Henry Hart Milman wrote this text around 1822. It was first published in Reginald Heber's (PHH 249) Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Services of the Year (1827). Of the text of this fine Palm Sunday hymn, Stanley L. Osborne has written,
Objective, robust, confident, and stirring, it possesses that peculiar combination of tragedy and victory which draws the singer into the very centre of the drama. It is this which gives the hymn its power and its challenge (If Such Holy Song, 449).
The text unites meekness and majesty, sacrifice and conquest, suffering and glory–all central to the gospel for Palm Sunday. Each stanza begins with "Ride on, ride on in majesty." Majesty is the text's theme as the writer helps us to experience the combination of victory and tragedy that characterizes the Triumphal Entry. Christ is hailed with "Hosanna" as he rides forth to be crucified (st. 1). That death spells victory: it is his triumph "o'er captive death and conquered sin" (st. 2). God the Father awaits Christ's victory with expectation (st. 3). Finally, Christ rides forth to take his "power … and reign!" (Note how "reign" is subtly offered as both noun and verb.)
DEO GRACIAS is a fifteenth-century English ballad tune sung to commemorate the Battle at Agincourt in 1415. The Agincourt ballad began with the refrain (popularized by E. Power Biggs in an organ fanfare arrangement) "Deo gracias Anglia Redde pro victoria" ("Render thanks to God, England, for victory"). Stanza 1 originally began "Owre kynge went forth to Normandy." Also known as AGINCOURT, the tune was adapted for congregational singing in the 1906 English Hymnal.
DEO GRACIAS is a vigorous tune, even martial with this harmonization by Carl Schalk written for the Lutheran Worship Supplement (1969). Support the unison singing line with solid organ tone and crisp rhythmic accompaniment. Try having antiphonal groups sing stanzas 1-5 and the entire congregation sing stanza 6. Use brass instruments for fanfares and/or accompaniment. Maintain one pulse per bar.
Henry Hart Milman (b. St. James, London, England, 1791; d. Sunninghill, Berkshire, England, 1868) was a playwright, professor of poetry, historian, theologian, churchman, and hymn writer–and he was successful in all these areas. He graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford, England, in 1816, and by 1823 had written three popular plays with religious themes. He was appointed professor of poetry at Oxford in 1821 but turned to the study of church history after 1827. His History of the Jews (1829), which raised vehement protest from reviewers, was influenced by the new critical German methods. Ordained in 1817, Milman served St. Mary's Church in Reading and St. Margaret's Church in London; his most illustrious church appointment was as dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, a position he held from 1849 until his death. His finest scholarly work is his History of Latin Christianity (1854). Milman wrote thirteen hymns, all published in Bishop Heber's Hymns (1827).
Carl F. Schalk (b. Des Plaines, IL, 1929) was professor of music emeritus at Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois, where he taught from 1965-2004. He completed graduate work at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. From 1952 to 1956 he taught and directed music at Zion Lutheran Church in Wausau, Wisconsin, and from 1958 to 1965 served as director of music for the International Lutheran Hour. Honored as a fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in 1992, Schalk was editor of the Church Music journal (1966-1980), a member of the committee that prepared the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), and a widely published composer of church music. Included in his publications are The Roots of Hymnody in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (1965), Key Words in Church Music (1978), and Luther on Music: Paradigms of Praise (1988). His numerous hymn tunes and carols are collected in the Carl Schalk Hymnary (1989) and its 1991 Supplement.