Out of the Depths I Cry to You

Author: Martin Luther, 1483-1546

Luther, Martin, born at Eisleben, Nov. 10, 1483; entered the University of Erfurt, 1501 (B.A. 1502, M.A.. 1503); became an Augustinian monk, 1505; ordained priest, 1507; appointed Professor at the University of Wittenberg, 1508, and in 1512 D.D.; published his 95 Theses, 1517; and burnt the Papal Bull which had condemned them, 1520; attended the Diet of Worms, 1521; translated the Bible into German, 1521-34; and died at Eisleben, Feb. 18, 1546. The details of his life and of his work as a reformer are accessible to English readers in a great variety of forms. Luther had a huge influence on German hymnody. i. Hymn Books. 1. Ellich cristlich lider Lobgesang un Psalm. Wittenberg, 1524. [Hamburg Library.] This contains 8 German h… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord God, hear me calling
Title: Out of the Depths I Cry to You
Author: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Source: Tr. composite
Language: English
Publication Date: 2006
Copyright: © 1978, 2006 Augsburg Fortress


Aus tiefer Woth schrei ich zu dir. Martin Luther. [Ps. cxxx.] This beautiful, though free, version of Ps. cxxx. was written in 1523. Ps. cxxx. was a great favourite with Luther, one of those he called Pauline Psalms —the others being Ps. xxxii., li., and cxliii. With its versification he took special pains, and the final result ranks with the finest of German Psalm versions. It first appeared in 4 stanzas of 7 lines in Etlich cristlich lider, Wittenberg, 1524, and in Eyn Enchiridion, Erfurt, 1524. The form now in use considerably altered, and with stanza ii. rewritten as ii., iii., appeared in the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, Wittenberg, 1524, in 5 stanzas was included as No. 1 in Luther's Christliche Geseng zum Begrebnis, Wittenberg, 1542, and since in almost all German hymn-books, as recently in the Unverfälschter Liedersegen, 1851, No. 362. Both forms are included in Wackernagel’s D. Kirchenlied, iii. pp. 7-8, and in Schircks's ed. of Luther's Geistliche Lieder, 1854, pp. 66-68.
The fine melody (in the Irish Church Hymnal called De profundis; elsewhere, Luther's 130th, &c.) is possibly by Luther, and first appeared, with the 5 stanza form, in 1524.
The hymn was sung, May 9, 1525, at the funeral of the Elector Friedrich the Wise in the Court church at Wittenberg; by the weeping multitude at Halle when, on Feb. 20, 1546, Luther's body was being taken to its last resting-place at Wittenberg; and again as the last hymn in the Cathedral at Strasburg before the city was captured by the French in 1681. Stanza v. comforted the last hours of Christian, Elector of Saxony, 1591, of Johann Georg L, Elector of Saxony, 1656, and of King Friedrich I. of Prussia, 1723 (Koch, viii. 211-216).

Translations in common use:—

6. Out of the depths I cry to Thee, Lord God! oh hear my prayer. In full by Miss Winkworth in her Lyra Germanica, 1855, p. 65, and thence unaltered as No. 626 in the Wesleyan Hymn Book, 1875. The lines 1-4 of stanzas i., iii., v. form No. 548 in the American Unitarian Hymn [& Tune] Book, Boston, 1868.

7. Out of the depths I cry to Thee, Lord God, 0 hear my wailing. A good but rather free translation, as No. 215 in the New Congregational Hymn Book, 1859, and since as No. 501 in the Methodist New Congregational Hymn Book, 1863, as No. 42 in Dr. Thomas's Augustine Hymn Book, 1866, and No. 119 in the Appendix of 1874 to the Leeds Hymn Book of 1853. Of this tr. stanza ii.-v. are given in Dr. Dale's English Hymn Book , 1874, No. 483, as "Thy sovereign grace and boundless love."

9. Out of the depths I cry to Thee, Lord hear me. Full and good, as No. 40 by Miss Winkworth in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, and repeated as No. 354 in the Lutheran General Council's Church Book 1868.

Translations not in common use:—
(1) "Out of the depe cry I to the," by Bishop Coverdale, 1539 (ed. 1846, p. 577). (2) "Fra deip, O Lord, I call to the," in the Gude and Godly Ballates (ed. 1568, folio 57; ed. 1868, p. 98). (3) "Out of the deeps of long distress," by J. C. Jacobi, 1722, p. 61 (ed. 1732, p. 97, alt. and beginning "Out of the deeps of dark distress"). (4) "Guilty and vile, I call on Thee," by J. Anderson, 1846, p. 70 (1847, p. 84). (5) "From deep distress I cry to Thee, Oh," by Dr. J. Hunt, 1853, p. 102. (6) "From trouble deep I cry to Thee," by Dr. G. Macdonald in the Sunday Magazine , 1867, p. 682, and repeated altered in his Exotics , 1876, p. 101. (7) "From lowest deeps I cry, O God," by N. L. Frothingham, 1870, p. 183. (8) "From deep distress I cry to Thee; Lord listen," in the Church of England Magazine , 1872, p. 183. (9) "In deep distress I cry to Thee, Lord," in E. Walter s Martin Luther , 1884, p. 13. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

-- Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


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