For all the saints, who from their labours rest

with
ENGELBERG
SINE NOMINE
FOR ALL THE SAINTS


Text: Origins. This hymn for liturgical saints days was written by William Walsham How (1823–1897) and first published in Hymn for Saints’ Days, and Other Hymns (London: Bell & Daldy, 1864 | Fig. 1), compiled by Horatio Nelson (1823–1913, 3rd Earl Nelson of Trafalgar House, Wiltshire). At the time, William How was rector of Whittington, Shropshire. The original text contained eleven stanzas of three lines, beginning “For all Thy saints,” with an Alleluia refrain. It was headed by Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (ESV). The 1864 publication did not include music.

 

Fig. 1. Hymn for Saints’ Days, and Other Hymns (London: Bell & Daldy, 1864).

 

William How published a revised version of his hymn in A Supplement to Psalms & Hymns (London: John Morgan, 1867 | Fig. 2), co-edited by him and T.B. Morrell. Here he introduced the revision to his first line (“For all the saints”) and a change to 6:1 (“faithful, true”).

Fig. 2. A Supplement to Psalms & Hymns (London: John Morgan, 1867).

How published additional revisions of his hymn in Church Hymns (London: S.P.C.K., 1871 | Fig. 3), for which he served as co-editor. Changes included a small change from “Jesus” to “Jesu” at 1:3, from “Light of Light” to “one true light” at 2:3, from “blest” to “pure” at 4:1, from “died to” to “dying” at 5:3, and from “comes the” to “cometh” at 9:2. Notice also the Scripture heading of John 17:10 (misprinted as xvi), where Jesus prayed, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them” (ESV). John Julian regarded this 1871 edition as the “Authorized text” (Dictionary, p. 380).

 

Fig. 3. Church Hymns (London: S.P.C.K., 1871).

 

More revisions were introduced in the New and Revised Edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1904 | Fig. 4 below), from “drear” to “still” at 2:3, and a new line at 7:2 (HA&M 4:2), “We fight, as they did, ’neath the holy sign.” It also repeated the minor change from “cometh” to “comes their” at 9:2 introduced in the 1875 edition. According to the Historical Edition (1909), p. 317, “The alterations … were made by the special request of the Bishop,” but according to John Julian (1907), p. 1637, “The alterations … as given in the 1904 ed. of Hys. A. & M. were reluctantly sanctioned by Bp. How shortly before his death in 1897.”


Text: Analysis. This hymn was intended for liturgical saints days and was inspired in part by the concept of the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1. J.R. Watson sees in this hymn a strong connection to both the ancient hymn Te Deum and to Revelation:

The Apostles, the Evangelists, and the Martyrs … appear in the Te Deum (where How’s “Evangelists” are “the goodly fellowship of the prophets”), and the whole hymn is indebted to the sustained praise of that sublime poem. But its imagery suggests the final battle against evil: the unfolding of events suggests a long-drawn out and exhausting battle, in which the forces of good will at last be triumphant. The inspiration is Revelation 19 and 20. The hymn’s length is there for a purpose: it allows the mind to dwell on the arduous struggle and its final end in glory.[1]

Frank Colquhoun noted the proper object of the hymn’s message: Christ.

The hymn begins on the note of thanksgiving, [which is] expressed in the third line: “Thy name, O Jesu, be forever blest.” It is important to note that the hymn, in so far as it comprises elements of praise and prayer, is addressed to Jesus. So it is him we bless “for all the saints”—or as Bishop How originally wrote, “all thy saints.” The saints are his. This is the thing that distinguishes them from the rest and best of mankind and unites them in one glorious company. They are Christ’s, and now they are at rest with him, for the blessed dead “who die in the Lord … rest from their labours” (Rev. 14:13).[2]

Colquhoun also noted connections to Mark 8:38 and Romans 1:16 (“who by faith before the world confessed”), Psalm 18:2 (“their rock, their fortress, and their might”), 1 Timothy 6:12 (“fight as the saints who nobly fought of old”), 2 Timothy 4:8 and Revelation 2:10 (“the victor’s crown of gold”), and Luke 23:43 (“the calm of Paradise”).

Hymnologist Erik Routley felt the hymn’s strength was in its elemental description of sainthood:

“For all the saints,” not by a long way the most profound of hymns on the saints of the Church, has this great advantage over most of its fellows, that at its very beginning it draws attention to the quality essential to sainthood—faith. “Who thee by faith before the world confessed”—that is the most important line in the hymn; the rest is background and scenery. The truth about saints is told in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, where we have that famous catalogue of heroes of Old Testament history. If anybody wants to know just what a saint is, and just how a saint can be expected to help him, it is all there.[3]


Tunes. In the music edition of Church Hymns (1874) edited by Arthur Sullivan, How’s text was set to a pointed Anglican chant by William Hayes (1708–1777). Likewise, in the Revised and Enlarged Edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1875), it was set to a chant by Arthur Troyte (1811–1857), called TROYTE’S CHANT NO. 2.

1. ENGELBERG

In the New and Revised Edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1904 | Fig. 3), Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) provided a new tune for How’s text, ENGELBERG.

Fig. 4. Hymns Ancient & Modern, New Edition (London: William Clowes and Sons, 1904).

Jeremy Dibble, a scholar of major English composers in the 19th century, offered this assessment, especially in comparison to another tune to be published shortly thereafter:

In many ways Stanford’s tune seems to foreshadow SINE NOMINE (which appeared in the EH for the first time two years later) with its three-note anacrusis at the opening, its variegation of stanzas in unison and harmony, and its muscular diatonicism .Yet there are also more elaborate features of ENGELBERG, notably the importance of the organ part, the strophic variation of the eight stanzas which are harmonised differently throughout, and the division of some unison verses for high and low voices. The tune also has a number of innovative attributes. One is its succession of three-bar phrases (SINE NOMINE, by comparison, is entirely regular), each of which begins with the triple anacrusis; another is the conclusion of each stanza (with the exception of the last) on the dominant, an open-ended factor which requires the succeeding stanza to ‘resolve’ the cadence. This feature, above all, gives the hymn a sense of seamless continuity which concludes only with the final cadence.[4]

In modern hymnals, ENGELBERG is better known through other texts, such as “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine” by F. Bland Tucker (1895–1984) or “When in our music God is glorified” by Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000).

2. SINE NOMINE

Just two years after ENGELBERG, English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) included his own tune SINE NOMINE in The English Hymnal (Oxford: University Press, 1906 | Fig. 5). This tune has become more closely associated with How’s text, owing in part to the general failure of the 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, which was replaced in 1906 by a restoration of the previous edition. The name of this tune, meaning “without a name,” is probably in homage to the numerous believers who have died and are not specifically commemorated by name in services of the church. The hymnal editors used How’s 1871 text, minus the stanzas for apostles, evangelists, and martyrs.

Fig. 5. The English Hymnal (Oxford: University Press, 1906).

This original setting, with options for unison and choral singing, attempted to control the placement of some word stresses, as seen in the opening measure, the fifth, and the ninth. This variable rhythm proved troublesome. Methodist scholar James T. Lightwood, writing in 1935, explained the problem:

Many such variations occur throughout the hymn, and although a little careful study on the part of choristers and congregations might overcome any difficulties, yet these same variations in time values are found to be a continual source of annoyance and misfits. In recent hymnals the composer has arranged the tune to begin throughout on the second beat of the bar.[5]

As church music scholar Paul Westermeyer put it:

The tune is so strong that it hides its flaw, the differing placement of syllables from stanza to stanza. Assemblies sing it with gusto even when they get the words in the wrong places. Typical of Vaughan Williams, it has broad sweep, flow, and contrast.[6]

Vaughan Williams’ revised version of the tune appeared in Songs of Praise (1925) and the revised edition of The English Hymnal (1933).


3. FOR ALL THE SAINTS

Another tune commonly associated with this text is FOR ALL THE SAINTS (or PRO OMNIBUS SANCTIS) by Joseph Barnby (1838–1896), first published in the Sarum Hymnal (Salisbury: W.P. Aylward, 1869 | Fig. 6). In the tune index, this was given the rather uninteresting designation of “No. 299, Sarum Hymnal” rather than a proper tune name. It is sometimes also called SARUM.

Fig. 6. Sarum Hymnal (Salisbury: W.P. Aylward, 1869).

Barnby’s tune enjoyed wide usage prior to the publication of SINE NOMINE in 1906. Early in the 20th century, James T. Lightwood felt Barnby’s tune had served its time but was worth replacing:

For a long time certain musicians had felt that Barnby’s popular tune known as ST. PHILIP was scarcely worthy of the words, and now SINE NOMINE is gradually displacing it. Many of us cling to old associations, perhaps a little too long sometimes, and with many people even yet the older tune remains the more popular. It is said that a certain bishop, on hearing Vaughan Williams’ tune for the first time, exclaimed, “Good gracious, they will change the tune of ‘God save the king’ next!”[7]


by CHRIS FENNER
for Hymnology Archive
7 October 2019


Footnotes:

  1. J.R. Watson, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), p. 345.

  2. Frank Colquhoun, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” Hymns that Live (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1980), p. 156.

  3. Erik Routley, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” Hymns and the Faith (London: John Murray, 1955), p. 302.

  4. Jeremy Dibble, “Charles Villiers Stanford,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
    http://www.hymnology.co.uk/c/charles-villiers-stanford

  5. James T. Lightwood, “For all the saints,” The Music of the Methodist Hymn-Book (London: Epworth Press, 1935), p. 444.

  6. Paul Westermeyer, “For all the saints,” Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), p. 242.

  7. James T. Lightwood, “For all the saints,” The Music of the Methodist Hymn-Book (London: Epworth Press, 1935),pp. 443-444.

Related Resources:

John Julian, “For all Thy saints who from their labours rest,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London: J. Murray, 1907), pp. 380, 1637.

James T. Lightwood, “For all the saints,” The Music of the Methodist Hymn-Book (London: Epworth Press, 1935),pp. 443-444.

Erik Routley, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” Hymns and the Faith (London: John Murray, 1955), pp. 301-306.

“For all the saints, who from their labors rest,” The Hymnal 1940 Companion, 3rd rev. ed. (NY: Church Pension Fund, 1962), p. 89.

Frank Colquhoun, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” Hymns that Live (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1980), pp. 154-160.

J.R. Watson, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), pp. 344-345.

Edward Darling & Donald Davison, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” Companion to Church Hymnal (Dublin: St. Columba, 2005), pp. 617-618.

Paul Westermeyer, “For all the saints,” Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), pp. 241-242.

J.R. Watson, “For all the saints, who from their labours rest,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
http://www.hymnology.co.uk/f/for-all-the-saints-who-from-their-labours-rest

“For all the saints, who from their labor rest,” Hymnary.org:
https://hymnary.org/text/for_all_the_saints_who_from_their_labors