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Archbishop Wallin was not alone in the preparation of that masterpiece of Northern hymnody known as the “Swedish Psalm-book of 1819.” Although the lion’s share of the task fell to the lot of the gifted psalmist, he was aided by a number of the greatest spiritual poets in Scandinavian history. It was the golden age in Swedish hymnody, when such men as Franzén, Hedborn, Geijer, Åström, Afzelius and Nyström were singing “the glories of the Lamb.”

Foremost in this unusual group was the beloved Frans Michael Franzén, a lyric poet of singular talent. Born at Uleaborg, Finland, in 1772, he held a number of positions at the University of Åbo, and later removed to Sweden, where he became pastor of St. Clara church, in Stockholm, and eventually Bishop of Hernösand. He died in 1847.

Franzén early became associated with Wallin and exerted a strong influence over the latter. Though not as prolific a writer as Wallin, the hymns of Franzén are rich in content and finished in form. Because of their artless simplicity it has been said that “the cultured man will appreciate them and the unlettered man can understand them.” Among the most popular are two evening hymns—“The day departs, yet Thou art near” and “When vesper bells are calling.” The latter is a hymn of solemn beauty:

When vesper bells are calling

The hour of rest and prayer,

When evening shades are falling,

And I must hence repair,


I seek my chamber narrow,

Nor my brief day deplore,

For I shall see the morrow,

When night shall be no more.

O take me in Thy keeping,

Dear Father, good and just,

Let not my soul be sleeping

In sin, and pride, and lust.

If in my life Thou guide me

According to Thy will,

I may in death confide me

Into Thy keeping still.

The voice of gracious invitation heard in Franzén’s communion hymn, “Thine own, O loving Saviour,” has called millions of hungering souls to the Lord’s Supper. His hymn for the first communion of catechumens, “Come, O Jesus, and prepare me,” is also regarded as the most appealing of its kind in Swedish hymnody. The stirring note in his hymn of repentance, “Awake, the watchman crieth,” reveals Franzén as a poet of power and virility as well as a writer of the more meditative kind. The same solemn appeal, although expressed in less severe language, is also heard in his other call to repentance:

Ajar the temple gates are swinging,

Lo! still the grace of God is free.

Perhaps when next the bells are ringing

The grave shall open unto thee,

And thou art laid beneath the sod,

No more to see this house of God.

Franzén was recently accorded a unique honor in America when his soul-gripping Advent hymn, “Prepare the way, O Zion,” was made the opening hymn in the Hymnal of the Augustana Synod. This hymn-book contains more translations 171 of Swedish hymns than any other volume published in America.

When we add to the hymns already mentioned such beautiful compositions as “Thy scepter, Jesus, shall extend,” “Look to Jesus Christ thy Saviour,” and “The little while I linger here,” it will readily be understood why Franzén ranks so high among the foremost hymnists of the North.

To Samuel Johan Hedborn, another of Wallin’s contemporaries, posterity will ever be grateful for “Holy Majesty, before Thee,” a magnificent hymn of praise that for loftiness of poetic sentiment and pure spiritual exaltation has probably never been excelled. The first stanza suggests something of the heavenly beauty of this noble hymn:

Holy Majesty, before Thee

We bow to worship and adore Thee;

With grateful hearts to Thee we sing.

Earth and heaven tell the story

Of Thine eternal might and glory,

And all Thy works their incense bring.

Lo, hosts of Cherubim

And countless Seraphim

Sing, Hosanna,

Holy is God, almighty God,

All-merciful and all-wise God!

Hedborn, who was the son of a poverty-stricken Swedish soldier, was born in Heda, Sweden, in the year 1783. He began his career as a school teacher, served for a while as court preacher, and finally became pastor at Askeryd, where he died in 1849. He was a gifted writer, and his lyric poetry and folk-songs struck a responsive chord in Swedish hearts. In 1812 he published a collection of hymns, and in the following year a second volume appeared. It is claimed that the Christo-centric note in Hedborn’s hymns 172 profoundly influenced Wallin and helped to establish the latter in the orthodox Lutheran teaching.

In addition to the sublime Te Deum mentioned above, two other hymns of Hedborn have been given English dress. One of these is the beautiful Epiphany hymn, “Now Israel’s hope in triumph ends”; the other is the communion hymn, “With holy joy my heart doth beat.”

Erik Gustav Geijer, professor of history in Upsala University, was another of the poetic geniuses of this golden age in Swedish hymnody. He was born at Ransäter, Värmland, Sweden, in the same year that witnessed Hedborn’s birth—1783. Like Hedborn, he also published a little collection of hymns in 1812 which immediately focused attention upon him as a poet of unusual ability. Although his hymns do not rise to the artistic heights attained by his other poems, it is believed that Geijer purposely avoided high-sounding phrases as unworthy of the dignity and spirit of hymnody.

His passion hymn, “Thy Cross, O Jesus, Thou didst bear,” is a gripping portrayal of the conquering power of the Saviour’s sacrificial love. There is likewise a glorious note of victory heard in his Easter hymn:

In triumph our Redeemer

Is now to life returned.

All praise to Him who, dying,

Hath our salvation earned!

No more death’s fetter galls us,

The grave no more appalls us,

For Jesus lives again.

In glory Thou appearest,

And earth is filled with light;

With resurrection radiance

The very tomb is bright;


There’s joy in heavenly places

When o’er all earthly races

The dawn of mercy breaks.

In the preparation of the “Psalm-book,” there was no one on whom Archbishop Wallin leaned so heavily for help and counsel as Johan Åström, parish priest in Simtuna and Altuna. This man, who was born in 1767, was a lyric poet of unusual ability, and Wallin valued his judgment very highly, even to the extent of seeking his criticism of his own hymns. Eighteen of the hymns in the “Psalm-book” are from Åström’s pen. Many of them, however, are unfortunately tinged by the spirit of rationalism, from which influence Åström had not quite been able to free himself. Instead of emphasizing trust in the Saviour’s merits as the true way to eternal life, there is a strong suggestion in Åström’s hymns that the heavenly goal is achieved by walking in the Saviour’s footsteps. Witness, for example:

Lord, disperse the mists of error,

In Thy light let me see light;

Give Thou me that faith and visior

Whereby I may walk aright,

In my Saviour’s path discerning,

Through this vale of doubt and strife,

Footsteps to eternal life.

We are immeasurably indebted to Åström, however, for the present form of the glorious All Saints’ hymn, “In heaven above, in heaven above.” This hymn, in which we almost may discern something of the celestial radiance and beauty of the heavenly country, is ranked as one of the finest hymns in the Swedish “Psalm-book.” It is more than three centuries old, dating back in its original form to 1620. It was written by L. Laurentii Laurinus, parish pastor in 174 Häradshammar, at the time of his wife’s death, and was appended to the funeral sermon preached by a brother pastor. Åström recognized the rare beauty of the hymn and through his poetic genius it was clothed in immortal language. William Maccall, a Scotchman, has in turn rendered it into English in such a faithful manner that much of its original beauty is preserved.

In heaven above, in heaven above,

Where God our Father dwells:

How boundless there the blessedness!

No tongue its greatness tells:

There face to face, and full and free,

Ever and evermore we see—

We see the Lord of hosts!

In heaven above, in heaven above,

What glory deep and bright!

The splendor of the noon-day sun

Grows pale before its light:

The mighty Sun that ne’er goes down,

Around whose gleam clouds never frown,

Is God the Lord of hosts.

In heaven above, in heaven above,

No tears of pain are shed:

There nothing e’er shall fade or die;

Life’s fullness round is spread,

And like an ocean, joy o’erflows,

And with immortal mercy glows

Our God the Lord of hosts.

In heaven above, in heaven above,

God hath a joy prepared

Which mortal ear hath never heard,

Nor mortal vision shared,

Which never entered mortal breast,

By mortal lips was ne’er expressed,

O God the Lord of hosts!


Arvid Afzelius, court chaplain and pastor at Enköping, was another member of this remarkable group of Swedish hymnists that contributed to the “Psalm-book” of Wallin. Afzelius, who was an authority on folk songs, has given us the inspiring hymn of praise beginning:

Unto the Lord of all creation

Thy voice, my soul, in anthems raise.

Let every heart a fit oblation

Bring unto Him with songs of praise.

O contemplate in humbleness

The power and riches of His grace.

Johan Hjertén, an obscure country pastor at Hellstad, was the author of six hymns in the “Psalm-book,” among them the devotional hymn, “Jesus, in my walk and living.” It is said that the artless simplicity of his hymns provided an excellent pattern for the other writers of his day, many of whom were fond of the grandiloquent phrases so characteristic of the rationalist hymnody.

The last name of this group we would mention is that of a layman, Per Olof Nyström. This man, who was a high naval officer, wrote many excellent hymns, among them a devotional lyric that for more than a hundred years has been cherished almost as a national prayer by the pious folk of Sweden. Its first stanza reads:

O Fount of truth and mercy,

Thy promise cannot fail;

What Thou hast said must ever

In heaven and earth prevail;

“Call upon Me in trouble,

And I will help afford.”

Yea, to my latest moment,

I’ll call upon Thee, Lord.

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