Jesu, meine Freude

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"Jesu, meine Freude"
by Johann Crüger
Johann Crüger.jpg
Crüger, composer of the melody
English Jesus, Priceless Treasure
Genre Hymn
Text by Johann Franck
Language German
Published 1653 (1653)

"Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus, my joy) is a hymn in German, written by Johann Franck in 1650,[1] with a melody by Johann Crüger. The song first appeared in Crüger's hymnal Praxis pietatis melica in 1653. It is the base for Johann Sebastian Bach's funeral motet, BWV 227, and his chorale prelude, BWV 610, among many setting by other composers. In the current German Protestant hymnal, Evangelisches Gesangbuch, it is No. 293.[2]

The hymn was translated to English in several versions, including "Jesu, priceless treasure" by Catherine Winkworth in 1869,[3] and has appeared in 37 hymnals.[4]


The text is presented in six stanzas of nine lines each. It is in bar form, three lines form the Stollen, three the Abgesang, with the meter[4] The last line of the last stanza repeats the first line of the first stanza. The song is written in the first person, addressing Jesus.

  1. Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my joy)
  2. Unter deinem Schirmen (Beneath your protection)
  3. Trotz dem alten Drachen (I defy the old dragon)
  4. Weg mit allen Schätzen (Away with all treasures)
  5. Gute Nacht, o Wesen (Good night, existence)
  6. Weicht, ihr Trauergeister (Go away, mournful spirits)[1]

The first stanza sets the theme of love to Jesus and the desire to be united with him, who is named Lamb, as in Revelation 5:6, and Bridegroom, based on Revelation 22:17.[5] It is a parody of the love song "Flora, meine Freude", published in 1645 by Heinrich Albert, organist at the Königsberg Cathedral.[6]

The second stanza describes the protection of Jesus against threats by Satan, enemies, thunder, hell and sin, all pictured in drastic images. The third stanza repeats three times Trotz (defiance), facing the enemies "old dragon" (alter Drachen), death (Tod), and fear (Furcht). The believer, feeling safe even in adverse conditions as expressed in Psalms 23:4, stands singing (Ich steh hier und singe.).[5]

The fourth stanza turns away from worldly treasures and honours, which should not separate the believer from Jesus. The fifth stanza repeats four times "Good night", to existence in the world, to sins, to pride and pomp, and to a vice life.[5]

The last stanza imagines the entry of Jesus as the "Freudenmeister" (master of joys), as a comforter in every misery.[5] It alludes to Jesus entering after the resurrection (Luke 24:36).[6]

The theme of turning away from the world to Jesus made the hymn suitable for funerals, seen as the ultimate turning away from the world.[5]


Bach wrote a chorale prelude, BWV 610, part of his Orgelbüchlein. Chorale preludes on the tune were also composed by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, Johann Gottfried Walther, George Frederic Handel (HWV 480), Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, Johann Gottfried Müthel, Max Reger (Op. 76/21, 1902), Sigfrid Karg-Elert (Op. 87, No. 2), Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling (1927), Karl Höller (Op. 22, 1936), Joseph Ahrens (1942) and Max Drischner (1945).[2]

The hymn is best known as a base for Bach's funeral motet of the same name, BWV 227, for five vocal parts, two sopranos (S), alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B), in which he alternates the stanzas of the chorale and text from Paul's epistle to the Romans. In a symmetrical structure, he treats the hymn stanzas differently. Stanzas 1 and 6 are a simple four part setting, stanzas 2 and 4 settings with the melody in the soprano and expressive movement in the lower four or three voices, stanza 5 a chorale fantasia with the melody as cantus firmus in the alto, and stanza three a free composition without connection to the tune.[5]

1 chorale SATB Epistle
2 chorale SSATB
3 free chorale
double fugue SSATB
4 chorale SATB
5 chorale fantasia SSAT
6 chorale (same as 1)
Beginning of movement 1 of Bach's motet

Bach used the tune as a cantus firmus, played by a trumpet, in an aria of his cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 (1714). He closed his 1723 Christmas cantata Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget, BWV 64 with the fifth stanza, and his 1724 cantata Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen? BWV 81 with the second stanza.[2] The closing chorale of cantata Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen, BWV 87 (1725) is a stanza from a hymn by Heinrich Müller on the same tune.[2]


  1. ^ a b Browne, Francis (2006). "Jesu, meine Freude / Text and Translation of Chorale". Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Jesu, meine Freude". 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Jesu, meine Freude". Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Jesu, meine Freude". Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Thönnes, Dietmar (2012). "Jesu, meine Freude / Text and Translation of Chorale" (PDF) (in German). Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Storz, Harald (2006). "Predigt über "Jesu, meine Freude"" (in German). Retrieved 12 May 2014. 

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