O how the thought that we shall know. E. Swaine. [Heaven Anticipated.] The original publication of this hymn we are unable to determine. It probably appeared in a religious magazine, circa 1830: for stanzas ii.-v. were given in Bickersteth's Christian Psalmody. 1833, No. 575: as "For ever to behold Him shine." The original was republished in Swaine's The Hand of God, a Fragment, with Poems, Hymns, and Versions of Psalms, 1839: Bickersteth's arrangement was also repeated in several collections. In 1876 Bp. E. H. Bickersteth wrote a new stanza, substituted it for Swaine's original, and gave the hymn in his Hymnal Companion as "‘For ever' beatific word," together with an elaborate note in which he says it was strange to begin the hymn as his father had done, with the second stanza of the original, "For ever to behold Him shine,"
"without the sacred name of Jesus being previously expressed, and without the keynote, ‘For ever,' being clearly struck, as in the original, at the close of the first verse. It is probably owing to this fact that so beautiful a hymn has been omitted from many of the standard hymnals of the Church. The editor therefore ventured, though with much diffidence, to write the first verse given in the text [as in Hymnal Companion]: for the closing of the first and last stanzas with the same word 'For ever’ as originally contrived by the author, seems almost essential to the full chord of eternity, which is struck again and again in this admirable hymn." (Notes, Hymnal Companion. No. 240.)
This arrangement by Bishop Bickersteth has produced a very attractive and melodious hymn.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)