Cantata BWV 56: Mvt. 1: Aria [Bass]
Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,
I would gladly bear the cross-beam,
Er kömmt von Gottes lieber Hand,
it comes from God's dear hand,
Der führet mich nach meinen Plagen
it leads me after my troubles
Zu Gott, in das gelobte Land.
to God, in the promised land.
Da leg ich den Kummer auf einmal ins Grab,
There I shall finally lay my anxiety in the grave,
Da wischt mir die Tränen mein Heiland selbst ab.
there my Saviour himself will wipe away my tears.
English translation by Francis Browne (January 2008)
We recently debated on BCW the question of the symbolism of the word "Kreuzstab" in BWV 56. is it simply a cross, perhaps resonating with the structure of masts? Or does it relate to the more esoteric definition of "Kreuzstab" as a nautical instrument like a cross, thus an allegorical guide to the "navigatio vitae" which dominates this Cantata?
By chance today I went to the major Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery in London. You will find attached "Allegory of Navigation with a Cross-Staff", painted about 1555-1560. It rather confirms the latter approach to the meaning of the iconography of BWV 56: originally painted for St Mark's Library in Venice, this work would have been widely known. It is now (usually) in Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
"Against a backdrop of classical ruins, an ancient philosopher clutches a cross-shaped staff (known as a ballestriglia), an instrument used to determine geographical latitude by measuring the altitude (the angle above the horizon) of the sun and stars".