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Jesu, joy of man's desiring - Bach

This piece comes from Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata 147Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (1723, reworking some material from an earlier composition). The singers are joined by an orchestra that includes trumpet, oboes and strings. The cantata is in two parts, which were probably played either side of the (hour-long) sermon. Each part ends with one verse from a chorale, or hymn, set to identical music. English choral arrangements traditionally include both verses, with the text rendered fairly freely (see below).

The setting is a good example of Bach's knack for concealing the sophistication of his art in music that sounds utterly natural. Between the sung choral phrases, the organ (originally oboes and violins) weaves a delightful pastoral tune. At first, this seems to be a separate musical idea; on closer inspection it is recognizable as an embellished version of the hymn tune it accompanies.

Original text:

Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe,
O wie feste halt ich ihn,
Dass er mir mein Herze labe,
Wenn ich krank und traurig bin.
Jesum hab ich, der mich liebet
Und sich mir zu eigen gibet;
Ach drum lass ich Jesum nicht,
Wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.

Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
Meines Herzens Trost und Saft,
Jesus wehret allem Leide,
Er ist meines Lebens Kraft,
Meiner Augen Lust und Sonne,
Meiner Seele Schatz und Wonne;
Darum lass ich Jesum nicht
Aus dem Herzen und Gesicht.

words by Salomo Frank 
Literal translation:

I am lucky to have Jesus,
Oh how tightly I hold him,
Because he refreshes my heart,
When I am sick and sad.
I have Jesus who loves me,
And gives himself to me as my own,
Ah, I will never leave Jesus,
Even if my heart is breaking.

Jesus remains my joy,
My heart's comfort and essence,
Jesus is there through all suffering,
He is my life's strength,
The desire and sunshine of my eyes,
My soul's treasure and bliss;
Therefore I will never leave Jesus,
Neither from my heart nor from my face.
Traditional English text:

Jesu, joy of man's desiring,
Holy wisdom, Love most bright,
Drawn by thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings,
Where the flock, in thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure,
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.