To be a Pilgrim

To be a Pilgrim

"To be a Pilgrim" is the only hymn John Bunyan is credited with writing but is indelibly associated with him. It first appeared in Part 2 of Pilgrim's Progress, written in 1684 while he was serving a twelve-year sentence in Bedford Gaol on a charge of preaching without a licence. The hymn recalls the words of Hebrews 11:13: "...and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."

The words were mo­di­fied extensively by Per­cy Dear­mer for the 1906 "The English Hymnal". ["The Eng­lish Hymn­al", Lon­don: Ox­ford Un­i­ver­si­ty Press, 1906] At the same time it was given a new tune by British composer Vaughan Williams using the traditional Sussex melody "Monk's Gate". The hymn has also been sung to the melody "Moab" (John Ro­berts, 1870) and St. Dun­stans (Charles W. Doug­las, 1917).

Bunyan's original version is not commonly sung in churches today, perhaps because of the references to "hobgoblin" and "foul fiend." However, one commentator has said: "Bunyan's burly song strikes a new and welcome note in our Hymnal. The quaint sincerity of the words stirs us out of our easygoing dull Christianity to the thrill of great adventure." ["The Hymnal 1940 Companion", New York: The Church Pension Fund, 1949, p. 331.]

The hymn's refrain "to be a pilgrim" has entered the language and has been been used in the title of a number of books dealing with pilgrimage in a literal or spiritual sense. [For example, the novel "To be a Pilgrim" by Joyce Cary, "To be a Pilgrim: A spiritual notebook" by Basil Hume, "To be a Pilgrim: The medieval pilgrimage experience" by Sarah Hopper, and "To be a Pilgrim: The Anglican ethos in history" by Frederick Quinn.] Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band recorded the song on their album "Sing Lustily And With Good Courage".

References

External links

* [http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/h/w/hwhowvbe.htm He Who Would Valiant Be, John Bunyan]
* [http://www.cyberhymnal.org/mid/m/o/n/monks_gate.mid Monk's Gate] MIDI file
* [http://www.refuel.org.uk/curric/belief_file/p1_pilg.html A verse sung to the melody Monk's Gate]


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