John Mason was the Rector of Water-Stratford in Buckinghamshire when he wrote his volume The Songs of Praise
(1683), which included the poems from which this hymn is drawn. It is thought that his hymns were among the first to be used in the Church of England. English Hymnal
(1906) was the first to include the words in this form, making a hymn that is unusual in its emphasis on how insignificant is the most noble praise that we offer by comparison with the praise that the company of heaven, and indeed the whole universe offers. The original is in four-line verses of Common metre. Placing two together, although it makes good sense of the words, creates the need to have a Double Common-metre tune, and few of these have been completely effective. Feeling the need for another attempt, Ken Naylor, whose career was the teaching of music in public schools and who was at that time music master at the Leys School, Cambridge, wrote this tune which immediately received wide acclaim. He named it after Coe Fen, an open space near the school.
from notes by Alan Luff © 1999