As we approach the great Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, we have many fine and memorable hymns to choose from. All of us have our favorites, but to me, this text, especially when wedded to this tune represents that day and the event in a deep and beautiful way.
The tune, which used to be quite popular in English usage is named "Liebster Immanuel." The melody is adapted from "Himmels-Lust" Jena, dating from 1679, and the rich and exquisite harmonization is by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). It is taken from a cantata, with the harmony being "slightly adjusted."
I've performed this in the "cathedral manner," but with very little altered or added, other than a few passing tones here and there.
There is rich, darkness to the music, and it adds to the "Eastern-feel" of the Wise Men and their long journey.
The text is by Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826). Heber was the second Bishop of Calcutta, is best known today for his famous hymns, including "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," "From Greenland's icy mountains," and"Brightest and best of the sons of the morning."
As well as becoming the second Bishop of Calcutta (today's Kolkata) he travelled widely throughout the East on his missionary work, setting up schools and consecrating churches.
Heber's unremitting labours took a terrible toll, and he died in India when he was just forty-three. Thanks to his own "High Church scruples against using them in public", his hymns were only published posthumously.
There is a beautiful monument of him erected in St. Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta. It is said to have "captured the personality of the man — intense, spiritually refined, restrained, and devotional."
A portrait of Reginald Heber is attached below, as well as photo his monument in St. Paul's Cathedral.
The full text of the hymn is given in the First Comment.