“A rose has sprung up, from a tender root”

“A rose has sprung up, from a tender root” December 14, 2018


Austria, perhaps?
“St. Thomas Church on a winter morning” (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)
Beyond any other earthly landscape, Alpine scenery such as this seems to me a foretaste of heaven.


Every year since I launched this blog, I have called attention to some of my favorite Christmas music.  So I’m doing it again.  And I’m particularly in the mood since yesterday was, without giving further details, a remarkably gratifying day.  Out of the blue and unexpectedly so.


I remember very clearly when and where the marvelous carol “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (often called in English “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”), which was given its classical form by the German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609 but which originated sometime before that, first hit me.  (I suppose that I had probably heard the carol before, but, if I had, it hadn’t registered.  Not even slightly.)  I was attending a Latter-day Saint sacrament meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland, shortly before Christmas 1973.  Curiously, I don’t recall who sang it.  It may have been a branch or district choir.


I was enraptured.  Riveted.  I had seldom heard anything so beautiful.  And it still affects me that way.


Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse kam die Art.
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Das Röslein, das ich meine,
davon Isaias sagt,
hat uns gebracht alleine
Marie, die reine Magd.
Aus Gottes ew’gem Rat
hat sie ein Kind geboren
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Das Blümelein, so kleine,
das duftet uns so süß,
mit seinem hellen Scheine
vertreibt’s die Finsternis.
Wahr Mensch und wahrer Gott
hilft uns aus allem Leide,
rettet von Sünd und Tod.


A literal and quite unpoetic translation (partially my own):


A rose has sprung up,
from a tender root,
As the ancients sang to us.
Its line came from Jesse
And it has brought forth a small flower
In the middle of the cold winter,
In the middle of the night.

The little rose that I mean,
Of which Isaiah told,
Mary alone, the pure maid,
Has brought to us.
By God’s eternal counsel
She has borne a child
In the middle of the night.

The tiny flower, so small,
That smells so sweet to us,
With its bright gleam
Dispels the darkness
–True man and true God–
Helps us from all suffering,
Saves us from sin and death.


I’ve always loved the German lyrics.  The English words just don’t move me as much — and not merely in the literal and unpoetic version supplied above.  But the music is gorgeous in any language.  Here’s one rendition that I like:


Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen”



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