About Site

Written September 23, 2001


In commemoration of those who died on September 11, public broadcasting's Live from Lincoln Center last week aired a special performance by the New York Philharmonic of "A German Requiem" by Johannes Brahms.  It was an excellent telecast of one of my favorite works.

But the words were sung in German, of course, and there were no captions.  The words are important to the overall effect, and I think that they should be heard.

For example, the second chorus begins:

     Denn alles Fleisch es
          ist wie Gras,
     und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen
          wie des Grases Blumen.
     Das Gras ist verdorret
          und die Blume abgefallen.

My translation into English, keeping the meter, would be:

     Our mortal bodies
          are like grass,
     and all our proud accomplishments
          are like the grass's flowers:
     The grass is now withered
          and the flowers all are fallen.

Enough of my version.  Here is the complete text, using the Revised English Bible translation.


Blessed are the sorrowful; they shall find consolation.  (Matthew 5:4)

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying his bag of seed, will come back with songs of joy, carrying home his sheaves.  (Psalms 126:5-6)


All mortals are like grass; all their glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, the flower falls.  (I Peter 1:24)

You must be patient, my friends, until the Lord comes.  Consider:  the farmer looking for the precious crop from his land can only wait in patience until the early and late rains have fallen.  (James 5:7)

All mortals are like grass; all their glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, the flower falls.

But the word of the Lord endures for evermore!  (I Peter 1:24-25)

The Lord's people, set free, will come back and enter the city with shouts of triumph, crowned with everlasting joy.  Gladness and joy will come upon them, while suffering and weariness flee away.  (Isaiah 35:10)


Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days; tell me how short my life is to be.  I know you have made my days a mere span long, and my whole life is as nothing in your sight.  A human being, however firm he stands, is but a puff of wind, his life but a passing shadow; the riches he piles up are no more than vapour, and there is no knowing who will enjoy them.

Now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.  (Psalms 39:4-7)

The souls of the just are in God's hand; no torment will touch them.  (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1)


Lord of Hosts, how dearly loved is your dwelling-place!  I pine and faint with longing for the courts of the Lord's temple; my whole being cries out with joy to the living God.

Happy are those who dwell in your house; they never cease to praise you!  (Psalms 84:1-2, 4)


For the moment you are sad; but I shall see you again, and then you will be joyful, and no one shall rob you of your joy.  (John 16:22)

See for yourself how little were my labours compared with the great refreshment I have found.  (Ecclesiasticus 51:27)

As a mother comforts her son, so shall I myself comfort you.  (Isaiah 66:13)


We have here no lasting city, but we are seekers after the city which is to come.  (Hebrews 13:14)

Listen!  I will unfold a mystery:  we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet-call.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise imperishable, and we shall be changed.  Then the saying of scripture will come true:  "Death is swallowed up; victory is won!"  "O Death, where is your victory?  O Death, where is your sting?"  (I Corinthians 15:51-52, 54-55)

You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power, because you created all things; by your will they were created and have their being!  (Revelation 4:11)


Happy are the dead who henceforth die in the faith of the Lord!

"Yes," says the Spirit, "let them rest from their labours, for the record of their deeds goes with them."  (Revelation 14:13)


And speaking of the record of their deeds, let us remember especially the heroes of September 11.  In particular:

The New York City firefighters, police, and EMT's who rushed to evacuate the World Trade Center towers and to put out the fires, only to be caught in the buildings' collapse.

The passengers on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.  They learned that other hijacked planes had been crashed in New York; they vowed that theirs would not be the one to hit the White House or the Capitol, even if they had to crash it into the Pennsylvania countryside.

These brave heroes gave their lives in order to save others.  To quote other words which should also be more accessible:

O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
     between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
     praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
     and this be our motto:  'In God is our trust.'

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
     o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!



Back to Top
More PoetryMore Poetry