We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.
Oh, star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright;
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light!...
Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain;
gold I bring to crown him again;
King for ever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign. Refrain.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, gladly raising,
Worshiping God Most high. Refrain.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone cold tomb. Refrain.
Glorious now behold him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice;
Heav’n sings alleluia:
alleluia the earth replies. Refrain.
In 1857, John Henry Hopkins Jr. was faced with a difficult task – what to get for his nieces and nephews for the celebration for Epiphany! Hopkins was ordained as an Episcopalian priest, but chose to us his writing talent as a report instead of a clergyman. He was a brilliant scholar with a law degree who used his inspirational writing as a scribe for a New York publication called Church journal.
So, when Hopkins had to decide upon his gift for his brothers’ children (he was a bachelor, by the way), he decided to write a tribute to the magi of the Christmas story. His gift would be personal, entertaining, AND meaningful! Using his imagination and knowledge of the Scriptures, Hopkins wove a simple but poignant story of the quest to find the Savior and the symbolism of the gifts they brought.
John Hopkins Jr. published “We Three Kings” in his own songbook called “Carols, Hymns and Songs”. In the next century, many churches chose the carols and hymns which would be accepted into their hymnals and “We Three Kings” was, of course, readily included.