Praise, my soul, the King of heaven

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
to his feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who like me his praise should sing?
Alleluia, Alleluia,
praise the everlasting King.

This hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 103 and was first published in Henry Francis Lyte's The Spirit of the Psalms (1834), which contained over 280 new paraphrases of psalms. This is the second of two versions of Psalm 103. Lyte was born in 1793 and was a priest for many years in Lower Brixham, Devon. He died on 20 November, 1847; exactly 100 years later, this hymn was chosen as the opening processional by HRH Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II). In the original, there were five verses, with verse 4 (corresponding to verses 15-17 of the Psalm) bracketed for omission if desired:

Frail as summer's flower we flourish:
Blows the wind, and it is gone.
But, while mortals rise and perish,
God endures unchanging on.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the high eternal One!

Some hymnals use the refrain Praise him! Praise him! (eg, English Hymnal); others use the refrain Alleluia! Alleluia! (eg, Hymns Ancient & Modern). In the original Hymns Ancient & Modern Standard, verse 4 was changed because the editors were unhappy with the notion of the sun and moon bowing down before him:

Angels, in the height adore him;
Ye behold him face to face;
Saints triumphant, bow before him,
Gather'd in from every race.

Tune - Praise, My Soul

Sir John Goss (1800-1880) composed Praise, My Soul for this hymn. It first appeared in The Supplemental Hymn and Tune Book, compiled by Rev. Robert Brown-Borthwick (3rd edition, 1869). Trained as one of the children of the Chapel Royal, he succeeded Attwood as organist of St Paul's Cathedral in 1838. The tune originally appeared in two versions, the D major form for voices in unison to a varying accompaniment for each verse, and an E major version for four voices. The present setting combines parts from both versions. It is said Goss never started composing without saying a prayer; many works are prefaced by INDA (In nomine Dei, Amen).

Nigel Day
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 17th April 2006