Anthems that touch the heart

The unmistakable strains of La Marseillaise came from the TV set.  The tune is instantly recognizable and makes me want to sing or hum along and keeping humming or singing it long after it has finished.

I was a little mystified as to why the French national anthem was playing.  NBC had been broadcasting the floor exercises in the Men’s All-Around Individual Gymnast competition in Beijing.  La Marseillaise seemed a strange piece of music to choose then I remembered that the men do not perform the floor exercise to music.  That would be much too girlie.
 
Moving back to view the TV, the gallic features of Alain Bernard, reminiscent of a gargoyle on the Notre Dame, Chartres or Reims cathedrals, filled the screen.  His grin was as wide as La Manche and understandably so, as he celebrated the award of his gold medal for the Men’s 100m Freestyle.
 
Once again, La Marseillaise had worked its magic.  I went back to making my cup of coffee, accompanied by my da-da, di-di rendition of the anthem.  Not being French, I have no idea what the words are.
 
It pains me to have to say it but the French do have probably the best national anthem in the world.  It is a stirring tune that uplifts both singer and listener alike.  You cannot help but feel better about things when the anthem finally ends. 
 
Perhaps the most memorable and poignant rendition of La Marseillaise features in the Hollywood film classic Casablanca.  When Colonel Strasser and his cronies start singing the German song Die Wacht Am Rhein in Rick’s Bar, Viktor Lazlo walks over to the band and tells them to play La Marseillaise.  At first, the Germans try to compete but when virtually the entire café gets to its feet and sings, the Germans recognize they are outmatched.  As the French anthem rises to its crescendo, I have to admit that it sends a shiver down my spine and brings a tear to my eye.


 
The American national anthem The Star Spangled Banner comes a close second to the French one.  It too has the same rousing qualities and always has me singing it long after it has finished.  Unlike the French anthem I can manage at least opening line of the American one, after that I am back to da-da and di-di.  I would have no chance of ever gaining U.S. citizenship.
 
The problem with the American national anthem is the American public does not sing it.  When it is played at the start of major sporting events everyone stands in silence pressing their right hand to the heart while a soloist sings.  I am sorry but a national anthem, by its very nature, is meant to be sung by the people of that nation.
 
When the USA 4 x 100 m Freestyle Relay team received their gold medals the other night, the American anthem played but Michael Phelps and the rest of the team did not sing along.  It was a totally different story when the Chinese gold and silver medalists in the Women’s 200m Butterfly were awarded their medals, they both sang the Chinese national anthem from start to finish.  Mind you, it could have been the last we ever saw of them if they had not.  Whereas I wouldn’t advocate the compulsory singing of any national anthem, they are meant to be sung.
 
The German anthem Das Deutschlandlied more commonly known as Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles is not quite as stirring as the French and American anthems but it has a certain nobility and a great musical pedigree.  The music was composed by Joseph Haydn in 1797 but it did not become the German anthem until 1922.  The use by the Nazis and the hint of world domination in the first verse has tarnished its image somewhat.  The official anthem is now just the third verse.  Last night, Britta Steffen at least managed to sing a couple of lines before her emotions got the better of her as she stood on the winner’s rostrum after winning the Women’s 50m Freestyle.
 
My national anthem, God Save The Queen, lacks the verve of the French and American ones and the melody of the German anthem.  It doesn’t fire the emotions to the same extent but then we British are not renowned for our emotions, other than keeping them in check.  But when the Massed Band of The Brigade of Guards plays the British national anthem, I must confess to filling up a little, probably due to the pomp and circumstance on display rather than the tune itself.
 
Waltzing Matilda is not an officially recognized anthem but it meets the sing-along criterion and, for me, evokes the spirit of Australia far more so than Advance Australia Fair.  In the vote held in 1977 to decide Australia’s anthem, Advance Australia Fair secured 43 percent of the vote, while Waltzing Matilda came second with 28 percent.  I guess billabongs, jumbucks and tucker bags no longer have any relevance to a modern society Down Under but the tune certainly tugs at the heart.  And isn’t that what a national anthem is supposed to do and why they should be sung?

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13 Comments

Filed under Film, Life, Olympic Games, Olympics, Sports

13 responses to “Anthems that touch the heart

  1. OS

    Sorry, Calvin, but I just had to do this. 😉

    Allons enfants de la Patrie,
    Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
    Contre nous de la tyrannie,
    L’étendard sanglant est levé !
    L’étendard sanglant est levé !
    Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
    Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
    Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
    Egorger nos fils et nos compagnes !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    Que veut cette horde d’esclaves,
    De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
    Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
    Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ?
    Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ?
    Français, pour nous, ah! quel outrage !
    Quels transports il doit exciter !
    C’est nous qu’on ose méditer
    De rendre à l’antique esclavage !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    Quoi ! ces cohortes étrangères
    Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
    Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
    Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !
    Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !
    Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
    Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient !
    De vils despotes deviendraient
    Les maîtres de nos destinées !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides,
    L’opprobre de tous les partis,
    Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
    Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix !
    Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix !
    Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
    S’ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
    La terre en produit de nouveaux,
    Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
    Portez ou retenez vos coups !
    Epargnez ces tristes victimes,
    A regret s’armant contre nous.
    A regret s’armant contre nous.
    Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
    Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
    Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
    Déchirent le sein de leur mère !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    Amour sacré de la Patrie,
    Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
    Liberté, Liberté chérie,
    Combats avec tes défenseurs !
    Combats avec tes défenseurs !
    Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
    Accoure à tes mâles accents !
    Que tes ennemis expirants
    Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    Nous entrerons dans la carrière
    Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus;
    Nous y trouverons leur poussière
    Et la trace de leurs vertus.
    Et la trace de leurs vertus.
    Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
    Que de partager leur cercueil,
    Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
    De les venger ou de les suivre !

    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !

    M.

  2. OS

    And this is the English translation. This will stop your ‘ da-da, di-di’ in it’s tracks. 😉

    Arise children of the fatherland
    The day of glory has arrived
    Against us tyranny’s
    Bloody standard is raised
    Bloody standard is raised
    Can you hear in the fields
    The howling of these fearsome soldiers?
    They are coming into our midst
    To cut the throats of our sons and consorts

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    What do they want this horde of slaves
    Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
    For whom these vile chains
    These long-prepared irons?
    These long-prepared irons?
    Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
    What methods must be taken?
    It is we they dare plan
    To return to the old slavery!

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    What! These foreign cohorts
    Would make laws in our homes!
    What! These mercenary phalanxes
    Would cut down our proud warriors
    Would cut down our proud warriors
    Good Lord! By chained hands
    Our brow would yield under the yoke
    Vile despots would have themselves be
    The masters of our destinies!

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    Tremble, tyrants and traitors
    The shame of all good men
    Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
    Will finally receive their just reward
    Will finally receive their just reward
    Against you, everyone is a soldier,
    If they fall, our young heroes,
    France will bear new ones
    Ready to join the fight against you!

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors
    Bear or hold back your wounds!
    Spare these sad victims,
    Who regret to take up arms against us.
    Who regret to take up arms against us.
    But not these bloody despots,
    These accomplices of Bouillé,
    All these tigers who pitilessly,
    Ripped out their mothers’ wombs!

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    Sacred love of the fatherland,
    Drive and support our avenging arms
    Liberty, cherished liberty,
    Struggle with your defenders.
    Struggle with your defenders.
    Under our flags, let victory
    Hurry to your male tone
    So that your agonising enemies
    See your triumph and our glory

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    We shall enter into the pit
    When our elders will have gone,
    There we shall find their ashes
    And the mark of their virtues.
    And the mark of their virtues.
    Much less jealous of surviving them
    Than of sharing their coffins,
    We shall have the sublime pride
    Of avenging or joining them.

    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

    M. 🙂

  3. OS

    BTW ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ should be the British national anthem. Bill Bryson prefers ‘Jerusalem’. I agree that it is, probably, the best loved hymn in the whole of England. Most of my men freinds who have passed away chose that as part of their final epitaph. As much as I find it emotionally uplifting, I shall have ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ when I depart this mortal coil. 😉

    LOL. M.

  4. I can’t stand “God save the Queen”. One it’s a dirge. Two it’s a royalist dirge that says nothing of the greatness of the British people and our country. It’s rubbish. I don’t recognise it. “Land of no hope and Tories”, er I mean “Land of Hope and Glory” is marginally better. Personally I think the Welsh “Land of my fathers” is a magnificent piece and one that makes hairs stand on the back of my neck, and the Irish national anthem is a belter too. another personal favourite is “God defend New Zealand” but that’s probably more down to Hayley Westernra singing it 😉

    “La Marseillaise” is a great anthem too, uplifting and with some meaning behind it. I’m afraid the “The Star Spangled Banner” has too much baggage attached to it, I associate it with fervent patriotism that for me often borders on nationalism, or takes pride and balloons it into arrogance.

  5. calvininjax

    Thanks for you comments, gentlemen. I will never learn all those words to “La Marseillaise,” not at my age. 😉 But thanks OS, and for the translation too.

    The British national anthem is a bit of a dirge and that is why the French, American and German anthems surpass it in my opinion. The quintessential English anthem is without doubt Jerusalem. Land of Hope and Glory is a fine tune but it is perhaps a little too jingoistic and has been hijacked by the Tory Party.

    OS, like me, will remember the FA Cup Final “anthem” of Abide With Me and the days when the entire crowd used to sing it accompanied by the Band of The Royal Marines.

    Have to agree with you Andy, Land of My Fathers and Guide me O thou great redeemer, to the tune of Cwm Rhonnda, sung by the Welsh rugby fans at Cardiff Arms Park used to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It’s not quite the same at the National Stadium.

    Methinks the real reason you dislike The Star Spangled Banner is because it represents American defiance of the British. 😉

  6. I remember “Abide with me” being sung at Wembley. Does that make me an old giffer too?Great song.

    Favourite rugby spectacle – Millennium Stadium, Wales v All Blacks, Katherine Jenkins singing the Welsh anthems, Hayley Westernra singing the NZ anthem, then the All Blacks perform the Haka!

    Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
    Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!

    Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru

    Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā

    Ā, upane! ka upane!

    Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!

    Hi!

  7. Stephen Foster

    Can I take it that to cover a great many issues involving anthems, gamines, the Francophila/gamine interface, subtitled movies (OS’s favourites, he likes the Italian ‘Finding Nemo’ best), anti-Americanism (by the crazed Oscar-winning actress bint: ‘9/11 was a myth’), and general Guardianista wankery, that we have all seen La Vie en Rose?

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=uzEJ7NV_g98

    It’s not a great trailer, but it’s an ace film.

  8. Stephen Foster

    The gamine in real life, (or something approximating it.) Light that girl a cigarette and get her over to chez winger asap.

  9. calvininjax

    She does have a certain, je ne sais quois but I will stick with Emmanuelle Beart.

    Marie Gillain might be another welcome visitor at chez winger.

  10. Stephen Foster

    get the pair of them over to chain smoke cigarettes together while they brutalise my mind and torture my body with their insane demands.

  11. Shame Winona isn’t French. If she kept her cropped hair she would probably be my perfect gamine… http://upload.moldova.org/movie/actors/w/winona_ryder/thumbnails/tn2_winona_ryder_4.jpg

  12. I’ve found this remarkable piece. Hayley Westernra performs at the dedication of the NZ Memorial in Hyde Park London. You have to sit through “God save the Queen” sung to the miserable old bat herself, but then there’s the NZ National Anthem and an incredible haka by service personnel and Maori culture group.

    And in a sporting environment here’s the NZ National Anthem and controversia All Blacks Kapo O Pango haka against the Springboks. I wouldn’t want to face that!

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