surplus wealth
The barb(2) of Satan,
Which we with scruple must avoid?
In contrast, when for thee
The burden grows too heavy,
When poverty grieves thee,
When hunger thee doth waste,
And thou wouldst soon surrender,
Thou dost not think of Jesus, of thy health.
If thou just like that crowd(3) art not fed quickly,
Then sighest thou: Ah, Lord, for how long wouldst thou then forget me?

3. Aria (B)

If thou art to bring me help,
Haste thou not to stand beside me?
Now my heart is full of doubt,
Thou dost spurn perhaps my weeping;
But, O soul, thou shouldst not doubt,
Let mere reason not ensnare thee.
Thy true helper, Jacob's light,
Thou canst in the Scripture witness.

4. Recit. (T)

Ah, that a Christian so
Should for his body care!
Which is it more?
An earthly structure
Which must again to earth be changéd,
A cloak which is but lent.
He could, indeed, the finest share have chosen,
Which would his hope not e'er betray:
The soul's salvation
Which in Jesus lies.
O blessed he who him in Scripture sees,
How he through all this teaching
On all those who shall hear him
The spirit's manna sends!
Thus, when your sorrow doth your heart both gnaw and eat,
Then taste and witness yet, how kind your Jesus is.

5. Aria (T)

My Savior now appeareth
In all his works of blessing.
Since he with strength appears
To give weak souls instruction,
The weary bodies nurture,
This sates both flesh and soul.

6. Chorale (S, A, T, B)

Though it should seem he were opposed,
Be thou by this not frightened,
For where he is at best with thee,
His wont is not to show it.
His word take thou more certain still,
And though thy heart say only "No,"
Yet let thyself not shudder.

Second Part

7. Recit. (B)

The world is but a mighty wilderness,
The heavens will be stone, the earth will change to iron,
When Christians through their faith give witness
That Christ's own word is their most precious wealth;
The gift of sustenance
Almost appears to flee them,
A constant dearth gives rise to tears,
So that they but the world may all the more forsake now;
Then shall at last the Savior's word,
That greatest wealth,
Find in their hearts its place:
Yea, if he mourned his people there,
So must e'en here his heart be breaking
And over them his blessing telling.

8. Aria (S)

God's outstretched arms would clasp the wretched(4)
With mercy here and there;(5)
He gives to them of his great mercy
The greatest wealth, the word of life.

9. Recit. (A)

Now may the world with all its pleasure vanish,
And dearth straightway begin,
Yet shall the soul with joy be full.
If through this vale of tears the path's
Too hard, too long,
In Jesus' word lies health and blessing.
It is for its(6) feet a lantern and a light upon its pathways.(7)
Who faithfully through desert rides
Shall in this word find drink and food;
The Savior shall one day, the word assureth,
Him open paradise's portals,
And when their course is run,
He shall upon the faithful set their crown.

10. Aria (S, A)

O soul, let no sadness
From Jesus divide thee,
O soul, be thou true!
The crown doth await thee,
Reward of his mercy,
When thou the bonds of the body art free.

11. Chorale (S, A, T, B)

Our hope awaits the fitting time
Which God's own word hath promised.
When that shall be to give us joy
Hath God no day appointed.
He knows well when the day is best
And treats us not with cruel guile,
For this we ought to trust him.


1. Cf. Mt. 11:5.

2. Des Satans Angel 'the barb (fishhook) of Satan' is a fishing metaphor appropriate to the Gospel story, the feeding of the four thousand, Mk. 8:1-9.

3. I.e., the four thousand.

4. Note the false etymology: Armen ... umarmen.

5. I.e., both here in this world and there in the Biblical world.

6. I.e., the soul's feet.

7. Cf. Ps. 119:105.


© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose


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