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Cantata BWV 25
Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe
English Translation in Interlinear Format
Cantata BWV 25 - There is nothing healthy in my body

Event: Cantata for the 14th Sunday after Trinity
Readings: Epistle Galatians 5: 16-24; Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19
Text: Psalm 38: 3 (Mvt. 1); Johann Heermann (Mvt. 6); Anon (Mvts. 2-5)
Chorale Text: Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen

Biblical quotations in green font, chorales in purple


Chorus [S, A, T, B]

Flauto I-III all' unisono, Cornetto, Trombone I-III, Oboe I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe II e Violino II all' unisono, Continuo

Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe
There is nothing healthy in my body
vor deinem Dräuen
because of your anger,
und ist kein Friede in meinen Gebeinen
and there is no peace in my bones
vor meiner Sünde. Psalm 38.3
because of my sins.


Recitative [Tenor]


Die ganze Welt ist nur ein Hospital,
The whole world is nothing but a hospital
Wo Menschen von unzählbar großer Zahl
where in numbers too great to count people
Und auch die Kinder in der Wiegen
and even children in their cradles
An Krankheit hart darniederliegen.
lie down in pain and sickness.
Den einen quälet in der Brust
One person is tortured in his breast
Ein hitzges Fieber böser Lust;
by a fierce fever of vicious desire;
Der andre lieget krank
another lies sick
An eigner Ehre häßlichem Gestank;
from the detestable stench of his own honour;
Den dritten zehrt die Geldsucht ab
a third wastes away through his obsession with money
Und stürzt ihn vor der Zeit ins Grab.
and before his time is thrown into the grave.
Der erste Fall hat jedermann beflecket
The first fall has stained everyone
Und mit dem Sündenaussatz angestecket.
and infected them with the leprosy of sin.
Ach! dieses Gift durchwühlt auch meine Glieder.
Ah, this poison rages through my limbs!
Wo find ich Armer Arzenei?
Where in my wretchednesss may I find a cure?
Wer stehet mir in meinem Elend bei?
Who stands by me in my misery?
Wer ist mein Arzt, wer hilft mir wieder?
Where is my doctor, who can help me again?


Aria [Bass]


Ach, wo hol ich Armer Rat?
Ah, where in my wretchedness may I find counsel?
Meinen Aussatz, meine Beulen
My leprosy, my boils
Kann kein Kraut noch Pflaster heilen Wisdom 16:12
can be healed by no herb nor plaster
Als die Salb aus Gilead. Jeremiah 8.22, 46:11
but the ointment from Gilead.
Du, mein Arzt, Herr Jesu, nur Exodus 15:26
You, my doctor, Lord Jesus, alone
Weißt die beste Seelenkur.
know the best cure for the soul.


Recitative [Soprano]


O Jesu, lieber Meister,
O Jesus, beloved master,
Zu dir flieh ich;
I flee to you;
Ach, stärke die geschwächten Lebensgeister!
Ah, strengthen my weakened vital spirits!
Erbarme dich,
Take pity,
Du Arzt und Helfer aller Kranken,
you doctor and helper of all who are sick,
Verstoß mich nicht
do not drive me away
Von deinem Angesicht!
from your face!
Mein Heiland, mache mich von Sündenaussatz rein,
My healer, make me clean from the leprosy of sin ,
So will ich dir
then to you I want
Mein ganzes Herz dafür
in return my whole heart
Zum steten Opfer weihn
to dedicate as a constant offering
Und lebenslang vor deine Hülfe danken.
and for all my life to be thankful for your help.


Aria [Soprano]

Flauto I-III, Oboe I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo

Öffne meinen schlechten Liedern,
Open to my simple songs,
Jesu, dein Genadenohr!
Jesus, your merciful ears!
Wenn ich dort im höhern Chor
When there in the choir above
Werde mit den Engeln singen,
I shall sing with the angels,
Soll mein Danklied besser klingen.
my song of thanksgiving will resound better.


Chorale [S, A, T, B]

Flauto I-III e Cornetto e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo

Ich will alle meine Tage
All my days I shall
Rühmen deine starke Hand,
praise your mighty hand
Daß du meine Plag und Klage
because by you my trouble and distress
Hast so herzlich abgewandt.
have been turned aside with such love.
Nicht nur in der Sterblichkeit
Not only in this mortal life
Soll dein Ruhm sein ausgebreit':
should your glory be spread abroad:
Ich wills auch hernach erweisen
I want to bear witness to it hereafter also
Und dort ewiglich dich preisen.
and there for ever praise you.

Note on the text

BWV 25 was first performed in Leipzig on the 29th August 1723. The gospel for the 14th Sunday after Trinity is Luke’s account of how Jesus healed ten lepers (Luke 17 :11-19). To the one leper who returns to give thanks Jesus says, “ Thy faith hath made thee whole”.The anonymous librettist of this cantata develops this implied connection between faith and healing , sin and sickness. There is a strong tradition of identifying illness in general and leprosy in particular as a punishment for sin. Hans- Joachim Schulze sees Exodus 15 : 26 as a key text, where God promises that if the Israelites will obey him he will not lay upon them the diseases with which he has inflicted the Egyptians “ for O am the Lord that healeth thee” or as Luther translates denn ich bin der Herr, dein Arzt

A quotation from Psalm 38:3, the third penitential psalm, a lament in the midst of affliction and suffering, is used for the first movement . As the cantata progresses it becomes clear that the text is meant to refer not only to physical suffering but the situation of people without Christ.

In the second movement tenor recitative this spiritual sickness is luridly portrayed and its origin traced to human sinfulness .Here and elsewhere Bach’s librettist seeems to have made use of recent work by a contemporary theologian ,Johann Jacob Rambach’s Geistlichen Poesien in zwey Theilen which was published in Halle in 1720. Rambach wrote :
Die ganze Welt ist ein Spital
wo eine Schaar von unzählbarer Zahl
an tausend Seuchen lieget.
Der fühlet in der Brust
das hitzge Fieber böser Lust,
den macht der Ehrgeitz mißvergnüget;
wenn die Begierde nach dem Geld
den dritten auf der Folter hält.
Und wer kan alle Martern zählen,
die Adams krancke Kinder quälen; /
wer giebt sich nun auf diesen Jammer-Plan
zum Artzt und Helfer an?"

Bach’s librettist strives to intensify what Rambach has written by vivid examples and by making a personal application of what is said : wo find ich, wer stehet mir etc.

The bass aria gives the answer to the urgent questions about help in sickness: Jesus is the doctor and healing balm that mankind needs . Rambach quotes Wisdom 16 :12 : Es heilte sie weder Kraut noch Pflaster, sondern dein Wort, Herr, welches alles heilet.Bach’s librettist combines this with refers to verses in Jeremiah (8.22,46:12) where the area of Gilead east of Jordan is referred to as the source of balms and spices that were widely sought.

The second recitative is an urgent plea in the first person for healing from Christ and like the first recitative with its mention of the ‘leprosy of sin’ (Sündenaussatz )refers implicitly to the Sunday’s gospel. It is followed by a joyful soprano aria which anticipates the joys of heaven. As often the structure of the text is a progress from statement of problem, suggested solution to concluding celebration.

The final movement is the last stanza of Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen written by the Silesian pastor Johann Heermann in 1630. It sums up the message of the cantata in promising God praise and gratitiude for his help in saving us from physical and spiritual distress.

The text of this cantata causes problems for some commentators. Whittaker speaks of ‘nauseating lapses of taste’, Dürr argues that ‘ the graphic Baroque metaphors are hardly tolerable and anything but poetic’ and Mincham refers to ‘an extraordinarily inflated piece of Baroque rhetoric’. For an opposing view in the first discussion on the Bach Cantatas Website Thomas Braatz vigorously defends Bach’s choiceof text.

Each reader will decide for himself, but perhaps the problem arises both from most of us fortunately being less familiar with the physical reality of death and suffering in our daily life than Bach and his contemporaries and also from a too narrow conception of what poetry should be . Andreas Gryphius’ Gedancken Uber den Kirchhoff und Ruhestädte der Verstorbenen and other German Baroque poetry are a better preparation for understanding such a text than Gray’s Elegy or Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

What is evident to anyone who gets to know this cantata is the deep humanity and insight of Bach's music which as so often is a sure guide to the deepest meaning of such a text. If we read such a text with our own preconceptions and expectations we may not be impressed, but if we read with Bach's music as our guide we may gain a different and valuable understanding.


This Translation in Parallel Format

English Translation by Francis Browne (August 2002; revised & notes January 2012)
Contributed by Francis Browne (August 2002, January 2012)

Cantata BWV 25: Details & Complete Recordings | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
German Text | Translations: Catalan-1 | Dutch | English-1 | English-3I | English-3P | English-6 | French-1 | French-4 | French-6 | Hebrew-1 | Indonesian | Italian-2 | Italian-4 | Russian-1 | Spanish-2 | Spanish-7
Chorale Text:
Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen

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Discussions: Texts | Translations: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


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Last update: Friday, June 02, 2017 02:10