Thanks to Iain Dale, I came across this fabulous arrangement of the National Anthem, which was performed at the end of this year's Proms. The National Anthem as it is usually played is dirge-like and funereal, the very antithesis of fun. And yet the tune has its roots as a galliard - a light and lively dance - in the early 17C. Sing it to yourself at about double the usual speed, with heavy stresses on the first note of each bar (ta-ta-ti-taaa-ta-ta) and it becomes light and rather jolly. Rarely, however, is it treated like this, with an arrangement which brings out the majesty and rich harmonic possibilities of the tune. Benjamin Britten, of course. I don't mind admitting this brought tears to my eyes.
A little light Googling brought me to this page, where there is the text of a poem engraved on a piece of slate outside the Honister slate quarry in Cumbria. British patriots, enjoy:
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!
Why are we so embarrassed by our nation's history? Why do want to denigrate it and cast it aside?