Fairest King all Queens Excelling

As her late Britannic Majesty’s coffin anticipates its formal resting in its royal crypt, the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn Love Divine were sung in Westminster’s abbey. The great Methodist hymnist may have adapted its words from Dryden’s Fairest Isle which is sung by the goddess Venus in Act 5 of the opera King Arthur (1691):

Fairest Isle, all Isles Excelling,

Seat of Pleasures, and of Loves;

Venus here, will chuse her Dwelling,

And forsake her Cyprian Groves

Here, the classical goddess of love abandons her native Cypress for the temperate isle of Great Britain. Our late sovereign lady was no goddess, but providence surely blessed our commonwealth realms with so godly and faithful a queen. While Dryden might have appreciated that point, I think Wesley’s is the more profound- that the God of Love came down from heaven to dwell among us, that one day (verses 3-4) we might share His heaven, and He again our earth:

Love divine, all loves excelling,

Joy of Heav’n to earth come down;

Fix in us thy humble dwelling;

All thy faithful mercies crown!

Jesus, Thou art all compassion,

Pure unbounded love Thou art;

Visit us with Thy salvation,

Enter every trembling heart.


Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit

Into every troubled breast!

Let us all in Thee inherit;

Let us find that second rest.

Take away our bent to sinning;

Alpha and Omega be;

End of faith, as its beginning,

Set our hearts at liberty.


Come, Almighty to deliver,

Let us all Thy life receive;

Suddenly return, and never,

Nevermore Thy temples leave.

Thee we would be always blessing,

Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,

Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,

Glory in Thy perfect love.


Finish, then, Thy new creation;

Pure and spotless let us be;

Let us see Thy great salvation

Perfectly restored in Thee;

Changed from glory into glory,

Till in Heav’n we take our place,

Till we cast our crowns before Thee,

Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay