The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hark, The Heralds Loud Did Sing

"Hymn For Christmas Day"
"Sun of Righteousness"

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788), Hark! How All The Welkin Rings
Hymns and Sacred Poems,
1739, 1743.
See
Hark The Herald Angels Sing (with sheet music and notes)
Version by Dr. Steve H. Hakes © 2016; Used with permission.

Music: Dent Dale
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Meter: 77 77

Source: Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,
Dr. Steve H. Hakes, Lyricology Hub: Christian Songs for Life

1. Hark, the heralds loud did sing
glory to the one born king
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful now our hearts arise
join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic ones we say
Christ was born, momentous day.

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting lord
Let all hearts prepare him room
firstborn of the virginís womb
One with us Godís son we see
greet the incarnate deity
Pleased as one with us to dwell
Jesus our Immanuel.

3. Greet the heaven born Prince of Peace
in his name, all war shall cease
Light and life to all he brings
and frees us from evil things
Selfless left his home on high
born that man need never die
Born to raise us from the earth
born to give us second birth.

Notes from Dr. Hakes.

Hark, The Herald Angels Sing1

The background to this hymn might have been the joyous sounds of London's church bells, thrilling Charles Wesley as he walked to church one Christmas morn. Perhaps to his ears it sounded as if the heavens, the welkins, were ringing the bells as for a coronation of the king of kings. It was published in 1739, and various people have tweaked it, somewhat annoying the Wesleys, who thought that mucking around with their songs could only cheapen them. Charles will now admit the need of updating, though may well smile with a head shake at my puny endeavour. I am well aware that though the Wesleys made their own changes to songs written by Isaac Watts, that nevertheless the strap of their shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. In composing my version, I have compared a few versions to Wesley's original. I don't wish change for change's sake, nor to overlook improvements already made. I keep hark, as in "hark hark the lark", since it is not too archaic and keeps the title. Wesley's 10 stanzas of 4 lines, became 5 stanzas of 8 lines. I have ignored the last less common 16 lines.2

Rhyming is a simple ABABABAB pattern, though nowadays come l womb seldom rhyme. A number of archaisms exist, not least we/kin and men. A tardisial element is built in, yet Christ wasn't born last Christmas, nor shall be this Christmas. The historical reality of the incarnation predates the Christian celebration, Christmas, which seems to merely have taken a pagan festivity, Saturnalia, and related its prophecy of the risen sun (effectively a then winter solstice day) to the true rising of God's light. It is unlikely that Jesus was actually born on our Dec.25th. My main concern, however, is the imagining of an annual rebirth day, as if it's an annual myth.

Footnotes by Dr. Hakes:

1. Hark How All The Welkin Rings.  Return

2. Verses 7 through 10:

7. 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.

8. Now display thy saving Pow'r,
Ruin'd Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to Ours, and Ours to Thine.

9. Adam's likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy Love.

10. Let us Thee, tho' lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Heav'nly Man:
O ! to All Thyself impart,
Form'd in each Believing Heart.

It features terms from Genesis, John, and Adam Christology. On the negative side, if sung by Christians, it asks Jesus (bad) to come where he already is (bad)óto convert the converted. Moreover it seems that redemption is getting back to Genesis, rather than getting onto Revelation, so fails to capitalise on Adam Christology. He has not restored me what I had, or to what sinless Adam had, but gives me what neither Adam nor I ever had. On the positive side, the Gospel is about Jesus offering mystic union to all, a 'vertical' link, and us letting God replace the fallen likeness by the new (Eph.5:26f.).  Return

Editor's Note.

Dr. Hakes describes his website, Lyricology, as:

Lyricology.eu is dedicated to the proposition that not all songs are created equal, that the most important songs are Christian songs, and that Christian songs that do not perform well, let down the faith they claim to serve. Christian songs that perform well, lift hearts & minds in joy. The site encourages the bad to become good, the good to become better, the better to become best, and the best to be loved.

Editor's Note:

This carol is the result of work by Dr. Steve H. Hakes, who created the website Lyricology Hub: Christian Songs for Life in order to help authors improve their songs. He writes:

Lyricology is dedicated to the proposition that not all songs are created equal, that the most important songs are Christian songs, and that Christian songs that do not perform well, let down the faith they claim to serve. Christian songs that perform well, lift hearts & minds in joy. The site encourages the bad to become good, the good to become better, the better to become best, and the best to be loved.

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