But during our one hour in charge of the Sunday service, we had a moment's curiosity about Crown Him. The LBW lists two authors, Matthew Bidges and Godfrey Thring. Both men lived in the later 19th century, although Bridges was some twenty years older. But did they collaborate? Or did they, like the oft-cited monkeys at typewriters, somehow compose the same song at the same time?
Neither. It seems (according to the amateur site linked above, which probably relies on The Gospel in Hymns or the Hymnal 1940 Companion), Bridges was an Anglican who entered the Roman church. He wrote the hymn in its original form, six verses, and it achieved enough popularity that Thring, an Anglican who actually remained Anglican (somebody had to), felt that the faithful might be misled theologically by singing a Papist anthem. Accordingly, he wrote his own version of the hymn, in six somewhat -- but only somewhat -- different verses.
Here are both version, for those who can't get enough of such things:
Crown Him with many crowns,
Crown Him with crowns of gold,
For our money, Bridges was the better poet, but only by a hair. His images are a bit more solid, and his vocabulary a bit more wealthy. On the other hand, he omits the Resurrection, a significant hole which Thring fills in quite beautifully.
What amuses us is that the "Papist theology" in the original version is, unless we are missing something, not especially Papist. Anglicans (except perhaps Bp Spong) certainly don't deny the virginity of Mary. We suspect that the most objectionable image is the idea of that Christ's "power a scepter sways." It just sounds so, well, Erastian. But was this ever a serious problem for the Established Church in its glory days?
In any case, note the the Lutheran Book of Worship uses the Bridges version, with these significant alterations: (a) Stanza 6 is omitted; (b) stanza 3 is moved to the next-to-last place; (c) Thring's stanza 4 follows Bridges's stanza 4 ["Lord of life"]. And, most significantly, (d) Bridges' stanzas 5 and 6 are combined into one.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship omits the stanza about Lord of Peace, but is otherwise the same. The Service Book and Hymnal also used five stanzas, including the hybrid final one. But it omitted the one about Virgin's Son.
For the life of us, we can't see how the various hymnal editors, when faced with such an abundance of such similar material, make these decisions. But when our dream is realized, and some musically-inclined former English major sits down to compile a reference hymnal, worship leaders can make their own decisions, selecting from all twelves stanzas, according to the images they choose to highlight in a particular service. Or -- heck, why not? -- sing 'em all.