Who wrote I Vow to Thee My Country? Hymn lyrics and meaning explained | The Sun
17th September 2022

ON Monday, the Queen will depart London for the last time, to an emotional and heartfelt rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country.

The late Queen’s coffin will be transported to Windsor Castle, where she will be laid to rest beside her beloved husband the late Duke of Edinburgh.

In 2019, the hymn was voted the UK’s sixth favourite in a poll conducted by the BBC’s sing of praise.

The hymn is associated with Remembrance services all across the Commonwealth, and was sung at the funerals of former Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

It was also sung at the wedding of the now King Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, it was later also sung at Diana’s funeral.

Who wrote I Vow to Thee My Country?

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The hymn was first performed in 1921, with lyrics that date back slightly earlier to either 1908 or 1912.

The lyrics are from a poem by diplomat Sir Cecil Spring Rice, titled "Urbs Dei" ("The City of God") or "The Two Fatherlands”.

In 1921, this poem was then set to music by Gustav Holst, an English composer.

The music originated as a wordless melody, which Holst later named "Thaxted".

The music could originally be heard in the "Jupiter" movement of Holst's famous 1917 suite The Planets.

What are the lyrics to I Vow to Thee My Country?

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The hymn as printed in Songs of Praise consists of two stanzas, which are as follows:

“I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,

Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test,

That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best

The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,

The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.”

“And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;

Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.”

The original poem has a third verse that proceeds these, however this was not set to music, and does not tend to be included as part of the hymn.

What is the meaning behind the lyrics?

The poem, written by Cecil Spring Rice, described how a Christian owes their loyalties to both the Kingdom of Heaven, and their own homeland.

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While the hymn may be popular it’s not without its critics.

One critic being Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme, who in 2004 wrote that the hymn is “heretical” due to its nationlist overtones.

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