Wedding songs

‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’: Who wrote the British anthem and what are the lyrics?

June 1, 2022, 11:38

Members of the Canterbury Cathedral Girls Choir.

Photo: Aliyah

With music by Gustav Holst and lyrics by Cecil Spring Rice, the British patriotic anthem has been sung at memorial services and large-scale events, including weddings and funerals.

Written in 1918, “I Vow to Thee, My Country” remains one of the most popular British anthems to this day.

It was first sung at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, London, where Holst taught, and later became their official school anthem.

Now it is most strongly associated with Remembrance Day, performed at services across the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth. It has been used at various high-profile state funerals, including those of former Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and most recently that of Captain Sir Tom Moore in February 2021.

The anthem was also a personal favorite of Diana, Princess of Wales. She requested that it be sung at her 1981 wedding to the Prince of Wales, and in 1997 it was performed at his funeral, as well as at a 10-year memorial service in 2007.

Read more: The time Princess Diana sat at the piano and played Rachmaninoff

Who wrote “I promise you, my country”?

The anthem is a combined lyrical and musical effort by two British greats, with diplomat and former ambassador to the United States Sir Cecil Spring Rice providing the lyrics and Gustav Holst providing the music.

Spring Rice originally wrote the words between 1908 and 1912, as a poem titled Urbs Dei (The city of God) Where The two homelands. Following the events of World War I, in which the diplomat’s brother had died, Spring Rice revisited his poem in 1918 and made several changes, including cutting an entire verse containing wartime references and imagery. manifestos.

This revised version is what we know today as ‘I promise you, my country’, telling the story of two realms – a patriotic Britain that is united in devotion and a paradise that seeks peace. above all.

Read more: What are the words to the anthem “Jerusalem”, and is it the national anthem of England?

Does it share a tune with ‘Jupiter’?

In the years following Spring Rice’s revisions, the poem was sent to Holst and the composer was asked to set the lyrics to music. Bat-eared listeners may have noticed that the melody is somewhat familiar, taken from the middle section of Holst’s “Jupiter,” the fourth movement of his suite. The planetswritten a few years earlier.

According to the composer’s daughter, Imogen, Holst was exhausted and overworked when the words landed on his desk, and “he felt relieved to find that they ‘fit’ the tune of Jupiter”.

Extending the melody to accommodate the last two lines of each verse, Holst reworked the tune as a unison song with orchestra in 1921. Then, in 1926, he added harmony to make it an anthem and dubbed the tune ‘Thaxted’, after the Essex Village he called his home.

His friend and fellow composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, was the publisher of songs of praise at the time, and published it in that year’s edition.

What are the lyrics?

I swear to you, my country, all earthly things above,
Whole and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test,
Who puts on the dearest and best altar;
The love that never fails, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes the final sacrifice fearless.

And there’s another country that I heard of a long time ago,
Very dear to those who love her, very great to those who know her;
We cannot count her armies, we cannot see her king;
His fortress is a faithful heart, his pride suffers;
And soul by soul and silently its shining bounds rise,
And her ways are gentle ways, and all her paths are of peace.