Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Representative Text

1 Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King:
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th'angelic hosts proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King"

2 Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the Virgin's womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th'incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel. [Refrain]

3 Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth. [Refrain]

Alterer: George Whitefield

(no biographical information available about George Whitefield.) Go to person page >

Author: Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley, M.A. was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family, perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn-writer of all ages. Charles Wesley was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and was born at Epworth Rectory, Dec. 18, 1707. In 1716 he went to Westminster School, being provided with a home and board by his elder brother Samuel, then usher at the school, until 1721, when he was elected King's Scholar, and as such received his board and education free. In 1726 Charles Wesley was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729, and became a college tutor. In the early part of the same year his religious impressions were much deepene… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Hark! the herald angels sing Glory to the new-born King
Title: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Author: Charles Wesley (1739)
Alterer: George Whitefield
Meter: D with refrain
Language: English
Refrain First Line: Hark! the herald angels sing
Notes: Spanish translation: See "Oíd un son en alta esfera" by Federico Fliedner; Swahili translation: See "Mungu ni wa utukufu"
Copyright: Public Domain; Public Domain




French Creole





Scripture References:
st. 1 = Luke 2:14, 2 Cor. 5:19
st. 2 = Gal. 4:4, John 1:14
st. 3 = Isa. 9:6, Mal. 4:2, Phil. 2:7-8, 1 Pet. 1:3

Charles Wesley (PHH 267) wrote this text in ten four-line stanzas and published it in Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739). Originally entitled "Hymn for Christmas Day," this most popular of Wesley's Christmas hymns began with the following words:

Hark, how all the welkin [heavens] rings
Glory to the King of Kings.

George Whitefield changed the first line to "Hark! The herald angels sing" and published the text with additional alterations in his Collection (1753). In 1782 the revised opening couplet became repeated as the refrain. The text was extensively changed and shortened by various other eighteenth-century editors as well. With a few word changes the Psalter Hymnal version is essentially the same as the one published in John Kempthorne's Select Portions of Psalms… and Hymns (1810).

Containing biblical phrases from Luke, John, and Paul, the text is a curious mixture of exclamation, exhortation, and theological reflection. The focus shifts rapidly from angels, to us, to nations. The text's strength may not lie so much in any orderly sequence of thought but in its use of Scripture to teach its theology. That teaching surely produces in us a childlike response of faith; we too can sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Liturgical Use:
Christmas Day; another of the "must" hymns for an annual lesson/ carol festival.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987


Hark! how all the welkin rings, p. 487, i. In most of the hymnals published since 1892, the well-known text, as altered in G. Whitefield's Collection, 1753, and subsequently in the Supplement to Tate & Brady, has been adopted:—
"Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King."
The exceptions include:—
1. The 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern where C. Wesley's opening lines:—
"Hark! how all the welkin rings,
Glory to the King of Kings,"
are restored in the first stanza, and also used as a refrain. The rest of the hymn is the same as in the old edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern.
2. The English Hymnal, 1906. In this collection C. Wesley's original text sts. i.-viii., is given as No. 23 (see p. 487), and the well-known text as in the old edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, and other collections as No. 24.
3. In the 1906 ed. of Hymns Ancient & Modern the text as in the various editions 1861-1889, is restored, in addition to J. Wesley's original text.
4. In the Public School Hymn Book, 1903, the opening lines are:—
"Hark! the herald angel sings,
Glory to the King of kings."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)



The tune is from the second chorus of Felix Mendelssohn's (PHH 279) Festgesang (Op. 68) for male voices and brass; it was first performed in 1840 at the Gutenberg Festival in Leipzig, a festival celebrating the anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Mendelssohn's tune is similar…

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