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Updated 05/30/2013

 

Holy, Holy, Holy!


John B. Dykes

Reginald Heber wrote the words to “Holy, Holy, Holy” while serving as vicar of Hodnet, Shropshire, England. He was the first to compile a hymnal ordering hymns around the church calendar. Wanting to celebrate a triune God, Heber wrote "Holy, Holy, Holy" for Trinity Sunday--a day that reaffirmed the doctrine of the Trinity and was observed eight Sundays after Easter. The hymn was first published in 1826.
 

The music was composed by John Bacchus Dykes, an English clergyman and hymnist.  Dykes was born in Hull, England, and by age 10 was the assistant organist at St. John's Church, Hull, where his grandfather was vicar. He studied at Wakefield and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, earning a B.A. in Classics in 1847.

Dykes cofounded the Cambridge University Musical Society. He was ordained as curate of Malton in 1847. For a short time, he was canon of Durham Cathedral, then precentor (1849 – 1862). In 1862 he became vicar of St. Oswald's, Durham until his death in 1876.


Reginald Heber

Dykes published sermons and articles on religion but is best known for over 300 hymn tunes he composed. Amongst his many notable hymns which are still in wide use may be mentioned: Nicaea, commonly sung to the words "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!"; Wir Pflügen, harmonised by Dykes and commonly sung to the words "We plough the fields, and scatter" (a translation of the German hymn "Wir pflügen und wir streuen" by the late 18th century German poet Matthias Claudius); Melita, sung to the words "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (sometimes known as "For those in Peril on the Sea" from its recurring last line); Gerontius, sung to the words "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" (taken from Cardinal Newman's poem The Dream of Gerontius); O Perfect Love; and Dominus Regit Me, sung to the words "The King of love my Shepherd is", one of the many metrical versions of Psalm 23.


Lyrics by Reginald Heber

 

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

 

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!