The English national anthem

After Mo Farrah joined the tiny group of runners who have won a gold medal in both the 5000 and the 10,000 meters at the same Olympic Games, I watched Castor Semenya triumph over the accusations thrown at her and run to a silver medal for South Africa: and of course the divers.

(I love watching the divers.)

I made a retweet and two tweets in quick succession:

After just over two weeks of GSTQ and Piers Morgan, is there actually some personal feeling about it?

Evidently there is. (But everyone agrees Mo Farah’s wee girl celebrating her stepdad’s triumph at the Olympics was dead cute, yes?)

Most national anthems are silly.

I think “Flower of Scotland” has (on a scale of Lear to Nonsense) probably a fairly low runcible scale as national anthems go: it’s slightly annoying that probably most people around the world think it’s 1967 lyrics were inspired by 1995 Braveheart, but I suppose at least we no longer have to explain who “proud Edward” was.

“God Save The Queen”, though. The tune is perfectly usable. (And has been somewhat over-used.) Princess Alexandrina is said to have identified GSTK as her favourite tune when her uncle George IV asked her.

But lyrics over-identifying the country with the monarch are always going to look a bit silly, especially to anyone not a Royalist. You do not have to be a thorough-going republican to wonder why the English are celebrating the health and military victories of an elderly lady in a musical prayer.

William Blake’s Jerusalem is also slightly silly, but in a magnificently dizzy sort of way, and at least focusses on country rather than monarch. Besides, if the English national anthem refers to a bow of burning gold, maybe TeamGB would do better in the archery?

The advantage of “Land of Hope and Glory” as an English national anthem is that people do actually sing it for fun on a tolerably regular basis. Plus, not quite as silly as GSTQ.

Added advantage of “Jerusalem”: wouldn’t it annoy Piers Morgan?

PS Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch for the Welsh national anthem.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The English national anthem

  1. Heh! Several things spring to mind from what you’ve said.
    Firstly, God Save the Queen is the national anthem of the United Kingdom. It’s been a sore point for a few years for many English fans I know that, during events when the home nations compete seperately (like the 6 Nations), they feel a little aggrieved that they DIDN’T have a separate anthem. Hence the move to have Land of Hope and Glory installed as their unofficial English anthem.
    Secondly, whilst I really DO love Jerusalem, I think if you’re going to find an anthem which embraces the multicultualism of the English nation, going for one which is a speculation about whether Jesus might have ventured as far north as Huddersfield (for example) might not be the best move.
    And finally, Mae’n Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is an excellent anthem which needs no messing around with! It appeals perfectly to Welsh sense of culture and history, without alienating atheists.

    I like Flower of Scotland. But as long as we’re singing about sending them homewards to think again, we don’t really have a leg to stand on regarding imperialist hyperbole ;-)

    • I have to admit this post was inspired primarily by “Omg, it’s nearly midnight, I need to blog something fast!”

      Secondly, whilst I really DO love Jerusalem, I think if you’re going to find an anthem which embraces the multicultualism of the English nation, going for one which is a speculation about whether Jesus might have ventured as far north as Huddersfield (for example) might not be the best move.

      I think the problem with national anthems is usually that they are imposed from above, written by decree. The advantage both Scotland and Wales have is that we adopted our national anthems by popular preference. I think that’s the other advantage of “Land of Hope and Glory”.

      After all, it doesn’t really matter if the lyrics are silly, so long as it’s something everyone can sing….

      I think celebrating Jesus as if English could be more multicultural than you think. Jesus may traditionally be portrayed as white, but in fact he probably looked … well, like a Palestinian.

      The status of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel

  2. England should adopt ‘There’ll always be an England’ – the most pompus overblown patriotic song ever. It sounds victorian, but wa in fact written in 1939. My favourite version is by Tiny Tim, though most people are probably more familiar with Vera Lynn’s effort.

  3. I’m English by birth, but since then have rarely lived there since my 20′s (now in my 50′s) but even through my childhood I was often lucky to have spells of living abroad. I always feel that it is the GB anthem, and yes perhaps England should have it’s own but I’m not sure which of the songs already mentioned would be the best.
    I was brought up to think of myself as British and my family history has links with all of the separate GB countries. I was upset last night when you appeared to be disrespectful of the GB anthem as I do not see it as an exclusive English anthem. This was also coloured by the fact that with all my travels, Scotland is the only place that often throws my English roots back in my face.
    This makes me angry and sad as I don’t feel exclusively English and Scotland is one of the most beautiful places that I have lived in (since 1979) and despite it all I’m here to stay.

    • This was also coloured by the fact that with all my travels, Scotland is the only place that often throws my English roots back in my face.

      I speak with an English accent and have encountered the kind of anti-English bigotry you describe. I don’t think I’m trying to spread that.

      I was upset last night when you appeared to be disrespectful of the GB anthem as I do not see it as an exclusive English anthem.

      I am disrespectful of “God Save the Queen”. Not because it’s the “English anthem”, but because it is what it is – a prayer in song that the monarch shall continue to reign over us (which I hope she doesn’t!) and that she shall be victorious in battle and politics. I see no reason to respect the Queen, except as all humans deserve respect, and no particular reason to respect someone who is both part of and extends the web of privilege.

      I do think of it as the English national anthem, though as noted above other Scots think of it as the GB anthem (in fact accurately I suppose it’s the Commonwealth anthem). I don’t see any particular reason to get into a fuss about it: it’s only a song. It’s just that it’s a silly one, which expresses sentiments to which I am profoundly opposed.

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