Sunday, 8 July 2007

O Canada vs Advance Australia Fair

This video of a Canadian Olympian singing O Canada gave me a lump in my throat and brought a small tear to one eye... It got me thinking about how the Australian national anthem, Advance Australia Fair just doesn't really cut it for me as a national anthem.

O Canada is a beautiful piece of music in its own right. Advance Australia Fair seems trite and contrived by comparison. I know it may sound unpatriotic to say that, but I just don't see Australia as being well represented by our anthem. Many of the lines in it aren't factually correct where they assert certain points, it sounds hokey in the same vein as that old Australian folk song about Tumut (Tumut: A Vision and a Venture - written in 1924 to mark the Centenary of the town) with it's quaint rhyming structure. And don't get me started on girt!

This is what I mean:

Tumut: A Vision and a Venture (E.L. Bridle)

One night I had a vision
Of beauteous hills and dales,
Next morn I sought to find them,
In sunny New South Wales.
I hastened to the Central,
Described the spot I'd seen,
A place where hills surrounded
A vale of Erin's green.
With trees of English beauty
And a river running thro'.
Is there a place so thrilling
Beneath the heaven's blue?


Oh change at Cootamundra for Gundagai's old track,
Soon beauty makes you wonder if you'll ee'r again turn back?
You linger at Mt. Horeb e're the promised land you see.
Your journey ends at Tumut
Capital T-U-M-U-T.

Old Tumut town it lies down South
Up Yerrangobilly way.
'Tis lovely in October,
'Tis beautiful in May.
Its willow bordered river,
Its fields of wheat and corn,
Enslaved my heart forever
That unforgotten morn,
I crossed the bridge at twilight
To see Bombowlee Lane
And ling'ring 'neath the poplars
Knew I'd not dreamed in vain.


Compare this quaint song with the words and cadence of Advance Australia Fair.

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!"

When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,
To trace wide oceans o'er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England's flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
"Britannia rules the wave!"
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Beneath our radiant southern Cross,
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We'll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England, Scotia, Erin's Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Shou'd foreign foe e'er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We'll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Britannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean's roll,
Her sons in fair Australia's land
Still keep a British soul.
In joyful strains the let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

This harking back to Britain seems ludicrous in a contemporary context. I note that only Verses 1 and 3 are normally sung - with the more inappropriate parts left out of the official version, but surely there is a song that more exemplifies Australia and its society than this!

See how O Canada speaks of a commitment to protect the country where Advance Australia Fair wallows in joyful strains.

O Canada

O Canada! Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The 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.

No comments: