I watched both the State of Origin and Rugby Union in the last week and watched as our national anthem played. People in the grandstands weren’t singing along. Our players appeared to barely know the words themselves. It’s got to be the least well known anthem, or maybe it’s not ‘cool’ to know the words, a concept I have been wrestling with for a while. It was first performed in 1878, although it didn’t actually become the ‘official’ anthem of Australia until 1984, beating out both ‘God Save The Queen’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in a vote.
Is it possible that the anthem’s language has made it irrelevant to the current population? Watch teenagers at a school assembly try and work out what ‘girt’ means. When I watch NFL (Gridiron), I see American citizens standing, hats off, and hand over heart, singing along with gusto. Why are we so different? Are we embarrassed? Do we know the words and choose not to sing them? Or do we simply not care?
And how many of us know the second verse by memory, no prompting needed? I am ashamed to admit that I don’t. But wait: did you know there are technically FIVE verses? I hade no idea until I researched the Anthem for this piece. I knew there were 2, but 5? No way. And if you were wondering what verse 5 was, wonder no more:
‘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!”
I personally like our national anthem (first and third verse, which we actually think is the second verse) and I think it describes Australia well, although there will always be those who wish to see Australia as a republic have their feathers rustle at the line “To make this Commonwealth of ours renowned of all the lands.”
And of late, those who would like to ‘Stop The Boats’ must cringe in parliament when they sing: “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share.” (Ironic much?)
In an age where the Star Spangled Banner is both a call to arms AND a rock song (Thanks, Jimi Hendrix) is it time we looked at finding a more contemporary way to celebrate this wonderful country of ours?
Is the current Australian anthem relevant? Would you prefer something more modern?
A cheeky take on the National Anthem by Comedian Adam Hills: