This triumphant Easter hymn was used in the monasteries and cathedrals of Britain in the Easter period, and was originally translated in the nineteenth century for the use of dioceses in Scotland. The imagery of the hymn sees the saving work of Jesus as his battle with the devil, portrayed here as the serpent overcome by the lion—both images taken from scripture, as is the idea that Jesus went down into hell to release those imprisoned there. So now Jesus reigns, and we pray to be part of his eternal kingdom. It would be unusual for a modern writer to set the cosmic aspect of the story of our salvation in these terms; we need both these older hymns and attempts to use the new cosmology. But it is important, whatever imagery we use, to make our own the teaching that the Easter victory is for the whole universe.
Gauntlett’s tune, given the name of the author of the words, is now almost universally seen as right for this hymn.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2002