Every one who has reflected on the subject, or attempted metrical translation, knows that literality is rarely attainable, that a certain measure of freedom must be used. The Translator has, however, striven to maintain fidelity to the sense of the original, and has occasionally somewhat sacrificed euphony to fidelity.
It is not to be expected that the people's poet of one nation and of a former age will become, through translation, the people's poet of another nation in a later generation. Individual translations may win for themselves a place side by side with the favourite songs of native growth. Instances of this will occur to every one familiar with our hymnology; but this can hardly happen in many cases. The translations on the principle of this volume may neither be uninteresting nor unedifying on that account, and it may be permitted to the Translator to trust that Paul Gerhardt in his present dress may be found stimulating and refreshing to many. Gerhardt was peculiarly a son of consolation. The Translator has found him so in the hour of trial, and he will feel repaid if he should become the cup-bearer of the rich wine of consolation contained in the hymns of the staunch old German Lutheran to any English Christian readers "who may be in any wise afflicted."
The work of translation has been a labour of love. It has been the recreation of leisure hours from graver duties, and occasionally the occupation of days of unwilling, but unavoidable, total or partial freedom from professional engagements.
The edition used in this translation was Wackernagel's "Paulus Gerhardt's Geistliche Lieder getreu nach der bei seinen Lebzeiten erschienenen Ausgabe wiederabgedrueckt. Neue Auflage, in Taschenformat." -- Stuttgart, Verlag von Samuel Gottlieb Liesching, 1855. This edition has been followed in the classification and titles both of the sections and hymns.
The principal sources whence the materials for the biographical sketch have been drawn are "Paul Gerhardt's Geistliche Andachten, &c., mit Anmerkungen, einer Geschichtlichen Einleitung und Urkunden herausgegaben, von Otto Schultze." -- Berlin, 1842. "Paul Gerhardt, nach seinem Leben und Wirken, aus zum Theile ungedrueckten Nachrichten dargestellt," von E. G. Roth, Pastor Primarius zu Luebben in der Niederlausitz. -- Leipzig, 1829.
Feustking, Langbecker, Herzog, and others were also read, or more or less consulted.