From the Moravian hymnal of 1754, a quaint rendering of the original Stanza VIII of Gerhardt's lovely Nun ruhen alle Wälder (compare stanza 4 of "Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow," LSB #880); with a nod and a smile to Karin and her brood:
Display Thy both wings over
Thy chickens and them cover,
O Jesu, Savior mild!
If devils would disturb 'em,
Let holy angels curb 'em
And bid them never touch Thy child.
Concerning the original stanza, which is often used as a prayer in its own right, Theodore Brown Hewitt relates the following touching incident:
"A troop of French soldiers entered Lisberg, a small town of Hesse, on the 14th of September, 1796, plundered and killed the inhabitants, and burned the whole town. A little way distant, at the foot of a mountain, was a small cottage in which a mother sat by the bedside of her sick child. Hearing the noise in the town and seeing the burning houses she locked the door and knelt by the bedside and prayed. As the door burst open and a furious soldier rushed in, she spread her hands over the child and cried: 'Breit aus die Flügel beide, O Jesu, meine Freude, . . .' and lo! the wild soldier suddenly dropped his arm, stepped to the bed, and laid his rough hand gently on the child's head. Then going outside he stood guard that none of his troop might harm the cottage." (from Paul Gerhardt as a Hymn Writer and His Influence on English Hymnody, readily accessible on the internet, and well worth the effort for anyone interested in Gerhardt)
Such anecdotal stories are not uncommon concerning Gerhardt's hymns, a testimony to their poetic power, tender piety and theological comfort.