Altenberg: “Gustavus Adolphus’ Battle-Song”

Excerpt, “Hymns That Have A History.” Hezekiah Butterworth, 1875.

Many noble hymns were produced in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War, but that composed by Johann Michael Altenburg, and known as “Gustavus’ Battle Song,” is by far the most majestic strain of the period. “



Gustavus Adolphus leading a Charge,

Battle of Lützen, 1632


As we read the stirring lines, a vision rises before us of two mighty hosts encamped over against each other, stilled by the awe that falls on brave hearts when momentous events are about to be decided.

The thick fogs of an autumn morning hide the foes from each other; only the shrill note of the clarion is heard piercing through the mist. Then suddenly in the Swedish camp there is silence. With a solemn mien Gustavus advances to a front rank of his troops, and kneels down in the presence of all of his followers.

In a moment the whole army bends with him in prayer. Then there bursts forth the sound of trumpets, and ten thousand voices join in song..


Fear not, O little flock, the foe
Who madly seeks your overthrow,

Dread not his rage and power:
What though your courage sometimes faints,
His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints

Lasts but a little hour.


Be of good cheer, your cause belongs
To Him who can avenge your wrongs;

Leave it to him, our Lord:
Though hidden yet from all our eyes,
He sees the Gideon who shall rise

To save us and his word.


As true as God’s own word is true,
Nor earth nor hell with all their crew,

Against us shall prevail:
A jest and by-word they are grown;
God is with us, we are his own,

Our victory cannot fail.


Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer!
Great Captain, now thine arm make bare,

Fight for us once again:
So shall thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to thy praise,

World without end.




The Battle of Lützen by Carl Wahlbom:
Death of King Gustavus Adolphus
November 16, 1632