Wednesday, April 18, 2012

National Anthem of Naps

I hadn’t really heard much of the Australia’s national anthem until Glen’s citizenship ceremony in February.  I didn’t really think anything of it, but a few weeks later, Vince and I were chatting about it one night in Tasmania and it occurred to me that Australia’s national anthem is… completely uninspiring.

Sorry, Australia.

Chosen as the national anthem by popular vote as recently as 1977, Advance Australia Fair wasn’t formally adopted until 1984.  Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

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.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Snooze-a-palooza.  Wake me up when it’s over?

Ok, a national anthem should be a bit more inspiring than that – something that riles the masses and builds patriotism – not the musical version of a landscape painting.  Let’s examine what an awesome national anthem should be like.  Note that all translations are rough translations according to Wikipedia.

Vietnam’s national anthem starts out strong with their soldiers marching, united in determination to save the country.  Later, the anthem says that the country’s flag is red because it’s dyed with the blood of victory, and that their glorious path is built on the corpses of their foes.   I thought the road was a little bit bumpy.

Now, that’s a bit direct if you ask me.  I mean, paving your roads with your dead enemies is quite harsh.  Let’s take a more metaphorical approach, shall we?  And maybe something that invokes the great history of a nation?

Italy’s national anthem invokes the name of Scipio, one of Rome’s finest military commanders who lived well over 2,000 years ago.  In the anthem, Italy awakens with Scipio’s helmet on her head.  But never fear a battle, for the lyrics also say that victory is Rome’s slave.  So yeah, looks like Italy is going to win this one.  But even if victory wasn’t Italy’s bitch, their foes may be scared shitless by the screaming “We are ready to die!” over and over again in the last verse.  Either way, this anthem leaves Italy sitting pretty on top.

Next door, France has a similar concept, but they invoke more scare tactics.  I love scare tactics.  The French national anthem starts with something along the lines of the enemy coming to kill your wife and children, and then goes on to insist that, in lieu of letting the enemy kill our families, we should water our fields with their blood instead.  That will teach them.

Is the guillotine ready?

And speaking of France, Algeria’s national anthem is a direct assault on the French, which of course I just have to like.  Winning independence from their colonial rulers in 1962 after a bloody war, the Algerian national anthem explicitly says: “O France, the time of reproach has passed” and “O France, the day of reckoning is at hand”.  Them’s fightin’ words.

Furthermore, the Algerians “have risen to revolution in life or death” and they “have taken the drum of gunpowder as their rhythm and the sound of machine guns as their melody”.  Holy shit they are angry.  And afterward do they each get 70 virgins?

Ok, finally, let’s tone it down because all of these murderous anthems are going to give me nightmares.  How about America?  The good ole U S of A!  I hate to admit it, but The Star-Spangled Banner is pretty frickin’ awesome as far as national anthems go. 

O! 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 rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

It’s not at all violent or murderous, but still manages to rouse patriotism in every American – even the not-so-patriotic people like me.  Telling the story of a battle during the War of 1812 against Britain, Francis Scott Key writes about how, through the light produced by bombs and rockets, he is still able to see his country’s flag flying high – the British never able to capture it.  Awesome!

Now, I understand that Australia – though having fought alongside its allies’ troops in various wars – has never really fought a war itself.  It hasn’t really been attacked and hasn’t invaded another sovereign state since its independence from Britain in 1901.  Also, Australia’s independence was completely peaceful (Britain learned its lesson after the whole American thing went horribly awry for them…)  So I guess there really isn’t much in history to inspire some incredible, war-filled national anthem.  But still, every line of Advance Australia Fair may be totally true about this great land, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that it makes me want to take a nap.

Let’s compare:

Summary of the French national anthem:  “Our enemies are coming to kill us, but we will kill them instead and use their blood to water our fields.  They have evil plans for us, but we will never give up!”

Summary of the Vietnamese national anthem:  “United and determined to save the country, we are spirited and will pave our roads with our enemies.  We will never stop fighting!  We are everlasting!

Summary of the Australian national anthem:  “Our land is really pretty and big, so we should be happy. Let’s say it louder!”

Which one of these is not like the others?

Or maybe instead of the lyrics, let’s compare the authors:

American national anthem:  Written by a patriot witnessing a bloody battle between his nation and an evil imperial power.

Algerian national them:  Written by a nationalist imprisoned by the French… on the wall of his prison cell… in his own blood.

Australian national anthem:  Written by a Scottish composer.  Probably wearing a kilt.

Again, I ask:  which one of these is not like the others?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get to work on my proposed new national anthem for Australia, titled “It’s A Tough Place”.

Australians all let us rejoice
For we have come from far
To conquer land where the sun burns man
And the drought can kill us all
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
But also species rare
Snakes, spiders, sharks, and cassowaries
Will kill you so beware
Apply more sunscreen or the sun
Will kill you so beware

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We wander treacherous terrain
Our ancestors shipwrecked the coast
Many perished - could not be saved
The Japanese bombed us once
So we interned them all
Stay away when bushfires blaze, they
Will kill you so beware
Dingoes will eat your favourite child, they
Will kill you so beware

I fully expect Ms. Gillard will be calling me soon to discuss this.

1 comment:

  1. I love the new National Anthem. LOVE it.