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Martin Opitz (Hymn-Writer)

Born: December 23, 1597 - Bunzlau, Silesia, Germany
Died: August 20, 1639 - Danzig (?), Germany

Martin Opitz, son of Sebastian Opitz, a butcher, entered the University of Frankfort on the Oder in 1618 and in 1619 went to Heidelberg, where he was a private tutor while studying literature and philosophy at the university. When Spanish troops threatened, he left and traveled through Holland, Friesland, and Jutland.

In 1622 Martin Opitz became Professor of Philosophy in the Gymnasium founded at Weissenburg in Transylvania by Prince Bethlem Gabor. He resigned in 1623. At the request of Duke Rudolf of Liegnitz-Brieg he versified the Epistles for Sundays and festivals according to the metres of the French Psalter and was rewarded with the title “Rath.” On an embassy to Vienna in 1625 he presented to Emperor Ferdinand II a poem on the death of the Emperor’s brother Grandduke Karl; for this the Emperor crowned him poet and in 1628 raised him to the nobility as Opitz von Boberfeld. For a time he was private secretary to the Burgrave Carl Hannibal von Dohna, who began the Counter Reformation against the Protestants of Silesia in 1628; Opitz wrote poems in praise of him. Three years later Opitz published a translation of the Jesuit Martin Becanus’ controversial For the Conversion of the Erring. On a diplomatic mission to Paris on Dohna’s behalf in 1630 he became acquainted with Hugo Grotius. In 1633 he was sent by Duke Johann Christian of Liegnitz-Brieg as his plenipotentiary to Berlin and also to the Swedish Chancellor Oxenstjerna. Opitz accompanied the Duke to Thorn in 1635 when Wallenstein obtained the mastery over the Silesian duchies. From there Opitz went to Danzig, where in June, 1637, he became historiographer to King Wladislaw IV of Poland. From Danzig Opitz did his best by correspondence and otherwise to atone for the oppression of his brethren in Silesia. On August 20, 1639, three days after being accosted by a diseased beggar, he died of the plague.

The author of some 90 works, Martin Opitz was a member of the great German literary union, the Fruit-bearing Society. His great merit was as a reformer of German prosody by his example of literary style and by his Buch der Deutschen Poeterey, published at Breslau, 1624. Herein he laid down the rules of German verse which have given it the form it has to this day.


Source: ELHHB Website [Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal]
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2003)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

BWV 440, BWV 463

Chorale Texts used in Bach’s Vocal Works





Auf, auf, die rechte Zeit ist hier


Herr, nicht schicke deine Rache



Links to other Sites

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook - Biographies and Sources (ELHHB)




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