national anthems

national anthems
Britain’s official national anthem is God Save the Queen (or God Save the King if the ruler is a man). It is not known who wrote the words, but it seems that the song, said to be the oldest national anthem in the world, was written many years before it was chosen as an official national song in the 18th century. It was first performed in public in 1745, during the Jacobite Rebellion, to a musical arrangement by Thomas Arne (1710–78). The first verse is played or sung on formal occasions, especially if the Queen or another member of the royal family is present:
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen.
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.
  Everybody stands while it is being played, as a mark of respect.
  Many British people think God Save the Queen is too slow and solemn, and would prefer a more lively national song such as Land of Hope and Glory or Rule, Britannia! Both express pride in Britain’s achievements but were perhaps more appropriate in the days when Britain had an empire.
  Wales has its own national anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau ( Land of My Fathers). It celebrates the survival of Welsh traditions, language and scenery and is often sung at concerts and at major sports events in which Wales is taking part. Scotland does not have an official national anthem, though Scotland the Brave is often sung at public gatherings. The Flower of Scotland is played and sung as an anthem before international Rugby games in which the Scottish team is playing.
  The national anthem of the US is The Star-Spangled Banner, referring to the US flag. The words were written in 1814 and set to the music of a popular song. It became the national anthem in 1931. Every American knows the story of how The Star-Spangled Banner was written during a war between the US and Britain. Its author, Francis Scott Key, was a prisoner on a British ship off the coast of Baltimore. From there he could watch the battle for control of Fort McHenry. The song tells how he watched as the sun went down. He could no longer see the fighting, but since bombs were still exploding he knew that the British had not won. When the morning came he could see the American flag still flying over the fort.
  The Star-Spangled Banner is played at official ceremonies and sung at public events. On these occasions everyone present is expected to stand up and sing. Although there are three verses only the first is normally used:
Oh, 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, thro’ 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 thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and home of the brave?

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

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