Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
set your minds on things eternal,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descended,
come our homage to command.
Translated from Greek to English by public school master and hymnographer Gerard Moultrie (1829-1885), Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Σιγησάτο παρα σὰρξ βροτεία) is one of the oldest hymn texts still used by the church today, dating from at least the fourth or fifth century. Originally taken from the chanted Cherubic Hymn found in the Liturgy of St. James, modern hymnals now pair Let All Mortal Flesh’s text with the tune Picardy, a 17th century French carol published in Chansons Populaires des Provinces de France (1864).
To create a piano medley for Epiphany, I matched up Picardy from Let All Mortal Flesh with the hymn tune Dix. Although most would recognize Dix as For the Beauty of the Earth, the tune’s original text was As with Gladness Men of Old, an Epiphany hymn penned by Scottish marine insurance salesman W. Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). By connecting and contrasting the darker, minor tonality of Let All Mortal Flesh with the brighter, major key of As with Gladness, I hoped to highlight the connections and contrasts in the Epiphany story of wealthy, royal magi visiting a poor, humble – yet royal – baby born in a barn.
As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright;
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore your splendor see.