Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born 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 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 new born King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son 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.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the ne born King!”

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a typical carol, to the extent that the version we know today is the result of several significant tweaks during its history. It was first published in 1739 with text by Charles Wesley (1707-1778), pictured below and the younger brother of John Wesley, who wrote over 6,000 other hymns including Soldiers of Christ, Arise and Love Devine, All Loves Excelling.

In a revised publication in 1754 the words in the first line were changed by George Whitefield, a colleague of John and Charles Wesley, to the words we know today and a few other changes were made as well. In 1782 a further change was made to create the version we know today with the repetition of the last two lines of each verse. The final significant change was made in 1855 by William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915) when he adapted a melody by Felix Mendelssohn to create the version that is commonly sung today. Cummings, pictured below, was known mainly as an accomplished tenor, and as a teenager in 1847 had been conducted by Mendelssohn when he was in London; in 1879 he was appointed as Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music, and then progressed to become Director of the Guildhall School of Music.

The version we sing today has been sung for nearly 150 years, which makes it one of the longest established carols in our repertoire, so belt out a couple of verses to celebrate.

Merry Christmas

Header photo by Annalisa Bellini on Unsplash

Angel photo by James Coleman on Unsplash