Tuesday 3 March 2015

Jerusalem and the West Lothian anthem question

I see that Laura Wright, the soprano who plays rugby for Rosslyn Park and also the singer of the official rugby anthem, has urged whoever takes these decisions to use Jerusalem as the anthem for England in this year’s rugby World Cup (for some reason the Standard story yesterday is not online).

She says the English need something to compete with Flower of Scotland and Land of My Fathers for inspiration.  That isn’t to say that God Save the Queen isn’t inspiring.  The point is – and Laura wasn’t so political – is that it is the anthem of the nation as a whole.  It seems tactless, to say the least, to use it to inspire the English team when it is playing Scotland or Wales.

It is the cultural equivalent of the West Lothian Question and it won’t go away.

Personally, I think this is inevitable eventually.  I’m sorry that, as usual, sheer conservatism is preventing some kind of decision.

I also think Jerusalem is the perfect anthem for the English nation because of its complex spiritual message – not just from Blake, but all those other people involved in its development from the poet Robert Bridges and the composer Hubert Parry to the great explorer and campaigner Francis Younghusband.

It seems to me that a really effective, inspiring anthem must point beyond either bombast or banality, to something with depth and authenticity - and something way beyond the everyday.  Jerusalem does that.

You can read the whole strange story of the words and music in my ebook Jerusalem: England’s National Anthem

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Anonymous said...

The official line from the Department of Culture, Media, & Sport is that each sporting association can choose what music they want to represent themselves.

This is why we end up with one anthem for the Commonwealth Games athletes and something different for football, rugby and cricket. One mainstream sport needs to start a move away from a British anthem and towards an English one.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Mr Boyle, but God Save the Queen is not inspiring. It is anything but. 'Jerusalem' ticks all the right boxes, and should be used for all English national teams, from footie to the Commonwealth Games team. Unfortunately, most of the national governing bodies for sports in England are run by British, rather than English, people. That's why Lord Coe approached the ['English'] FA with a 'suggestion' of fielding GB footie teams at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Coe knows just how gutless, malleable and venal the FA's brass are.

Anonymous said...

I have to take issue with two things you said in your post. Firstly, as someone else said, GSTQ is not inspiring, it's a truly awful dirge!

Secondly, the words of Jerusalem are ridiculous, I would prefer to see England use Land of Hope and Glory despite your dismissing it as being bombastic which it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Land of Hope and Glory would be a poor choice as an English anthem, because the words are about the 'United' Kingdom as a whole and, especially, the British Empire. You don't think the words 'wider still and wider' refer to reclaiming land from the sea, do you?. LoHaG is definitely not a specifically English anthem. The trouble is, there are plenty of British songs that could be anthems, but precious few English ones. That's the result of three centuries' worth of British propaganda being shoved down our throats.

Unknown said...

The melodies of Land of H & G and Jerusalem are wonderful but stuck in an era and a context all too redolent of empire and public schools. The words of both are repugnant to atheists and internationalists. "God, who made thee might, make thee mightier yet". Time to move on from such myopic and nationalistic power rhetoric.

My vote - use the tune of Abide with me ("Eventide") but with some decent internationalist, secular words.