Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes


Text: Origins. This hymn of Advent is by Philip Doddridge (1702–1751). In one copy of his manuscripts, currently held in the British Library, Add MS 42558, the hymn was headed “Christ’s message, from Luke 4:18-19” (Fig. 1). The manuscript text is in seven stanzas of four lines. Another manuscript copy of the hymn is held at Yale is dated 28 December 1735.

Fig. 1. British Library, Add MS 42558.

The hymn was first published in the Scottish Translations and Paraphrases of Several Passages of Sacred Scripture (Edinburgh: Robert Fleming & Co., 1745 | Fig. 2), using all seven stanzas, but with several alterations. The alterations are relatively minor word substitutions, with no change of meaning.

Fig. 2. Translations and Paraphrases of Several Passages of Sacred Scripture (Edinburgh: Robert Fleming & Co., 1745).

The hymn was repeated in the 1756 edition with more changes, especially in the fourth stanza, which is arguably an improvement (Fig. 3). This form of the text was repeated in the 1765 and 1771 editions.


Fig. 3. Translations and Paraphrases of Several Passages of Sacred Scripture (Church of Scotland, 1756).

In the 1781 edition (Fig. 4), more changes were introduced, especially in stanzas 1, 4, 6, and 7. These changes have been credited to William Cameron (1751–1811), a poet and minister in the Church of Scotland. James Mearns, in the Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), p. 200, wrote:

Though not a member of the committee appointed by the General Assembly of 1775, to revise the Scottish Translations and Paraphrases of 1745-1751, yet the burden of revision seems to have fallen upon him (probably through the influence of Dr. Hugh Blair), as to him are ascribed the changes made in 1775-1781 in no less than 34 of that collection.

This version of Doddridge’s text became the standard form in Scottish churches.


Fig. 4. Translations and Paraphrases, in Verse, of Several Passages of Sacred Scripture (Edinburgh: J. Dickson, 1781).

Outside of the Church of Scotland, this text was published in Job Orton’s posthumous edition of Doddridge’s Hymns Founded on Various Texts in the Sacred Scriptures (London: J. Buckland, 1755 | Fig. 5). This version of the text agrees with the British Library manuscript, except in stanza 4, first line, where this printing reads “thickest” rather than “the thick,” an improvement in terms of syllabic stress. This text was repeated in subsequent editions of Hymns without change.


Fig. 5. Hymns Founded on Various Texts in the Sacred Scriptures (London: J. Buckland, 1755).

Doddridge’s great-grandson John Doddridge Humphreys published a new edition of the hymns in 1839, Scriptural Hymns by the Rev. Philip Doddridge, D.D. (London: Darton and Clark, 1839). The title page asserts the hymns were “edited from the original documents.” In the preface, Humphreys lamented Orton’s work, describing “the extraordinarily incorrect and unsatisfactory manner in which the hymns of Dr. Doddridge were brought before the world”:

A consciousness of the want of the necessary qualifications, in a poetical sense, rendered Mr. Orton a far less efficient editor than he would otherwise have been;—matters of the most simple character were overlooked, and the hymns, as formerly printed, abound with ungrammatical constructions and verbal inelegancies, of which the author was incapable.

Humphreys’ edition of this hymn is nearly identical to Orton’s except in the sixth stanza, where Humpreys has avoided the awkward contraction of “Jub’lee” in favor of a more natural construction, with a corresponding adjustment to the rhyme in line 4 (Fig. 6). This seems to be an example of Humphreys’ approach to “mere verbal changes, often of no more than a syllable, or a letter, but carrying with them correction in construction and euphony.”


Fig. 6. Scriptural Hymns by the Rev. Philip Doddridge, D.D. (London: Darton and Clark, 1839).

Text: Analysis. Doddridge’s hymn was inspired by another poem (or eclogue), “Messiah” by Alexander Pope (1688–1744), published in The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope (London: W. Boyer, 1717), most notably lines 29-40.

Hark! A glad voice the lonely desart chears;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears:
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply,
The rocks proclaim th’ approaching Deity.
Lo, earth receives him from the bending skies!
Sink down ye mountains, and ye valleys rise:
With heads declin’d, ye cedars, homage pay;
Be smooth ye rocks, ye rapid floods give way!
The Saviour comes! by ancient bards foretold;
Hear him ye deaf, and all ye blind behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day.

Pope’s hymn, in the first two lines, recalls Isaiah 40 and by extension the ministry of John the Baptist in the New Testament. Similarly, Pope alludes to the deaf and blind, annotated in the 1717 text by Isaiah 42:18. Doddridge carried these ideas into his own hymn, but less deliberately. The reference in Doddridge’s stanza 6 to the Year of Jubilee is a nod to Leviticus 25 and perhaps also to the second coming of Christ marked by the seventh trumpet in Revelation 18:15-19. The image of Christ’s coming is extended to allude to his triumphal entry, with the cry of “Hosanna.” All of these arrivals, first as a child, then greeted with palms, then returning in the clouds, are all part of a sense of anticipation appropriate for the season of Advent.

Doddridge’s hymn is headed Luke 4:18-19, is part of the story of Christ reading the scroll in Nazareth, citing Isaiah 61:1-2:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

These images are reflected in stanza 5, with the good news for the poor, in stanza 6, declaring liberty and the year of Jubilee, and in stanza 4 with the restoration of the blind.

Roundell Palmer (1812–1895), First Earl of Selborne, was a great admirer of Doddridge’s hymn. He is often quoted from the Authorised Report of the Proceedings of the Church Congress Held at York … 1866, p. 330, as saying, “A more sweet, vigorous, and perfect composition is not to be found even in the whole body of ancient hymns.”

J.R. Watson said of it, “It shows a very skilful use of the common metre stanza, with the two halves of each verse balancing each other, and sometimes a neat parallelism within the half-verse.”[1]

Tune 1. ST. SAVIOUR, by Frederick George Baker (1840–1919), was originally published with “Hark the glad sound” in the Bristol Tune Book, Second Series (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., 1876 | Fig. 7). Baker was organist of St. Saviour’s Church, Shanklin, Isle of Wight; he was a lifelong resident of the island.

Fig. 7. Bristol Tune Book, Second Series (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., 1876).

Tune 2. BRISTOL was first published by Thomas Ravenscroft in The Whole Booke of Psalmes (London: Company of Stationers, 1621 | Fig. 8), set to both Psalm 16 (paraphrased by Thomas Sternhold) and Ps. 64 (paraphrased by John Hopkins). The tune is usually considered anonymous/unknown, while the harmonization is by Ravenscroft. The tune has a relatively small range of only a sixth.

Fig. 8. Thomas Ravenscroft, The Whole Booke of Psalmes (London: Company of Stationers, 1621). Melody in the tenor part.

Doddridge’s hymn was first associated with this tune in Hymns Ancient & Modern (London: Novello, 1861 | Fig. 9).


Fig. 9. Hymns Ancient & Modern (London: Novello, 1861).


Tune 3. ST. MAGNUS was first published in Henry Playford’s Divine Companion, 2nd ed. (1707; 1709 printing shown in Fig. 10), paired with the hymn “What words, what voices can we bring” of unknown authorship.


Fig. 10. Henry Playford, Divine Companion, 3rd ed. (London: W. Pearson, 1709).

ST. MAGNUS is also frequently paired with “The head that once was crowned with thorns” by Thomas Kelly. The tune is sometimes called NOTTINGHAM, a name dating to William Lawrence’s A Collection of Tunes, suited to . . . Watts’s Imitation of the Psalms of David (London: W. Pearson, 1719). The name ST. MAGNUS came later, in William Riley’s Parochial Harmony (London: William Riley, 1762).

Hymn tune scholar Paul Westermeyer has said ST. MAGNUS “looks both backward and forward.”

It is related to the psalm tunes that preceded it, yet can be seen as ‘modern’ and ‘popular’ with a ‘plaintive grace’ about it. Clearly in a major key without any modal hints at all, it modulates to the dominant at midstream like many other tunes we have encountered, but concludes with a new thing, a bold leap of an octave. … The octave leap in ST. MAGNUS works because it is prepared well by the span of the first two phrases and their outermost notes.[2]

Tune 4. RICHMOND (or CHESTERFIELD) was written by Thomas Haweis (1734–1820) and first published in Carmina Christo, Part 1 (ca. 1791), set to “O thou from whom all goodness flows,” also by Haweis. Regarding the pairing of RICHMOND with Doddridge’s text, Paul Westermeyer wrote, “The rocket-like arpeggio at the beginning sets the text ‘Hark the glad sound!’ with a proclamatory propulsion that announces the Savior’s coming and the liberation he brings.”[3]

for Hymnology Archive
4 April 2019


  1. J.R. Watson, “Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), p. 156.

  2. Paul Westermeyer, “ST. MAGNUS,” Let the People Sing: Hymn Tunes in Perspective (Chicago: GIA, 2005), pp. 169-170.

  3. Paul Westermeyer, “Hark the glad sound!” Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), p. 2.

Related Resources:

John Julian, “Hark! the glad sound, the Saviour comes,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), p. 489.

K.L. Parry & Erik Routley, “Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes,” Companion to Congregational Praise (London: Independent Press, 1953), pp. 48-49.

J. Ithel Jones, et al., “Hark the glad sound,” The Baptist Hymn Book Companion, rev. ed. (London: Psalms and Hymns Trust, 1967), p. 114.

Robin A. Leaver & Nicholas Temperley, “Hark the glad sound! the Savior comes,” Hymnal 1982 Companion, vol. 3A (NY: Church Hymnal Corp., 1994), nos. 71-72.

Edward Darling & Donald Davison, “Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes,” Companion to Church Hymnal (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005), pp. 199-200.

J.R. Watson, “Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

“Hark, the glad sound, the Saviour comes,” Hymnary.org: