Featured Hymn: Low in the Grave He Lie

“Low in the Grave He Lie”

The stanzas and refrain of this hymn present a contrast between the buried Jesus and the risen Jesus. In the stanzas, He was buried, awaiting the appointed time of resurrection, and there was nothing that could keep Him in the grave – the guards tried, and Death tried, but they were no match for our Lord. The refrain is a jubilant celebration of the Resurrection. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!


This jubilant Easter text was written in 1874 by Robert Lowry, and was published in a Sunday school songbook edited by Lowry and William Doane in 1875, Brightest and Best. The hymn was used by Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey in their revivals in Great Britain, and was widely popular in America as well. This hymn has multiple titles: “Christ Arose,” “Low in the Grave He Lay,” and “Up from the Grave He Arose.” The themes of the stanzas and the refrain contrast each other. The stanzas focus on Jesus in the tomb. The refrain exultantly celebrates that Jesus is now risen and victorious over His evil enemies.


Robert Lowry wrote this tune in 1874 for his text, hence the name CHRIST AROSE. The music for the stanzas is subdued, with a narrow melodic range, and simple rhythm. The dotted rhythms, wide range, and melodic leaps of the refrain melody provide a strong contrast to the stanzas as in the text. Throughout the refrain, the lower voices echo back the words, “He arose!” in a resounding antiphon. In the first edition, the refrain was marked “Faster,” a performance practice that has become standard. Sometimes, a ritardando is marked in the penultimate measure, which allows an easy return to the tempo of the stanzas, as well as an opportunity to spend a little more time on the triumphant words, “Hallelujah! Christ arose!”


View this Featured Hymn at Hymnary.org.