The United States has the greatest national anthem in the world. It’s a bold anthem which, instead of ending with a strong statement of our worth, wonders if it was all worth it. I especially appreciate no mention of a god (which is somewhat unusual in modern national anthems) because anthems are for and about the people, not their religious beliefs.
The US national anthem is not just your typical, “bless this land, which is ours by the way, and it’s it pretty?” It’s a challenge to future generations to be as unified and courageous as its past generations.
I love that it questions its citizens. “Does that symbol for which we fought and died still represent something for which another generation would fight with equal valiance?”
O 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, through 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 through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Now let’s have a look at a few other national anthems for contrast. Let’s start with our neighbor to the north, Canada (which I can sing from memory, oddly).
O, Canada, our home and native land,
true patriot love from all your sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
our true north, strong and free.
From far and wide, O Canada,
we stand on guard for thee.
God, keep our land glorious and free
O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
All I can say about this national anthem is that it assumes a lot. Against whom do they stand on guard? Who are these people that are so ready to invade Canada that the entire populace must reaffirm their dedication to its defense? Plus, I’m pretty sure most other countries are asking god for help in their anthems, too, so don’t hold your breath, Canada.
Next is France! With one of the most recognizable melodies in the world, France’s national anthem is also one of the most bloody due to its origins: the French Revolution!
The French national anthem is long as hell, so after the whole first verse and chorus I’ll just pull out a few of my favorite parts to give you an idea of what it’s like:
Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us, tyranny’s
Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The howling of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into your arms
To slit the throats of your sons and consorts!
To arms, citizens, form your battalions,
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let impure blood water our furrows!
Yikes! Using the blood of the enemy to water your crops? That’s fucking metal. What a picture to paint, all of it! So brutal.
It goes on to include gems like this:
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What fury it must arouse!
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!
Hey, they’re trying to make us slaves again! Fuck that! Get angry, you French people!
Tremble, tyrants and you traitors…
…Everyone is a soldier to combat you.
…as long as they’ve retained their right to bear arms. But seriously, I picture farmers rushing a line of fully armed invaders with their pick axes and back hoes. Pretty great.
The last verse might be the best for its evocative sense of honor.
We shall enter in the (military) career
When our elders are no longer there,
There we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues (repeat)
Much less jealous to survive them
Than to share their coffins,
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or following them.
Ok, so the French are giving us a run for our money in the “World’s Best National Anthem” contest. Theirs is pretty fuckin’ awesome. But minus points for length. Or whatever.
Oooo-kay, I just had a look at the full lyrics of the British national anthem, God Save the Queen. It’s about as good as it sounds. Lots of divine evocation, no mention of the citizenry, super dull. But the lyrics used to include another verse (for a very short time):
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.
Haha, oh no! Not the Scots! Leave them be, King George II! Bad king, no!
Japan. Wow. Leave it to Japan to make me feel stupid. What a pretty anthem. Very short and pretty, but not a whole lot to say. Tough to inspire the citizenry to take up arms to defend their country with such an understated, slowly paced song. But that’s so Japanese, lol.
May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss.
Touché, Japan. Touché.