"To be a Pilgrim" (also commonly known as "He would Valiant be" is the only hymn John Bunyan is credited with writing but is indelibly associated with him. It first appeared in Part 2 of Pilgrim's Progress, written in 1684 while he was serving a twelve-year sentence in Bedford Gaol on a charge of preaching without a licence. The hymn recalls the words of Hebrews 11:13: "...and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."r
The words were modified extensively by Percy Dearmer for the 1906 The English Hymnal. At the same time it was given a new tune by British composer Vaughan Williams using the traditional Sussex melody "Monk's Gate". The hymn has also been sung to the melody "Moab" (John Roberts, 1870) and St. Dunstans (Charles W. Douglas, 1917).r
Bunyan's original version is not commonly sung in churches today, perhaps because of the references to "hobgoblin" and "foul fiend." However, one commentator has said: "Bunyan's burly song strikes a new and welcome note in our Hymnal. The quaint sincerity of the words stirs us out of our easygoing dull Christianity to the thrill of great adventure."r
The hymn's refrain "to be a pilgrim" has entered the language and has been used in the title of a number of books dealing with pilgrimage in a literal or spiritual sense.