Music Notes

Filter By:

No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet

This hymn is based on the familiar Palm Sunday historical narrative found in the Gospels. In fact, the story’s familiarity may foster a sort of lack of interest. “I’ve heard this before,” we are tempted to think. Jesus entering into Jerusalem on a donkey and the irony of the crowd’s hosannas is not lost on those of us who have heard the story so many times. This hymn’s writer, Timothy Dudley-Smith, seeks to place the historical narrative within a broad, four-fold context, with each stanza ending exactly the same way, “Behold, behold your King.”


In the first stanza we sing:


No tramp of soldier’s marching feet with banners and with drums,

No sound of music’s martial beat: “The King of glory comes!”

To greet what pomp of kingly pride no bells in triumph ring;

No city gates swing open wide: “Behold, behold your King!”


Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926), a living English hymnwriter, composed this text. He attended Cambridge, Pembroke College, and served various parishes in the UK until he retired as the Bishop of Thetford. He wrote over 80 hymns in several different collections. His second stanza recounts the biblical story of Palm Sunday:


And yet He comes. The children cheer; with palms His path is strown.

With every step the cross draws near: the King of glory’s throne.

Astride a colt He passes by as loud hosannas ring,

Or else the very stones would cry “Behold, behold your King.”


What fading flowers His road adorn; the palms, how soon laid down!

No bloom or leaf but only thorn the King of glory’s crown.

The soldiers mock, the rabble cries, the streets with tumult ring, As Pilate to the mob replies, “Behold, behold your King.”


Poetically, Dudley-Smith ends each stanza with “Behold, behold your King,” linking all four together, but each bearing a slightly different theological implication. In this third stanza, the phrase is used ironically, as Pilate had wished to release Jesus, but succumbed to the crowd’s insistence on Barabbas. The final stanza bears an eschatological—end times—imprint:


Now He who bore for mortals sake the cross and all its pains

And chose a servant’s form to take, the King of glory reigns.

Hosanna to the Savior’s name till heaven’s rafters ring,

And all the ransomed host proclaim “Behold, behold your King.”


Here Jesus is portrayed as the Mediator between God and man, indeed, the reason for which He became human is manifest in its fullness starting today. The drama in the historical narrative is reflected in our hymns and liturgy today, Thursday evening, Friday night, and next Sunday morning. It is a drama that is best lived and reenacted in our liturgy, at least that was the thought of the ancient church fathers who established the church year gradually many centuries ago.

Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with

What Wondrous Love

Lord of Life Lutheran Church
Music Notes
2 April, 2017

“What Wondrous Love is This” This hymn text was written anonymously and first published in Lynchburg, VA in A General Selection of Spiritual Songs (1811). This tune, also composed anonymously and most likely best defined as a “folk tune,” first originates in print in Southern Harmony, New Haven, 1835. The tune is “modal,” meaning it is neither major nor minor, sounding foreign to the modern ear. Yet, many early American folk tunes were modal. This rather dry information constitutes the known “facts” about this hymn. Yet, the hymn proclaims something significant, speaking as it does from the early days of the American nation.
The first two stanzas proclaim Christ’s love for us in that it “. . . caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.” This same love, “when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,” results in Christ becoming incarnate, laying “aside His crown for my soul.” What, then, is this love?
In Greek, of course, there are several different meanings to our one English word “love.” The sense of its use in the hymn reflects the use of “love” not only in the Gospel of John but in the epistles of John. We know that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (I John 4: 16b.) Love here is agaph, or agape. This is a type of unconditional love of which, truth be told, only God is capable. This is sacrificial and selfless love, one that is evidenced in action. As the writer of music notes has said before, the very-human notion of exchanging gifts, ubiquitous to all cultures, illustrates this theological concept. We give gifts to those we love. We do not merely speak words; we give. We give in either time, thought, or in physical goods. Even the obligatory office party or routine Christmas gifts to one’s clients are meant to evoke a sense of appreciation, as artificial and misused as it may be these days. In a similar way, the Holy Trinity did not merely lament the sin of humankind from afar; rather, Christ was sent as the atoning sacrifice, living as a real person in the real world. John speaks to of this: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (I John 3: 1) The world [kosmos= “cosmos”] rejected Christ and the love He represented and embodied.
We may think that we “love” this food, that car (probably a black Mercedes), that music, or we may even love that person. Yet, this is not agape. We do not necessarily know God from these manifestations of “love.” We can only know love in this sense if we know God. The Jews and Romans who crucified Jesus certainly, it must be thought, loved their families, their jobs, their possessions, but such “love” did not assist them in recognizing Christ for who He was. Those types of love—of which we are still surrounded with today—do not necessarily lead to God. Only those who know God can know what love is. Hopefully, these other forms of “love” (the Greeks had several words for the different types of love) will proceed from the initial agape of God, which He has first “lavished” on us. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer, we do not know God because we “love,” we love because we know God.
With this in mind, we rejoice in the words of the final stanza of our hymn, “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing His love for me, and through eternity I’ll sing on!”


Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with

12345678910 ... 4344