Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to James W. Welch (BBC)

Letter No.: 
[23 Oct 1943]

The White Gates,

Dear Mr Welch1

Only today (when your letter arrived) I was about to send you a revised version of the Victory Anthem2 words - the same succession of ideas, and some of the same words - but more often rather less familiar words which have been set less often.
I have been carefully through your suggestions & will consider whether I shd like to incorporate them.
The music is beginning to shape itself around the words as I send them to you.
We must be careful not to let the anthem develop into a sermon - that is the business of the preacher - not the singer.
As regards the spoken words (I propose to have other passages beside the Henry V spoken). My reason is purely practical - the sung words over the wireless are never heard unless they are well known - & I want to make sure that certain key passages in the anthem are heard.
Yrs sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams
Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our Fathers
Blessed is thy Holy and Glorious name
Blessed art thou in the temple of thy Holy Glory
Blessed art thou on the glorious throne of thy kingdom

Refrain (after each verse)
and to be praised and exalted above all for ever

O give thanks unto the Lord for he is gracious
and his mercy endureth for ever
  (song of the 3 children)

O God thine arm was here
and not to us but to thine arm alone
ascribe we all
Take it O God for it is none but thine   
  (Henry V)

Thine O Lord is the greatness
and the power & the glory
Thine is the victory and the majesty
Thine is the Kingdom O Lord

The spirit of the Lord is upon me
Because the Lord hath anointed me

To proclaim liberty to the captives
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound
To comfort all that mourn
To give them beauty for aches
The oil of joy for mourning
The Garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness
  (Isaiah chap 61)

Go through, go through the gates
Prepare ye the way of the people
Cast up, cast up the highway
Gather out the stones
Lift up a standard for the people
And they shall call them the holy people
The redeemed of the land
And thou shalt be called
“Sought out[”], a city not forsaken
  (chap 62)

And they shall build up the old wastes
They shall raise up the former desolations
And shall repair the wasted cities
The desolations of many generations
Lift up thine eyes round about & see
They gather themselves together
They come to thee
Who are these that gather as a cloud?
And as doves to the window?
Surely the isles shall wait for
thee, and the ships, to bring
thy sons from afar.
They shall bring their gold and silver with them
Unto the name of thy Lord God
Because he hath glorified thee.
Violence shall be no more heard in thy land
Wasting nor destruction in thy borders
But thou shalt call thy walls salvation
and thy gates promise
The Lord shall be thy everlasting light
and the days of thy mourning shall be ended
  (chap 60)3

1. Director of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC. See R.V.W.: a biography, p.261.
2. Thanksgiving for Victory renamed Song of Thanksgiving in 1952, Catalogue of Works 1944/4. See Catalogue of Works p.187 ff.
3. These passages from Scripture differ in some ways from both the Authorised Version and the work as published.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW composer

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/15, ff.109-112, 116-122
General notes: 

Date from note on original.

Cobbe 420
Original database number: