This is one of the few hymns that can be said to define English hymn-singing. It will no longer be true that ‘everybody’ knows it, but a vast number of people do—even those who do not attend any place of worship. Even if they fumble with the words the tune will be known. It has been dismissed as a cheap waltz tune, but it is well put together with the two halves answering each other in a satisfying way. Clement Scholefield was a curate where Arthur Sullivan had been organist and it was probably Sullivan who named the tune and thus elevated the composer to a kind of sainthood. Scholefield’s name appeared as composer of other tunes in his day, but again this is the one tune that survives. In 1829 it was possible to speak of ‘His Majesty’s dominions, on which the sun never sets’; in 1870, however, when writing a hymn for a missionary festival, John Ellerton seized upon the idea as being much more suitable for the world-wide Church. He celebrates the fact that God’s name is praised day-long around the world—an idea that could well be taken up gladly by this generation which is seeing the decline of the Church in Britain, but appreciates that we are ‘One World’.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2001