The song is based on the poem written by Cecil Spring-Rice Urbs Dei (the city of God), which he wrote in 1908 when he worked as a diplomat at the British Embassy in Stockholm. The poem describes a Christian, which both his homeland if the Kingdom of God is faithful. The text is based in part on the motto of the Spring family, where Spring-Rice was a descendant of. The firststanza originally had an overtly patriotic position, which typically was for poems of the first world war for.
In 1912, Spring-Rice, Ambassador to the United Stateswhere he led the Government of Woodrow Wilson tried to move its neutrality and to support the United Kingdom in the war against Germany. After the United States became involved in the war, Spring-Rice was recalled to England. Shortly before his departure from the USA in January 1918, he rewrote and renamed Urbs Dei the first verse which he left focus on the great losses that the British soldiers had suffered. According to Cecil's granddaughter heard the three verses not together; the original poem was composed of stanza two and three, the modified version from stanza one and three.
The first and second verse Sung rarely refer to the United Kingdom and to the sacrifices of the fallen British soldiers in the first world war in particular. The final stanza is a reference to the sky.The last sentence is based on Proverbs 3: 17, which in the King James Bible reads: Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. (Her ways are gentle roads, all her paths are peace.)
In 1921 Gustav Holst used the music from a section of the part Jupiter from his suite The Planets as melody for the poem. The music was something extended so who exactly fitted the last two lines of the first stanza. At the request of Publisher Curwen made Holst a unison version with Orchestra ( Hubert Parry's earlier published Curwen unison song with Orchestra, Jerusalem). It was probably first performed in 1921 and it quickly became a popular song at funerals in the interwar period, particularly when it was issued in 1926 as anthem . Holst the melody to the song to make them suitable as anthem and it was in that year with the same text, but with a melody called Thaxted, included in the Song of Praise. The editor of the new version of Songs of Praise was Holst's close friend Ralph Vaughan Williams, who may have encouraged him to make the anthem.
Holst's daughter Imogen Holst has later said that at the time that he was asked to put these words on music, he's so overworked and tired he was relieved he felt when he found out that she had mounted the melody of Jupiter.
- I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
- Entire and whole and perfect, the service or my love;
- The love that asks no question, 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.
- I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
- Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
- Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
- And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
- I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
- I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.
- 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.
- I promise you, my country, above all the Earth,
- Complete and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
- The love that no question, the love that the test,
- That is on the altar of the dearest and the best;
- The love that never falters, the love that her price is charged,
- The love that fearless brings the ultimate sacrifice.
- I heard my country calling, on the other side of the sea,
- About the waste of water calls and she calls me.
- Her sword hangs at her side, her helmet on her head,
- And around her feet are the dying and the dead.
- I hear the sound of war, the lightning of their guns,
- I hasten to you my mother, a son among your sons.
- And there is another country, which I have heard,
- The liefdevolst to those who love her, most amazing to those who know her;
- We can not count her armies, we can not see her King;
- Her fort is a proud heart, her pride suffers;
- And soul to soul and gently increases, its borders are
- And its roads are lovely roads, all her paths are peace.
- The song is associated with Remembrance Day.
- The song is sung at the special request of Princess Diana on the marriage ceremony with Prince Charles in 1981. It was also sung to her funeral in 1997 and the reminder service in 2007.
- The song was played at the wedding of Prince William and sung at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.
- The song was used at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Paralympics.
- The melody of the song is the same as of World in Union, the official song of the rugby World Cup.
- The song is used as the theme of Elizabeth I of England in the computer game Civilization V. For the game are both composed a version for peace and for war.