“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in the early 1700s, as part of the final movement of the Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben cantata (“Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life”).
The original German lyrics differ quite a bit from the traditional English lyrics, and strongly focus on a more personal connection with Christ. A literal translation is as follows:
Well for me that I have Jesus,
O how strong I hold to Him
That He might refresh my heart
When so sick and sad am I.
Jesus have I, He who loves me,
He who takes me as His own!
Ah, therefore I don’t leave Jesus,
Lest I should break my heart.
The original lyrics were written in 1661 by Martin Janus. The vocal melody was actually written by Johann Schop around 1664, but didn’t become popular until 1723, when Bach added it to the original 1716 cantata.
Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.