One catchy tune, three different sets of values

I’m no musicologist, but I found this to be striking enough to address. Most people associate the tune in question with “God save the Queen“, the national anthem of the United Kingdom. What is much less known is that two other countries also adopted this tune as their national anthem, but with different lyrics. The reason this is less well known is that these countries have since changed their national anthems, one of them several times since. The other countries in question are Germany and the United States, and that is where the plot thickens. All of them were in use at the same time, mostly in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. I used Wordle to visualize the concepts mentioned in the respecting anthems, as well as their frequency. Here is the first, and most familiar one, “God save the Queen”:


Pretty straightforward, as they come. What you see is what you get, more or less. The German version provides an interesting contrast. We are of course talking about “Heil Dir im Siegerkranz” (Hail to Thee in Victor’s Crown). Technically a “Kaiserhymne”, but it was the de facto national anthem of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. Obviously, we’ll have to deal with a translation here, for the sake of comparison. As in the other cases, the lyrics are taken from the Wikipedia page. The translation itself is quite faithful, as far as translations go.

That's a lot of words

To be fair, this is the only of the hymns that explicitly mentions science. What about the American one? That would be “My Country, ‘This of Thee“, the de facto national anthem of the US before 1931.

Even the rapture made it in

That about sums it up. I do think it cannot be denied that culture is a tremendously powerful force. It does matter a great deal what values are emphasized and which ones are de-emphasized. We better get this right.

P.S.: Adapting melodies is not as uncommon as it seems. For instance, Rhodesia used a version of the Ode to joy.

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3 Responses to One catchy tune, three different sets of values

  1. Anonymous says:

    Do we need values to help us avoid the fear of death?

  2. jdp says:

    Indeed, it’s probably worthwhile to pay a lot of attention to the tunes chosen.

    The current US national anthem uses the tune of a drinking song. Some would say this explains a lot.

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