Hymn: “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven”

Here on my blog, one Saturday a month (and every Saturday during Advent) for about the last year I’ve written about a “favorite hymn” or “great old hymn” that I’m fond of, for the reasons I explained in the introduction to this series. Today’s topic is a hymn that I don’t remember singing all that often as I was growing up, but that has become a favorite of mine in the last several years.

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises should sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for His grace and favour
To our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely yet His mercy flows.

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone;
But while mortals rise and perish
Our God lives unchanging on,
Praise Him, Praise Him, Hallelujah
Praise the High Eternal One!

Angels, help us to adore Him;
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace.

Like many great hymns, this is (somewhat loosely) based on—a verse paraphrase of—one of the Psalms, in this case Psalm 103, from which both of its most common tunes take their title (“Lauda anima”, meaning “Praise, O [my] soul”, the opening words of the Latin of that psalm).

One reason I like this hymn is that while general enough that it is always appropriate and true, it lists, and explains succinctly, specific reasons that we ought to praise God. And even when considering what he has done for us, it always returns the focus to God.

I also like the standard tune that this is most commonly set to. The harmonization gets a little more dissonant than I like, but other than that is catchy and memorable, fairly straightforward and not too tricky (at least in the melody and alto), and melodic in more parts than just the hymn-tune melody.

As with many great hymns, I could wish that there were more verses, but I’m grateful that the author wrote a goodly number. And the hymn’s treatment of its subject is comprehensive enough that I can’t immediately think of anything any additional verses ought to say.

When I first really noticed the name of the tune, after I knew enough Latin to see that “Lauda anima” was approximately equivalent to the beginning of the hymn, I tried several times to fit those words (and what I thought might follow them) to the beginning of the tune—only to find that they don’t fit very well at all. It was only later that I realized that the tune name is so closely related to the first line of the text because both come from the Psalm, not because the text is a translation from the Latin.

If this hymn had come to mind when I marked Thanksgiving by featuring three favorite Thanksgiving hymns, I might well have added it to that list, because while it is not one that is traditionally sung at Thanksgiving, it is certainly a hymn of thanksgiving, along much the same lines as “Now thank we all our God.” But when I was preparing that post I didn’t think of this one, so my treatment of it had to wait until now.

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