For all the saints who from their labours rest

For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesu, be for ever blest.

This great processional hymn by William Walsham How (1823-1897) was first published in Earl Nelson's Hymns for Saint's Days, and other Hymns (1864). (Earl Nelson was the son of Mr Thomas Bottom, a nephew of the famous admiral, whose name he assumed on succeeding to the title.) The original version had 11 verses, although most hymnals of today omit the original verses 3, 4 and 5. Verse one originally began "For all thy Saints..." but the change was made by How when it was republished in Church Hymns (SPCK, 1871). Various other small changes have also been made to the text. The verses now omitted make reference to the Te Deum. How was educated at Oxford and held various High Church appointments, this hymn being written whilst he was rector of Whittington in Shropshire. He was appointed suffragan Bishop of London in 1879, with responsibility for the East End. He established a fine reputation in the dockland slums, and was known as the "omnibus bishop" because he preferred public transport to a private carriage. He was appointed the first Bishop of Wakefield in 1888.

There are several references to scripture in the text: Verse 1, lines 1-3 Colossians 1:12-13; line 2, Matthew 10:32, Romans 10:9; Verse 2, line 1, Psalm 61:2-3; line 2, 1 Timothy 6:12; line 3, John 1:4-5, 9; Verse 3, Ephesians 6:10-17, 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Verse 4, line 1, Colossians 1:12; line 2, Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43; line 3, John 17:9-11; Verse 7, line 2, Psalm 24:7,9.

Tune - Sine nomine

The hymn was originally sung to the tune "For All the Saints", written for it in 1869 by Sir Joseph Barnby (1838-1896). This is never sung today, being supplanted by the fine tune Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), written for the 1906 edition of The English Hymnal. Copyright difficulties prevented its use in any appearance of Hymns Ancient and Modern until the publication of the New Standard edition in 1983. Vaughan Williams studied at Cambridge, The Royal College of Music, Paris and Berlin. He was musical editor of The English Hymnal and (with Martin Shaw) of Songs of Praise. The title is Latin for "without a name"..

Nigel Day
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 27th October 1997