Hail the day that sees him rise

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia.
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia.
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia.
enters now the highest heaven, Alleluia.

This Ascensiontide hymn by Charles Wesley (1707-88) ranks amongst his most popular. It has been re-written to the extent that no verse of the original survives unaltered. It originally appeared in his Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739), having ten verses without the Alleluias. The six verse version we sing today is derived from verses 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8 of the original, with numerous alterations by Thomas Cotterill which were published in his A Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship (1820). The revision had the effect of toning down the ecstatic and emotional language of the original. For example, 'Ravished from our wishful eyes' is replaced with 'To his throne above the skies', and 'There the pompous triumph waits' becomes 'There for him high triumph waits'. The hymn is based upon the gospel accounts of the Ascension in Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51. Verse 2 depends on Psalm 24:7-10, and verse 4 on Luke 24:50. The English Hymnal (7 verses) is closer to the original text and includes verse 10 of the original. The Alleluias were added by C G White is his Hymns and Introits (1852).

Tune - Llanfair

The tune Llanfair by Robert Williams (c.1781-1821) is named 'Bethel' in the composer's manuscript book dated 14th July 1817. Williams, a blind basket-maker, lived all his life on Anglesey. Its structure (simple ternary form with repeat, AABA) is typical of 19th century Welsh hymn tunes. It was introduced to English congregations by The English Hymnal (1906) which set it to the words we use today.

Nigel Day

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 16th October 2005