Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

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"Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken", also called "Zion, or the City of God",[1] is an 18th-century English hymn written by John Newton, who also wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace". The hymn has often been set to the music of Joseph Haydn's "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" (known as "Austria" in English-speaking circles)[i] or Arthur Sullivan's "Lux Eoi".[2][3] In recent decades a third tune, Abbot's Leigh, has risen to prominence. This was written for this text by The Reverend Cyril Vincent Taylor in 1942 while he was a producer of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC and stationed at the village of Abbot's Leigh.


The hymn was written by Newton after he had asked for assistance from his friend and neighbour, classical writer William Cowper, while he was the Church of England parish priest of Olney Church.[2] With Cowper's assistance, Newton was able to publish the Olney Hymns Hymnal, which included "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken", in 1779.[4] The hymn is based upon Psalm 87:3 and Isaiah 33:20-21.[2] "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" is considered to be Newton's best composition and was the only joyful hymn in the publication.[2] The hymn has five verses of eight lines each.[1]

The hymn was a favourite of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. He is noted to have once awakened his soldiers in 1862 while they were in the Shenandoah Valley by singing "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" out of tune.[5]


The hymn is used by a wide range of Christian denominations, including Catholics.[6] Words of the hymn may be changed depending on, for example, whether the congregation is Calvinist or Lutheran. Presbyterians often sing only three verses of the hymn.[1] It is also used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[7]

John Rogers Thomas also used the words for one of his sacred songs[8] from Hymns of the Church.

Because of the practice of singing the hymn to a tune used for other purposes it has sometimes elicited unusual reactions. During the Second World War in an Oflag prisoner of war camp, a Protestant service was interrupted during the singing of "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" by the camp guards singing Sei gesegnet ohne Ende, because the hymn was set to the tune of the Austrian national anthem.[9] The same Haydn melody is employed in the German national anthem formerly known, popularly, as Deutschland über alles — properly titled Das Lied der Deutschen or the Deutschlandlied, the third verse of which is the national anthem of present-day Germany. For some people, using this particular tune for the hymn (often named in various hymnals as "Austria") is often controversial as, despite the fact that it dates back to the 18th century, it raises reminders of Nazi Germany.[10]


  1. ^ The hymns "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" and '"Deutschlandlied" have repeated bars. These are not played in "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken".


  1. ^ a b c Marshall, Madeleine Forell (1995). Common Hymnsense. GIA Publications. pp. 89–93. ISBN 0941050696. 
  2. ^ a b c d Osbeck, Kenneth W. (1985). 101 More Hymn Stories, Part 2. Kregel Publications. pp. 94–95. ISBN 0825493285. 
  3. ^ Methodist Conference (1933). The Methodist Hymn-Book with Tunes (1964, 34th ed.). London: Novello & Co. Hymn 706. 
  4. ^ "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken". Retrieved 2014-01-10. 
  5. ^ Petersen, William J. (2014). The Complete Book of Hymns. Tyndale House Publishers. p. 270. ISBN 1414331401. 
  6. ^ "Hymns in the Fourth Edition of the St. Michael Hymnal" (PDF). St. Boniface Parish in Lafayette, Indiana, USA. 2011-06-28. Retrieved 2014-02-10. From FAQ: Why does the hymnal contain Protestant hymns? As the Church has always incorporated the worthwhile contributions from other traditions, so we have included some of the great hymns from other Christian traditions. Great care has been taken, however, not to include anything that would detract from Catholic doctrine. 
  7. ^ "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken". LDS Church. 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2014-01-10. 
  8. ^ "Glorious things of thee are spoken". 1870. Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  9. ^ Snape, Michael Francis (2008). The Royal Army Chaplains' Department, 1796-1953: Clergy Under Fire. Boydell Press. p. 318. ISBN 1843833468. 
  10. ^ Huber, Jane Parker (1987). A Singing Faith. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 108. ISBN 0664240550. 

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