»  Arkwright's "O Valiant Hearts"

 

O Valiant Hearts

by John Stanhope Arkwright, 1872-1954

 

Sung by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea
(Director Ian Curror, organist Jeremy Filsell)
to the tune by Gustav Holst

 

•  Background

This is the hymn commonly sung in England on Remembrance Sunday, or in special services (e.g. in schools, if it's a school day) on Remembrance Day, November 11. Arkwright wrote it in 1917, when he was 45 years old.

The CyberHymnal lists no less than five tunes for the hymn. I have never heard any of them. The only tune I have ever heard it sung to — and I must have heard it scores of times, and sang it every year through my schooling — is the one by Gustav Holst.

Here is the hymn sung to Holst's tune by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. They omit the second and sixth verses, so I have printed them here in color.

[Added later:  I beg your pardon. I had heard this was Holst's tune and lazily assumed it was so. In fact, as a helpful NRO reader instructs me, the tune here, the one I know and love, is by the Rev. Charles Harris. Here is my reader's full correction:

"Having been raised in the wilds of West Texas, I'd never heard this beautiful hymn until you mentioned it in a corner post today. I ran to my copy of Songs of Praise (the 1925 Vaughan Williams one) to look it up, but the Holst tune there was not the same as the one playable on your linked page. This page explains how the tune by Rev. Charles Harris won the battle over the Holst and other contenders. I have found the Harris setting online here (in a MS Word doc) and it is indeed the one you cited."

Thank you, Sir.]

I have taken the recording from the choir's fine record Remembrance and Resurrection, without permission. I hope I may be forgiven. In furtherance of that hope, I urge you to buy a copy of the record from Amazon. It has some lovely hymns and songs, including an arrangement of Laurence Binyon's classic WW1 poem "For the Fallen" ("They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old …")

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•  Play the hymn

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•  Text of the hymn

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God's message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind — yourselves you scorned to save.


Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

Still stands His Cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor's pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.


O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and Whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.