Neumann, Gottfried, was born at Hohenheida, near Leipzig, apparently Nov. 30, 1686. He studied at the University of Leipzig, and thereafter was licensed as a candidate of theology (i.e. general preacher). In 1710 he joined the staff of the Halle Orphanage, but was expelled from Halle as a Separatist, and went to Hanau. He was then for a number of years receiver of rents (Fruchtschreiber) at Bergheim in Wetteravia, Hesse, to the Count Isenburg Meerholz, living later at Himbach, and at Marienbom (1736-39). Himbach was the headquarters of Johann Friedrich Kock, one of the principal leaders of the sect of the "Inspired," and between 1714 and 1734 Neumann generally speaking belonged to this sect. During the visits which Count N. L. von Zinzendorf paid to Wetteravia, about 1730, Neumann felt drawn to the Moravian Brethren. He joined the Moravian Community at Marienbom, Hesse, in 1738. In 1747 he was living at Meerholz, where he remained till his death. In the Weekly Reports of the Unitys-Elders-Conference in Barby, No. xix. for May 9-15, 1779, is the entry, “7. We are advised from Wetteravia, that the aged brother Gottfried Neumann at Meerholz has recently entered into his rest." Neumann therefore probably died in the end of April or beginning of May, 1779 (Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie xxiii. 519; MS. from Diaconus J. T. Müller, Herrnhut, &c.) Three of his hymns, all written in 1736, are in the Brüder Gesang-Buch, 1778. One has passed into English, viz.:—
i. Ei, wie so selig schläfest du. Burial. Written on the death of Christian Ludwig, son of Count N. L. von Zinzendorf. This child died in his third year, at Ronneburg, Aug. 31, 1736. In the first printed copy of Neumann's hymn (preserved in the Archives at Herrnhut, along with the original MS., which is dated Sept. 3, 1736) is the footnote:—
"In the evening of the night, during which the young Count Zinzendorf blessedly fell asleep, on opening the hymn-book [the Herrnhut Gesang-Buch, 1735] with reference to that noble child, I chanced upon the hymn, 'Ei, wie so selig schlafest du,’ [p. 322, ii.] which I referred to his death."
When Neumann's hymn was included as No. 1284 in Appendix viii., circa 1739, to the Herrnhut Gesang-Buch, 1735, it appears in 5 st. of 4 1., beginning "Ei, wie so sanft verschlä fest du." In the Brüder Gesang-Buch, 1778, No. 1728, it begins: "Ei, wie so sanft entschl'dfest du," and in Bunsen's Versuch, 1833, is further altered to "Ach wie so sanft." The translations in common use are:—
1. Blest soul, how sweetly dost thou rest. A translation of st. i., ii., and of the anonymous 17th century st. described under “Ei, wie so selig" (p. 322, ii.), as No. 961 in the Moravian Hymn Book, 1801 (1886, No. 1259), and in J. A. Latrobe's Collection, 1841.
2. At length releas'd from many woes. A full and good translation by Miss Cox, in her Sacred Hymns from the German, 1841, p. 75. Included in full in the Pennsylvania Lutheran Ch. Book, 1868; and, abridged, in Alford's Psalms & Hymns, 1844, his Year of Praise, 1867, and others.
Another translation is: "Sweet slumbers now thine eyelids close." By Lady E. Fortescue, 1843, p. 24. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)