1. What means this glory round our feet,
The Magi mused, more bright than morn!
And voices chanted clear and sweet,
Today the Prince of Peace is born!
What means this star, the shepherds said,
That brightens through the rocky glen?
And angels answering overhead,
Sang Peace on earth, good will to men!
2. ’Tis now two thousand years, and more,
[originally ’Tis eighteen hundred years, and more]
Since those sweet oracles were dumb;
We wait for Him, like them of yore;
Alas! He seems so slow to come!
But it was said, in words of gold,
No time nor sorrow e’er shall dim,
That little children might be bold,
In perfect trust to come to Him.
3. All round about our feet shall shine
A light like that the wise men saw,
If we our loving wills incline
To that sweet life which is the law.
So shall we learn to understand
The simple faith of shepherds then,
And kindly clasping hand in hand,
Sing Peace on earth, good will to men!
Lowell, James Russell, LL.D., was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 22, 1819; graduated at Harvard College, 1838, and was called to the Bar in 1840. Professor of Modern Languages and Literature (succeeding the Poet Longfellow) in Harvard, 1855; American Minister to Spain, also to England in 1881. He was editor of the Atlantic Monthly, from 1857 to 1862; and of the North American Review from 1863 to 1872. Professor Lowell is the most intellectual of American poets, and first of her art critics and humorists. He has written much admirable moral and sacred poetry, but no hymns. One piece, “Men, whose boast it is that ye" (Against Slavery), is part of an Anti-Slavery poem, and in its present form is found in Hymns of the Spirit, 18… Go to person page >
Initially Luther used the folk melody associated with his first stanza as the tune for this hymn. Later he composed this new tune for his text. VOM HIMMEL HOCH was first published in Valentin Schumann's Geistliche Lieder in 1539. Johann S. Bach (PHH 7) used Luther's melody in three places in his wel…