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The US National Anthem



Paul Simon notes: "To Anacreon in Heaven" was the name of the tavern tune that gave SSB its music. "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean", easy to sing and rousing, was a hot candidate for national anthem in days of yore. I've heard it was a favorite of George Washington, but this is probably apocryphal. To those thinking "God Save the Queen" is such a swell song, let's not forget some of the jingoistic verses that have been conveniently dropped, like "And lead us in a rush the heathen Scots to crush"

My comment: "Hail Columbia" was written in 1798, so it is quite likely that it was a favorite of George Washington. As for "God Save the King", I can find no trace of the words quoted by Paul. The history of the text is complicated. All kinds of versions appeared. Who would call the pious Scots heathen? It probably goes back to the Civil War (1642-46), when the Presbyterian Scots came to help Cromwell fight King Charles I, but then switched sides and invaded England in 1640. Cromwell defeated them at Dunbar and Worcester and subdued Scotland. However, Cromwell's regime ended in 1660, and Charles II became King. However, James II was defeated in 1690, and that was the end of the Stuarts. The Jacobites (partisans of James) invaded England in 1715 and again in 1745 under Bonnie Prince Charles, a Catholic. Both invasions failed. The royalists would describe the Scots as heathen" either when the Presbyterians came to help Cromwell or more likely when the Jacobites tried to restore a Catholic Stuart monarchy. So both Presbyterians and Catholics were "heathen" at different times. My guess is that the version quoted by Paul had a brief success in 1745. After that it would have no meaning. Incidentally, praise was for Handel's music, not for the words.

Ronald Hilton - 9/17/01


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