We Three Kings is a solemn, processional-style song that we all enjoy during the holiday season. Recreating the birth of Jesus from the perspective of the three wise men that came to visit him in the manger, We Three Kings is another lovely carol depicting the important reason for the holiday season.
Thanks to the easy lyrics that fit together so nicely, the story of the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the infant Jesus is easily portrayed. Since each wise man represents three races, the wise men have always been a popular symbol of the coming together of peoples and nations during the holiday season.
Although it is not specifically stated in the Bible where the three men were from, it is thought that they were Balthasar, the king of Arabia; Caspar, the king of India and Melchior, the king of Persia. The wise men themselves came to represent the earliest days of Christianity since it is said that they converted to Christianity and were made bishops.
Their remains are buried in Cologne, Germany. However, the beginning of their travels and connection to Jesus are captured in this beautiful song originally intended for a simple Christmas pageant.
Interestingly, We Three Kings has the same composer for both the text and the music for this Christmas carol. Typically, there are two different people that will create a Christmas carol by combining one person’s text to another one’s melody.
In this case, however, the music and lyrics were written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins. Hopkins published the song in 1857 in his Carols, Hymns and Songs publication. Specifically, the song was written for the Christmas pageant put on by the General Theological Seminary in New York.
We Three Kings
Text: John H. Hopkins, Jr., 1820-1891
Music: John H. Hopkins, Jr., 1820-1891
We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
sounds through the earth and skies.
Learn How to play the song with instrumental guitar arrangement of We Three Kings.
With Its Well-rhymed Lyrics
Hopkins was a creative man. Not only could he write and edit music, he could also illustrate books and was a stained glass artist. Perhaps his unique combination of talents is the reason why this song was so quick to catch on with the general public.
Nowadays, people instantly recognize the tune and heartily sing along to the main words of We Three Kings. With its well-rhymed lyrics, the song is easy to sing and easily creates a nice picture of the kings visiting the small infant child.
Hopkins create the song in Williamsport, Pennslyvania, where he was the pastor at Christ Episcopal Church (and which still stands today.) His lyrics were loved by the general public as soon as the song was heard and its popularity grew exponentially each year.
This loved Christmas song has numerous recordings by popular recording artists and Christian singers alike over the years.
If you want to learn how to play the song, get the easy-to-learn guitar arrangement of We Three Kings.