Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Ode to Joy)

Text by:  Henry van Dyke 1907

Tune: Hymn to Joy by: Ludwig van Beethoven

1 Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,

Op’ning 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!

2 All Your works with joy surround Thee,

Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,

Stars and angels sing around Thee,

Center of unbroken praise;

Field and forest, vale and mountain,

Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,

Chanting bird and flowing fountain

Call us to rejoice in Thee!

3 Thou art giving and forgiving,

Ever blessing, ever blest,

Well-spring of the joy of living,

Ocean depth of happy rest!

Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,

All who live in love are Thine;

Teach us how to love each other,

Lift us to the joy divine.

4 Mortals, join the mighty chorus,

Which the morning stars began;

Father love is reigning o’er us,

Brother love binds man to man.

Ever singing, march we onward,

Victors in the midst of strife;

Joyful music leads us Sunward

In the triumph song of life.

History of the Text

Henry Van Dyke penned this poem in 1907 while he was staying in the home of Harry Garfield, the president of Williams College in Williamstown, MA. Van Dyke was a guest preacher at the college at the time. He explained to his host the inspiration for his new hymn came from the local Berkshire Mountains which are located in western parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, USA. He first published the poem in his 1911 book: Book of Poems, third edition.

Van Dyke wrote”

“These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in this present time—hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy religion, or any revolution on earth overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Therefore this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.”

Let us consider for a moment just the first word of this poem: “Joyful.” Why didn’t he use “happy” instead? It certainly has the same number of syllables and the accent falls on the same syllable, and as the first word, there is no rhyming criteria. What is the difference between joy and happiness?

If we look at the etymology of the word joy, we find a meaning which goes beyond the passing nature of happiness. The Latin gaudium which we translate as joy, means: “to be glad, to rejoice” The meaning of joy in old English and Middle English also contained the ideas of “glee, delight, and bliss.”

The etymology of happy has a rather un-Biblical origin. Hap from the 14c meant good fortune, lucky, or a positive outcome. Fortune or luck certainly are not Biblical ideas. Over the centuries the notion of luck per se is no longer directly associated with the word. However, happy still is still circumstance oriented.

While both the words joy and happiness both occur in Scriptures, and both express positive emotions, there are differences in their broader meaning.

History of the Tune

The tune most associated with this hymn is drawn from Ludwig von Beethoven’s 9th Symphony’s last movement. Beethoven’s impact on Western music cannot be underestimated and his 9 symphonies form the foundation from which Western music grew over the ensuing 200 years. I would recommend everybody take the time to listen to all of them in sequence. When you reach the end of the last one, as the soloists and choir join the orchestra in some of the most powerfully written music, you will hear this tune sung by 100’s.

No one should ever mistake Beethoven for a believing Christian. He shared the language common during the era where “Providence,” “Creator,” or “Heaven” were often invoked. This was a highly secularized spirituality which knew nothing of sin or grace, let alone Christ and the Cross. However, within this setting Beethoven gave us the melody which has become a hallmark of Christian joy.

Here is the beginning and the ending of the modified text by Friedrich Schiller.

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Within thy sanctuary.

Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek Him in the heavens;
Above the stars must he dwell.

Schiller’s text certainly contained some of the sentiments found in Van Dykes poem which help make it the perfect setting for his own text.

And just for the record, I have found one other setting of this text:

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Here are some of my favorite Hymnals:

Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook:

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal:

Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin:

Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945

Book of Psalms for Singing (1912 Psalter is unavailable)

Hymns Ancient and Modern

Here are my new projects:

Trinity Hymnal 1960

Lutheran 1909 Hymnal

J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales


Dictionary of Hymnology:

American Hymns Old and New