Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, Die Gemeine1
der Heiligen sollen2 ihn loben. Israel freue sich
des, der ihn gemacht hat. Die Kinder Zion sei'n
fröhlich über ihren3 Könige, sie sollen loben
seinen Namen in4 Reihen; mit Pauken und mit
Harfen sollen sie ihm spielen.5
Sing to the Lord a new song. The congregations6 of
saints shall praise him. Let Israel rejoice in the one
who has made him. Let the children of Zion be joyful
by way of7 their king; they shall praise his name in
ring dancing; with drums and with harps they shall
play to him.
Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet
Über seine junge Kinderlein,
So tut der Herr uns allen,
So wir ihn kindlich fürchten rein.
Er kennt das arm Gemächte,
Gott weiss, wir sind nur Staub,
Gleichwie das Gras vom Rechen,
Ein Blum und fallend Laub.
Der Wind nur drüber wehet,
So ist es nicht mehr da,
Also der Mensch vergehet,
Sein End, das ist ihm nah.

   Gott, nimm dich ferner unser an,
   Denn ohne dich ist nichts getan
   Mit allen unsern Sachen.
   Drum sei du unser Schirm und Licht,
   Und trügt uns unsre Hoffnung nicht,
   So wirst du’s ferner machen.
   Wohl dem, der sich nur steif und fest
   Auf dich und deine Huld verlässt.10
Like a father has mercy
On his little young children:
The Lord acts in the same way toward us all
If we fear him innocently, childlike.
He knows the wretched creature;
We are, Lord knows,9 but dust.
Just like grass to the rake,
Like a flower and falling foliage,
The wind merely wafts over it,
And it is there no more:
In the same way, the human being passes;
His end, it is near.

   God, take further care of us,
   For without you nothing in all our affairs
   Is accomplished.
   Be therefore our shield and light;
   And if our hope does not betray us,
   Then you will further carry it out [taking care of us].
   Well for him who just steadfastly
   Relies on you and your favor.
Lobet den Herrn in seinen Taten, lobet ihn in
seiner grossen Herrlichkeit!11 Alles, was Odem
hat, lobe den Herrn, Halleluja!12
Praise the Lord about13 his deeds; praise him about14 his
great glory. Let everything that has breath praise the
Lord, hallelujah.
(transl. Michael Marissen & Daniel R. Melamed)

1 In modern German, “the congregation” is “der Gemeinde, and “the congregations” is “die Gemeinden”; in older German, however, “the congregation” was often “die Gemeine,” and “the congregations” was often “die Gemeinen” but sometimes “die Gemeine.” “Die Gemeine” in modern German is “the [female] commoner.”

2 The Luther Bibles of Bach’s day read not “die Gemeine ... sollen” (“the congregations shall”) but “die Gemeine soll” (“the congregation shall”).

3 Bach’s own materials here read “ihren,” which has been given as “ihrem” in modern editions. Some Luther Bibles of Bach’s day read “ihrem,” while others read “ihren.” There is probably no real difference in meaning here, but the accusative-taking “über” might yield “by way of their king” or “about their king,” and the dative-taking might yield “over their king.”

4 Bach’s own materials here read “in Reihen” (“in ring dancing”), which has been printed as “im Reihen” (“in the ring dance”) in modern editions. The Luther Bibles of Bach’s day typically read “im Reigen” (“in the ring dance”). “Reihen” and “Reigen” were synonymous. The Calov Bible, which Bach owned, reads “mit Reigen” (“with ring dancing”).

5 Psalm 149:1-3.

6 See fn. 1 and fn. 2, above, regarding the plural noun and verb here.

7 See fn. 3, above, regarding an accusative versus dative use of the word “über” here.

8 A stanza of “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren.”

9 The expression “Gott weiss” (literally, “God knows”) is used here not as an affirmation of the omniscience of God. It simply emphasizes the truth and obviousness of what is being said; just as, e.g., in English, one might say “Lord/Goodness/God knows I need a haircut.”

10 Bach’s composing score includes a note that the two choirs exchange and sing a second verse of the movement that includes these two texts. Bach’s surviving vocal performing parts do not reflect this, and it is not clear, in any event, whether this instruction refers to a second stanza of the chorale (“Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren”) or (more likely) of the poetic text Bach refers to as an “Aria” (“Gott, nimm dich ferner unser an”).

11 Psalm 150:2.

12 Psalm 150:6.

13 Luther, idiosyncratically, employs the preposition “in” throughout this psalm verse, where others would use “für” (“for”) or “wegen” (“on account of”); he apparently means “in” here in the sense of “in Anbetracht [von]” (“considering,” “about”).

14 See fn. 13, above.