Quote of the Day: Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant

O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem

O come and behold Him, born the King of Angels

Come All Ye Faithful

Origins of the Quote

“O Come, All Ye Faithful”, originally “Adeste Fideles” in Latin is a Christmas carol. It has been attributed to several authors, including John Francis Wade (1711–1786), John Reading (1645–1692), King John IV of Portugal (1604–1656), and anonymous Cistercian monks. This is possible as in the case of ancient hymns – spelling changes were made. In many cases, the meaning of the lines is subtly altered leading to changes. In this sense, many have added to the body of the hymn.

The earliest known printed version is in a book published by Wade. A manuscript by Wade, dating to 1751, is still the property of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages.

The translation of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley. Written in 1841, it is widely popular in English-speaking countries.

The Person Behind the Words

The original text of the hymn has been subject to interpretation to various groups and individuals from time to time. From St. Bonaventure in the 13th century or King John IV of Portugal in the 17th. The commonly believed view is that the text was written by Cistercian monks. They of German, Portuguese or Spanish provinces of that order having at various times been credited.

Wade, an English Catholic, lived in exile in France. He made a living as a copyist of musical manuscripts which he found in libraries. Wade often signed his copies, as his calligraphy was so beautiful that his clients requested this. In 1751 he published a printed compilation of his manuscript copies, Cantus Diversi pro-Dominicis et Festis per annum. This is the first printed source for Adeste Fideles.

The version published by Wade consisted of four Latin verses. The French Catholic priest Jean-François-Étienne Borderies wrote an additional three verses in Latin in the 18th century. Another anonymous Latin verse is rarely printed.

The text has been translated several times into English. The most common version today is a combination of one of Frederick Oakeley’s translations of the original four verses. Also, William Thomas Brooke’s translation of the three additional verses. It was first published in Murray’s Hymnal in 1852. Oakeley originally titled the song “Ye Faithful, approach ye” when it was sung at his Margaret Chapel in Marylebone (London), before it was altered to its current form.

Some Final Thoughts

The hymn was at times referred to as the “Portuguese Hymn” after the Duke of Leeds, in 1795, heard it sung at the Portuguese embassy in London. McKim and Randell argue for Wade’s authorship of the most popular English language version.


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