O sacred head now wounded

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1 O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory
and blessing you have known!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I claim you as my own.

2 My Lord, what you did suffer
was all for sinner's gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but yours the deadly pain.
So here I kneel, my Savior,
for I deserve your place;
look on me with thy favor
and save me by your grace.

3 What language shall I borrow
to thank you, dearest Friend,
for this, your dying sorrow,
your pity without end?
Lord, make me yours forever,
a loyal servant true,
and let me never, never
outlive my love to you.

Source: Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #168

Author (attributed to): Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux, saint, abbot, and doctor, fills one of the most conspicuous positions in the history of the middle ages. His father, Tecelin, or Tesselin, a knight of great bravery, was the friend and vassal of the Duke of Burgundy. Bernard was born at his father's castle on the eminence of Les Fontaines, near Dijon, iu Burgundy, in 1091. He was educated at Chatillon, where he was distinguished for his studious and meditative habits. The world, it would be thought, would have had overpowering attractions for a youth who, like Bernard, had all the advantages that high birth, great personal beauty, graceful manners, and irresistible influence could give, but, strengthened in the resolve by night visions of his mother (who had dies! in… Go to person page >

Author (attributed to): Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville

(no biographical information available about Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville.) Go to person page >

Author (German version): Paul Gerhardt

Gerhardt, Paulus, son of Christian Gerhardt, burgomaster of Gräfenhaynichen, near Wittenberg, was born at Grafenhaynichen, Mar. 12, 1607. On January 2, 1628, he matriculated at the University of Wittenberg. In the registers of St. Mary's church, Wittenberg, his name appears as a godfather, on July 13, 1641, described still as "studiosus," and he seems to have remained in Wittenberg till at least the end of April, 1642. He appears to have gone to Berlin in 1642 or 1643, and was there for some time (certainly after 1648) a tutor in the house of the advocate Andreas Barthold, whose daughter (Anna Maria, b. May 19, 1622, d. March 5, 1668) became his wife in 1655. During this period he seems to have frequently preached in Berlin. He was appoint… Go to person page >

Alterer: James W. Alexander

Alexander, James Waddell, D.D., son of Archibald Alexander, D.D., b. at Hopewell, Louisa, county of Virginia, 13 Mar., 1804, graduated at Princeton, 1820, and was successively Professor of Rhetoric at Princeton, 1833; Pastor of Duane Street Presbyterian Church, New York, 1844; Professor of Church History, Princeton, 1849; and Pastor of 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, 1851; d. at Sweetsprings, Virginia, July 31, 1859. His works include Gift to the Afflicted, Thoughts on Family Worship, and others. His Letters were published by the Rev. Dr. Hall, in 2 vols., some time after his death, and his translations were collected and published at New York in 1861, under the title, The Breaking Crucible and other Translations. Of these transla… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: O sacred head, now wounded
Title: O sacred head now wounded
German Title: O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
Author (attributed to): Bernard of Clairvaux
Author (attributed to): Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville
Alterer: James W. Alexander (1829)
Author (German version): Paul Gerhardt
Meter: D
Source: Salve caput cruentatum, Latin
Language: English
Notes: Paul Gerhardt translated "Salve caput cruentatum," the seventh section of the Latin poem "Salve mundi salutare," into German as "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden." James W. Alexander then translated the German into the English "O Sacred Head Now Wounded."
Copyright: Public Domain


Scripture References:
st. 1 = Matt 27:29, Mark 15:17-18, John 19:2-3, Isa. 53:3-5

Originally from a Latin poem beginning "Salve mundi salutare" and attributed to either Bernard of Clairvaux (twelfth century) or Arnulf von Loewen (thirteenth century), "O Sacred Head" is one of seven sections to be used for meditation during Holy Week. Each section focuses on one aspect of Christ's dying body.

Paul Gerhardt (PHH 331) translated the seventh section ("Salve caput cruentatum"), which addresses Christ's head, into German ("O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"). His ten-stanza translation was published in Johann Crüger's (PHH 42) Praxis Pietatis Melica (1656).

The English translation is mainly the work of James W. Alexander (b. Hopewell, Louisa County, VA, 1804; d. Sweetsprings, VA, 1859). It was published in Joshua Leavitt's The Christian Lyre (1830) and revised by Henry W. Baker (PHH 342) for Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). Alexander was often overshadowed by his father, the renowned Archibald Alexander, first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. But James Alexander was also a fine preacher, teacher, and writer. He studied at New Jersey College (now Princeton University) and Princeton Seminary. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church, he alternated his career between teaching and pastoring; for two years (1849-1851) he was professor of ecclesiastical history and church government at Princeton Seminary. Alexander translated a number of hymns from Greek, Latin, and German but is mainly known today for his translation of "O Sacred Head."

"O Sacred Head" has enjoyed great popularity since 1656; the hymn appears in all modern hymnals, in many languages and translations, and with various numbers of stanzas. Deeply devotional, the text makes a very personal application of Christ's atoning death (st. 1-2) and confesses our gratitude and commitment to Christ (st. 3).

Liturgical Use:
Good Friday

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



The tune HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN has been associated with Gerhardt's text ["O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"] since they were first published together in 1656. The tune's first association with a sacred text was its attachment in 1913 [sic: should read 1613] to Christoph Knoll's funeral text "Herzl…

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