Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee was written in 1907 by Henry Van Dyke when he was a guest preacher at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, nestled in the Berkshire Mountains. According to Van Dyke’s son, Tertius Van Dyke, when his father came to breakfast at Williams College, he placed a manuscript on the table before college president Garfield, saying “Here is a hymn for you. Your mountains were my inspiration. It must be sung to the music of Beethoven’s HYMN TO JOY.” Beethoven’s tune, a setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy, was the inspiration for Van Dyke’s hymn. The present version of this tune, made by Edward Hodges, was first published in S. P. Tuckerman’s Trinity Collection of Church Music (New York, 1864).
Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) was a Presbyterian minister. After serving at the prominent Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, in 1899 he became Murray Professor of English Literature at Princeton for 23 years. His friend, President Woodrow Wilson, whom he knew when Wilson was president of Princeton University, appointed him United States minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg where he served from 1917 to 1923. He then served as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Chaplain Corps. A leader in his denomination, Van Dyke was elected chairman of the committee preparing the Book of Common Worship (1905) and its revision in 1932. His hymn on the dignity of labor, Jesus, Thou Divine Companion (1906) was published in a number of earlier twentieth-century hymnals. Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee coupled with Beethoven’s tune, has become one of the most popular hymns from early twentieth century America.
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
Written by Harry Eskew, a teacher of hymnology for his entire adult life. He wrote Sing with Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Hymnology. Read full bio at singwithunderstanding.com.