Fairest Lord Jesus (Schonster Herr Jesu)
DESCRIPTION: "Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all (nature/nations), O thou of God and man the son, Thee will I cheris." "Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands.... Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing."
EARLIEST DATE: 1677 (German text in Munster Gesang-Buch, according to Julian)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad Jesus
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Fireside, p. 289, "Fairest Lord Jesus (Crusader's Hymn)" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), p. 171, "Fairest Lord Jesus" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: I include this song not because it is traditional (as best I can tell, it isn't, at least in English) but because folklore would try to claim it as traditional. Its alternate name is "The Crusader's Hymn" because "In Heart Melodies, No. 51., Lond, Morgan & Chase, [no date], this is marked as 'Crusader's Hymn of the 12th cent. This air and hymn used to be sung by the German pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem" (Julian, p. 1016).
But, Julian continues, "For these statements there does not seem to be the shadow of a foundation, for the air referred to has not been traced earlier than 1842, nor the words than 1677. In the Munster [Gesang-Buch], 1677, p. 576, it appears as the first of 'Three beautiful selected new Hymns' in 5 st[anzas].... In the Schlesische Volksleider, Leipzig, 1842, p. 339, it is given with greatly altered forms of st[anzas] i, iii, ii, v, with a second st[anza] ("Schon sind die Walder") practically new. The text and the melody... are both marked as taken down from oral recitation in the district (Grafschaft) of Glaz." In 1852 there appears an edition consisting of stanzas i, iii, and this "new" stanza ii, which is the version translated into English by an unknown hand: "Mr. Richard Storrs Willis, of Detroit (U. S. A.) informs me that this tr[anslation] appears in his Church Chorals, 1850, but that he does not know the name of the translator." There are at least two other translations, but they seem to have largely vanished.
Reynolds, p. 142, notes that the same tune was used for Isaac Watts's "How Pleased and Blest Was I," and was adapted by Franz Liszt for a "Crusader's March" in the oratorio "The Legend of Saint Elizabeth." Thus is folklore maintained.... Even today, the tune is listed in some hymnals as "Crusaders' Hymn" (McKim, p. 218).
Reynolds, p. 464, adds that Willis was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1819 and died in Detroit, Michigan in 1900. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
- Reynolds: William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
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