John Bacchus Dykes

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This article is about the composer of hymn tunes. For ESPN Star presenter, see John Dykes.

John Bacchus Dykes.

John Bacchus Dykes (10 March 1823 Kingston upon Hull – 22 January 1876 Ticehurst, Sussex) was an English clergyman and hymnist.


He was born in Hull, England, the fifth child and third son of William Hey Dykes and his wife Elizabeth Dykes (née Huntington), and a younger brother of the poet and hymnist Eliza Alderson. By the age of 10, he was the assistant organist at St John's Church in Myton, Hull (transferred to Drypool in 1917), where his grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Dykes, was vicar. He learned the violin and the piano.[1] He studied at Wakefield and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, earning a BA in Classics in 1847.[2] He cofounded the Cambridge University Musical Society. He was ordained as curate of Malton in 1847. For a short time, he was canon of Durham Cathedral, then precentor (1849 – 1862). In 1862 he became vicar of St. Oswald's, Durham, until his death in 1876.

He published numerous sermons and articles on religion; however, he is best known for over 300 hymn tunes he composed. Among those still in wide use are: Nicaea, commonly sung to the words "Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!"; Wir Pflügen, harmonised by Dykes and commonly sung to the words "We plough the fields, and scatter" (a translation of the German hymn "Wir pflügen und wir streuen" by the late eighteenth-century German poet Matthias Claudius); Melita, sung to the words "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (sometimes known as "For those in peril on the sea" from its recurring last line); Gerontius, sung to the words "Praise to the Holiest in the height" (taken from Cardinal Newman's poem The Dream of Gerontius); Lux Benigna, sung to Newman's poem Lead, Kindly Light; O Perfect Love; and Dominus Regit Me, sung to the words "The King of love my shepherd is", one of the many metrical versions of Psalm 23.

Dykes resolutely upheld the high church tradition, to the consternation of his bishop, and was something of a renegade figure in the Victorian Church.[3] He was a member of the Society of the Holy Cross. Dykes died in Sussex at age 52, and is buried at St. Oswald’s, Durham.

He was enormously influential in hymnody in his time, but this has declined in recent times, evidenced by the fact that, whereas Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised (1950) carried 31 of his tunes, the New Standard edition of the same hymn book (1983) used only 15.


  1. ^ Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 5, pp. 794-795 Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1980, ISBN 0-333-23111-2
  2. ^ "Dykes or Dikes, John Bacchus (DKS843JB2)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ JB Dykes Biography

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