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July 3, 2012 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Isaac Asimov has a weakness for the US national anthem.
posted by madcaptenor (85 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is a recounting of real events set to a drinking song. What other anthem compares?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:32 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, had.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:33 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


The image of Isaac Asimov belting out "And this be our motto--'In God is our trust' " in the shower is pretty hilarious.
posted by nanojath at 7:37 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


According to Wikipedia ( I know, I know), there is actually a fifth stanza by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Senior, I presume) from 1861 that was published in songbooks during the US Civil War era:

When our land is illumined with liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained,
Who their birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

posted by Bwithh at 7:40 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


according to Connections, the tune was not only an English drinking song, but it originated from a pub named after an erotic Greek poet. Not a Greek poet who was particularly erotic, I mean he wrote erotic poetry.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:41 PM on July 3, 2012


Dowdifying Asmiov

with links to and an OCR scan of the original Asimov article (over 3,000 words!) not this glurge.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:43 PM on July 3, 2012 [38 favorites]


and from the same source, a color coded version with the original text
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:45 PM on July 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


I grew up in Frederick Maryland, home of Francis Scott Key. I always grin a little with hometown pride when the Anthem is sung.
posted by karmiolz at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2012


and from the same source, a color coded version with the original text

That's the version of this I remember reading in F&SF back in the day. Thank you.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:56 PM on July 3, 2012


What other anthem compares?

Dude, seriously, you're going to put that up again La Marseillaise?
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons
Or, the English translation, if you prefer.
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

To arms citizens Form your battalions
March, march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows
Now that's an anthem! And, unlike the crap drinking song that we don't even use the right lyrics for, it's a good tune.

No, the fact that The Star Spangled Banner is the national anthem is one of the great shames of this nation. There's something far better, and unlike pretty much every other patriotic tune we have, we haven't stolen the melody from the Brits. It's only flaw is bringing god into it, but otherwise, it is better in every way -- and you can actually sing it.
O beautiful! For spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain's majesty
above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea!
And, you know, "Amber waves of grain" and "Purple Mountain's Majesty" has entered our national conscious just as much as "The Rocket's Red Glare" and "Land of the freh-EEEEEE(squeak) and the home...of theEeEeEeeEEEEEEEE....brave...Play Ball!"

Ti'll selfish gain no longer staind
the banner of the free.

posted by eriko at 7:57 PM on July 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


Play Ball!

That's not how you spell "Gentlemen, Start your Engines!"
posted by radwolf76 at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not how you spell "Gentlemen, Start your Engines!"

That's not how you spell "Ladies and Gentlemen! Start your engines!
posted by eriko at 8:03 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Japanese have the best anthem. Reason? It is short.
posted by Renoroc at 8:07 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's only flaw is bringing god into it

And at least it's a plea that God make us a noble, good, lawful nation of brotherhood rather than a claim that God loves us best.
posted by straight at 8:08 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like the Brazilian national anthem for two reasons: 1) it sounds like it came straight from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and 2) it was written at an absolutely fascinating time in Brazil's history, just after the Portuguese monarchy had ended its attempt to relocate itself to Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil had become an Empire.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:15 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


rather than a claim that God loves us best.

"Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy"
-- Fake Benjamin Franklin

"Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that god loves us, and loves to see us happy."
-- Benjamin Franklin
posted by eriko at 8:17 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dude, seriously, you're going to put that up again La Marseillaise?

Asimov praises La Marseillaise (as well as Internationale) in the original non-hacked-up, non-hackneyed version.

Thanks for linking to that blog post, TMOTAT.

I've always thought the anthem was a bit of a mess peppered with question marks, but Asimov's essay has me changing my mind a little.
posted by painquale at 8:17 PM on July 3, 2012


The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts


I don't know, not really down with a song that encourages the deliberate killing of women and children, but your mileage may vary
posted by corb at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2012


Brazil's anthem, to illustrate my comment above.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:22 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another vote for America, The Beautiful. It starts lovely and lilting, with a minor key crescendo leading into the anthemic, bombastic "America, America!" Yes, one mention of god, in the context of the natural beauty of the country. Later, one brief mention of veterans giving their lives out of 8 total verses. No mention of war. It can be sung by anyone, with any vocal range. And "...seeaaa toooo shinnninnggg seaa!!" is a perfect lead in to "Play Ball!"

The Star Spangled Banner, is a shitty, ugly piece of music, with uncomfortable halts, an unpleasing melody and it celebrates a relatively minor, forgotten battle, the details of which remain obscure. (Why did the Americans win? Who were the heroes? What was the strategy that allowed them to fend off the world's greatest Navy? They could just take a beating really good? Or did the Brits phone it in?) The melody, the language, and the story are all just horribly anachronistic and painful for me to listen to. I sit down through it at ball games.

And don't even get me started on God Bless America.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:27 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Germany's got a good one too, esp. the 2nd stanza...
Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang
Sollen in der Welt behalten
Ihren alten schönen Klang,
Uns zu edler Tat begeistern
Unser ganzes Leben lang.
|: Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang!
In English
German women, German loyalty,
German wine and German song
Shall retain in the world
Their old beautiful chime
And inspire us to noble deeds
During all of our life.
German women, German loyalty,
German wine and German song!
I don't know, not really down with a song that encourages the deliberate killing of women and children

The point is "those guys" are coming to kill the women and children, it's time to rise up and defend them.

Brazil's anthem, to illustrate my comment above.

My first thought was "Hippos in tutus dancing." This isn't condemnation, mind you. And really, it *doesn't* mention football or racing at all.

I once heard someone sing "God save our flaming queen" and at that point, the UK's anthem was pretty much done. But don't worry. It'll be *even better* when Charlie takes the throne!
posted by eriko at 8:27 PM on July 3, 2012


I was always fond of The National Anthem. A bit longer than some of the other ones, but well-paced.
posted by explosion at 8:27 PM on July 3, 2012


If Axis Powers Hetalia has taught me anything, it's that Poland's national anthem is badass. MARSZ, MARSZ, Dąbrowski!
posted by nicebookrack at 8:33 PM on July 3, 2012


SHOW OF HANDS: who learned the lyrics to "America the Beautiful" from The Westing Game?
posted by nicebookrack at 8:37 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


All that impure blood shit in the Frenchies' little ditty, I mean, they might as well be singing Frankreich Über Alles. I mean I love me some Marseillaise, and I dig the French like no other, after all, they're our oldest, most powerful ally, fuck les Rosbifs! But now that they're a little more pluralistic they need to cut that "q'un sang" shit out like yesterday.

All the goddy bullshit in A, the B is unamerican, but yeah, at least it's not as bad as God Bless America, which might as well be Onward, Christian Soldiers. I get the feeling most people who get all woofy about how difficult it is to sing the Star-Spangled Banner are actually just being shitty because it doesn't say In God We Trust. Fuck their feelings, this is war.

And frankly America the Beautiful is atrocious to sing, the melody is all over the place, and the ending is so pat, it's imbecile. Most of the time if the Star Spangled Banner sucks, it's because some mawkish and self-indulgent pop warbler is me-me-me-ing down the tempo until it's a goddamn dirge, no wonder people don't feel like they can sing along. March it up and it's easy, and done in a jiffy. And there's a place in it where you can shout "O" if you're from Baltimore, and if you aren't, well, sorry, I guess you wish you were. Maybe in the next life, if you don't fuck this one up too bad.

On preview, yeah, the Germans win, because that Haydn string quartet is a true marvel, it's so simple, it's so true, it's so beautiful, and shit, les boches have the market cornered on anthemic orchestral masterpieces. The krauts could lift a dozen other tunes out of their canon and any of them would be better than any other national anthem out there. Fuckers.

And also on preview, of course the US national anthem should be about war. It's how the country was started, and it's how the country has continued, and it's how the country will end: war, war, war! This place is good at spilling blood, orphaning children, and inventing weapons. We should sing about peace?

E Pluribus Unum, motherfuckers!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:46 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


And, because of this thread, I realized that the United Kingdom has the same problem we do -- saddled with an insipid anthem, when they have an utterly brilliant one on tap.
And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among those dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land
I can see the Spitfires flying over this earth, this realm, this...England.
posted by eriko at 8:47 PM on July 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the National Anthem. I think it's a great story.

The Marseillaise is an orgy of violence, given what the French Revolution degraded to, I find it quite baffling that the French still keep it.

I'm Brazilian and a fan of our anthem, it has two problems though - it is way too long and the poetic style is so convoluted that the average Brazilian cant make sense of the words. We have an anthem to the Brazilian flag which is beautiful, short, easy to sing and understand and written by one of the great Brazilian poets. I wish that was the Brazilian anthem.

That's all to say no anthem beats our man Ludwig Van's 9th Symphony as Europe's anthem.
posted by falameufilho at 8:55 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I work with low-income young adults who are committed to getting their lives back on track. For many students, our graduation ceremony is the first time someone in their family has formally completed anything.

During last year's ceremony, one of the graduates was selected to sing the National Anthem. She had a beautiful voice and sounded wonderful during rehearsals. On the day of the ceremony, though, she got a sudden attack of nerves and started stressing. The program began and the color guard presented the flags. With the flags behind her, the student began to sing. Her voice immediately cracked. She continued singing; her voice shook, then cracked again. She stopped in the middle of the song, exasperated. Without missing a beat, someone from the audience shouted supportively, "You got this! You go, girl!" The entire audience, already standing, began to clap, whistle, cheer, and yell words of encouragement. Someone else shouted, "Don't you worry, it's a hard song!"

The student began to sing again, louder than before. She finished the song, completely out of key, to thunderous applause.

I don't wear flag t-shirts or make red, white, and blue desserts for the 4th of July, but, since that day, I've always though I might be a little more patriotic.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 9:00 PM on July 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


And, because of this thread, I realized that the United Kingdom has the same problem we do -- saddled with an insipid anthem, when they have an utterly brilliant one on tap.

Written by William Blake, fwiw. And, just like those other anthems, has some stuff omitted that is just completely bananas:
I turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of Europe
And there behold the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages dire
Washd by the Water-wheels of Newton. black the cloth
In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel Works
Of many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden: which
Wheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:03 PM on July 3, 2012


Aaaaaaand I just realized that's a totally different "Jerusalem" by the same dude.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's all to say no anthem beats our man Ludwig Van's 9th Symphony as Europe's anthem.

Ode an die Freude is one of the truly great things humanity has created, and while I am intensely jealous that they stole it to be their anthem, I am intensely proud of them for being smart enough, decent enough, and human enough to realize that it should be their anthem.

But then again, if the aliens came to judge us, the first things I'm breaking out are Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart, and if that doesn't help, we'll, we can try The Beatles, but I think we're screwed. (Though I'm holding out Chopin as an emergency parachute. If they can't appreciate that, well, screw them.)
posted by eriko at 9:13 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whenever national anthems in general or "The Star Spangled Banner" in particular are being discussed, I always think of this.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 9:13 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like Spain's national anthem. Nobody has to worry about being able to sing it because it doesn't have any lyrics.
posted by tzikeh at 9:15 PM on July 3, 2012


or make red, white, and blue desserts for the 4th of July,

How could you not want to make and eat this? After years of insipid so-called 'flag cakes' decorated by Kool Hwhip and assorted berries, tomorrow will be a treat!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:16 PM on July 3, 2012


How could you not want to make and eat this?

Holy wow, that's amazing. This is the sort of deliciousness that makes me secretly love cheesy, themed desserts.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 9:21 PM on July 3, 2012


Sorry, I still love "O Canada" the best.
posted by Marky at 9:32 PM on July 3, 2012


In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over freedom of the seas.

Is American popular history this wrong all the time?
posted by mobunited at 9:40 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dowdifying Asmiov

with links to and an OCR scan of the original Asimov article (over 3,000 words!) not this glurge.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:43 PM on July 3 [14 favorites −] [Flagged]


Fantastic comment, linking to a fantastic original link. I note that here as I tried to flag it as fantastic but accidentally flagged it as offensive instead. This seemed the best way to correct that.
posted by bowline at 9:49 PM on July 3, 2012


eriko: "And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
"

Yes, you know it's a man's life in England's mountains green.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:50 PM on July 3, 2012


You are all incorrect, the best anthem is Russia's. A melody so incredible they couldn't get rid of it even after Communism died. Tell me this doesn't make you want to jump up and drive Nazis out of your homeland.

Also, the Philippines has an unexpectedly rousing anthem.
posted by thewittyname at 9:51 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


You are all incorrect, the best anthem is Russia's. A melody so incredible they couldn't get rid of it even after Communism died.

And it rocks
posted by philip-random at 10:05 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Play la Marseillaise. Play it!
posted by OldReliable at 10:13 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


bowline, it is ok for you to be offended by that blog.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:19 PM on July 3, 2012


The original lyrics: The Anacreontic Song
posted by Omon Ra at 10:43 PM on July 3, 2012


La Marseillaise, please
posted by Omon Ra at 10:49 PM on July 3, 2012


We have Ripley of Ripley's Believe it or Not to thank for making it official.

He shocked the country with his cartoon in 1929 that said "America has no National Anthem!"
posted by eye of newt at 10:56 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even as a kid I realized that America the Beautiful was such a better song. The Star Spangled Banner is obtuse, hard to sing, the notes are all over the place, which is why people fuck it up on a regular basis. And it's not a pretty melody at all.

America the Beautiful is zippy, short, easy to sing and easy to remember. Can we get a Constitutional amendment to get it replaced, please? Now that we've solved all other problems?
posted by zardoz at 10:57 PM on July 3, 2012


My favorite Marseillaise
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:58 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree America the Beautiful should be the runaway favorite for a replacement (though I'm disappointed that This Land Is Your Land might never do better than third) -- less warlike, more singable, etc. -- but I have come to embrace The Star Spangled Banner as a bulwark against our national anthem becoming God Bless the USA.

Because just contemplating this momentarily has made me slightly ill, I give you as compensation Billy Bragg's modern translation of The Internationale.
posted by dhartung at 11:08 PM on July 3, 2012


My favorite Marseillaise (Casablanca)


Exactly. I want to jump up and cheer that scene.
This is a song best sung in French, if you don't speak the language. Once you know the lyrics, it's definitely awkward.
posted by etaoin at 11:14 PM on July 3, 2012


Fixed Ripley link.
posted by eye of newt at 11:17 PM on July 3, 2012


That's all to say no anthem beats our man Ludwig Van's 9th Symphony as Europe's anthem.
--
Ode an die Freude is one of the truly great things humanity has created, and while I am intensely jealous that they stole it to be their anthem, I am intensely proud of them for being smart enough, decent enough, and human enough to realize that it should be their anthem.


Ahem. Via flashmob.
posted by etaoin at 11:20 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dowdifying Asmiov

with links to and an OCR scan of the original Asimov article (over 3,000 words!) not this glurge.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:43 PM on July 4 [18 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]


Flagged. As fantastic. One of those times when the link in comments is better than link in the FPP.
posted by vidur at 11:51 PM on July 3, 2012


For sheer wait-a-dang-minute awesomeness, you really can't beat the Dutch national anthem. My interest in the anthem was initially piqued by John Oliver, who off-handedly mentioned in The Bugle that it somehow has a reference to loyalty to the Spanish crown.

I later learnt that while it did, it was set from the perspective of William The Silent, and is meant to be a respectful, but firm, laying down of the gauntlet, as it were, to say that he has always respected the king, but given what the Spanish have done, he has no option but to unleash his brand of awesomeness and stand for his compatriots.

I only have a passing interest in European football, but if they don't already play this in a rousing rock cover or something with a matching visuals in a fly-by before every Netherlands-Spain soccer match, I don't know what else to say.
posted by the cydonian at 11:51 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eriko, Jerusalem may be stirring but it's also utterly, utterly mad. The Crusade overtones alone invalidate it as a choice for national anthem in the pluralistic, and by any practical definition secular, nation Britain has become. The fact that half of it is just a bizarre series of questions (which all start with "and" despite having the same answer: "uhhhhhh.... in point of fact, no") may be a mere aesthetic concern, the bigger problem is that it's a big choking bolus of wack-ass angelic Jesusy goodness. And really, who would talk about "dark Satanic mills" now? If Britain had any industry left to speak of I think the Tories would have something to say about that characterization. Nowadays it's just the banks that are satanic. Really, there's something to displease pretty much everyone there. My personal hypothesis is that Blake ate a lot of spoiled rye and was ergot-tripping most of the time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:02 AM on July 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I’ve known about the anthem’s origin story for some time, and it’s still an awful, awful song.
posted by stilist at 12:30 AM on July 4, 2012


Here's Asimov singing the anthem on Youtube.
posted by estlin at 1:00 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not one for patriotism, but I think the Irish anthem builds to a pretty impressive crescendo, an has all the violence one could desire (English translation here, it's always sung in Irish):

Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the "bearna baoil"*,
In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal,
We’ll sing a soldier's song

* bearna baoil means "mouth of danger": basically the area between two opposing forces in a battle.

There was lots of discussion in recent times about changing the anthem to something a little more inclusive towards Unionists but nothing ever came of it.
posted by nfg at 2:02 AM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've never been sure whether rhyming 'Ireland' with 'sireland' is brilliant or sheer desperation
posted by rollick at 3:31 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I'm the only one creeped-out by national anthems?
posted by maxwelton at 3:38 AM on July 4, 2012


So I'm the only one creeped-out by national anthems?

Not so much creeped out as amused; national pride strikes me as unutterably funny. George Carlin put it better than I ever could:
"Pride should be reserved for something you achieve or obtain on your own, not something that happens by accident of birth. Being Irish isn't a skill... it's a fucking genetic accident. You wouldn't say I'm proud to be 5'11"; I'm proud to have a pre-disposition for colon cancer.”
I may be thankful to have been born in a first world country with advantages that ninety-nine percent of the rest of the population doesn't have, but proud? Hogwash.
posted by Mooski at 4:03 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that half of it is just a bizarre series of questions (which all start with "and" despite having the same answer: "uhhhhhh.... in point of fact, no") may be a mere aesthetic concern, the bigger problem is that it's a big choking bolus of wack-ass angelic Jesusy goodness.

Just to add to the Jerusalem pile-on, it even fails as a hymn (which is how it's frequently sung). It's not really about God - the entire first verse, as you point out, is a list of questions where the answer is always "no", and the second is all about the singer (yay me, I'm going to build Jerusalem in England seeing as how God never got round to it).

If what you really want is just a stirring tune to fire you up before sports games, then you can't do much better than the Italian anthem. Here it is, sung the way it should be (loudly by a fairly drunken rugby crowd). Just listen to it! An intro you can chant along with! An interval bit where you can catch your breath! And then another verse which builds all the way through, ending in a massive shout! That, my friends, is how you do an anthem.
posted by ZsigE at 4:49 AM on July 4, 2012


the tune was not only an English drinking song, but it originated from a pub named after an erotic Greek poet

That's not quite right. In fact it was the anthem of the Anacreontic Society, written by their president Ralph Tomlinson. Although they did meet in a pub and it is about wine and women, they were basically a music society and had people like Haydn along to meetings.

From memory the original words to the first verse are:

To Anacreon in heaven, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
That he their inspirer, and patron would be,
When there came this reply, from the gallant old Grecian;
"Let fiddle and flute, no longer be mute;
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot:
And besides I will teach you, like me to entwine,
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine."

posted by Segundus at 6:06 AM on July 4, 2012


Put me down as another who would prefer "America the Beautiful" as our anthem. As the stanzas progress the song becomes a meditation on the formation of the country, from the natural beauty of the land, to European colonization, to honoring soldiers lost in "liberating strife," to a vision of a perfected society. But most importantly, it's an acknowledgement that we have a ways to go yet, with lines like:
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
and
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.
posted by Trace McJoy at 6:10 AM on July 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Y'know it might be good if the US could now kind of gently begin to refocus its patriotism away from the Brit thing. Couldn't you do a song about how you won WWII singlehanded or something?
posted by Segundus at 6:42 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Y'know it might be good if the US could now kind of gently begin to refocus its patriotism away from the Brit thing. Couldn't you do a song about how you won WWII singlehanded or something?

I think Toby Keith is working on that. My goal for the day is to avoid that horrible song at all costs.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:08 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


New England, hard-hit by a tightening blockade, threatened secession.

This was actually a real thing, known as the Hartford Convention. Somewhen in an alternate timeline, New England did secede from the United States 50 years before the Civil War.
posted by euphorb at 7:24 AM on July 4, 2012


Best national anthem is the one for East Germany, as performed in the film Top Secret:

Hail, hail East Germany / Land of fruit and grape / Land where you'll regret / If you try to escape / No matter if you tunnel under or take a running jump at the wall / Forget it, the guards will kill you, if the electrified fence doesn't first.
posted by Ber at 7:25 AM on July 4, 2012


Not so much creeped out as amused; national pride strikes me as unutterably funny. George Carlin put it better than I ever could:

And now that Carlin has been mentioned, how can a thread about the national anthem be complete without his variant of America the Beautiful? From an early '70s routine:
O Beautiful for smoggy skies
For insecticided grain!
For strip mined mountain's majesty
Above the asphalt plain!

America, America
Man shed his waste on thee!
And hides the pines with billboard signs
From sea to oily sea!
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:31 AM on July 4, 2012


I don't know if they feel this song is true anymore ... and, uh ... I'm not sure that it is, but I feel that it oughta be

Bruce Springsteen performs This Land Is Your Land

Google
doodle for today is 'This Land Was Made For You And Me.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2012


Is American popular history this wrong all the time?

So far as there even is a popular history of 1812 in the US, it's usually pretty reasonable. The only people that really know anything about it are curious amateur historian types. In Canada (the only other country with many people that really cares about this one) it fills the role of "valorous national myth that legitimises the state" and is taught through much of the public school system as such, which leads to about as nuanced an understanding as one would expect from that (although some rather detailed boardgames have come out of it as a result).

Asimov isn't giving a lecture on origins of 1812 so he wouldn't really want to get into arms sales, Chesapeke/Leander, stopgap Jay treaty policies, impressment, or a general history of Napoleonic-era trade blockades and seizures. I'm inclined to cut him some slack on his single sentence attempt at summary.
posted by Winnemac at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The U.S.'s preeminent sports network, ESPN, is showing Wimbledon on its two main channels today. What could be more all-American than to switch back-and-forth between those? Really, we don't care.
posted by raysmj at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2012


Despite what I said earlier, the US national anthem should not be judged too harshly until you've heard it performed properly.
posted by thewittyname at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


A thousand times, yes. (What was up, btw, with the crack against Ray Charles in the intro to the shortened version of this speech? A racial resentment thing? Weird, since you have many classic renderings of the National Anthem as done by African-Americans, most notably this one, followed by Jimi Hendux's and Whitney Houston's.)
posted by raysmj at 11:16 AM on July 4, 2012


Hendrix's. I need an all-American auto-correct.
posted by raysmj at 11:23 AM on July 4, 2012


Lots of anthems boast about how great the country is and how we will all lay down our lives for its sake. O Canada ends on a note of expectation about what the country is supposed to do for us.

Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Protect our freedoms and our rights.
Protect our freedoms and our rights.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I still love "O Canada" the best.

In my mind this is an unholy mashup of "Blame Canada" and "O Christmas Tree".

idek sry
posted by elizardbits at 11:46 AM on July 4, 2012


Great anthems are not generic travel brochures. Great anthems are supposed to refer to the basic mythology of a nation.

America the Beautiful is a trite song that spews forth pablum about the natural resources of what could be any country. Every country that has coastline and grows grain can take it. It reads like a poorly written travel brochure about a patch of land with nothing interesting to offer.

It's not unlike the generic verse of Advance Australia Fair:

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.

We could easily replace "Australia" with "America" and still be true to our geography. The Australians, likewise, could take "America the Beautiful" and swap it out. This is not how you select an anthem! Anthems tell the stories of nations, not arbitrary patches of land that anyone could have. The Australians have Waltzing Matilda which lost to Advance Australia Fair, which is a song that actually tells a uniquely Australian story.

Take, for example, Hungary:

O, God, bless the Hungarian
With joy and bounty
Extend toward him a guarding arm
If he strives with an enemy
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon him a joyous year
This people has suffered for
Past and future!

A depressing set of lyrics, but it represents the unique defiance in the face of suffering of the Hungarian nation, not the beauty of the mountains. It's a theme shared by nearby nations that have similarly seen centuries of crisis and war. See Poland Has Not Yet Perished, or Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished. There's something unique to each nation in there. See the Soviet Union's anthem, which despite written by Communists is a great piece of music. It referenced the nation's ideology.

So yes, it's hard to sing. It's got a similarly brutal vocal range as the beautiful anthem of Iceland, which jumps well past an entire octave. But the Star-Spangled Banner is uniquely American and is, like good anthems, a story of a nation and not a travel brochure.

Our anthem shares a similarity with the story of
the PRC's March of the Volunteers, which was written after a specific military campaign. But the PRC's anthem says nothing about the land of the free, home of the brave, or anything else good about it's people, just commanding them to die.

Our anthem combines hope with the mythology of war, a unique American story while extolling the American people. Like everything else good in our nation, it was cobbled together from multiple sources, a lawyer writing poetry who had no idea someone would slap a British drinking song on it. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Then there is the Kazakhstan National Anthem. And there also isn't.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:59 AM on July 4, 2012


That's not how you spell "Ladies and Gentlemen! Start your engines!

That's because "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines" follows the singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana."

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was somewhat earlier in the ceremony.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:06 PM on July 4, 2012


If you're visiting my neighborhood the Massachusetts Historical Society has a new exhibit up about the War of 1812. (Stop by Pavement coffee house down the street beforehand; try an espresso or a cold brew.)
posted by benito.strauss at 1:29 PM on July 4, 2012


I love the tune of the Indonesian national anthem, actually - it has a wonderful communal chorus. The lyrics are simple but proud (though they lose quite a bit on translation - I hadn't realised that till I typed them out):

Indonesia Raya, merdeka, merdeka
Tanahku, negeriku yang kucinta
Indonesia Raya, merdeka, merdeka
Hiduplah Indonesia Raya


(Grand Indonesia, be free, free
The land and country I loce
Grand Indonesia, be free, free
Live on grand Indonesia)

I also think the Thai national (not royal) anthem has a good chorus, as does the Internationale.

(But then, I can't STAND the American national anthem - too melodramatic for my tastes)
posted by Sedition at 3:03 PM on July 4, 2012


Some of the lyrics to Kazakhstan's nation anthem:

Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.
All other countries are run by little girls.
Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium.
Other countries have inferior potassium.


Actually, those are the lyrics to the movie Borat's takeoff of the Kazakhstan's national anthem.

That didn't stop Kuwait from playing it when a Kazakhstani won a gold medal in a shooting competition.

Well, sometimes even Kazakhstan gets it wrong.
posted by eye of newt at 3:51 PM on July 4, 2012


Our anthem combines hope with the mythology of war, a unique American story while extolling the American people. Like everything else good in our nation, it was cobbled together from multiple sources, a lawyer writing poetry who had no idea someone would slap a British drinking song on it. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Thank you Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.

Flagged as fantastic.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:08 PM on July 4, 2012


If I had my choice for American national anthem, it would be either John Brown's Body/The Battle Hymn of the Republic/something else set to that melody. It is easy to sing, rousing, and always makes me proud of America in a way that America the Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner do not.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2012


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