Who would true valour see

Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather;
there's no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.

This is the only hymn in popular use today by John Bunyan (1628-1688). He was born in Elstow and was a Baptist minister at Bedford. Bunyan wrote the original Valiant's song in The Pilgrim's Progress (part II, 1684) with the words "Who would true valour see". It is spoken by Mr Valiant-for-truth, relating the story of his pilgrimage to Mr Greatheart. The original words are found in The BBC Hymn Book ('Hobgoblin nor foul fiend') and Hymns Ancient and Modern (all editions, with a minor change to 'No goblin nor foul fiend'). The English Hymnal (both editions) and the Anglican Hymn Book all use the extensive revision by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), who begins "He who would valiant be". Dearmer changes lines 1-4 of verse 1, lines 5-8 of verse 2, and parts of the third verse. Despite Dearmer claiming Bunyan would never have approved the use of the original poem as a hymn, and that 'to include the hobgoblins would have been to ensure disaster', many regard the original words as superior to the modern version.

Tune - Monk's Gate

Monk's Gate first appeared in The English Hymnal (1906), and was arranged by Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) from the melody of a Sussex folk-song, collected by Mrs Verrall of Monk's Gate, Sussex, entitled 'Valiant' or 'Welcome Sailor' ('Our captain calls all hands on board to-morrow'). For a hymn tune, it is a good example of syncopation and cross-rhythm. It has been suggested this was the tune Bunyan had in mind when he wrote the pilgrim's song. However, as hymns were unknown at Elstow Church (only metrical psalms were used) and there was no singing of any kind at Bedford until two years after Bunyan's death, this theory is erroneous.

Nigel Day

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 10th November 2005