Great Funeral Music: "I Vow to Thee, My Country"


I was especially happy to hear the strains of "I Vow to Thee My Country" at the conclusion of Senator John McCain's funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral. The original poem was set to music in the 1920s by Gustav Holst and is employed at every (no kidding) British Royal wedding or funeral (it was Lady Diana's favorite). Its lyrics are so patriotic that progressive members of the British clergy find them offensively nationalistic, but it was a great choice for the heroic senator and I confess to gasping with glee and relief when I recognized it, watching the televised service intently as the casket and family walked sadly but victoriously up the aisle. 

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of 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.

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.