7000 Wonders

7000 Wonders

Article"...Nature's Gifts of Beauty Rich and Rare"

Edward Porper

Edward Porper

3 min read

While trying to learn about and better understand a new country, one might rely on such direct sources of information as guide books, photo albums, official (administered by that country's Ministry of Tourism) and unofficial (run by bloggers/travel writers) websites… Then, there are less straightforward but still rather intuitive ways to familiarize oneself with the ethno-cultural phenomenon in question - famous nationals (and their actual achievements responsible for their fame), the country's cuisine, its folklore, and even stereotypes it's associated with. Finally, there is an outlier that usually flies under the radar: the anthem.  

Arguably, very few people ever pay attention to anthems' lyrics (let alone, when it comes to foreign anthems!) - however, it's only natural that a song chosen to represent a nation, says a whole lot about that nation. Understandably, not every message is unique: whoever they are, and wherever they live, most people do share such basic emotions as love, hope, pride and fear - and those shared sentiments result in very similar anthem lines. The most obvious examples of that similarity are “God keep our land glorious and free” (Canada) and “God defend our free land, guard Pacific Triple Star” (New Zealand). That said, even similar messages can be strikingly different in essence, and the hopeful “may” often refers to completely different protagonists. For instance, the whole of the British National Anthem springs from the buzzline “God, save the Queen/King!”, including the line “May (s)he defend our laws”, among others; 


American “Star-Spangled Banner” is all about the object mentioned in the title - hence “…O long may it wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave!”. In other words, both anthems glorify either a person or an object, not the land (which isn't even mentioned by name in the text!). As opposed, the name of Canada is right in the title of the anthem (O Canada!) - and Italy is mentioned in both the title (The Song of All Italians) and the first two lines ("Brothers of Italy, Italy has awakened"). Both anthems are explicitly and unashamedly patriotic (Canadian “We stand on guard for thee” echoes Italian “We swear to liberate the native soil”) but their emphasis is very different. Canada was already free, so it could focus on feelings ( “…true patriot love in all thy sons command”). As opposed, Italy's fight for freedom was still ahead, and it needed to stay upbeat - hence a truly remarkable statement: “…where is the Victory?…because slave of Rome God created her!” 


National anthems are patriotic by definition but patriotism has many facets. One of them is explanatory, as it justifies itself by answering the question “how is the land special, and what is it famous for?” Anthems, based on that facet, create a pretty unique vibe, but many of them still talk about emotional values - such as “…German women, German loyalty, German wine and German song” that “shall retain throughout the world their old respected fame”. It's in comparison with those values that “Advance Australia Fair” secures its very special place in the “world anthems family” - more than 30% of Australian National Anthems is devoted to the country's natural resources! 


Lines like “…our land abounds in Nature's gifts of beauty rich and rare” or “We've golden soil and wealth for toil…we've boundless plains to share” effortlessly come to the fore and catch the eye, while the most important of such lines seems to be “…our home is girt by sea”