Like Vaughan Williams' other motets, this one is also short, lasting about six or seven minutes in performance. But unlike most, its scoring includes accompaniment for the chorus, in this case from either organ or orchestra. All the motets use religious texts, and with the exception of O Taste and See (1952) and A Vision of Aeroplanes (1956), are quite somber affairs. Yet, they are always atmospheric, with imaginative choral writing and distinctive melody. This one generally falls into the larger category, though its music is often quite lovely, even somewhat Romantic in style.
Vaughan Williams drew his text here from Psalm 90 and used the melody to the well-known hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past. In fact, just after the opening the chorus sings those very words to that tune, but at a very slow, almost glacial tempo. The choral writing throughout is imaginative and colorful, even if it is limited to a mostly ethereal or celestial manner. The opening moments have a desolate, almost chant-like atmosphere, but the music turns warmer thereafter, and while much of it will sound familiar, it maintains a freshness of expression throughout. In the end, though, many will not be drawn to Vaughan Williams' more sober manner here and to the motets in general, the music is beautiful and often achieves considerable expressive depth.