Angels from the Realms of Glory
DESCRIPTION: "Angels, from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o'er all the earth... Come and worship... Christ the newborn King. Shepherds are told of good news, sages are told to rurn from their studies, saints see the coming of the Lord
AUTHOR: Words: James Montgomery (1771-1854)
EARLIEST DATE: 1816 (published by Montgomery in his newspaper the _Sfeffield Iris_, according to Julian)
KEYWORDS: religious Jesus nonballad
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Peters, pp. 69-70, "Angels from the Realms of Glory" (1 text, 1 tune)
OBC 119, "Angels from the Realms" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES [401 words]: For an indexer, this song is very frustrating. One thing seems certain: The words were by James Montgomery, who published them in 1816 (Stulken, p. 151; Reynolds, p. 36; McKim, pp. 32-33). According to Julian, p. 68, "This hymn, which ranks as one of the most popular of the author's compositions, first appeared in his Iris newspaper [Sheffield], Dec. 24, 1816, in 5 st[anzas] of 6 l[ines], and entitled "Nativity...." On its republication by Montgomery in his Christian Psalmist, 1825, No 487, the title was, "Good tidings of great joy to all people...."
The first attempt at a tune that I can trace was by Henry Smart in 1867; this apparently is the well-known melody "Regent Square" (named, according to Reynolds, p. 36, after Regent Square Presbyterian Church, where Dr. Hamilton, who published it, was minister.) But the version in the Oxford Book of Carols -- which is the only version I have heard sung -- is from a French traditional song.
I also don't know whether the song is traditional. Peters includes it -- apparently the only copy from a possibly-traditional source. But Peters does not say who provided it, when it was collected, or by whom. For all we can tell from Peters, it might just be a song he included because he likes it a lot. It might be from John Persons, who may have learned it in his youth in Cormwall.
The song was translated into Latin as "Angeli, sancta regione lucis," according to Juilan, p. 69.
Montgomery was a fairly prolific poet -- Granger's Index to Poetry eighth edition, includes 17 of his works -- but I've never heard of any of them but this. According to Reynolds, pp. 383-384, he was born in Ayreshire, Scotland in 1771, son of a Moravian minister. His parents left him in an Irish Moravian settlement so they could go on missionary work, and died in Barbados. He was educated at a Yorkshire seminary, flunked out, was apprenticed to a baker, and ran away -- all by the age of sixteen! He finally settled down as a printer in Sheffield, then inherited the paper he worked for in 1794 when the previous editor fled the country. He stuck with this job for three decades, but frequently changed churches, and died in Sheffield in 1854.
McKim, p. 33, says that a fourth verse for the song, a doxology, was published in the Salisbury Hymn Book in 1857. Obviously the Presbyterian Hymnal uses the verse; not surprisingly, other publications do not. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- Reynolds: William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
- Stulken: Marilyn Kay Stulken, Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, Fortress Press, 1981
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