www.Poundswick .org.uk

The National Anthem

Poundswick was born in an era when the National Anthem was a regular feature of British life. The BBC played it every evening at the closedown of each of its networks, it was played (and often sung) at the end of performances in cinemas and theatres and it was sung regularly at school events. The people of our Island Nation were proud to call themselves British Citizens, our Kingdom really was United and support for the monarchy and British Institutions was almost universal. Sadly, those days have all but gone and one shudders at the possible future consequences of our ever-increasing willingness to divest ourselves of our Britishness, or at least to allow it to be taken from us without demur.

Given that singing the National Anthem was a feature of life at Poundswick, I thought it appropriate to include a few notes about it and also to reproduce all five verses of the words, which you rarely see written down these days.

'God Save The King' was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, but it was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that it became our official National Anthem. The words and tune are anonymous and probably date back to the seventeenth century.

In September 1745 the 'Young Pretender' to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh. In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged for 'God Save The King' to be sung after that evening's performance. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly thereafter. This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting the Monarch with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.
There is no authorised version of the National Anthem because the words are a matter of tradition. The words below are those that have gradually become established since 1745. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung:

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

There are, however, four additional verses, as below:

O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
Oh, save us all!

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world over.

From every latent foe,
From the assassin's blow,
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend,
For Britain's sake defend,
Our mother, prince and friend,
God save the Queen!

I know of two arrangements of the National Anthem that deliver more than just the first verse: the arrangement by Benjamin Britten offers a very muted first verse followed by a rousing verse three (I first heard this when Mr. Welton played it to us in a Music lesson in about 1962; I was so moved by it that I spent precious pocket money on a copy of the record, which I still have) and the brilliant arrangement by Sir Arthur Bliss offers verses 1, 2 and 3. Does anyone know of an arrangement with all five verses?

This link takes you to a page where you can download an MP3 file (960k, so it takes a few minutes to download) of the "official" Golden Jubilee version (verses 1 and 3).

Whilst in patriotic mood, here's a little ditty about the Union Jack. I came across it engraved in slate outside the Honister slate quarry in Cumbria, which is clearly managed by a local who doesn't mind wearing his patriotism on his sleeve:

Unfurl our flag - red, white and blue -
and greet it with your smile.
The blue is for the sea we view
around our sceptred isle;
the sea o'er which we've paid our due
in storm and wartime trial.

Raise up our flag - blue, red and white -
salute it with respect.
The white is for the purest light
that freedom can effect
and for the lasting love of right
our citizens expect.

Fly high our flag - white, blue and red -
for everyone to see.
The red is for the blood we shed
to keep our country free
and for our brave forebears who bled
in every century.

Our flag is known the whole world through;
our Union Jack so dear.
We don't want stars of gold on blue
on any flagpoles here!

  James Hinton
Well, I'll drink to that!