The Meaning of National Anthems
One of the pleasing eccentricities of the Olympics is that it gives us the rare opportunity to hear a multitude of national anthems. They’ve always been mysterious and exotic to me, like postmarked stamps from foreign countries, suggesting a culture imagined but never lived. Even something familiar and iconic like La Marseillaise remained an undiscovered country.
Whenever I hear it I think of Casablanca—the music is an inspiring pulse of light that surges through me and lifts me up, inspiring me to save Ingrid Bergman from the Nazis. I had always assumed that they lyrics would convey that noble simplicity, too, but it wasn’t until a friend read me the lyrics that I actually realized what they were saying.
I had no fucking idea.
The Anthem is crazy.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons and wives
And rape your mistresses!”
I started to look around at the lyrics of a number of other countries and this is some of what I found:
An excerpt from the Chinese National Anthem:
“Without resting day or night,
Follow the Principles.
Swear to be diligent, play the violin
And master mathematics!
With one heart and one virtue,
We carry through until the very end!”
“Egypt! Most precious gem,
A blaze on the brow of eternity!
O my homeland, be for ever free,
Until mummies walk the land!”
“May your reign
Continue for a thousand,
One hundred thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss.”
“Tiny Lithuania, as true as a bullet
That flies through the sky
To pierce our enemies heart!
Our homeland is mighty,
We fear no dangers!
Live forever and be happy,
Dear, sweet Lithuania!”
“War, war without quarter to any who dare!
War, war! Let the national banners
Be soaked in waves of blood.
War, war! In the mountain, in the valley,
Let the cannons thunder in horrid unison,
War, war, war, war, war, Mexico will always win!”
“Brazil, an intense dream, a vivid ray
Of love and hope that descends to earth.
Come closer she whispers in the night,
I am your lover and you mine,
Brazil, in thy luscious, smiling skies
And curvy hills,
Do I make my eternal love.”
“Good governance, good governance
Shall lead us true and free!
Good governance, good governance,
Bonne gouvernance, bonne gouvernance,
Canada sera toujours tirer et marquer!”
“The Lao people of all origins are equal
And will no longer allow imperialists
And traitors to harm them.
Landlocked we may be,
But united and determined, we need no shining sea!”