Jesu dulcis memoria

This page is about the first German translations. For background and historical discussion of the Latin text (with edition and translation based on Wilmart/Deeming), see

NOTA PRAEVIA: Martin Möller, author of ‘devotional’ books is often credited with the authorship of O Jesu süss wer dein gedenkt. This is not true. In his meditationes sanctorum patrum 1592 (second edition) he publishes a German hymn inspired by Bernard’s jubilus: Ach, Gott wie manches Herzeleid. This song indeed uses motives from the Jubilus, but can not be considered a translation. For O Jesu süß wer dein gedenkt, see below.

There are two: O Jesu süß, wer dein gedenkt (ca. 1612). That’s the oldest. It is written in the old-fashioned way, i.e. imitating the Latin original. The new Poets (Martin Opitz) wanted a more elevated form of versifying. This enticed Heermann to write his versification in Alexandrines : O süsser Jesu Christ, wer an dich recht gedenket (1644)

Jesu wie süß wer dein gedenckt

Transcription of selection (18 stanzas) collated with Vetter on this page

Johann Arndt, Paradiesgärtlein voller christlicher Tugenden, wie solche zur übung des wahren Christentums durch andächtige, lehrhafte und trostreiche Gebete in die Seele zu pflanzen (1612) contains the Latin original (complete!) together with a translation of 18 stanzas (a selection). The metre is similar tot the Latin original, rhyming aabb (Latin original: aaaa bbbb).1confusion is caused by a 19th century reissue of Arndt’s Paradiesgärtlein, in which the editor replaces Arndt’s translation with a more litteral translation, beginning: Wer, süsser Jesu, dein gedenckt / mit Freude wird sein Herz getränkt; / Doch ist kein Seim und nichts der Art, / Wie deine süsse Gegenwart. From the edition of the Paradiesgärtlein (Frankfurt a/M, 1844) at the end of the reprint of Arndt’s Sechs Bücher vom wahren Christentum (Frankfurt a/M, 1845), ed. Johann Friedrich von Meyer. The preface to the Paradiesgärtlein is dated 1831 [.note]. This translation (expanded) has found its way into many German hymnbooks. Arndt only offered a selection of the hymn (18 stanzas), the last stanza ending with “etc. “. (suggesting: this is a sample…). He doesnot claim authorship !

O Jesu süß, wer dein gedenkt,
sein Herz mit Freud wird überschwenkt:
noch süsser aber alles ist,
wo du, o Jesu, selber bist

Conrad Vetter, Paradeissvogel : Das ist Himmelische Lobgesang … dadurch das menschliche Hertz mit Macht erlustiget (1613). Vetter offers a complete translation of the Jubilus (48 stanzas). The similarity between the Paradisebird (Vetter) and the Paradisegarden (Arndt) pertains to all stanzas selected by the latter. In his preface Vetter suggests that this hymn was ‘published before’… The beginning of the Vetter translation:

O Jesu süß, wer dein gedenkt,
Sein herz mit Freude wird überschwenkt:
noch süsser über alles ist
wo du, o Jesu, selber bist.

Because of the 99% similarity, one is tempted to hypothesize that Arndt and Vetter had the same source, or – if one assumes Vetter is referring to his own work – that Conrad Vetter is the versifier. Aside : Conrad Vetter was also a promotor of personal piety like Arndt, but not Lutheran (Pietist), but roman-catholic. He was a Jesuit. NB: this once more testifies to a common appreciation of the pious works of ‘christian classical authors’, mainly Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux (or ‘pseudo-Augustine’ …). A literary oecumene avant la lettre.

One final remark: Where Vetter published a complete translation, Arndt closes his paradise garden with another hymn, based on, referring to the Jubilus, but now with an accent on the consolatory aspect of the ‘salutary name’ of Jesus: Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid… (the hymn we already encountered in Möller’s devotional book, supra.

Transcription of Arndt’s selection (18 stanzas) collated with Vetter on this page

O süsser Jesu Christ, wer an dich recht gedenket,

Johann Heermann, Devoti musica cordis… , 1644, S. 151ff (reprint 1663) NB: In 1644 also a pirated (?) issue of this hymnbook is published, in which the song does not appear (reprint 1650)! The 1663 print of Devoti musica cordis is correct (also p. 151 ff).

O süsser Jesu Christ, wer an dich recht gedenket,
dem wird sein Herze bald mit Freud und Lust getränket.
Wer dich schon bei sich hat, von dem weicht alles Leid,
da übertrifft dein Trost auch alle Süssigkeit.

Full text here