Behind the Hymn: Built on the Rock
Built on the Rock was written by Nicolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig. He was born at Udby, in Seeland, in 1783. Upon leaving university, he took to teaching. During this time, he devoted his attention to poetry, literature, and Northern antiquities. In 1810 he became assistant to his father in a parish in Jutland where he became ordained. After his father’s death three years later, he returned to Copenhagen and devoting himself to literature and poetry. He went on to serve several parishes and in 1863 King Frederik bestowed the honorary title of Bishop upon him. He died suddenly on September 2, 1872, having officiated the previous day, at the age of 89. He is described as “Grundtvig is spoken of as the poet of Whitsuntide.”
Whitsuntide is the equivalent to Pentecost. Whit Sunday takes place on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Whitsuntide, the week following Whitsunday, was one of three vacation weeks for the medieval villein, a serf tied to the land. Whit Monday, remained a holiday in Britain until 1971 when replaced with the Spring Bank Holiday.
Carl Døving translated the hymn into English. He was born in 1867 Norway, translated a number of hymns and died in 1937 in Chicago, Illinois.