Hymn Story: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

Henry Jackson Van Dyke was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 10, 1852. He attended Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Berlin.

Van Dyke served as pastor of Brick Presbyterian Church for seventeen years {1883-1900}, in Manhattan, before becoming a professor of English literature at Princeton University. He was greatly respected and sought out both as a pastor and professor.

Henry Jackson Van Dyke

In 1907, Henry Van Dyke handed a poem he’d written to the president of Williams College {Williamstown, Mass.} He said, “Here is a hymn for you. Your mountains were my inspiration. It must be sung to the music of Beethoven’s ‘Hymn to Joy.’”
The hymn appeared in the 1911 edition of Book of Poems.

Van Dyke was visiting the college to preach, when he penned the song and gave it to the college president for the choir to sing in concert.

In 1913, Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States and appointed van Dyke to be the Ambassador to the Netherlands.

Ludwig van Beethoven

In 1917, he became the Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps for the remainder of World War I.

He retired in 1923, but remained in Princeton until his death on April 10, 1933.

The music to this hymn is set to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is said that Van Dyke was “quite taken by the joyful sound” of the symphony and thought it should be used. Others had tried and failed, but he managed to succeed.

Van Dyke was the author of “The Other Wise Man”, a Christmas story and wrote several books of poetry and various devotional writings. However, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee remains his most enduring work.

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