But that’s not saying much.

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Discussion (58)¬

  1. eoinkenobi says:

    Our anthem in Ireland has us ‘wading knee-deep in Saxon gore’. I think imaginary creatures looking out for the welfare of hereditary monarchs is a step up from that sort of thing at least.

  2. Catty says:

    There has been some controversy about what should be the English anthem (e.g., ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ vs. ‘Jerusalem’) as well as what should be the UK anthem (e.g., ‘God Save The Queen’ vs. ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’) – two different issues.

    Mo refers to the “English” national anthem in the first panel but the UK national anthem in the last panel, so which is it?

  3. Limagolf says:

    The start of the Danish royal anthem:

    King Christian stood at the tall mast
    In smoke and steam
    His weapon hammered so hard
    That the helmet and brain of the Goths [the Swedes] broke

    … good times, the Thirty Year Wars 🙂

    The national anthem is more romantic and peaceful. The only mention of religion is that Denmark is “the hall of Freia”. Didn’t see that coming, did you? 😉

  4. JoJo says:

    Limagolf: They should change it. “Stood tall at the mast” scans better. At least in English. Also flatters the King a bit more…

  5. JoJo says:

    Someone’s going to suggest ‘Life on Mars’. I can sense it..

  6. jean-françois+gauthier says:

    france will not be outdone by ireland (or anyone, really), with its “qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons” (? “let impure blood water our furrows”).

  7. Catty says:

    The Australian national anthem (‘Advance Australia Fair’) was described by Barry Humphries as a song that no Australian knows the words of. I think the first verse is well-known these days, but I doubt that most Australians even know other verses exist.

    What is clear, however, is that whenever you see Australians singing it many (despite being Australians in the act of singing the Australian anthem) seem to think they’re Americans singing the American anthem, i.e., they have a sudden need to fondle their chests despite the official protocol rules stating that their hands should be by their sides. (Even more strangely, this is by no means the only example of Australians confusing their own country with the US.)

    There have been calls for this entirely adequate anthem to be replaced with ‘Waltzing Matilda’ (and not even the best version of it), which is bizarre as this song is about a homeless man who steals a sheep, gets chased by policemen and then commits suicide by drowning.

    Yay patriotism.

  8. Trine says:

    @Limagolf and JoJo: It’s just an inaccurate translation: The King stood (he was not the tall one) and he stood by the tall mast. That’s it.

  9. Catty says:

    The only mention of religion is that Denmark is “the hall of Freia”.

    The Nordic gods seem a much better bunch than the petty psycho Yahweh.

    Jesus was nailed to a cross. Thor has a hammer.
    And a day of the week named after him.

  10. Trevor H says:

    As an atheist republican hater of dirges, I get jealous of other nations tunes which seem much more inspiring, than GSTQ

  11. Ivan Fang says:

    It never really occurred to me, despite years of olympics, to wonder about anthem lyrics. Others have complained domestically about the US anthem because of:
    “the rockets red glare
    the bombs bursting in air”

    as being too jingoistic… when it was a poet’s observation, and from that night light, “that our flag was still there…”

    But compared to these others, about busting heads, letting blood flow, wading deep in gore, etc., the anthem of the USA is positively charming!!

    I don’t know the verses beyond the first (they never brainwashed us with more than one). I wouldn’t be surprised to learn one day that a poetic mention of “Ghod” gets thrust to the front “as proof!” of this nation being founded by “Christians” when the famous ones known among western countries (Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, et. al.,) were deists, and had nothing but contempt for Christianity.

    I have always enjoyed forwarding an email that has the “founding fathers” and contemporaries (and ancient Greeks as well, commenting on Zeus!) quoted on the uselessness of either Christianity or religion as a whole.

  12. HackneyMartian says:

    I recently heard a choral setting of the final paragraph of the Origin – ‘There is grandeur …’
    As for Jerusalem, poor Blake, I don’t suppose he’d want to be associated with most of the people who’ve sung it & who have no idea about Blake’s radicalism. Parry’s setting does have an agitational history, though: he gave the copyright to the suffragettes.
    Catty: Odin got hung on a tree too, and stuck it for several days longer than god-boy. See Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

  13. Ivan+Fang says:

    Not on topic for today… but I found this oddity on a site called “iwastesomuchtime”.com

    An interesting take on why “God made athiests” –

  14. deepfatfriar says:

    Third verse of the usofa national anthem includes a bit of bloodandguts:
    “And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
    A home and a country, should leave us no more?
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.”

    And the fourth verse, as feared, is Ghodly:
    “Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.'”

  15. For pure paranoid cold war anti imperialism it’s hard to beat the Chinese:

    Rise up
    No longer be slave people
    With our own flesh and blood
    Build a new great wall
    Chinese people are facing dangerous times
    We with one heart face the enemy artillery
    facing the enemy artillery
    Forward, foward

    They have a new, updated, more inclusive song now: Da zhongquo (Big China) Not an official anthem, but quite popular. I love the first verse:

    We all have a family
    Name called China
    Brothers and sister very many
    And the scenery is not bad.

    Canada, on the other hand, has an embarrassment of a national anthem. Something about our home on native land and a lot of standing guard duty. Not to mention the sexism. Apparently it’s only sons who matter. And of course the sky faery has to be thrown in to the last verse of most versions. Apparently he’s going to save our land. From what or whom is not clear, but definitely not the fracking companies.

    Great topic to open up, Author. Thanks again for my morning laugh and mental stimulation.

  16. pink+squirrel says:

    Have to ask why nations would want to be define by songs about warfare and violent bloodshed – in which case why not just use lyrics by the rock band Sabaton

  17. Roger says:

    “Parry’s setting does have an agitational history, though: he gave the copyright to the suffragettes.”

    When his pupil Ralph Vaughan Williams asked what he should do as a composer Parry answered “Write choral music, my boy, as an Englishman and a democrat.”

  18. gscratch says:

    Ivan Fang : Not to mention that the U.S.A. national anthem begins and ends with a question:
    Oh, say, can you see…?
    Does that star-spangled banner yet wave…?

  19. csjm says:

    Fun topic – but, “Jerusalem”? Pretty cheesy. My objection to the US anthem is so few people can actually sing it. Just scan youtube for a sampling of really bad renditions. I have to mention the anthem of my home state, Arizona. The chorus ends with, “For thy beauty and thy grandeur, for thy regal robes so sheen, we hail thee Arizona, our goddess and our queen.” And why on earth the fundies haven’t had conniption fits over that, I have no idea.

  20. Huh. I always thought Blake was talking about a utopia, sort of thing. I wasn’t paying enough attention.

  21. Genghis says:

    It would appear that some countries have anthems without words – at least you never see their sportsmen and women actually singing them. Any verse is bound to become tired, bombastic and jingoistic even without the militarism, racism and religion that ends up in the mix. That’s why I like the European version of Ode to Joy which because of the multiple languages in the EU s officially wordless.

  22. Shaughn says:

    The European Union should have John Cage’s 4’33” as its anthem.

    As for England – I’d advice T.H. Whites version of GstQ in the once and future king:

    “God save King Pendragon,
    May his reign long drag on, God save the King.
    Send him most gorious,
    Great and uproarious,

    Horrible and Hoarious, God save our King.”

  23. HackneyMartian says:

    Thanks, Roger: I like the sound of Parry.

    Some anthems to Englishness:
    Penny Lane.
    Waterloo Sunset.
    Fog On The Tyne.

    Or in honour of our arms trade, a version of the Ankh-Morpork anthem We Can Rule You Wholesale:

    ‘We sold you your tear gas, we sold you your shoes,
    We trained all your generals, touch us and you’ll lose’

    St Terry’s original performed in full orchestra+soprano fig here:

  24. Michael says:

    Shouldn’t “Rule Britannia” be Britain’s national anthem?

    When Britain first, at Heaven’s command
    Arose from out the azure main;
    This was the charter, the charter of the land,
    And guardian angels sang this strain:
    Rule Britannia!
    Britannia rules the waves
    Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

    But it should be sung only on the Last Night of the Proms.

  25. Grumpy says:

    Never really understood the “need” for national anthems, why not just play some instrumental music if you must. At least then it won’t require learning verses.
    Or, just use whatever piece of music is top of your country’s chart for that week.

  26. Max+T.+Furr says:

    Hmm, interesting. Why does a nation believe it needs a national anthem? Shouldn’t reason be ruling over emotion, even the emotion of pride? Then again, perhaps a song extolling great scientific minds from England/UK?

  27. Dr+John+the+Wipper says:

    The oldest (afaik) national anthem is the Dutch, dating back to 1568. by Marnix va Aldegonde. It is a 15 verse acrostigon, with the fist letters of each verse spelling out Willem van Nassov. Several of those verses are really downright religous.
    The first:
    Willem van Nassoue I am of German blood. True to my home country I am till in my death. A prince of Orange I am, free and unafraid. The king of Hispania I have always honored.
    Vers 6 (the usual one if just 2 are used)
    My shield and trust areth thou, O God, my Lord. I want to build upon you, never ever leave me. That I may piously remain your servant at all hours. Drive out the tyranny that wounds my heart.

    For something from the time of reformation not even that bloody….

  28. steeve says:

    Jerusalem, deffo, BUT only the version by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

  29. clive_p says:

    I’m surprised that nobody so far has suggested what seems to me to the most obvious National Anthem for England – “The English” by Flanders and Swann. We have it on a gramophone record from a live performance, but for those who don’t know it, the chorus is:
    “The English, the English, the English are best,
    I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.”

    The full lyrics can be found at

  30. Nassar+Ben+Houdja says:

    Jolly colonized England
    A patriotic ditty for voice and band
    Something the new realm
    Not forgetting islam
    Sing the “Wiffenpoof” song across the land.

  31. pink+squirrel says:

    panel two brings to mind Northern Ireland

  32. Dysania says:

    I actually kind of like the idea that we would use Sabaton’s lyrics in national anthems, way more interesting stuff than songs about kings or sky fairies.

  33. Catty says:

    I’ve always thought the French anthem sounds like a drinking song, so what about replacing ‘GSTQ’ with ‘Roll Out the Barrel’?

  34. Dr+John+the+Wipper says:

    Well, I realise the “German” above really needs an explanation. Medieval “Dietsch” used to signify more-or-less current Netherlands + Flanders + Westphalia + parts of lowe Saxony. The English “Dutch”still reflects this. In the 80-year war (started in 1568) Holland (meaning that province) became more and more important, and “Hollands” came to mean “from Holland”, and “Dietch” NOT from Holland. Holland and 6 others joined fo form The Republic of the Seven United Provinces, and Dietsch (in Saxon pronounced as Deutsch) was reduced to signify east of that. And when all the states in current Germany form a bond the name for that became Deutschland, which in English became known as Germany. But the old lyricks remained, although they now look a little silly.

  35. Dave Kirby says:

    England has a national song, written by Flanders and Swann in the 1960s –

  36. Best thing about the US anthem is that the tune is that of an English drinking song. They should have kept the words too:

    To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full Glee,
    A few Sons of Harmony sent a Petition,
    That he their Inspirer and Patron would be;
    When this answer arriv’d from the Jolly Old Grecian
    “Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
    “no longer be mute,
    “I’ll lend you my Name and inspire you to boot,
    “And, besides I’ll instruct you, like me, to intwine
    “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

  37. Oh! And clive_p,

    I’ll give my vote for that song, though I think it’s proper title is “A Song of Patriotic Prejudice”, which if you think of it is a pretty-good description of the entire genre!

  38. Wee Jim says:

    how about this:
    Ner ner ner ner ner ner
    Ner ner ner ner ner ner
    Ner ner ner ner ner ner
    Ner ner ner ner ner ner…ad infinitum
    Doean’t even need a tune!

  39. Tony B says:

    I might not like the lyrics but blow me what a tune.

  40. Tony+B says:

    I might not like the lyrics but blow me what a tune!

  41. plainsuch says:

    This Land Is Your Land

    As I went walking I saw a sign there
    And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
    But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
    That side was made for you and me.

    In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
    By the relief office I seen my people;
    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
    Is this land made for you and me?

    Nobody living can ever stop me,
    As I go walking that freedom highway;
    Nobody living can ever make me turn back
    This land was made for you and me.

    Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

    verses 5, 6 & 7

  42. Cassandra says:

    @Catty: There have been calls for this entirely adequate anthem to be replaced with ‘Waltzing Matilda’ (and not even the best version of it), which is bizarre as this song is about a homeless man who steals a sheep, gets chased by policemen and then commits suicide by drowning.

    Yay patriotism.

    I’ve always liked the Australian national anthem because it sounds so reasonable compared to a lot of the other ones out there. No wars or bloodshed, no God, just a sense of wanting to build a country to be proud of. Even the rather maudlin Dorothea Mackellar poem that almost became our anthem sort of appeals to me, for defining Australia in terms of its natural landscapes (and capacity for natural disasters) rather than as some great edifice of human civilisation.

    But as the comedian Peter Berner put it, our real national anthem is the one with no tune and only 2 words, which we’ll be hearing plenty of next Tuesday …

  43. Henry ford says:

    And my vote goes to ” Mad Dogs and Englishmen”……………

  44. HackneyMartian says:

    Blake on god:

    Then old Nobodaddy aloft
    Farted & belch’d & cough’d,
    And said, “I love hanging & drawing & quartering
    “Every bit as well as war & slaughtering.
    “Damn praying & singing,
    “Unless they will bring in
    “The blood of ten thousand by fighting or swinging.”

    I’ll go for in order of pref 1) no state anthems & hands off Jerusalem, 2) Flanders & Swann 3) G&S likewise taking the piss with ‘He is an Englishman’. Hon mention for T H White & Huzzah! for the myrtle and vine.

  45. hotrats says:

    Billy Connolly says it shoud be the Archers theme tune, because everybody knows it and it’s cheerful. “Your immigrants could have it learned by the time the bus got from Heathrow to Victoria.”
    Dun dah dun dah dun dah dah
    Dun dah dun dah da-ah dun
    Dun dah dun dah dun dah dha
    Dun dee diddley dha…

  46. Mahatma+Coat says:

    Here’s Kurt Vonnegut’s take on the Star Spangled Banner. “There were one quadrillion nations in the Universe, but the nation Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout belonged to was the only one with a national anthem which was gibberish sprinkled with question marks.” Waltzing Matilda had some support because it would have displayed the irreverence which Australians wish they displayed. The words to Advance Australia are sanctimonious pap, but perhaps that applies to all anthems.

  47. HaggisForBrains says:

    hotrats – for those who can’t read your annotation, here’s The Archers’ theme tune 🙂

  48. Catty says:

    @Masocksma Shoes

    “Sanctimonious pap” is putting it a bit too derogatorily given that (as you point out) the context is national anthems. They’re all supposed to be as if written by propagandists.
    The selection of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ would not be a display of irreverence but baffling and embarrassing stupidity.

  49. Catty, I’ve always wanted “Waltzing Matilda” to be the official Aussie anthem. It’s got a great melody. It’s a good choice to sing while waltzing home from the pub three sheets to the wind with a snoot full. Best of all, it has absolutely nothing to do with patriotism, nationalism, defending or protecting your granfalloon. To call this “baffling and embarrassing stupidity” reveals the soul of an authoritarian follower.

  50. Anthony says:

    How about the Sex Pistols with God Save the Queen or their Anachary in the UK?

  51. Brother Daniel says:

    Re Canada’s national anthem: If you think the English version is bad, the (original) French version is worse. The references to God in the English version are vague enough that one can spin them as being about any sort of God. But in the French, there’s no escaping the specifically Christian flavour of the deity in question.

    At sporting events, it’s traditional to sing a version that mixes bits of the French and of the English versions. I’m not sure if the resulting mishmash even makes sense. I suspect it doesn’t, but I haven’t paid enough attention to be sure.

  52. hotrats says:

    Haggis for Brains:
    Thanks for the link.

  53. pink+squirrel says:

    England my country the home of the free
    Such miserable weather
    But England’s as happy as England can be
    Why cry

  54. gap says:

    Darwin Harmless says:
    >Canada, on the other hand, has an embarrassment of a national anthem. >Something about our home on native land and a lot of standing guard duty.

    I always thought this would be a better national anthem for Canada:


  55. Muscleguy says:

    @Darwin Harmless

    The New Zealand anthem is actually called God Defend New Zealand. It has stuff like meeting in bonds of love and hopes for peace, it’s not at all blood thirsty. It has become traditional since the aftermath of the Rainbow Warrior affair for wags to shout: ‘cause no other bugger will (bugger has ceased to be a swearword in NZ due to a series of ads on TV).

    @Brother Daniel

    New Zealand solved the vexed language question by singing the first verse in Maori then repeating it in English. E hi oha atua . . .

  56. pink+squirrel says:

    So the defences of New Zealand are imaginary and non existent then ?

  57. Shaughn says:

    pink+squirrel, I wouldn’t bet on that. They’ll probably trust that one and nevertheless keep their powder dry.

  58. Gap, thanks for that link. I’m a fan of the Arrogant Worms but I hadn’t heard that one, nor the one that follows automatically on Youtube, “When Canada Rules the World”. What a thought.


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