Friday 4 December 2015

John Henry Hopkins Jr.'s "We Three Kings"

"We three Kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star."

John Henry Hopkins Jr., the son of pioneer parents from Ireland and Germany, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He worked as a journalist while he studied law.  However, when he graduated, he felt called by the Holy Spirit to become a pastor.  He entered the General Theological Seminary of New York.

At the Seminary, Hopkins put his writing skills by founding and editing the Church Journal.  He also put his artistic talent to work, designing stain glass windows.  In 1857, as musical director of the Seminary, Hopkins was asked to write a new carol for the Christmas pageant. Likely with his young nieces and nephews in mind, Hopkins wrote "We Three Kings of Orient Are". He presented it to his nieces and nephews on his Christmas visit to Vermont, where he also saw his father, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the state.  

Six years passed before We Three Kings was published in "Carols, Hymns and Song.  Later, it became the first fully American carol to be published in England where it appeared in Christmas Carols Old and New. (

To listen to the carol, visit

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