O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!
Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.
My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.
Anyways, on to the story of this hymn. I have to say I was SHOCKED by the sheer number of verses this hymn was written with. I put in blue the verses that are less common (at least to me).
The lyrics of this beloved hymn are commonly attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a spiritual leader in the 1100's. He was a gifted writer and spiritual leader. The Words come from his poem Salve Mundi Salutare. The poem had seven sections, each focusing on a different part of Jesus' body: his feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and head. (source). Though Nickel Notes says the original poem was called “Rhythmica Oratio”.
Hans L Hassler wrote the tune "Passion Chorale", JS Bach reworked this tune the "Passion". Bach enjoyed the tune so much he used it in various pieces. (source)
For more information on authorship of this hymn, I found this article quite interesting. The twists and turns of language and how words change and all the history behind it is quite intriguing I think.
O Sacred Head Now Wounded is a very personal song. Speaking of who Christ is and our need for him, and how we scarce have the words to express our love for him and all that he did for us.
Philip Schaff said, “This classic hymn has shown in three tongues – Latin, German and English – and in three confessions – Roman, Lutheran and Reformed – with equal effect, the dying love of our Savior and our boundless indebtedness to Him.”