August 7: Catherine Winkworth, Poet, 1878
August 7, 2010 3 Comments
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About this commemoration
Catherine Winkworth is celebrated as the premier translator of German hymns and chorales into English.
Winkworth was born in London in 1827, but grew up in Manchester where she spent most of her life. Her lifelong fascination with German hymns and chorales began during a yearlong visit to Dresden, Germany, in 1848. Her first set of translations, Lyra Germanica, 1855, contained 103 hymns, and a second series under the same title appeared in 1858, and contained 121 hymns. Her translations were immensely successful in expressing the theological richness and spirit of the German texts; Lyra Germanica went through numerous editions and reprints and remains today a monumental contribution to the history of hymnody. Among the most well known of Winkworth’s translations are “Jesus, priceless treasure,” “Now thank we all our God,” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” and “Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness.”
In some cases, Winkworth’s sturdy translations had been wed with tunes that did not always capture the spirit of the original German chorale. To help rectify this, Winkworth published The Chorale Book for England in 1863 that matched her translations with their original tunes. In 1869, she published a commentary that provided biographies of the German hymn writers and other material to make the German hymn and chorale more accessible to the English singers of her masterful translations.
She is also remembered for her advocacy for women’s rights and for her efforts to encourage university education for women. In support of her advocacy for women, Winkworth sought inspiration in German literature and made it available in English translation. Notable are her translations of the biographies of two founders of sisterhoods for the poor and the sick: Life of Pastor Fliedner, 1861, and Life of Amelia Sieveking, 1863.
Winkworth was traveling to an international conference on women’s issues when she died of a heart attack on July 1, 1878. She was 51. She was buried at Monnetier, near Geneva. Her life and work has been honored with a monument in Bristol Cathedral.
Collect of the Day
Comfort your people, O God of peace, and prepare a way for us in the desert, that, like your poet and translator Catherine Winkworth, we may preserve the spiritual treasures of your saints of former years and sing our thanks to you with hearts and hands and voices, eternal triune God whom earth and heaven adore; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 14:20–25
Preface of the Dedication of a Church
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.