National Anthems: Time for a Change England?

This week’s post is a little bit longer than usual because I wish to share with you an excerpt from my soon to be published book. The book is about my experiences since I left England in June 2011 and mainly takes place in Canada although it does include visits to Poland, Iceland and the US.

It looks at cultrual similarities and differences, there are more than you think, and myself trying to build a life in a foreign country and learning to live in a different culture. There are also a few controversial issues that are raised as well as a little bit of history about the places I visit but its mainly my own first hand experiences.

I hope you enjoy it!

Let's Go Blue Jays!!! My first basbeall game at the Skydome (Rogers Centre). September 2011

Let’s Go Blue Jays!!! My first basbeall game at the Skydome (Rogers Centre). September 2011

17th September 2011 National Anthems

As I mentioned in the previous chapter I found the American and Canadian national anthems moving. They are sung regularly at the beginning of baseball, ice hockey, basketball, CFL, NFL games, and no doubt many other sports when Canada and America play. These ardent fans never get tired of hearing and singing these anthems. It is a great show of patriotism.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the England. In football and rugby the national anthems are only played during international fixtures. The domestic leagues just don’t bother with it. Having seen the crowds react in Canada and the USA with such positivity towards their national anthems I would like to see England introduce the singing of the national anthem on a regular basis in England to try and resurrect our lost feeling of pride in our nation.

Having said that let’s take a closer look at the lyrics of the national anthems of Canada, USA and England.

The USA’s Star Spangled Banner lyrics are as follows:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

There are another three verses but this is the section that tends to be sung. Many celebrities have sung the Star Spangled Banner at various sporting events and there is always some form of controversy around missing or changed lyrics or terrible performances.

Some of the more famously bad performances were by Rosanne Barr in 1990 who shrieked her way through the verse, Carl Lewis in 1993, Steven Tyler in 2001 who struggled to hit the high notes, Michael Bolton in 2003 forgetting the words and R. Kelly in 2005 who decided to perform a disco rendition.

Some of the more popular performances were by tenor Wayne Messmer at the 1991 NHL All-Star game, Whitney Houston at Superbowl XXV, Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star game and Jennifer Hudson at Superbowl XLIII.

I can understand the difficulty in singing the Star Spangled Banner. The words, to me, are a little clumsy and one needs a good vocal range to reach the high and low notes and make them sound pleasing to the ear.

The Canadian national anthem lyrics are as follows:

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

As I said, listening to these anthems gives me goosebumps. After all it is about the land and the people not the individual and I think this is what draws me to these anthems. I won’t bore you with running through more lists of celebrities who have done the anthem justice or have murdered it publicly but I will urge you to listen to William Shatner’s version as he lends his own unique style to the anthem as only Shatner can.

In recent years there has been some controversy over the words to ‘O Canada’ because of the line ‘Our home and native land’. The reason for this controversy is due to that wonder of the modern society, political correctness. Members of the First Nation people of Canada have complained that White Europeans, African-Canadians, Chinese and various other ethnic origins should not sing ‘Our home and Native land’ even if they were born in Canada because they did not ethnically originate from Canada. It has been suggested that they replace ‘Native’ with ‘Patriot’ although to my knowledge this is not enforced.

This is something I disagree with. I appreciate that the aboriginal tribes who call themselves First Nation settled in Canada a long time before white Europeans etc., but I’ve always thought that if you are born in a country then you should be accepted as a native. You cannot choose where you are born and to be discriminated against because of it is ridiculous.

Now let’s turn to the English national anthem. The words are as follows:

God save our gracious Queen

God save our noble Queen

God save the Queen

Send her victorious

Happy and glorious

Too reign long over us

God save the Queen

Naturally it is changed to God save the King accordingly.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not an anti-monarchist, far from it. I believe that the revenue that the monarchy bring into the national coffers through tourism far outweighs its expenditures but my gripe is that the anthem is a little too empirical for my taste.

The American and Canadian national anthems are about the people fighting for the country and being proud of their nation. Ours is about one person. The Queen (Or King) and it does sound very old fashioned nowadays.

There has been talk in recent years of changing the English national anthem to Jerusalem. Those lyrics are as follows:

And did those feet in ancient time.

Walk upon England’s mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

 

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Hills?

 

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;

Bring me my Arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

 

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land

Although this song may seem a little more rousing that ‘God Save the Queen’, it also doesn’t sit right with me as this is a religious hymn. Admittedly I do like the song but I don’t think it should represent our nation.

The song I personally think we should use as our anthem is ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’ written by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice in 1908. The music was added by Gustav Holst in 1921.

    I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,

    Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

    The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,

    That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;

    The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,

    The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

 

    I heard my country calling, away across the sea,

    Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.

    Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,

    And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.

    I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,

    I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

 

    And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,

    Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

    We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;

    Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

    And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

    And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Of course we would just sing the first verse but I like this song because it is singing about the country and not an individual. Just like the anthems of Canada and the USA it’s about the nation and the people, not about just one person and it may help instill a sense of national pride in a generation who are blasé and negative towards it.

What are you views on these national anthems? Is it time for England to change theirs?

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