Who would hobgoblins see

Today is the last day in copyright of one of the most famous hymns of the twentieth century, Percy Dearmer’s He who would valiant be. Dearmer died in 1936, and copyright therefore expires at midnight tonight, “the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author die[d]” (s.12(1) Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, since you asked).

Dearmer’s hymn was, of course, an adaptation of John Bunyan’s poem beginning “Who would true valour see” from Pilgrim’s Progress. Personally I greatly prefer Bunyan’s original, which has itself been adopted as a hymn. However, this adoption of Who would true valour see as a hymn came after, and as a result of, Dearmer’s adaptation.

One of the main differences between the two versions (which can be seen together, with a MIDI warning, here) is that Dearmer omits Bunyan’s references to “hobgoblins” from the third stanza. Dearmer explained this decision as follows:

“In 1904, we who were working at the English Hymnal felt that some cheerful and manly hymns must be added to the usual repertory [sic]; and this song sprang to mind. It was a daring thing to add [this] song to a hymn book, and it had never been attempted before. To include the hobgoblins would have been to ensure disaster; to ask the congregation of St Ignotius, Erewhon Park, to invite all to come and look at them, if they wished to see true valour, would have been difficult.”

This is taken from Christopher Idle’s fascinating Grove booklet from 2000, Real Hymns, Real Hymn Books, from which I hope to post some more in due course.

Of course, as Idle points out, the success of both hymns, hobgoblins or no hobgoblins, is “largely thanks to MONK’S GATE and Ralph Vaughan Williams” anyway.

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