I'm sure you're all bored stiff by verbose nonsense from your resident fowl, but it's not over yet.
To celebrate the start of the 6 nations I suggested to Dom that a series on National Anthems might be a bit of fun. Dom agreed, so I let him go.
It'll be done alphabetically, so we start with England. This will possibly be the longest one owing to the current petitions doing the rounds to get the anthem changed. Any offers for any later ones will be considered, but I've already blackmailed someone to do Ireland.
Unlike the other 5 nations in this competition, the national anthem used for the England team is currently the subject of some debate and a wee bit of controversy. For some time a bandwagon has been trundling about proposing that (shock! Horror!) this here national anthem is a little bit, well, PANTS! The wagon has picked up speed and is now rocketing around the nation inflicting injuries on young and old alike. So what, exactly, is
Well, first things first. England doesn't actually have a national anthem. Scotland does, Wales does, but England doesn't. It is represented by the national anthem of the United Kingdom, which seems a bit unfair to me but somehow appropriate in these days of lost identity and national doubt.
Wikipedia states the following;
"God Save The Queen" (the national anthem for the UK as a whole) is usually played for English sporting events (e.g. football matches) against teams from outside the UK (although "Land of Hope and Glory" has also been used as the English anthem for the Commonwealth Games and the England national rugby league team). "Jerusalem" has been sung before England cricket matches. "Rule Britannia" (Britannia being the Roman name for England and Wales combined but also a personification of the United Kingdom) was often used in the past for the English national football team when they played against another of the home nations but more recently "God Save The Queen" has been used by both the rugby union and football teams.
And the origins of the current anthem? Well, no one knows. There are several theories, my favourite being that it was composed to celebrate the healing of Louis XIV's fistula. Writing a piece to celebrate such a thing is bad enough, but adopting it as a national anthem defies belief.
You really just need to listen to it. It is a dirge. A funereal dollop of despair. You can only admire the Queen, really, having to listen to that tripe day in day out without losing her dignity completely and hurling herself off the balcony of Buck House. And that's just the tune. What of the words?
Well, the commonly accepted “origin” of this ear crime is 1745 to celebrate the battle of Prestonpans. This entire saga ended when the lovely Duke of Cumberland, or Butcher Cumberland as he is more aptly known to the Scots, crushed the Scottish forces of Prince Charles Stewart. As if this wasn't bad enough, the ensuing Highland clearances made sure that Scotland was pretty much devastated for generations to come. Really, singing this ditty at Murrayfield must be like throwing a big custard pie in the faces of the Scottish team (and by the way, the Scots will get a ticking off too when it's their turn). And, get this, as this is the national anthem of the UNITED KINGDOM, the Scots are supposed to embrace it as their own as well! What is this – some kind of sadistic pleasure cruise?
Fortunately, the really offending verse – 6, I believe it is – is not commonly sung as the Scots would pile over Hadrian's wall and set fire to Newcastle. But even so. Has the nation not moved on a wee bit since 1745? And should we concentrate on celebrating a single figurehad – her Maj in this case – or should one celebrate that which is noteworthy about the country itself?
I mean, look at the lyrics to the Australian national anthem, of which I am particularly fond;
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in Nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
WOW! They've got golden soil, and their land abounds in Nature's gifts. It sounds great! Book me the next Qantas flight and make it snappy.
What does the UK have? A song which celebrates an individual. Not the country, not the people, just the monarch. Appropriate, maybe, for the reign of George II (a German, by the way), but 2007?
In a democratic country, is this really getting down with the kids? Whilst Elizabeth II does a pretty good job as Head of State and behaves herself in a manner becoming to a monarch, I don't really feel like singing her praises when the band starts up. It's not just because I'm a republican, it's because it's exclusive, singular and she probably hates it anyway. What about those lovely hedgerows, and real ale, and nuns on bikes, and maypoles, and hayricks, and Midsomer Murders? Could the dirge not be replaced by something which combines Vaughan Williams with Betjeman? Something which, like the Australians, suggests some kind of pride in ones homeland? All of which implies, of course, that an anthem for the UK should be ditched and replaced with one for England. The Scots have one, the Welsh have one – why not the English? Northern Ireland could keep God Save the Queen if they wish, or replace it with something more pleasing.
The trundling bandwagon invariably offers as an alternative anthem the beautiful hymn “Jerusalem”
, words written by the renowned poet and mentalist William Blake. This is undoubtedly the most popular alternative, and was mine until it was pointed out by another LI supporter that it's far too “christian” in it's imagery to sit comfortably with the variety of creeds which make up society. Fair point. It has to be inclusive otherwise it won't work. This is also backed up by a vicar, whose name I can't remember, on a programme about the national anthem the title of which escapes me, who said something similar, but I can't remember his exact words. Those are all the facts you need.
is clearly a daft suggestion so let's forget it ever happened. All that “ruling” and subjugation nonsense. Move away from the mentalists and shut the door quietly.
I Vow To Thee My Country
– rather nice, especially since it ends on a note of peace, but again, perhaps too christian in tone to be comfortable for all. And remember, Jedi are now a recognised religion in the UK and they would not be able to wave their lightsabres enthusiastically to sentiments such as these.
Land of Hope and Glory
– take your imperialist, expansionist views and shove them where the sun don't shine. And for God's sake, find yourself some friends and get a life.
There are three other suggestions.
The Monster Raving Looney Party manifesto commits the party to replacing the UK anthem with “Bring me Sunshine” by Morecambe and Wise should the party be elected to power.
There is currently an open petition to 10 Downing Street to adopt “Gold” by Spandau Ballet, as the national anthem.
There is growing support (apparantly) for the replacement of the anthem with “Always look on the bright side of life” as sung by the Monty Python team in Life of Brian.