Edward Plumptre served for years as chaplain and professor at King’s College in London. He taught biblical exegesis and theology, which can be pretty dull subjects—but this hymn proves that Plumptre had a common touch. That surely was responsible for the esteem in which his students held him.
Plumptre wrote this as a processional hymn for a choir festival at Peterborough Cathedral. A choir festival involved gathering choirs from churches throughout the diocese—a dozen or more choirs with scores of singers. Imagine those choirs processing down the long center aisle of the cathedral—one after the other—with the cross and banner held aloft at the beginning of the processional. When the first verse of the hymn says, “your glorious banner wave on high” and “the cross of Christ your king,” it is that processional banner and cross that he had in mind.
Such a processional could go on for as long as a half hour. Plumptre wrote ten verses to this hymn for that reason, but most hymnals today include only four or five.
This is a joyous hymn from beginning to end, and so it lifts our spirits to sing it. Our rejoicing brings just a bit of heaven into our lives here on earth.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterborough_Cathedral for more information on Peterborough Cathedral.
— Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan