This week you were invited to fill a gap by providing lyrics for the European anthem. The powers that be behind the anthem, which has as its melody the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, chose to dispense with Friedrich von Schiller’s words. ‘There are no words to the anthem; it consists of music only,’ says the EU website, in bold type.
My request for suitable words elicited an absorbing, inventive postbag. I wondered if anyone might revisit Schiller’s 1785 ‘Ode to Joy’ and repurpose the following lines: ‘Yea, if any hold in keeping/ Only one heart all his own/ Let him join us, or else weeping/ Steal from out our midst, unknown.’ No one did, though there were frequent nods to other parts of the ode. Some entries sung on the page but fell down when I attempted a lusty rendition, which was a shame.
Three cheers for the worthy winners, who pocket £25 each. John Whitworth and Frank Upton were unlucky losers and W.J. Webster takes the extra fiver.
Fair Europa’s old, old story —
Innocence seduced by bull:
She was covered, not with glory,
Maid unmade, a trusting gull.
Out of such unnatural union
Came a still-born Eurostate,
Comity without communion,
Rule by distant delegate.
Symbol of this misconception,
Mined from German mother lode,
Sounds an anthem-like deception,
Brussels’ grand symphonic ode.
Joy is hymned as wealth increases
Where good trade for some has flowed:
Others, when the music ceases,
Only know a vast debt owed.
Freud and Schoenberg, Goethe, Foucault,
Cocteau, Faust and Nibelungs;
Overrated Goya, Munch and
Friedrich Schiller, Heine songs!
Who needs Bach or Schubert’s Lieder,
Beethoven, Brahms or Janacek?
Diderot, Descartes, Derrida? —
When you could have Ant and Dec!
How we’ll miss the great tradition
Of our friends across the wave:
Noddy Holder, One Direction,
Chuckle Brothers, Chas & Dave.
Ah! Your Only Fools and Horses,
Benny Hill and TOWIE styles —
What we’ll miss the most, of course, is
You — dear cultured Europhiles!
Brothers of this greater union
Daughters of Elysium
Firm we stand in grand communion
Staving off oblivion
Meeting at our various summits
Shaking one another’s hands
While the euro ever plummets
Shafting all our southern lands
Quislings of the UK funken
Navigate their leaking boat
Clearly they are dead and sunken
By their futile Brexit vote
Leave us to our federating
Underneath this twelvefold star
With one voice communicating
Of our Mutter Angela
Sworn to see all hatreds vanish,
Friends from Portuguese to Balt,
Harmonised but never clannish,
Democratic to a fault.
Other nations try to sell us
Monstrous schemes of government.
Don’t believe them when they tell us
We are the Lost Continent.
We are honest, well-intentioned,
In our union good thoughts reign,
And the war is never mentioned
Lest it trigger members’ pain.
Farewell then to island nations
Who refuse to share our dream.
We shall last for generations,
Europe, mega-state supreme!
Ten long years she’s pushed her trolley
Down that Brussels corridor;
Serving tea and being jolly,
Joy at Britain’s Euro core…
Now the Brexit exit’s nearing,
Joy’s recalled for one mishap:
Prompting universal cheering,
She spilled tea in Nigel’s lap!
London-born, and proudly British,
Joy’s decided to remain;
Her solution may seem skittish,
But she’s keen to stay, it’s plain…
When the Brexit vote was carried
She pursued a local boy.
She’s remaining, now she’s married,
This salute is owed to Joy!
Mighty Europe, wisely guided,
Merkel’s daughter, Juncker’s son,
We, its members, undivided,
Bound in union, bow to none;
Conquerors in tribulation,
Willing slaves to Brussels’ writs,
Friends we’ll be with every nation,
All, except the bolshie Brits.
Blessed with Continental ardour
On we’ll march to pastures new,
And, by working ever-harder,
Lead the world in all we do;
Wars forgotten, wrangles righted,
Freed from ruptures, rifts and splits,
We, with all, shall be united,
All, except the bolshie Brits.
Anthony Lane’s ‘The Book of Jeremy’ appeared recently in the New Yorker (‘And there came from the same country a prophet, whose name was Jeremy. His beard was as the pelt of beasts, and his raiments were not of the finest…’) Your next challenge is to submit your version of either ‘The Book of Boris’, ‘The Book of Theresa’, ‘The Book of Tim’ or ‘The Book of Nicola’. Please email entries of up to 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 28 June.