Thursday, March 06, 2008

One For Mr Tarran

And all patriotic Englishmen, Scotmen, Welshmen, Irishmen, Canucks, Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans.

Patriotic Song : a a book of English verse : being an anthology of the patriotic poetry of the British Empire from the defeat of the Spanish Armada till the death of Queen Victoria

The pdf version is bigger, but it reads better than the text file.

It is needless to dwell upon the inspiring energy of song. Since the age of Tyrtaeus it has everywhere been recognised as a powerful incentive to valour. A nation can scarcely exist without a national anthem. How characteristic are the anthems of the nations ! It may almost be said that the difference of the English and the French nations is expressed by the contrast between God Save the King and the Marseillaise.
What an influence songs have exercised upon the life of nations! The debt of Scotland to Burns, the debt of Ireland to Moore, is greater than words can tell. Fletcher of Saltoun was perhaps not wrong in his estimate of the songs, as compared with the laws, of a nation ...

To consolidate the Empire, and to animate it as a whole with noble ideas, is one of the greatest needs and duties of the present day; and an empire, like an admiral, lives not by bread alone, but by its sentiments, its ambitions, its ideals.

So said The Right Reverend J. E. C. Welldon, Lord Bishop of Calcutta, Late Head-Master of Harrow School (in fact Churchill's headmaster), in the foreword to this 1901 volume. You'd have to go a long way now to find a Church of England Bishop who wouldn't call him a fascist.

1 comment:

Nick Dean said...

Substitute 'international community' for empire and you'd be hard-pressed to find a Bishop who doesn't swoon with relief at being offered the soft alternative.

The Bishops pretend not to see that the 'international community' pursues the same ends as empire, and readily resorts to hard-empire military invasions when frustrated.

Empire and patriotism are, almost by definition, polar opposites, but like the Victorians we are being trained not to see this.

A.L. Morton in A People's History of England wrote:

It is entirely characteristic that it was just as the Tory Party ceased to be really representative of the landowners that it adopted a pretentiously self conscious 'Merrie England' propaganda patter. The peculiar task of Disraeli was to reconcile the English aristocracy to their position of junior partner in the firm of Imperialism Unlimited.

Topical substitutions for keywords in that passage, and parallels with today's empire, are various and obvious.