Home History of Hymns: "All Praise to Thee, for Thou, O King Divine"

History of Hymns: "All Praise to Thee, for Thou, O King Divine"

"All Praise to Thee, for Thou, O King Divine"
F. Bland Tucker
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 166

One of the great biblical hymns is Philippians 2:5-11, the Kenosis Hymn, or hymn of self-emptying. This is one of the several New Testament creedal statements found throughout the Epistles.

Early church scholar Paul Bradshaw notes that the structure of New Testament prayers, creeds and hymns are very similar, leading him to believe that portions of the New Testament were sung by the early church. Episcopalian priest F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984) continues this tradition by providing a metrical setting of this central text of our faith.

Francis Bland Tucker, a native Virginian, received his education at the University of Virginia (B.A., 1914) and Virginia Theological Seminary (B.D., 1920; D.D., 1942). As an Episcopal priest, he served parishes in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Christ Church in Savannah, Ga., where the missionary John Wesley was a priest.

Having a keen interest in hymnody, Tucker served on the joint commission that produced the Protestant Episcopal Hymnal 1940 and was a language consultant to this hymnal’s successor, The Hymnal 1982.

In addition to original hymns, Tucker contributed several translations of early Greek hymns from the second and third centuries. Although perhaps a lesser known 20th-century hymn writer, Tucker received high praise from the late British hymnologist Erik Routley, who said, “There is no better 20th-century writing in either of our countries than is to be found in Tucker.”

To appreciate the beauty of Tucker’s paraphrase, one must have the Scripture firmly in mind. The King James Version is cited here since it was the basis of Tucker’s hymn:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath also highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).

Tucker’s paraphrase draws directly from this central passage of the incarnation for its language in several places. Stanza three begins, “Let this mind be in us which was in thee,” a rewording very similar to the beginning of the passage.

Stanza four is strongly reminiscent of the final section, “and given the name to which all knees shall bow.” Stanza five begins, “Let every tongue confess with one accord/in heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is Lord,” capturing the essence of the final phrases of the passage beautifully.

This text was written to accompany the famous hymn tune SINE NOMINE by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Tucker wanted to provide a text for this stirring tune in addition to “For all the saints” by Anglican Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897).

At the time of the writing of his new text (1938), the hymnal committee for the Hymnal 1940 discovered that SINE NOMINE, then under copyright, could only be used with How’s text. The committee instead substituted the tune ENGLEBERG by Charles Villiers Stanford.

Not knowing this restriction, the 1966 Methodist Hymnal committee honored the original intent of the author and matched his text with SINE NOMINE. By the time of the publication of The UM Hymnal in 1989, SINE NOMINE was public domain in the United States and the text/tune pairing could be maintained unchallenged.

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