National Anthems

Waltzing Matilda

I keep this blog focussed primarily on U.S.-based fundies. Despite this, I have a disproportionately large percentage of Australian readers. Maybe it’s from their collective guilt for sending us Ken Ham and Mel Gibson.

Speaking of Australia…

I’m sure you’ve had a song stuck in your head from time to time. It’s usually a tolerable condition. My most recent case of this affliction was the song “Waltzing Matilda”. I’m not sure how that happened; I don’t remember hearing it anywhere lately. It got me thinking that I’ve never understood what the song was about. It has too many Australian words in it. The easiest thing to do in cases like this is to turn to Wikipedia.

It says the song is about a hobo who steals a feral sheep. Then a guy claiming to be the owner shows up with three police officers. The hobo cries “You’ll never take me alive, coppers!” and drowns himself. That’s probably not completely accurate, but you try to describe it in 37 words or fewer.

OK. That settles that problem, but I found a couple of other interesting things in that article.

For starters, Australia didn’t have a national anthem (“Advance Australia Fair”) until 1984. The Waltzing Matilda article says:

The song was one of four included in a national plebiscite to choose Australia’s national song held on 21 May 1977 by the Fraser Government to determine which song was preferred as Australia’s national anthem. “Waltzing Matilda” received 28% of the vote compared with 43% for “Advance Australia Fair”, 19% for “God Save the Queen” and 10% for “Song of Australia”.

So “Waltzing Matilda” seems to be their second choice for national anthem. But 1977 wasn’t the first time someone tried to give the song official status. Back in 1961…

…Australian songwriter Jack O’Hagan provided lyrics to the traditional tune of the song to be called God Bless Australia that he hoped would become the Australian national anthem.

So in order to gain support for turning it into the national anthem, O’Hagen loads it up with God! Here are two of the stanzas:

Here in this God given land of ours, Australia
This proud possession, our own piece of earth
That was built by our fathers, who pioneered our heritage,
Here is Australia, the land of our birth.

God bless Australia, Our land Australia,
Home of the Anzac, the strong and the free
It’s our homeland, our own land,
To cherish for eternity,
God bless Australia, The land of the free.

This crass pandering apparently didn’t work, but it still points out a shameful tendency of the patriotic.

The American Obsession

Most people are only vaguely aware that “The Star-Spangled Banner” has four stanzas. After getting through all of the first three stanzas and most of the fourth, we hit this line:

And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’

D’oh! Ruined a perfectly good song.

So what is it about national anthems that they have to invoke God?

The other song that has to be mentioned in this context is “America the Beautiful”. Every so often, there’s a push by various folks to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner” with “America the Beautiful” as national anthem. Those efforts have not been successful, so somehow “America the Beautiful” became our national hymn. To refresh your memory, here are just a few of its lines:

…God shed His grace on thee…
…God mend thine ev’ry flaw…
…May God thy gold refine…

Foreign Correspondence

A few other countries seem to have the same problem. A Google search on “god in national anthems” turned up god-contaminated anthems in:

  • Canada (“O Canada”)
  • Fiji (“God Bless Fiji”)
  • Iceland (“O, God of Our Land”)
  • The Netherlands (“The William”)
  • New Zealand (“God Defend New Zealand”)
  • Russia, 1833–1917 (“God Save the Tsar”)
  • Serbia (“God of Justice”)
  • Solomon Islands (“God Save Our Solomon Islands”)
  • South Africa (“God Bless Africa” and “The Call of South Africa”)
  • Sudan (“We Are the Army of God and of Our Land”)
  • Suriname (“God Be With Our Suriname”)
  • Swaziland (“O Lord our God of the Swazi”)
  • Tanzania (“God Bless Africa”)
  • United Kingdom (“God Save the King/Queen”)

I’m sure there are others.

Why this compulsive need to validate the ethnocentric belief of those people that they live in God’s chosen country and are God’s chosen people?

Cleansing Ritual

(For those of you reading this via RSS, you’ll need to visit my web site to see the Flash player.)

I wouldn’t feel right if I left you with “Waltzing Matilda” running through your head for the rest of the day. That is easily remedied with this calming tone:

You need a Flash plug-in to hear this!

You’re welcome!

13 Responses to “National Anthems”

  1. MathMike Says:

    Oh man! That was Evil. I had Captain Kangaroo singing Waltzing Matilda in my head and you just had to go and disney it up! I whistle the theme from Bridge on the River Kwai at you!

  2. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Christians love to contaminate traditional songs. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that “Greensleeves” existed LONG before “What Child is This?”

    Remember, the best way to get people accept your mythology instead of their traditional mythology is to steal their traditions and claim it for your own! Why else would God Bless Australia steal Waltzing Matilda’s melody? It was familiar and stood a chance for winning with a catchy melody most Australians already knew.

    As for most other national anthems… I can probably give a lot of them a pass since the anthem was likely chosen when most of the populous was more dogmatic and “god fearing.”

    But the question now is… how do we get it out?

  3. Father Shaggy Says:

    The French version of O Canada contains this line (except in French, obviously):

    As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,
    So also is it ready to carry the cross.

    Is that better or worse than:

    God keep our land glorious and free!

    Worse, I think. It’s Crusader-y.

    And Canada’s has four verses, too, and God’s in all of them (in addition to the preamble of the Charter of Rights), and the last vese gets really goddy:

    Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
    Hold our Dominion, in thy loving care.
    Help us to find, O God, in thee,
    A lasting rich reward.
    As waiting for the better day,
    We ever stand on guard.
    God keep our land, glorious and free.
    O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
    O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

    We might actually be a theocracy.

  4. I am me Says:

    I’ve always found “God Save The Queen” to be an odd choice of words in a national Anthem. It’s as if we recognise that our monarch is in some kind of constant danger and we need to constantly ask God to keep them safe.

  5. Ron Britton Says:


    You’re right. That’s really bad. Another thing I find interesting about the Canadian anthem is they have it not only in English and French, but Inuktitut. Those folks have their own mythology. How can they even relate to that song? (I know, they’ve all been “saved” and are now good Christians.) This just shows how inappropriate it is for a multi-cultural democracy to officially sanction and approve a religion.

    Don’t get too depressed over it. Have a Scooby snack!

  6. Nick Says:

    You cold, inhuman bastard!

    “It’s a small world”?!?

    At least have the decency to rickroll us next time!

  7. mandrellian Says:

    I’d much prefer Matilda to Advance Australia Fair (even though AAF is about as secular an anthem as you can get). Matilda has nice irreverent lyrics by Banjo Paterson (Oz’s best-loved colonial-era poet) and is developed from an old folk song about a homeless bloke who steals for food and would rather die than go to jail – it tells you a lot about our notions of a “fair go” and our natural suspicion of cops, especially in the state of Victoria 🙂 It also speaks volumes about our convict past.

    However, AAF is totally secular and free of any sucking up to fairies:

    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.

    Apart from the utterly naff & uninspiring melody, it’s completely free of toadying to God to keep our prime minister safe, free of the guns n’ dicks n’ explosions militarism of “The Star Spangled Fuck You King George” and has nice messages about wide open spaces and welcoming hugs for immigrants (which, by the way, our conservative party like to ignore, especially when there are desperate refugees daring to try and float to our northern coasts). While it does have bits about nature’s gifts I just wish it had a cautionary verse or two about the fact that most of our wildlife WILL KILL YOU if you let your guard down. We’ve lost too many good tourists and conservationists that way.

  8. Admiral-Bell Says:

    Meh. I never really understood national anthems. They seem to be silly little songs fit only for sporting events. I don’t care if they have “God” in them.
    The Pledge of Allegience on the other hand…

  9. Troy Says:

    Christians and other of the religious ilk remind me a little bit like those people who have to put salt on everything, you know even watermelon. No matter how good something is they have to add their little bit of God to it, they don’t even taste it first.

  10. spinetingler Says:

    Oh you suck so hard!!!

    I’m going to need to bleach my ears out!


  11. Nathalie Says:

    I always knew we had a reference to god in the Dutch anthem but until I read this article today and decided to look up the entire anthem (it’s 15 verses long, virtually no Dutch person knows the entire thing) I never knew how many times the bugger creeps up. To be fair though he’s not in the first verse which is usually sung (although there is a lot of referencing to German blood and being loyal to the Spanish, it’s quite schizophrenic actually). Then if the occasion warrants it and we like to drag the anthem a bit on we also sing the 6th verse which unfortunately has us picking up our shields and trusting in god to remove tyranny. But then again we hardly ever sing that verse and most of our soccer players don’t even seem to know the first one. 🙂

  12. Chuck Says:

    Wow….I don’t think I’d heard that stupid song since I was in Disney Land when I was just knee high to a pig’s eye. Thanks >:P

  13. Dingodan Says:

    As i recall America the Beautiful uses the tune of God save the K/Q. The tune Banjo used was an old Brit March “Who’ll come a’soldiering with Malborough and me?” (The Low countries Campaign)