As with gladness men of old

As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright;
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore be led to thee.

This Epiphany hymn was first published in William Chatterton Dix's private collection, Hymns of Love and Joy (1861), in the St Raphael's Hymnal (Bristol 1861, for St Raphael's Church), and in Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861). Dix (1837-1898) wrote the hymn one evening in the Epiphany of 1858 whilst convalescing from a serious illness. The hymn tells the Epiphany story, and is based upon the Gospel text in Matthew 2:9-11. The original text referred twice to a manger, but this was changed in the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern with the approval of Dix. Verse 2 line 2 read ‘To that lowly manger-bed’ and verse 3 line 2 read ‘At that manger rude and bare’. The first manger disappeared and the second manger became a cradle, apparently because the wise men came to a house, not a stable. Other biblical references include: verse 2, line 3-4; Philippians 2:10, and line 6; Exodus 25:17. Dix was born and educated in Bristol and became the manager of a marine insurance company in Glasgow. He published many of his own hymns, and some translations from Greek. He is buried in the Parish Church at Cheddar in Somerset.

Tune - Dix

The tune Dix originally appeared in Stimmen aus dem Reiche Gottes ... herausgegeben von Conrad Kocher, Stuttgart 1838, where it was set to the chorale Treuer Heiland, wir sind hier. W H Monk transcribed the melody and shortened it for use with the present hymn in 1861, and it subsequently became very popular. Unfortunately Dix disapproved of the tune, saying ‘I dislike it, but now nothing will displace it’. Conrad Kocher (1786-1872) studied in Rome and later founded a School of Sacred Song in Stuttgart. He was organist of the Stiftkirche in Stuttgart (1827-1865) and published many chorales. William Henry Monk (1823-1889) held organist positions at several London churches. He is best known as the first musical editor of Hymns Ancient & Modern. In 1874 he was appointed Professor of Music at King’s College, London.

Nigel Day
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 31st December 1997