|We Three Kings of Orient Are|
|Text||John Henry Hopkins Jr.|
|Meter||18.104.22.168.6 with refrain|
|Melody||"Three Kings of Orient" by John Henry Hopkins Jr.|
"We Three Kings", original title "Three Kings of Orient", also known as "We Three Kings of Orient Are" or "The Quest of the Magi", is a Christmas carol that was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857. At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City. It was the first widely popular Christmas carol written in America.
[as printed in Hopkins, Carols, Hymns, and Songs, 1st ed., 1863]
THREE KINGS OF ORIENT.
1. We Three Kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain,
Moor and mountain,
Following yonder Star.
Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
Star with Royal Beauty bright,
Guide us to Thy perfect Light.
2. Born a King on Bethlehem plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King for ever,
Over us all to reign.
O Star, &c.
3. Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh:
Prayer and praising
All men raising,
Worship Him God on High.
O Star, &c.
4. Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;—
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
O Star, &c.
5. Glorious now behold Him arise,
King, and God, and Sacrifice;
Heav’n sings Hallelujah:
Hallelujah the earth replies.
O Star, &c.
John Henry Hopkins Jr. organized the carol in such a way that three male voices would each sing a solo verse in order to correspond with the three kings.The first and last verses of the carol are sung together by all three as "verses of praise", while the intermediate verses are sung individually with each king describing the gift he was bringing. The refrain proceeds to praise the beauty of the Star of Bethlehem. The Magi's solos are typically not observed during contemporary performances of the carol.
The carol's melody has been described as "sad" and "shifting" in nature.Because of this, it highly resembles a song from the Middle Ages and Middle Eastern music, both of which it has been frequently compared to.
The carol centres around the Biblical Magi, who visited Jesus as a child in a house (Matthew 2:11) sometime after his Nativity and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh while paying homage to him. Though the event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, there are no further details given in the New Testament with regards to their names, the number of Magi that were present or whether they were even royal.There are, however, verses in the Old Testament that foretell of the visitors. Isaiah 60:6:..."The wealth of the nations will come to you. A multitude of camels will cover you. The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the Lord." New American Standard Bible, and two selections from the Psalms- Psalm 72:10: "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts" and Psalm 72:15: "...and may there be given to him gold from Arabia", New American Standard Bible. Hence, the names of the Magi—Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar—and their status as kings from the Orient are legendary and based on tradition. The number three stems from the fact that there were three separate gifts that were given.
At the time he was writing "We Three Kings" in 1857, John Henry Hopkins Jr. was serving as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.Although he originally worked as a journalist for a New York newspaper and studied to become a lawyer, he chose to join the clergy upon graduating from the University of Vermont. Hopkins studied at the General Theological Seminary in New York City and after graduating and being ordained a deacon in 1850, he became its first music teacher five years later, holding the post until 1857 alongside his ministry in the Episcopal Church.
During his final year of teaching at the seminary,Hopkins wrote "We Three Kings" for a Christmas pageant held at the college. It was noteworthy that Hopkins composed both the lyrics and music; contemporary carol composers usually wrote either the lyrics or music but not both. Originally titled "Three Kings of Orient", it was sung within his circle of family and friends. Because of the popularity it achieved among them, Hopkins decided to publish the carol in 1863 in his book Carols, Hymns, and Songs. It was the first Christmas carol originating from the United States to achieve widespread popularity, as well as the first to be featured in Christmas Carols Old and New, a "prestigious" and "influential" collection of carols that was published in the United Kingdom. In 1916, the carol was printed in the hymnal for the Episcopal Church; that year's edition was the first to have a separate section for Christmas songs. "We Three Kings" was also included in the Oxford Book of Carols published in 1928, which praised the song as "one of the most successful of modern composed carols."
Jazz, rock, and reggae musicians recorded "We Three Kings".
Since the 1950s, the carol has been frequently parodied by children. The subject of the lyrics vary widely depending upon the region, with references to smoking explosive rubber cigars, selling counterfeit lingerie, or travelling to an Irish bar by taxi, car, and scooter.
The biblical Magi, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, also the Three Magi were distinguished foreigners in the Gospel of Matthew and Christian tradition. They are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of Christian tradition.
The Adoration of the Magi or Adoration of the Kings is the name traditionally given to the subject in the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11: "On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path".
The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 where "wise men from the East" (Magi) are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There, they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask him:
Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.
Epiphany, also known as Theophany in Eastern Christian traditions, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.
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Matthew 2:11 is the eleventh verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The magi, dispatched by King Herod, have found the infant Jesus and in this verse present him with gifts in an event known as the Visit of the Wise Men. In art, it is traditionally referred to as the Adoration of the Magi.
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" is a Christmas carol. Based on an 1868 text written by Phillips Brooks, the carol is popular on both sides of the Atlantic, but to different tunes: in North America to "St. Louis" by Brooks' collaborator, Lewis Redner; and in the United Kingdom and Ireland to "Forest Green", a tune collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams and first published in the 1906 English Hymnal.
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"As with Gladness Men of Old" is an Epiphany hymn, written by William Chatterton Dix on 6 January 1859 (Epiphany) while he was ill in bed. Though considered by many as a Christmas carol, it is found in the Epiphany section of many hymnals and still used by many churches. The music was adapted by William Henry Monk in 1861 from a tune written by Conrad Kocher in 1838. The hymn is based on the visit of the Biblical magi in the Nativity of Jesus.
John Henry Hopkins Jr. was an American clergyman and hymnodist, most famous for composing the song "We Three Kings of Orient Are" in 1857.
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