Wednesday, August 14, 2013

O Worship the King

Here is another wonderful hymn! One of my personal favorites.

Title: O Worship the King

Tune: Lyon


Author: Robert Grant (1779-1838)

Composer: Joseph Martin Kraus (20th June, 1756-15th December, 1792)

The text for “O Worship the King” was inspired by a paraphrasing of psalm 104, written by William Kethe (died circa 1608), which was originally published in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter (1561). The text that we know today was published in Edward Bickersteth's (1825-1906) Christian Psalmody (1833), which had many unauthorized alterations included in the text. The original text (the one Grant wrote) appeared unaltered for the first time in Henry Elliott's Psalms and Hymns (1835), where it appeared with six different stanzas. Instead of being written in a form of versification, this hymn is written as more of a meditation on the themes of psalm 104. The first three stanzas focus on the creation aspect of God and the psalm, where as the last two stanzas (stanzas four and five) focus on God's compassion for the creatures on earth, and confirm that in the end, we will all with God and the heavenly hosts in the end.

Robert Grant was a well distinguished member of the British Government, as well as a known hymn writer. Grant was born as the second son to Charles Grant, who was a member of parliament as well as a director for the East India Company. R Grant studied at Cambridge and graduated in 1806. Only a year later, he was admitted to the bar, which would lead him to become a member of Parliament for Inverness in 1826. In 1831, R Grant was known as a “Privy Councilor,” and finally in 1834, he became Govenor of Bombay, India ( , John Julian, par. 1). Grant was eventually Knighted in the same year he became Governor of Bombay, in 1834. Most of Grant's works can be found in The Christian Observer (1806-1815), in Henry Elliott's Psalms and Hymns (1835), and in a collection published posthumously by his brother, Sacred Poems (1839).

The origins of the tune “Lyons” took some deciphering over several years. Though the easy part was getting the name. “Lyons” is named after a small town in France. The tune was originally attributed to Franz Joseph Haydn, but was later found to have been originally written by Joseph Martin Kraus. The tune for “Lyons” matches well with one of Kraus' works, Tema con Veriazioni (Scherzo), which was written in 1785, and published in 1791 as a set of twelve variations for piano and violin. Though the violin part was not originally written by Kraus, it may have been, in fact, written by G. Haydn. This assumption comes from a publication of Kraus' work in 1808 under the title “Sonita with Twelve variations for the Piano Forte with Violin Accompaniments” ( , Psalter Hymnal Handbook, par. 1). Kraus is known for being a great composer in the classical era. He grew up in Germany, but moved to Stockholm, Sweden in 1778. While in Sweden, Kraus was elected to the Swedish Academy of Music, and became the conductor of the Court Orchestra, and would eventually go on to be the best-known composer to have been associated with the court of Gustavus III ( par. 2).

Though Kraus' life may have seemed fairly successful, it was marked by trials throughout. At the beginning of his studies, Kraus was forced to attend the University of Mainz by his parents. Unhappy with the state of things at Mainz, Kraus left the school after a year, and wrote a satire about the schools sad state. Kraus eventually matriculated to the University of Erfurt, where he could continue to study law, as well as take music lessons. After a while, Kraus became so wrapped up in the musical traditions of Erfurt, that he abandoned his study of law, and focused entirely on his study of music and literature. After only a short time at Erfurt, Kraus' father was caught up in a defamation case, and Kraus was forced to put his studies on hold for a year. During his time off, Kraus wrote his first tragedy, Tolon, and he wrote several smaller works of music for his local church, St. Oswald. In 1775, Kraus composed his first requiem, though it is not known if he wrote the work of church music for the purpose of the current literary movement, or if it was for personal reasons.

Three years later, in 1778, Kraus moved to Stockholm, where he had heard that King Gustavus III was a huge patron of the arts. For several years, Kraus lived in poverty, struggling to get the attention of the King. Finally, Gustavus noticed Kraus, after having written a libretto to an opera, Proserpina. Kraus' music fit perfectly to this libretto, and was finally premiered on 6th June, 1781, in front of Gustavus. After his performance, Kraus was appointed Vice-Kapellmeister of the Swedish Royal Opera, and as director of the Royal Academy of Music. It was after his performance, that King Gustavus talked with Kraus, and informed him that he would be taking a journey through Germany, France, and Italy, as a member of the Chorus and from the Academy of Music. Not only was Kraus a wonderful composer, having been cited by Franz Joseph Haydn as “one of the greatest geniuses I have met,” but he was also a well known poet. Kraus had several of his own collections of poetry published throughout his lifetime.

The Text:

1 O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

2 O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3 Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

4 Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

5 O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!

Take on the Text:

This hymn is all about worshiping God for the wonders that he has done on earth. The whole theme of the piece is the adoration of God's creation, and of God's promise to sing with the angels above. The first stanza sings of God being our creator, and our defender, keeping us safe from all harm. He will never let us fall, and he created us in his image, making us a glorious creation. The second stanza talks about his might. The power that God has covers all of us, with his canopy being the great space above us. God has the power to ride over every storm, but also he has the power to bring his wrath upon us, if we aren't willing to listen to him. The third stanza talks about God being in everything that is around us. God is in the air, he is in the sun, and he is definitely in all creatures on earth. The fourth stanza is a verse written out of humility. We are born from dust, and to dust we shall return. Our only hope in the world is to turn to God in all of his glory, and surrender ourselves to Him. The fifth stanza is my favorite, because it tells us that we will all one day sing of God and praise Him in glory. Throughout our lives, we will always run across struggle, and that can sometimes come in between God, and ourselves. But, if we manage to wade through the difficulties, in the end, we will be able to rest, and join the heavenly hosts in singing the praises of God forever and ever!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video and follow along!
Note: The text from the video and the text from the page are slightly different. 


Julian, John. "Edward Henry Bickersteth." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2013.

Julian, John. "William Kethe." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2013.

Julian, John. "Robert Grant." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2013.

Julian, John. "LYONS." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2013.

Psalter Hymnal Handbook. "Psalter Hymnal (Gray)‎ #100." Psalter Hymnal (Gray) 100. All People That on Earth Do Dwell (Vous Tous Qui La Terre Habitez). Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2013.

Psalter Hymnal Handbook. "O Worship the King All Glorious Above." Calving Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2013.

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1 comment:

  1. Are the dates correct for Edward Bickersteth? Based on the dates you have here he would have been 8 years old when he published Christian Psalmody.