The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0616 Monday, 31 March 2003
From: Martin Steward <
Date: Friday, 28 Mar 2003 14:49:21 -0000
Subject: Re: God Save the Queen in British Theaters
Comment: SHK 14.0604 Re: God Save the Queen in British Theaters
Terence Hawkes writes: "There is no English national anthem".
"God Save the King" is really an English anthem, as it refers to
"rebellious Scots" rather than the more specific and more accurate
Graham Hall suggested "Rule Britannia" (if I remember correctly) as an
English anthem, which would seem odd considering the title, until we
recall that it comes out of Thomas Arne's opera "Alfred" - with its
specifically English subject.
It causes problems at sporting occasions at which the mythical land of
"England" is represented, as some commentators have observed. I have
heard that the people tend to favour "Land of Hope and Glory" (that is,
Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March, No.1) - another Last Night
of the Proms regular. Perhaps because of similar Last Night connections,
"Jerusalem" (with words from Blake's poem, "Milton") is also well-liked
as a patriotic song that actually includes the word "England" itself (a
rarity). However, its odd apocalyptic flavour and ambiguous political
undertones make it problematic (though a standard among traditional
left-wing organizations). As Graham Hall mentioned, rugby union
supporters tend to sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" during games, but I
believe that they sing "God Save the Queen" as the official national
anthem before kick-off.
Oh, there's always "There'll always be an England" as well, of course!
Which brings me to: "And there is still no English parliament."
Constitutionally, England does not exist. There is a sovereign
Parliament located in the region of the United Kingdom known as England,
however. Scotland does not have a Parliament, either, although they
call their regional-assembly-with-tax-raising-powers by the name. It has
no sovereignty, and it was established by an Act of the Parliament at
Westminster, which enjoys sovereignty over it.
John Mahon says that he quotes "Charles Jennens's lyrics for Handel's
music" to the oratorio, "Messiah". Charles Jennens did not write any of
the words for this oratorio, which are all taken from scriptural texts;
he merely compiled them (brilliantly and influentially). The texts for
the Chorus, "Hallelujah" (Part II, number 20) can be found in Revelation
19:6, 16 and 11:15. I have attended three live performances of this
oratorio (not Handel's best), all of which saw this chorus greeted with
universal standing. On the questions of British nationalism, it is
interesting to note that the first performance of this oratorio was
given in Dublin.
martin "arrows of desire" steward
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