“My Mind’s Confused Within Me”

An English translation of “Mein G’müth ist mir verwirret”

The hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” and its English-language variants are translations of 17th-century German Lutheran Paul Gerhardt’s “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,” which is, in turn, a translation of a medieval Latin passion poem. My article in the 2013 issue of Church History chronicles the aesthetic and theological reasons for the differences between the various translations. (The later translations have minimized the blood, gore, and erotic overtones.)

Also known as “Passion Chorale,” the melody of the hymn(s) has its own varied history, having been appropriated by J. S. Bach, American folk activist Tom Glazer, and Paul Simon, among others.

What follows is my translation of the melody’s original anonymous German text, which, I might add, is effectively a 16th-century German forerunner of “All Shook Up.” The dividing line between what works melodically for the sacred and the secular is blurry indeed. German commentators suggest that because the first letter of each stanza makes the acronym MARIA, the words may be equally applicable to the mother of Christ. You be the judge. (See also Ethan Hein’s recent reflection on the melody.)


My mind’s confused within me,
made thus by a tender maiden.
I am utterly astray.
My heart hurts badly.
I have no rest day and night.
I ever lament.
I keep sighing and crying,
in sorrow almost despairing.

Oh that she would ask me,
what was the cause
of my complaint.
I would tell her freely
that she alone is the thing
that wounds me so much.
Could I soften her heart,
I’d better soon.

Richly is she adorned
With beautiful virtue without purpose.
She is as polite as behooves her.
There are few her equal.
Among the tender maidens
She takes the all-time prize.
When I gaze upon her,
I think I’m in paradise.

I cannot fully explain
Her beauty and virtue.
If I could choose anything,
It would that she would choose
To turn her heart and body
To me forever more.
Ah, then my pain and lament
Would turn to greatest joy.

But I must give up
and ever be sorrowful,
even if it should cost my life,
which is my greatest pain.
I am not good enough for her,
thus she pays me no heed.
May God save me for such suffering,
through his almighty power.

(Click here for the German original.)

4 Responses to ““My Mind’s Confused Within Me””

  1. Enelia Faithful on

    Your assessment of this hymn being the 16th century German version of “All Shook Up” is absolutely spot on. I knew there was something that made me feel uncomfortable while I was reading your original article, and I think you’ve put your finger on it.

  2. Ethan Hein on

    Thanks for the shoutout. I had no idea what the German lyrics referred to and am fascinated by your translation. You make an excellent point about the permeability of the sacred and secular in music. I think about that whenever I hear Aretha Franklin or Al Green — where does the church end and the street begin?

    • georgefaithful on

      Good art draws us out of ourselves toward the transcendent, even the eternal, both through its form and contents. This is why all good art reveals truth, whether the truth of life’s potential beauty or even the truth of life’s occasional ugliness… and why so little recent religious fiction, painting, and music is good art.


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