In a jam over Jerusalem
The gal from Southport touched first by a couple of hundredths of a second in the final of the 50m butterfly to earn the right to stand proud on the top rank of the podium, to turn to the high-hoisted flag of St George and, filled with patriotic fervour, her dewy-eyed visage in televisual close-up, belt out the national anthem with a vigour reserved only for those delicious moments when you’ve properly put one over the antipodeans.
So…what calamity is this? Its all gone a bit flat. The opening bars of Jerusalem are wafting out of the stadium loudspeakers, and the moment, that gilt-edged, triumphal moment, is frankly, a bit lost. Oh dear. How did that happen?
Fran herself admitted later she was a bit non-plussed by the whole Jerusalem thing.
She voted another way in the great Commonwealth Games England poll to decide which of the aforementioned Blake-inspired hymn, Land of Hope and Glory, or God Save The Queen should be the soundtrack to those goose-bump raising moments of triumph for the English here in Delhi.
It has much to commend it. It speaks of triumph through endeavour and dark adversity overcome.
It has nobility, modernity, pleads for unity of purpose, societal goals and a common vision of a better world. It also contains most of the other essential lyrical elements of any decent national anthem - lots of references to swords, duffing up ones foes, running roughshod over the rest, and generally being fantastic.
I like it. We sang it at my wedding. Loudly. I like Sir Hubert Parry’s music.
I’m fond of the anticipation of those first notes, can hear now the collective in-breath on cue when it’s at its rousing best, belted out in a rugby crowd. It’s already the anthem of choice for other sports, and cripes, it inspired the title of that great epic sporting film, Chariots of Fire. This version has only been specially recorded by the legendary Grimethorpe Colliery band!
So what’s the problem?
It just doesn’t work. There it is, the great critic’s cop-out of all time. The default phrase when you can’t be bothered to properly explain or justify your objection to something, in the hope no-one’s going to call your bluff…..but shamelessly, it just doesn’t work.
Jerusalem without Blake’s words doesn’t stir my soul. The music isn’t obviously rumpty- pumpty enough like Land of Hope and Glory or solemly, stop-what-you’re doing-and-stand-up like God Save The Queen.
I’m with you, Fran Halsall, winner of England’s first gold medal. Lets have something else. The Aussies might not have all the best swimmers, (huzzah!) but they have got a better tune for celebrating to……..