Some thoughts about National Anthems

Germany won the World Cup!!!! And like every good German out there, Football was my life for four glorious weeks. And why not…since Germany got permission to participate again, the German team always competed and always advanced past the group stages. So I am always watching a lot of games in order to see what “my team” might face in the upcoming rounds (plus this year most of the games were in the evening, which was not exactly ideal for celebration, but allowed a lot of relaxing with football after word).

Consequently I also got to hear a lot of National Anthems, and I really love to read the translation of them. Because I think that an Anthema tells a lot about the mind-set and history of the folk in question.

Take the German Anthem for example. It actually has three stanzas, but since the first stanza has been misused and misinterpreted way too often and the second one is a little bit chauvinist, the third stanza is the one which nowadays “represents” Germany.  (So, no dear BBC, the song is no longer “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” and it is actually quite offensive to claim that it is. Germans prefer not to be reminded of the way the Nazi’s twisted their idea of an unified Germany).

The third stance though, I really like, because it is build around the concept of  unity, justice and freedom. In fact, the whole song is about unity above everything else, which is really understandable considering that Germany was rarely united during its long history. But I also like the notion that it is something the folk has to strive brotherly for, and that unity, justice and freedom are what a flourishing fortune has to be built on. It is kind of refreshing compared to all the ones which are about heroic fighting.

I like the Australian Anthem for similar reasons. Some people might call it boring, but I think it is kind of nice that “Advance Australia Fair” talks about building and soil, and the beauty of the land. I am not sure of the double meaning of “fair” is intended or not (most likely not), but it is in any case a nice label to attach to your own country.

I noticed some trends. Countries which are ruled by a monarchy tend to sing about their royals. Even Japan still has a “royal” Anthem (and perhaps the shortest in the world), which is simply about eternal reign (and very poetic, btw). Spain’s National Anthem on the other hand doesn’t even have any text. Speaking of Spain, the one of the Netherlands is a little bit confusing, because it is about some prince of Germanic blood which is always loyal to the king of Spain. Oooookay…it makes a little bit more sense if you know that it is only the first stanza of a long ballad about Willam van Nasso’s fight for independence from Spain, but until I looked it up, I always wondered about it. It might be the oldest National Anthem out there, which explains why it is so far removed from modern Netherland. Britain hopefully forgives me for this, but their Anthem always amuses me, for the simple reason that it must be a very potent prayer considering that their queen has been ruling for, what, 67 years? I guess god keeps saving her.

France naturally goes into the other extreme, with the Marseillaise being born in the wake of the French Revolution and created during a time of unrest. To be honest, I always feel a very strange when French football players sing that they will march on until the impure blood of their enemies will water the furrows.  Right.

South-American countries tend to have rebellious anthems, too, though they tend to put not on the fight, but on freedom, hard work and the earth. Kind of makes sense, considering that those are states build on the back of peasants. They tend to be so similar in theme and style, that it is easy to confuse them.

In any case, I think an Anthem tells a lot about a state, and it certainly pays off to really listen when it is sung. I look forward to the next Olympia – hopefully I get to hear some really rare ones (rare because the countries in question don’t win that often during worldwide competitions) during it.


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