This motet was written the same year as the composer's Mass in G minor, two Shakespeare settings and other songs, and the so-called pastoral episode (a sort of mini-opera), The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains. Vaughan Williams tended to focus on works of like genre during certain periods of his activity, and 1922 was a year he devoted entirely to vocal music. This concentration of resources in one general area seems to have strengthened the quality of his works.
O Vos Omnes derives its text from church sources -- prayers found in the Office of Tenebrae for Holy Thursday services. It is marked Andantino and its scoring is for unaccompanied chorus and alto soloist. The piece has an ethereal, vaporous atmosphere about its delicate, somewhat mesmerizing sonorities. It is pure Vaughan Williams, divulging many of the characteristics of his style in Flos Campi (1925) and other choral works. The music is gentle and haunting, sounding as much otherworldly as religious in nature. The text begins, "O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam," which translates as, "O all you who pass by this way." An English version of this motet was fashioned by a Vaughan Williams associate, Maurice Jacobson, who began the translation differently: "Is it nothing to you?" Both are solid efforts, but the original is to be preferred.