As with gladness men of old
Text. This hymn by William Chatterdon Dix (1837–1898) was first published Dix’s collection Hymns of Love and Joy (Bristol: H&T Lane, 1859 | Fig. 1), in five stanzas of six lines, without music.
Dix’s hymn was included in the trial edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (London, 1859), then the first official edition in 1861 (Fig. 4), with several changes. In the 1875 edition, the editors made further changes, removing references to the manger in stanzas 2 and 3, in an effort to be more faithful to the Scripture, which indicates in Matthew 2:11 that the magi found the child in a house (Fig. 2). According to the Hymns Ancient & Modern Historical Edition (London, 1909), p. 113, Dix approved these changes and recommended them as the official version of his text, reporting, “The present form of the hymn is as Mr. Dix desired that it should finally be, in the Revised Edition of Hymns A&M .”
As a hymn for Epiphany, it is best used after Christmas Day, commemorating the arrival of the magi. In one sense, it is a narrative hymn, highlighting events in Matthew 2, but it is a also a devotional text, as each stanza ends with a reflection and application for the reader/worshiper. The final two stanzas lead the soul from earthly life to a heavenward gaze, envisioning a day when the redeemed will forever worship their King.
Tune. Dix’s hymn is printed almost exclusively with the tune named after him, DIX. The original composer, Conrad Kocher (1786–1872), included it in his collection Stimmen aus dem Reiche Gottes (Stuttgart, 1838 | Fig. 3), no. 201, where it was paired with the German hymn “Treuer Heiland wir sind hier,” by Christian Heinrich Zeller (1779–1860).
This tune was adapted by William Henry Monk (1823–1889) for Hymns Ancient & Modern (London, 1861 | Fig. 4), where it was paired with Dix’s text and named DIX. Monk’s version is very close to the original German melody, except it omits the third phrase (not counting the repeat).
William Chatterton Dix did not care for the tune that was named after him. In writing to Duncan Campbell, the editor of Hymns and Hymn Makers (London: A.C. Black, 1898), Dix explained, “I dislike it, but now nothing will displace it. I did not christen it” (p. 152).
DIX is also frequently paired with Folliott Pierpoint’s hymn “For the beauty of the earth,” especially in the United States.
by CHRIS FENNER
for Hymnology Archive
7 November 2018
Louis Coutier Biggs, Hymns Ancient & Modern, with Annotations (London: Novello, 1867), pp. 78-79: Archive.org
Johannes Zahn, Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder, vol. 3 (1890), no. 4809.
John Julian, “As with gladness men of old,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 85-86: Google Books
Hymns Ancient & Modern Historical Edition (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1909), p. 113.
Frank Colquhoun, “As with gladness men of old,” Hymns that Live (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), pp. 61-67.
Edward Darling & Donald Davison, “As with gladness men of old,” Companion to Church Hymnal (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005), pp. 286-287.
Carl P. Daw Jr., “As with gladness men of old,” Glory to God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016), pp. 158-159.
“As with gladness men of old,” Hymnary.org:
Sheila Doyle, “As with gladness men of old,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology: