I started thinking about National Anthems when I read the prompt.
Here in the UK we have a dreadful one. God Save the Queen.
Firstly it isn’t really a National Anthem. It is a request to God to protect our sovereign. To me, a National Anthem ought to bring some idea of national pride. This doesn’t.
Secondly the tune. It’s terrible. It is a dirge, especially when played slowly, as it often is. It doesn’t inspire at all, which is what a national Anthem should do. Compared with the Marseillaise, the Italian anthem (which does go on a bit) or The Star-Spangled Banner it’s terrible.
The United Kingdom is made up of four countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all ruled by the government in London, and with the Queen as Head of State, so it’s fine for all of them to have this request for the sovereign’s protection as an over-arching anthem. However, all the countries except England have a separate anthem for use when the country is acting separately. England only has God Save the Queen, which covers all the nations. That doesn’t seem right to me.
There have been several suggestions for an English National Anthem. The first, and seemingly most popular is Jerusalem. Now it does mention England, but it isn’t really about patriotism. It’s asking if Jesus walked on ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. What is more, the title is ‘Jerusalem’ for goodness sake. I admit it’s a good tune though, which I think is largely why it is favoured by many people.
Another one that has a good tune, and this time is patriotic, is Land of Hope and Glory. It’s a great patriotic song and has a tune that stirs the blood. The problem with that is the line which says ‘Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set’. is this appropriate in this day and age?
The final one that is sometimes suggested is Rule Brittania. This is sung with gusto at the Last Night of the Proms every year. The problem I have with this one is that it refers to Brittania, which is not England.
My favourite for a National Anthem is I Vow to Thee My Country. The music is from the Planets Suite by Holtz and the words are patriotic. I think that not many people know of this is because it is used and a hymn in church and few people go to church these days (at least in the UK).
I am attaching the words here. As it would be likely that only the first verse is used ( as is the case with God Save the Queen) it would be suitable. I looked it up on Wikipedia and found a second verse that I never knew existed. We only sang the first and last when I sang it. That verse is maybe a little much for nowadays, but, hey, what about the Marseillaise?
- 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 waves and waters, she calls and calls to me.
- Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
- And around 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.
- Please make any comments about this post. I would be interested to hear what people think, especially Brits.