Article

History of Hymns: “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”

by C. Michael Hawn

“All Glory, Laud, and Honor”
Theodulph of Orleans; Translated by John Mason Neale
UM Hymnal, No. 280

John Mason Neale

All glory, laud, and honor,
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 Blessed One.

“All Glory, Laud, and Honor” is perhaps the quintessential Palm Sunday entrance hymn. With its Latin text written in the 9th century by Theodulph of Orleans (ca. 750-821), its English translation by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) and its majestic 17th-century German tune by Melchior Teschner (1584-1635), one would have to look far and wide for a hymn more rooted in Western historical and cultural traditions. 

The Latin text begins:

Gloria, laus, et honor tibi sit, rex
Christe, Redemptor,
cui puerile decus prompsit Hosanna pium. . . .


A literal translation demonstrates how faithful Neale—the prince of 19th-century translators—was to the original text: “Glory and honor and laud be to thee, Christ, King and Redeemer, Children before whose steps raised their Hosannas of praise. . . .” 

Following his election in 1800 as Archbishop of Orleans, Theodulph was prominent in the court of Charlemagne. However, he did not fare as well under Charlemagne’s successor, Louis I (also known as Louis the Pious), emperor from 814-840. Theodulph was accused of participating in the rebellion of Bernard of Italy and, subsequently, was imprisoned. 

Methodist hymnologist Fred Gealy notes the context for the writing of this hymn: “According to the legend as told by Clichtoveus, in his Elucidatorium, 1516, the hymn was composed and first sung on a certain Sunday when Theodulph was imprisoned in Angers. Emperor Louis was present that day as the procession moved through the city and halted beneath the tower where the saint was imprisoned. Suddenly, to his astonishment, the emperor heard from above the Gloria Laus, chanted loudly and melodiously. Being charmed, he asked the name of the singer and was told that it was his own prisoner, Theodulph. Moved with compassion for him, the emperor pardoned the saint, returned him to his see and ordered that henceforth the hymn which Theodulph had composed be sung on Palm Sunday.” 

British hymnologist J. Richard Watson notes that “modern scholars have cast doubt on the story of the release from prison, which would have appealed strongly to [the translator and romantic John Mason] Neale. Louis did not visit Angers after 818, which was the date of Theodulph’s imprisonment. Neale would have liked to think that a hymn could have such a powerful effect.” 

The Rev. Carlton Young, editor of the UM Hymnal, notes that the Latin text was translated eight times between 1849 and 1874. Neale himself made two translations for his monumental Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences (1851). The second and common version from his Hymnal Noted, part 2 (1854) consisted of eight stanzas with the first used as a refrain. The first six stanzas appear in the UM Hymnal with the first serving as the refrain. 

The text follows generally the description of the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem as found in all four Gospels. 

An interesting note is that Theodulph inserts children (puerile) directly into his Latin hymn. There is no biblical basis for this, either in the Latin Vulgate or the King James Version. The accounts of Matthew and Luke include a reference to children, but these have nothing to do with children singing specifically during the triumphal entry. Matthew 21:16 notes, “Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” This mention of children takes place several verses after the narrative of the triumphal entry. 

Recent developments in the Christian Year relabeled this Sunday as Palm/Passion Sunday. In doing so, the exuberance of the triumphal entrance soon gives way to the anticipation of the Passion of Christ that is to follow—all within the same service. 

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

Categories: History of Hymns