Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

by Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, William Hayman Cummings, and Felix Mendelssohn

“Hymn for Christmas-Day”
(Charles Wesley, 1739)
Adaptation by
George Whitefield (1758)
Carols for Choirs (1961)
HARK how all the Welkin rings
“Glory to the King of Kings,
“Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
“GOD and Sinners reconcil’d!

Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumph of the Skies,
Universal Nature say
“CHRIST the LORD is born to Day!
HARK! the Herald Angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and Sinners reconcil’d.

Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumphs of the Skies;
Nature rise and worship him,
Who is born at Bethlehem.
Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the new-born king”
CHRIST, by highest Heav’n ador’d,
CHRIST, the Everlasting Lord,
Late in Time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s Womb.

Veil’d in Flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ Incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as Man with Men t’ appear
JESUS, our Immanuel here!
Christ by highest Heav’n ador’d,
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in Time behold-him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s Womb.

Veil’d in Flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as Man with Men t’appear,
Jesus our Emmanuel here.
Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King”
Hail the Heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and Life to All he brings,
Ris’n with Healing in his Wings.

Mild he lays his Glory by,
Born—that Man no more may die,
Born—to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born—to give them Second Birth
Hail the Heav’n-born Prince of Peace
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and Life around he brings,
Ris’n with Healing in his Wings.

Mild he lays his Glory by,
Born that Men no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of Earth,
Born to give them second Birth.
Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness![a]
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the new-born king”
Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in Us thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman’s Conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent’s Head.

Now display thy saving Pow’r,
Ruin’d Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to Ours, and Ours to Thine.
Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us thy heav’nly Home;
Rise the Woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head.
Adam’s Likeness, LORD, efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy Love.

Let us Thee, tho’ lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Inner Man:
O! to All Thyself impart,
Form’d in each Believing Heart.
Adam’s Likeness now efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place;
Second Adam from above,
Work it in us by thy Love.

If this is not my favorite Christmas song, it is at least in the Top 3. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Wesley for writing the most epic of Christmas songs but also to George Whitefield for improving this song’s title line. “Hark! How all the Welkin rings” just doesn’t quite work as well, in my humble opinion. There are a few other changes though none quite so notable. Overall I prefer the version of the song with which I am familiar though I do wonder if I might feel differently having been raised with another arrangement.

The musical composition has an interesting history. From Wiki:

Mendelssohn melody

In 1855, British musician William Hayman Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn‘s secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” written by Charles Wesley.[10] Wesley had originally envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his Easter song “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today“.[11]

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and published as number 403 in The Church Hymn Book (New York and Chicago, 1872).[12]

In Britain, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” has popularly been performed in an arrangement that maintains the basic original William H. Cummings harmonisation of the Mendelssohn tune for the first two verses, but adds a soprano descant and a last verse harmonisation for the organ in verse three by Sir David Willcocks. This arrangement was first published in 1961 by Oxford University Press in the first book of the Carols for Choirs series. For many years it has served as the recessional hymn of the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.[13]

Handel melody

An uncommon arrangement of the hymn to the tune “See, the Conqu’ring hero comes” from Handel‘s Judas Maccabaeus, normally associated with the hymn “Thine Be the Glory“, is traditionally[14] used as the recessional hymn of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. This is broadcast live each year on Christmas Eve on RTÉ Radio 1. The usual (first) three verses are divided into six verses, each with chorus. The arrangement features a brass fanfare with drums in addition to the cathedral organ, and takes about seven and a half minutes to sing. The Victorian organist W. H. Jude, in his day a popular composer, also composed a new setting of the work, published in his Music and the Higher Life.

A song befitting its subject matter. I mean, if you *really* believe that the Son of God was born on earth, as a human, for the purpose of redeeming humanity and building a Kingdom to conquer the one already here, then your song about it should have lines like: “Join the triumph of the skies!” This song appropriately places Christ’s birth in its proper context where Christians are concerned.

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