“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”


"Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory (be) to the new-born King." In praise of the baby Jesus, the "incarnate deity, pleased as man with man to dwell." The song offers both praise and thanks for the coming of Jesus


In the Sacred Harp, this is given the tune "Cookham." It's not the standard Mendelssohn melody.

The original Charles Wesley text might come as a surprise; the title line is "Hark how all the welkin rings, 'Glory to the king of kings,'" then turns to more familiar lines. This text can be found, e.g., in the _Penguin Book of Carols_.

The "welkin" is the firmament or the dome of heaven; George Whitefield apparently changed it (and made sundry lesser changes) not because the word was archaic because it didn't fit his theology; Wesley was of course Arminian (meaning that human beings actually had some role in gaining, or at least accepting, salvation), but Whitefield was pure Calvinist, meaning that he believed in salvation by God's caprice, with no amount of human action having anything to do with it. (As you can probably tell, I am not a Calvinist.)

It was a fellow by the name of W. H. Cummings, who had performed under Mendelssohn's direction, who mated the Wesley/Whitefield words with the Mendelssohn melody, publishing the result in 1856. Only then did the song become popular. - RBW

Same tune

  • Uncle Joe and Aunty Mabel (File: EM374)
  • Beecham's Pills (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 37)


  1. Silber-FSWB, p. 381, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (1 text)
  2. Fuld-WFM, pp. 269-270, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
  4. ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), pp. 46-47, "Hard, the Herald Angels Sing" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Ian Bradley, _The Penguin Book of Carols_ (1999), #32, "Hard, the Herald Angels Sing" (1 text); cf. #31, "Hark, How All the Welkin Rings" (1 text)
  6. Roud #8337
  7. BI, FSWB381C


Author: Words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788) (adapted by George Whitefield) / Music: Felix Mendelssohn (1808-1847)
Earliest date: 1739 ("Hymns and Sacred Poems")