BWV 3 Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid

Second Sunday after Epiphany.

Poet unknown.

1. Martin Moller, verse 1 of the hymn, 1587, after Bernard of Clairvaux, "Jesu dulcis memoria" (Wackernagel, I, #38); 2. verse 2 with interpolated recitative; 3-5. based freely on verses 3-7, 10, 15, and 16; 6. verse 18 of the hymn.

14 January 1725, Leipzig.

BG 1; NBA I/15.


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

Ah God, how oft a heartfelt grief
Confronteth me within these days!
The narrow path is sorrow-filled
Which I to heaven travel must.

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

(S, A, T, B)
How hard it is for flesh and blood

(T)
It but for earthly goods and vain things striveth
And neither God nor heaven heedeth,
To be forced to eternal good!(1)

(A)
Since thou, O Jesus, now art all to me,
And yet my flesh so stubbornly resists.
Where shall I then my refuge take?

(S)
The flesh is weak, the spirit strong;
So help thou me, thou who my heart dost know.
To thee, O Jesus, I incline.

(B)
Who in thy help and in thy counsel trusts
Indeed hath ne'er on false foundation built;
Since thou to all the world art come to help us
And hast our flesh upon thee taken,
Thy dying shall redeem us
From everlasting ruin.
So savor now a spirit ever faithful
The Savior's graciousness and favor.

3. Aria (B)

Though I feel fear of hell and pain,
Yet must steadfast within my bosom
A truly joyful heaven be.

    I need but Jesus' name once utter,
    Who can dispel unmeasured sorrows
    As though a gentle mist dividing.

4. Recit. (T)

Though both my flesh and soul may languish,
If thou art, Jesus, mine
And I am thine,
I will not heed it.
Thy truthful mouth
And all thy boundless loving,
Which never changed abides forever,
Preserve for me that ancient bond,
Which now my breast with exultation filleth
And even fear of death, the grave's own terror, stilleth.
Though dearth and famine soon from ev'ry side oppress,
My Jesus will my wealth and treasure be.

5. Aria (S, A)

When sorrow round me presses,
I will with joyfulness
My song lift unto Jesus.

    My cross doth Jesus carry,
    So I'll devoutly say now:
    It serves me best in ev'ry hour.(2)

6. Chorale [Verse 18] (S, A, T, B)

If thou my heart in faith keep pure,
I'll live and die in thee alone.
Jesu, my strength, hear my desire,
O Savior mine, I'd be with thee.



1. An alternate version of this line from a Dresden hymnbook of 1725 is cited by Neumann: sich zwingen zu dem ewgen Gut., which avoids the heterodyne accentuation of Bach's text.

2. This line is verbatim from the hymn.

© Copyright  Z. Philip Ambrose


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