The history of this hymn is entirely bound up with the tune. John Wesley mentions its use for a hymn in 1787. Handel only wrote three hymn tunes, all for Charles Wesley’s words, one of which, to ‘Rejoice the Lord is King’ has become very popular. This tune, however, was planned to appear in Handel’s oratorio Joshua
(1747) but he transferred it to Judas Maccabaeus
(1746) where it became the chorus ‘See the conquering hero comes’. There was a German Advent hymn to the tune by Friedrich-Heinrich Ranke. Budry, who was from French-speaking Switzerland wrote his hymn ‘A toi la gloire, O Ressuscité’ for the tune in 1884. Richard Hoyle translated it in 1923 for the first edition of Cantate Domino
, the hymn book of the World Student Christian Movement, in which circles it became very popular. It first appeared in a British hymn book in the Methodist Hymn Book 1933, and few hymn books are now without it.
It is based on the gospel accounts of the Resurrection, with a passing allusion to Thomas’ doubt in verse 3. The repeated ‘victory’ can be traced to St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 57—‘But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
from notes by Alan Luff © 2004