First, a bit of context on the text. (“A text without a context is just a pretext,” as they say.) So. Our friend Jacobi was a German teacher and poet who died in 1814. During his early years he wrote poetry that was dismissed as being impressive “only to women,” whatever that means. Jacobi was very popular with the intellectual ladies of the town, and supposedly his female followers outnumbered actual students attending his lectures. Goethe, in particular, was very critical of Jacobi's work, but he was still willing to contribute to the literary magazine that Jacobi founded.
If you read the translation provided for the text, you may feel that the ideas are a bit disconnected. Verse one's ideas are quite general, describing all those who are now departed, whether they lived to old age (“weary of life”) or died very young (“scarcely born”). Verse two specifically describes “maiden souls, full of love,” who have been abandoned by a “false friend.” Verse three is very puzzling, as it describes those who never see the sun but instead “watch on thorns, under the moon.” These lines seem to be describing some type of ascetics who torment their bodies here on earth in order “to see God in Heaven's pure light.” That's the best explanation I can come up with, anyway, as I was unable to find any commentary on Jacobi's meaning.
So why did Jacobi limit himself to just these descriptions? The answer is: He didn't. The original poem actually has nine verses, not three, and since the music repeats for each verse it would be perfectly possible to sing all nine. But verses one, three and six, the ones in our selection, are considered the best. I don't really know why, as I found the others to be beautiful too.
In the interests of thoroughness, then, here is a summary of the poem as a whole, including the verses we sing:
1. Rest in peace all souls, with your sweet dreams and your anxious torments ended, whether you lived to old age or died very young.
2. Rest in peace, all those who never found a friend, whose desire for companionship was never understood.
3. Rest in peace, all maiden souls whose tears cannot be counted, who were abandoned by a faithless friend and cast out by the world.
4. Rest in peace, young bridegroom whose bride lovingly laid him in the grave and who now comes secretly to visit him, bringing a candle.
5. Rest in peace, all those who have stood and fought for the truth and become martyrs, even though they did not seek any glory in their deaths.
6. Rest in peace, all those who denied themselves any earthly comfort, lying on thorns at night and denying themselves any sight of the sun, so that they might see God in Heaven.
7. Rest in peace, all those who sought pleasure in life's rose garden and its cup of delight but then saw it turn to bitterness.
8. Rest in peace, all those who knew no peace but instead were sent into battle in a darkening world.
9. Verse one repeats.
According to the notes with the complete poem, only the verses in our selection were included in the first published edition. Who decided that these were “certainly the best” out of the entire poem isn't clear. The ideas certainly make much more sense when all of the verses are included, but, beautiful as both the words and the music are, perhaps it would be straining everyone's patience to sing all nine of them. So, to answer the teaser question, yes, all of the verses are equally sad in their description of life on earth. And all are equally hopeful in their message of rest and peace.