This short motet came at a time when the composer was writing music inspired by the wartime atmosphere in besieged England. It was immediately preceded by Six Choral Songs -- To Be Sung In Time of War and followed by the score to the war film, The 49th Parallel. But there is little that is warlike about this work. Indeed, its scoring alone, for unaccompanied mixed chorus with optional piano or organ, would hardly suggest a martial nature to its music. Neither would its text, taken from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, though, as most know, that story has a good-versus-evil theme.
In Valiant for Truth, Vaughan Williams fashioned a work whose ethereality and haunting character recall the mood of his 1922 motet, O Vos Omnes. The music has a lonely but soothing manner, the composer's skillful choral writing displaying a fine sense for atmosphere and color in its subdued washes of sound. Vaughan Williams turned more often to the motet in his later years, also producing The Souls of the Righteous (1947) and Prayer to the Father of Heaven (1948). Valiant for Truth, which lasts about five minutes in performance, must be ranked among his better efforts in the genre.