Following Tom Shakespeare’s recent suggestion that now might be a good time to ditch ‘God Save the Queen’ — ‘terrible tune, with banal lyrics’ — and replace it with something that more accurately reflects contemporary Britain, competitors were invited to propose lyrics for a new British national anthem. In an entry whose tone varied wildly, my favourite was Bill Greenwell’s jaunty reimagining of ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick’ by the late, great Ian Dury, which is refreshingly lacking in jaundice, sentimentality or jingoism. It brought to mind ‘This Land is Your Land’ (‘From California to the New York Island/ From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters’), Woody Guthrie’s response to Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’.
Greenwell, who is to ‘God Save’ what Guthrie is to ‘God Bless’, takes £35. The rest earn £30.
From Killeen to Aberdeen, on the grid in Milton
From Indian Queens to Letterbreen, every Jack
and every Jean:
Pour more fizz for Elizabeth, pour it, pour it,
Iechyd da and hail-well-met, pour it, pour it,
Pour more fizz for Lizabeth, toast her till we’re
out of breath,
Roar it, roar it; roar it.
From the bars of Crossmaglen to the pine trees
of High Spen,
From the Fens to Llanedwen, all the women, all
the men — (Chorus)
From the bakers in Dundee to the golf at Rhos
Pity Me, and Daventry, everybody, sing with me
In the crofts of Muckle Roe, on the sands at
Clitheroe and Wivenhoe, all the people, high and
low — (Chorus)
From the well at Derrynoose, to the station at
In Drumgoose, the river Loose, in your home or
in your hoos — (Chorus)
Down in Splatt and up in Twatt, in the pub at
At St Catz and Battle Flatts, we’ll roll out the
welcome mats — (Chorus)
God save this sceptr’d isle,
Field, farm and country mile:
Lord, grant us peace.
Our dear democracy
Loathes Euro-hypocrisy —
Keep us from these.
You who seek Britain’s shores —
Know well our open doors
Must close one day.
Albion, fair archetype,
Bridles at Brussels tripe
So, from continental hype
Spare us, we pray.
There’ll always be a UK
While there’s a crown to pimp,
Wherever there’s a club to buy,
A zombie Colonel Blimp.
There always be a Britland
While Britart markets kitsch,
Wherever there’s a budget shop,
A tax break for the rich.
There’ll always be an Albion
While there’s a public school,
Wherever there’s a Daily Mail,
A public you can fool.
There’ll always be an Airstrip,
And One shall be its name,
To preach fair play to all the world
And play a dirty game.
We love her, yeah, yeah, yeah
The great UK K. K. K.
We’re glorious and grand
And we’ve folk of all persuasions,
There’s freedom in our land
And we dress for big occasions
’Cos we’re BRITISH! And we know that can’t
We’re BRITISH! And we know we should be glad.
North, South, East and West
We’re all in this together;
Great Britain is the best,
Who cares about her weather?
For we love her, though she may not rule the sea,
We love her, she’s the home of you and me.
We love her yeah, yeah, yeah,
The great UK K K K.
Tim Raikes (To the tune of ‘I vow to thee my country’)
Our fathers went before us to till this fertile land,
The herdsman and the trader, the poorest
The land is what we’ve made it and we are of the
The cities and the pastures, the humble and the
Our democratic principles have shown the world
Our laws since Magna Carta are valued every day,
It’s always been our nature to take in refugees,
Our diversity and culture’s enriched from
We’ve always fought for Europe, we did in two
With Churchill’s inspiration it was a noble cause,
We’re tolerant and practical and ought to take
We’ve centuries of history and now’s the hour of
We’ve always been a nation of science and
Our global reputation remains beyond
But we are part of Europe and should be at its
For Europe needs us badly and we must play
Salvador Dalí had a pet ocelot, Gérard de Nerval walked out with a lobster. Your next challenge is to supply a poem about a famous person and an unlikely pet. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 9 March.
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