Hymn of the week: All glory, laud and honour

One of the books I am reading at the moment is Hywel William’s Emperor of the West: Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. I enjoy reading history and found this second hand on the shelf of our church charity shop Second Chance, so thought it was worth a try. I have to admit that being completely ignorant of 8th/9th century European history, it has at times been pretty hard going.

Charlemagne was a self-consciously Christian emperor, whose court attracted many of the leading scholars of the day, including the Northumbrian monk Alcuin and his friend and rival Theodulph (or Theodulf), author of today’s hymn of the week.

Born in Spain to a noble family of Gothic origin, Theodulph became Bishop of Orleans in 798. He was a considerable poet, in the words of K. Löffler: “As regards language and metre he occupies the first place among the poets of the Carlovingian era and distinguished himself by spirit and skill; particularly interesting are the letters which he wrote in the form of poems giving an animated picture of the life at court.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia) After Charlemagne’s death, Theodulph was accused of conspiring against  the emperor’s son Louis the Pious, deposed and exiled to Angers, where he died in prison c. 821.

Theodulph’s main claim to fame today is as the author of the Palm Sunday processional hymn ‘Gloria, laus et honor’, translated by John Mason Neale as ‘All glory, laud and honour’; the version we sing today is the amended version of Neale’s hymn as published in the trial edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1859).

A legend developed about the writing of the hymn:

Gloria, laus et honor seems to have been written by St. Theodulph of Orleans when imprisoned in the cloisters at Angers under an accusation of having taken part in the rebellion of the king s nephew. It is said that on Palm Sunday, 821, Louis the Pious, King of France, was in Angers, and walked in the usual procession of the clergy and laity. As it passed the spot where Theodulph was imprisoned, he stood at the window of his cell and sang this hymn. The king was so delighted that he ordered that Theodulph should be restored to his see and the hymn sung every Palm Sunday when the procession was made. The story dates from 1516, but it seems clear that Louis never visited Angers after 818, and that Theodulph was not restored to his see, but died at Angers in 821. Another version of the story says that seven choir-boys, to whom he had taught the hymn, sang it outside his prison, and thus gained his release. (John Telford, The Methodist Hymn-book Illustrated)

The refrain ‘Cui puerile decus prompsit hosanna pium’ (translated by Neale as ‘to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring’ ) led to the tradition of the hymn being sung by choir boys. Telford writes:

At York the choir-boys mounted to a temporary gallery over the door of the church, and there sang the first four verses. After each of the first three, the rest of the choir kneeling below sang the first stanza as a refrain. At the end of the fourth stanza the boys began the refrain, and the rest of the choir stood and sang it with them. At Hereford seven choir-boys went to the summit of the city gates and sang it. It was sung at the gates at Tours and Rouen.

Theodulph’s original had 78 lines. One verse which was sadly (though perhaps sensibly) omitted by Neale went as follows:

Be Thou, O Lord, the Rider,
And we the little ass ;
That to God’s holy city
Together we may pass.

Neale’s version of the hymn is closely associated with the tune ST THEODULPH, to which it was set in the first edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern. In some hymnals the quatrain beginning ‘All glory, laud and honour’ is treated as a refrain to be sung at the beginning, after each (four line) verse and at the end. In recent British Methodist hymnals the hymn is sung as below, necessitating the repetition of the half verse at the end.

All glory, laud and honour,
To thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!
Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessèd One.

The company of angels
Are praising thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
With palms before thee went;
Our praise and prayer and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.
Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

All glory, laud and honour,
To thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!

Theodulph of Orleans (d. 821)
tr. John Mason Neale (1818-66)


About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
This entry was posted in Hymns, Lent and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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