The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Wisdom, Who O'er Earth Below

For Advent

Words: Veni, Veni, Emanuel (the "O" Antiphons),
Authorship Unknown, 8th Century Latin;
Published As A Hymn in Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, 7th Edition, Köln, 1710.

Translation by William Cooke who was relying heavily on Neale's 1851 translation in Medieval Hymns.

Music: Carey's and Antioch, both 6 of 8s

See: Notes on Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

Source: William Cooke and William Denton, eds., The Church Hymnal. A Book of Hymns Adapted to the Use of the Church of England and Ireland, Arranged As They Are To Be Sung In Churches (London: J. Whitaker, 1853; London: George Bell, 1855), "The Advent Antiphons," Hymns 16-22, pp. 17-19. William Cooke is the Honorary Canon of Chester, and William Denton is Incumbent of St. Bartholomew, Moorfields.

December 16th - Antioch, 6 of 8s.

16. O Wisdom, Who o’er earth below
Forth from the Mouth of God didst flow,
Draw nigh and help us when we call,
And strongly, sweetly order all;
The path of prudence teach, that we
May dwell eternally with Thee. Amen.

December 17th - Carey’s, 6 of 8s.

17. Ruler and Lord, draw nigh, draw nigh!
Who to Thy flock on Sinai
Didst give, of ancient times, Thy Law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.
Draw nigh, draw nigh, with us to dwell,
And save, God, Thine Israel. Amen.

December 18th - Antioch, 6 of 8s.

18. O Rod of Jesse’s stem, arise,
And save us from our enemies;
And set us free from Satan’s chains,
And from the pit with all its pains.
Draw nigh, draw nigh, with us to dwell,
In haste to save Thine Israel. Amen.

December 19th - Carey’s, 6 of 8s.

19. Key of the House of David, come!
Reopen Thou our heavenly home
Make safe the way that we must go,
And close the paths that lead below.
Draw nigh, draw nigh, with us to dwell,
And save us, Lord, from sin and hell. Amen.

December 20th - Antioch, 6 of 8s.

20. O Morning Star, arise, draw nigh,
To give us comfort from on high;
Drive Thou away the gloom of night,
And pierce the clouds, and bring us light.
Draw nigh, draw nigh with us to dwell,
In mercy save Thine Israel. Amen.

December 22nd - Carey’s, 6 of 8s.

21. O Thou on Whom the Gentiles wait,
Who midst the nations shalt be great,
Thy Church’s chief and corner-stone,—
Who in Thyself hast made all one;
Oh come and save, for Thine own sake,
Mankind whom Thou of dust didst make! Amen.

December 23rd - Antioch, 6 of 8s.

22. Draw nigh, draw nigh, Immanuel,
And loose Thy captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! rejoice! Immanuel
Comes now to thee, Israel. Amen.

Sheet Music to "Benison," First Tune, and "Immanuel," Second Tune, from Sir Arthur Sullivan, ed., Church Hymns With Tunes (1885), pp. 54-55.

O_Wisdom_74_Church_Hymns.jpg (117293 bytes) O_Wisdom_74b_Church_Hymns.jpg (119987 bytes)

Editor's Note:

Some versions of this song envision one verse sung each night from Dec. 16 through Dec. 23, omitting Dec. 21. See The Church Hymnal (London: Bell and Daldy, 1868), #16-22, pp. 17-19. This version, and some others, reverse lines 3 & 4 with lines 5 & 6 of the first verse, thus:

O Wisdom, Who o'er earth below
Forth from the Mouth of God didst flow,
Draw nigh and help us when we call,
And strongly, sweetly, order all;
The path of prudence teach, that we
May dwell eternally with Thee. Amen.

Some other versions have several different choices for certain phrases, as well as an additional verse. See: Hymnal for the Scottish Church recommended by the College of Bishops: O Wisdom, Who O'er Earth Below-Version 2. Most of these envision an anthem "for the days before Christmas, each day one, commencing 16th December."

Canon Cooke's version here relies heavily on Version 1 of "Draw Nigh, Draw Nigh, Emmanuel" by John Mason Neale first published in Medieval Hymns (1851). Virtually all authorities credit that translation of "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" to Rev. Neale, although Canon Cooke does not.

The background to this rendition is given by John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Volume 1 of 2, "Antiphons," "ii. Metrical Translations," p. 74:

An early metrical rendering of the separate Antiphons was made by Canon William Cooke, and appeared in the Cooke and Denton Church Hymns With Tunes of 1853. Canon Cooke's account of the same is: "Where it was possible, the translator and arranger (who was William Cooke), took the words of Mr. A. J. Beresford Hope's translation of the hymn 'Veni Veni Emanuel,' in the Hymnal Noted; retaining the prayer of the Prose Anthem for the Advent of Christ."

Biographical Note concerning William Cooke from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology. Volume 1 of 2 (1892), p. 262.

Cooke, William, M.A., was born at Pendlebury, near Manchester, in 1821, and was educated in private schools. In 1839 he went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and took his B.A. degree in 1843, and his M.A. in 1847. Ordained Deacon in 1844, and Priest in 1845, by the Bishop (Blomfeld) of London, and having served the Assistant Curacies of Hillingdon, near Uxbridge, and of My hold and Brantham in Sullolk, he was presented, in 1848, to the Incumbency of St. John's, Charlotte Street, London; in 1850, to the Vicarage of St. Stephen's, Shepherd's Bush,; and in 1856, to the Vicarage of Grazeley, Suffolk. In 1850, he was a Select Preacher to the University of Cambridge; and from 1849 to 1857, Examining Chaplain to the Bishop (Graham) of Chester, by whom he was made Honorary Canon of Chester in 1854.

In 1868 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He is the author of The Power of the Priesthood in Absolution, in 1863; Of Ceremonies, Lights and Custom (a Letter to the Rev. T. W. Perry), and various Sermons. In 1849, he issued a Book of Hymns for the use of the Congregation worshipping at St. John's, Charlotte Street, London; in 1853 was joint editor with the Rev. William Denton of The Church Hymnal; and in 1872 was associated with the Rev. Benjamin Webb, Prebendary of St. Paul's, in the editorship of The Hymnary. For that collection he translated and composed several hymns, his signature in some cases being "A.C.C.," i.e., "A Canon of Chester."

Canon Cooke died on November 23, 1894, according to John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology.

In 1872, William Cooke would partner with Benjamin Webb in the publication of The Hymnary – A Book of Church Song`(London: Novello, Ewer and Co.), which included a series of seven hymns, each based on one of the Seven “Great O” Antiphons, and each with its own tune. They are:

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