Today’s Christmas Carol: We Three Kings

We Three Kings

We Three Kings was the first American Christmas carol to gain popularity. The words and music were composed in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins JR and published in 1862. John Henry Hopkins was the rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and he wrote We Three Kings for a Christmas pageant.

It was originally meant to be sung by three men. They were supposed to sing the first and last verse together and then each sing one of the three verses in the middle.

Contrary to the song, the Magi were likely not kings. They were probably advisers to kings … wisemen. They were obviously quite rich, though, as they brought the baby Jesus extremely costly gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gifts are all symbolic.

Gold is the symbol of kings.

Frankincense is a symbol of praying.

Myrrh is a symbol of death.

I really love this Christmas carol. It’s definitely not my favorite (I don’t think I have a favorite, really ….) but it’s really pretty. The music sounds sort of medieval or Arabic and mystical, just as it ought to be to match the lyrics. 🙂

I want to learn the lyrics better, because my brothers and I really enjoy singing this one (it’s a good song to sing acapella)and we can only sing the first verse and the refrain. And after a ten first-verse-and-the-refrain’s, you wish you had never heard the song. 🙂

The Lyrics:

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 night,
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;
Alleluia!, Alleluia!,
Rings through the earth and skies.


Here are a few versions:

What do you like about We Three Kings? What does it symbolize to you?

~Kellyn Roth


2 thoughts on “Today’s Christmas Carol: We Three Kings

  1. Now that last questions is quite hard!

    I Like this carol, not only because it has a great refrain, and amazing tune. But the lyrics specify quite allot in one song/carol! I like how it is on the Wise men’s perspective, It’s quite amazing!


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