Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)
DESCRIPTION: Latin: "Adeste fideles, laeti triumphantes, venite, venite in Bethlehem." English: "O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem."
AUTHOR: probably John Francis Wade (c. 1710/1711-1786)
EARLIEST DATE: 1760 (Anglican church office manual); probably written c. 1740
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad foreignlanguage
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Jackson-PopularSongsOfNineteenthCenturyAmerica, p. 1, "Adeste Fideles" (1 text, 1 tune)
Jolly-Miller-Songster-5thEd, #207, "Adeste Fideles" (1 text)
Fireside-Book-of-Folk-Songs, p. 244, "Adeste Fidelis (O Come, All Ye Faithful)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 380, "O, Come, All Ye Faithful" (1 text)
Fuld-BookOfWorldFamousMusic, p. 86, "Adeste Fideles"
Heart-Songs, p. 131, "Come, All Ye Faithful" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), p. 45, "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (1 text, 1 tune)
Marilyn Kay Stulken, _Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship_, Fortress Press, 1981,pp. 146-148, discusses the history of the song and prints a copy of what seems to have been the original tune
Ian Bradley, _The Penguin Book of Carols_ (1999), #5, "Adeste, Fideles" (1 text); #53, "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (1 text)
John Julian, editor, _A Dictionary of Hymnology_, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), p. 20, "Adeste fideles laeti triumphantes" (1 Latin text)
Criterion Quartet, "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" (Victor 16197-B, 1908)
LOCSheet, sm1871 08939, "Adeste Fideles," Wm. J Bonner & Co (Philadelphia), 1871(tune)
NOTES [640 words]: The first American printing of this piece (a Latin version of c. 1803) subtitles it "The favorite PORTUGUESE HYMN On the NATIVITY," but there is no particular reason to consider it Portuguese; according to Scholes, this title derives in fact from the Portugese Chapel in London.
The piece is believed to have been composed in the early 1740s by John Francis Wade, who also wrote the Latin words; there are seven early manuscripts bearing his signature (Reynolds, p. 154), the first of which was rediscovered in 1946 (McKim, p. 47). Scholes reports an Irish manuscript of the tune dated 1746, and a variation on the theme was listed as an "Air Anglais" in the French Vaudeville "Acajou" in 1744. According to Reynolds, pp. 450-451, Wade was an English layman who worked in the English refugee community in Douay, France after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion; McKim, p. 47, says he was also a calligrapher.
The rather loose English translation by Frederick Oakley (1802-1880) was first published in 1852, based on Oakley's earlier 1841 translation.
According to Julian, p. 855, Oakeley (his spelling), D.D., was "youngest s[on] of Sir Charles Oakeley, Bart., sometime governor of Madras, was b[orn] at Shrewsbury, Sept. 5, 1862, and educated at Christ Church, Oxford (B.A. 1824). In 1825 he gained a University prize for a Latin Essay; and in 1827 he was elected a fellow of Balliol. Taking Holy Orders, he was a Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral, 1832; Preaher at Whitehall, 1837; and Minister of Margaret Chapel, Margaret Street, London, 1839. In 1845 he resigned all his appointments in the Church of England, and was received into the Roman Communion. Subesequently he became a Canon of the Pro-Cathedral in the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical district of Westminster. He d[ied] January 29, 1880.
Fuld gives details on other possible sources for both text and tune; all are possible, but not particularly likely. Substantiating details are lacking. My favorite candidate for the "most ridiculous" award is an attribution to St. Bonaventure (Julian, p. 20, who however points out that there is no trace of the piece in Bonaventure's known writings). Bonaventure (died 1274) was a noteworthy scholar who had studied alongside Thomas Aquinas, but I find no mention of him writing hymns (see OxfordSaints, pp. 65-66).
Recent scholarship has brought an interesting twist on this history. According to the Penguin Book of Carols (compare Stulken, pp. 146-147), there are six manuscripts of this in the handwriting of John Francis Wade (the seventh manuscript mentioned by Reynolds was reportedly found in 1846). The one of these thought to be oldest contains a reference to "regem nostrum Jacobum" -- "our King James," i.e. the Jacobite Old Pretender. And, of course, "regem angelorum" is quite close to "regem Angliorem," "King of England." There are also hints of Catholic practice in this manuscript. Whether all this really amounts to anything is, of course, an open question.
The Oakley translation, incidentally, has not swept all before it. Julian, pp. 20-21, lists no fewer than 16 "common" translations into English, although it claims that most of these are based more on the Nicene Creed than the Latin "Adeste Fideles," and adds another 22 translations that are "not in common usage." Four more are listed on p. 1600. I would consider most of those in "common usage" to be in fact quite obscure, but I have a 1926 Lutheran hymnal, The Parish School Hymnal, with a translation dated 1849 by Edward Caswall (this appears to be Julian's #7). It begins, "Come hither, ye faithful, triumphantly sing, Come see in the manger the angels' dread King!" This same hymnal uses the tune of "Adeste Fideles" for "How Firm a Foundation," which I have always heard sung instead to a tune closely related to one of the "Poor Ellen Smith" songs. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
- OxfordSaints: David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, fifth edition, 2003 (I use the 2004 paperback edition)
- William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
- Scholes: Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, ninth edition, corrected, Oxford, 1960
- Stulken: Marilyn Kay Stulken, Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, Fortress Press, 1981
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