The text of the Cantata is taken from writers of the Elizabethan, Victorian and present periods. The humanism of all three is expressed in philosophic, scientific and social terms respectively. All three unite in a realistic appraisal of Man, 'the Alps and Andes of the Living World', as he is described in the words of T.H.Huxley in the work from which the second part of the text is taken.
The composer's aim was to heighten, where possible, the expression of the words and thus convey to the hearer what he could of the feelings behind them in the hearts of these three writers. He did not venture to set to music the incomparable lines of Shakespeare, but provided only a background of harmonic progression, from the voice-parts of which, however, two of the most important motifs of the work are derived.