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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 13. Zwingli during the Pestilence.


In the summer of 1519 Zwingli went to the famous bath of Pfäffers at Ragatz to gather strength for his prospectively onerous duties at Zurich, in view of the danger of the approach of the plague from Basle. As soon as he learned, in August, that the plague had broken out in Zurich, he hastened back without stopping to visit his relations on the way. For several weeks he devoted himself, like a faithful shepherd, day after day, to the care of the sick, until he fell sick himself at the end of September. His life was in great danger, as he had worn himself out. The papal legate sent his own physician to his aid. The pestilence destroyed twenty-five hundred lives; that is, more than one-third of the population of Zurich. Zwingli recovered, but felt the effects on his brain and memory, and a lassitude in all limbs till the end of the year. His friends at home and abroad, including Faber, Pirkheimer, and Dürer at Nürnberg, congratulated him on his recovery.

The experience during this season of public distress and private affliction must have exerted a good influence upon his spiritual life.5454    Merle d’Aubigné overrates the influence of this sickness by dating from it Zwingli’s conversion and entire consecration to God. There was no sudden change in his life, as in Paul or Luther: he developed gradually. We may gather this from the three poems, which he composed and set to music soon afterwards, on his sickness and recovery. They consist each of twenty-six rhymed iambic verses, and betray great skill in versification. They breathe a spirit of pious resignation to the will of God, and give us an insight into his religious life at that time.5555    The original is given in Werke, II. 269-274, with a good modern reproduction by Fulda; also by Mörikofer, I. 72-74; and Hagenbach, 218 (5th ed. by Nippold). Abridged translations in the English editions of Merle d’Aubigné’s History of the Reformation, Bk. VIII. ch. 8 ("Lo! at my door gaunt death I spy," etc.), and in Miss Moore’s translation of Hagenbach’s History of the Reformation (Edinb., 1878, vol. I. 274). The structure of the poems is very artificial and difficult to reproduce. He wrote another poem in 1529, and versified the Sixty-ninth Psalm.5656    These poems passed into the oldest Zurich hymn and tune books of 1560 and 1570, and are printed together by Wackernagel, Das Deutsche Kirchenlied, vol. III. 500-503.


Zwingli’s Poems during the Pestilence, with a Free Condensed Translation.


I. Im Anfang der Krankheit.


Hilf, Herr Gott, hilf

In dieser Noth;

Ich mein’, der Tod

Syg5757    Sei. an der Thür.

Stand, Christe, für;

Denn du ihn überwunden hast!

Zu dir ich gilf:5858    flehe, schreie.

Ist es din Will,

Zuch us den Pfyl,5959    Pfeil.

Din Haf6060    Ruh.bin ich,

Mach ganz ald6161    doch. brich.

Dann nimmst du hin

Den Geiste min


Der mich verwundt,

Nit lass ein Stund

Mich haben weder Rüw6262    fehlt. noch Rast!

Willt du dann glych6363    Gefäss..

Todt haben mich

Inmitts der Tagen min,

So soll es willig syn.

Thu, wie Du willt,

Mich nüt befilt.6464    oder.

Von dieser Erd,

Thust du’s, dass er nit böser werd,

Ald andern nit

Befleck ihr Leben fromm und Sitt.


II. Mitten in der Krankheit.


Tröst, Herr Gott, tröst!

Die Krankheit wachst,6565    wächst.

Weh und Angst fasst

Min Seel und Lyb.6666    Leib.

Darum dich schybr6767   wende.

Gen mir, einiger Trost, mit Gnad!

Die gwüss erlöst

Bin jeden, der Sin herzlich B’ger

Und Hoffnung setzt

In dich, verschätzt.

Darzu diss Zyt all Nutz und Schad.

Nun ist es um;


Min Zung ist stumm,

Mag sprechen nit ein Wort;

Min Sinn’ sind all verdorrt,

Darum ist Zyt,6868    Zeit.Dass Du min Stryt6969    Streit.

Führist fürhin;

So ich nit bin

So stark, dass ich

Mög tapferlich

Thun Widerstand

Des Tüfels Facht7070   Anfechtung.. und frefner Hand.

Doch wird min Gmüth

Stät bliben dir, wie er auch wüth.


III. Zur Genesung.


G’sund, Herr Gott, g’sund!

Ich mein’, ich kehr

Schon wiedrum her.

Ja, wenn dich dunkt,

Der Sünden Funk’

Werd nit mehr bherrschen mich uf Erd,

So muss min Mund

Din Lob und Lehr

Ussprechen mehr

Denn vormals je,

Wie es auch geh’

Einfältiglich ohn’ alle G’fährd.

Wiewohl ich muss


Des Todes buss

Erliden zwar einmal

Villicht mit gröss’rer Qual,

Denn jezund wär’

Geschehen, Herr!

So ich sunst bin

Nach7171    beinahe. gfahren hin,

So will ich doch

Den Trutz und Poch7272    Ungestüm.

In dieser Welt

Tragen fröhlich um Widergelt,7373    Vergeltung.

Mit Hülfe din,

Ohn’ den nüt7474    nichts. mag vollkommen syn.


I. In the Beginning of his Sickness.


Help me, O Lord,

My strength and rock;

Lo, at the door

I hear death’s knock.


Uplift thine arm,

Once pierced for me,

That conquered death,

And set me free.

Yet, if thy voice,

In life’s mid-day

Recalls my soul,

Then I obey.

In faith and hope,

Earth I resign,

Secure of heaven,

For I am Thine.


II. In the Midst of his Sickness.


My pains increase;

Haste to console;

For fear and woe

Seize body and soul.


Lo! Satan strains

To snatch his prey;

I feel his grasp;

Must I give way?


Death is at hand,

My senses fail,

My tongue is dumb;

Now, Christ, prevail.


He harms me not,

I fear no loss,

For here lie

Beneath Thy cross.


III. On Recovering from his Sickness.


My God! my Lord!

Healed by Thy hand,

Upon the earth

Once more I stand.


Though now delayed,

My hour will come,

Involved, perchance,

In deeper gloom.


Let sin no more

Rule over me;

My mouth shall sing

Alone of Thee.


But, let it come;

With joy I’ll rise,

And bear my yoke

Straight to the skies.



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