BWV 204 Ich bin in mir vergnügt

Von der Vergnügsamkeit

Occasion unknown.

Christian Friedrich Hunold, a contamination of two works from Academische Neben-Stunden allerhand neuer Gedichte (Halle and Leipzig, 1713): Der vergnügte Mensch and Cantata/ Von der Zufriedenheit, with lines 3ff. of Movement 7 and Movement 8 from an unknown source; Facs: Neumann T, p. 263.

1726 or 1727; Parody: 8 ---> BWV 216/3.

BG 11, 2; NBA I/40.



On Contentment

1. Recit. (S)

I am content within, let someone else be anxious,
Although he will thereby not fill his sack or belly.
Though I'm not rich and great, in majesty but faint,
Yet my contented state is time in me well spent.
I praise nought of mine own: a fool his own bells stirreth;(1)
I'll keep a quiet tongue, while frantic hounds are baying.
I'll tend to mine affairs, let go their merry way
Who in their idleness are filled with happiness.
As for mine own desire, it is desire to conquer;
I do not fear distress or search for vain possessions.
Fallen man can go to Eden once again
And find in fortune's fill e'en earthly happiness.(2)

2. Aria (S)

With one's self to rest contented
Is the world's most precious gift.

    Nought enjoyeth, who enjoyeth
    What this earthly ball encloseth
    And a wretched heart doth own.

3. Recit. (S)

Ye spirits, ye who've lost your way
And ever run amok
And for mere wealth's illusive realm
The riches of your soul would sell;
Concupiscence's great might doth captive hold:
Just search ye through the whole wide world!
Ye search for what ye cannot gain thee,
And gain it, find in it no pleasure;
If please you, will it soon betray you
And must at last like dust be scattered.
Who treasure doth in others find
Is to the merchant like,
From others' fortune rich.
With him is wealth of little worth:
For if he is not bankrupt oft in fact,
He is forever anxious that he may gain this woe.
Wealth, pleasure, rank
Are not fair
Midst one's possessions to be valued,
But with brave purpose to disdain them
Is best without compare.

4. Aria (S)

The precious goods of earth's expanses,
Let this my spirit leave in peace.

    To him will ever heaven come
    Who can in poverty be wealthy.

5. Recit. (S)

It is most hard, when idle wealth possessing,
Lest one with love for it, forbidden love, be kindled;
But harder is it yet,
Lest one be vexed by sorrow's heavy weight
Ere(3) come that pleasure which with ease
Is there for taking;
And if it cease
Just like the world and all its beauty's course,
Then take a hundred cares its place.
To go inside myself,
To seek within,
And, feeling not the flame of guilt,
Toward heaven having turned my face,
That is my fill of pleasure,
And heaven will provide it.
The mussel opens up when sunbeams dance upon it,
Revealing in itself the pearly fruit:
So seek thou but thy heart to open up to heaven
And thou shalt through its godly light
A jewel, too, be given,
Which all the treasures of the earth
No power hath to purchase.

6. Aria (S)

Let my spirit be content
With whatever God ordains.

    This world's ocean to have fathomed
    Is a vain and dangerous thing,
    In ourselves must we discover
    Pearls of our contentedness.

7. Recit. and Arioso (S)

A noble man is like the pearly conch,
Within most often rich,

Who seeks not for high position
And the world's assorted fame;
Though I have no country villa
God shall be my residence.(4)

Why should one seek great possessions
Or seek money, precious rot;
What's that at his riches tapping:
All will stay here in the world!

Who would fly to lofty breezes?
My mind striveth not thereto;
I would up to heaven journey,
That is my reward and lot.

To rely on friends is hopeless,
Most are fickle as can be.
I would sooner trust the breezes
Than in friends when I'm in need.

Were I just to live for pleasure,
Thrall alone to idleness,
I'd be e'er in fear suspended
And create mine own distress.

All that time doth own will vanish,
The outset reveals the end;(5)
Some things live while others perish,
Soon destruction is at hand.

8. Aria (S)

Heavenly contentedness,
Ev'ry heart to thee devoted
Liveth /bideth/ always free from sadness
And enjoys a golden age,
Heavenly contentedness.

O divine contentedness,
Thou, thou makest rich the poor,
Even unto to princes like;
I'll devote to thee my breast,
O divine contentedness.


1. This probably alludes to the Schellenkappe 'cap of fools' to which bells were tied (cf. BWV 201/13).

2. Bach's omission of the antecedent of Der leaves these last two lines in some confusion. The last three lines of the PT are as follows:

    Die Demuth liebt mich selbst; wer es so weit kan bringen,
    Der gehet nach dem Fall in Eden wieder ein,
    Und kan in allem Glück auch irdisch seelig seyn.

    Humility loves me; whoever can attain this
    Will after the great fall to Eden go again
    And find in fortune's fill e'en earthly happiness.

3. BG has Ja ein Vergnügen, "Yea, any pleasure," but this makes no real improvement to the apparent ellipsis of some verb like kommt in the PT.

4. This is the first of six four-line trochaic stanzas which Bach's unknown librettist adds to Hunold's work. It is in the moralizing style popular in Bach's day and in a tradition reaching back to the Odes of Horace.

5. I.e., as man began in corruption, so will he end in corruption.
Although the meter of the text is trochaic, Bach treats the first foot of this line muscially as an iamb so as to correct the accentuation of Anfang. The translation, thus, begins with an iamb.


© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose


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