Hymn of the Week: October 17
by the Rev. Brooke Myers
Sunday, October 17, Proper 24, Year B
Hymn 477: “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine,” Engelberg
Some hymn texts are written for specific hymn tunes, and some tunes are written for specific texts. This week’s hymn is a good example of how texts and tunes are united, or not.
The words to the hymn “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine” was written in 1938 by the Rev. Dr. F. Bland Tucker. He intended them to be used with a tune called Sine Nomine, by Ralph Vaughan Williams. We’re most familiar with this tune as we sing it with gusto on All Saints' Day, but Tucker wanted to use that tune on other occasions as well. Ironically, years earlier in 1904, Charles Villiers Stanford had composed Engelberg for use with “For all the Saints.” Confused yet?
Engelberg was upstaged by Sine Nomine, which became the preferred tune for the All Saints text written by William Walsham How, and was the choice for the Hymnal 1940, thus cementing Tucker’s lyrics with Stanford’s Engelberg and How’s text with Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Such are the vagaries of Anglican hymnody.
Tucker’s text, based on Philippians 2:5-11, consists of five stanzas of three ten-syllable lines ending with an Alleluia. It may be paraphrased thusly: We praise you, Jesus, for giving up your place in glory at God’s right hand. You took the part of one who was humble, a servant of the poor, and a sacrificial lamb. We know that servanthood is the path to freedom. You are exalted as the ruler of creation. Let all proclaim you as Lord. Stanford’s tune provides a powerful rhythmic scaffolding for the text; it gradually builds, line by line, then climaxes with an ascending “Alleluia.”
This hymn is notably one of only two in our Hymnal that concludes with an “Amen.”
All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine,
didst yield the glory that of right was thine,
that in our darkened hearts thy grace might shine. Alleluia!
Thou cam’st to us in lowliness of thought;
by thee the outcast and the poor were sought;
and by thy death was God’s salvation wrought. Alleluia!
Let this mind be in us which was in thee,
who wast a servant that we might be free,
humbling thyself to death on Calvary. Alleluia!
Wherefore, by God’s eternal purpose, thou
art high exalted o’er all creatures now,
and given the Name to which all knees shall bow. Alleluia!
Let every tongue confess with one accord
in heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is Lord;
and God the Father be by all adored. Alleluia!