By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, October 16, 2022
There’s probably not a corner of the Earth lacking talented, creative, and wise composers of lyrics for songs. It’s unfortunate that no nation has been able to locate any of them to assist with its national anthem.
Of course, I’m unfamiliar with many artistic genres and most languages. I read most anthem lyrics in translation. But the best ones seem to be the shortest, and their primary recommendation seems to be their length.
Here are the lyrics to 195 national anthems, so that you can be your own judge. Here is a file categorizing the anthems in various ways — some of the choices are very debatable, so judge for yourself. Of 195 anthems, 104 celebrate war. Some do virtually nothing other than celebrate war. Some just mention the glories of war in a single line. Most fall somewhere in between. Of those 104 celebrating war, 62 explicitly celebrate or encourage dying in wars. (“Give us, Spain, the joy of dying for you!”) Dulce et decorum est. Some also demand death for anyone refusing to take part in war. For example, Romania, which also shifts the blame onto your mother: Of thunder and of brimstone should they perish Anyone who flees from this glorious calling. When homeland and our mothers, with a sorrowful heart, Will ask us to cross through swords and blazing fire!
Of 195 anthems, 69 celebrate peace, the vast majority of those just in a single line or less. Only 30 mention peace without also glorifying war. Fornicating for virginity.
While only 18 celebrate kings, 89 celebrate gods, and virtually all use the language of religion to celebrate nations, flags, national races or peoples, and the exceptional superiority of one little segment of humanity and geography. If there’s anything the lyricists of national anthems don’t believe in, it’s grammar. But to the extent that one can discern what they’re saying, I’d like to propose these nominees for the worst ten anthems, with some key excerpts:
Afghanistan Once freed from the English, a grave of Russians we’ve become This is the home of the brave, this is the home of the brave Look at these many skulls, that’s what was left by the Russians Look at these many skulls, that’s what was left by the Russians Every foe hath failed, all their hopes shattered Every foe hath failed, all their hopes shattered Now obvious to all, this is the home of the Afghans This is the home of the brave, this is the home of the brave This does make for a pointed rebuke to the United States and NATO, but it does not make for a very good moral guide toward peace or democracy.
Argentina Mars himself seems to encourage . . . the whole country is disturbed by cries of revenge, of war and rage. In the fiery tyrants the envy spit the pestipherous bile; their bloody standard they rise provoking the most cruel combat . . . The valiant Argentine to arms runs burning with determination and bravery, the war bugler, as thunder, in the fields of the South resounds. Buenos Ayres opposes, leading the people of the illustrious Union, and with robust arms they tear the arrogant Iberian lion . . . Victory to the Argentine warrior covered with its brilliant wings This does make it seem as though fans of war are really awful poets. But wouldn’t something more worthy of emulation be preferable?
Cuba (entire lyrics) To combat, run, Bayamesans! For the homeland looks proudly upon you; Do not fear a glorious death, For to die for the homeland is to live. To live in chains is to live Mired in shame and disgrace. Hear the sound of the bugle: To arms, brave ones, run! Fear not the vicious Iberians, They are cowards like every tyrant. They cannot oppose the spirited Cuban; Their empire has forever fallen. Free Cuba! Spain has already died, Its power and pride, where did it go? Hear the sound of the bugle: To arms, brave ones, run! Behold our triumphant troops, Behold those who have fallen. Because they were cowards, they flee defeated; Because we were brave, we knew how to triumph. Free Cuba! we can shout From the cannon’s terrible boom. Hear the sound of the bugle, To arms, brave ones, run! Shouldn’t Cuba be celebrating what it’s done in healthcare, or in poverty reduction, or the beauty of its island?
Ecuador And shed their blood for you. God observed and accepted the holocaust, And that blood was the prolific seed Of other heroes whom the world in astonishment Saw rise up around you by the thousands. Of those heroes of iron arm No land was invincible, And from the valley to the highest sierra You could hear the roar of the fray. After the fray, Victory would fly, Freedom after the triumph would come, And the Lion was heard broken With a roar of helplessness and despair . . . Your glorious heroes watch us, And the valor and pride that they inspire Are omens of victories for you. Come lead and the striking iron, That the idea of war and revenge Wakes the heroic strength That made the fierce Spanish succumb. Aren’t the Spanish gone now? Don’t hatred and revenge damage those engaged in them? Aren’t there many beautiful and wonderful things about Ecuador?
France Arise, children of the Fatherland, The day of glory has arrived! Against us, tyranny’s Bloody standard is raised, (repeated) Do you hear, in the countryside, The roar of those ferocious soldiers? They’re coming right into your arms To cut the throats of your sons, your women! To arms, citizens, Form your battalions, March, march! Let an impure blood Water our furrows! . . . Tremble, tyrants and you traitors The shame of all parties, Tremble! Your parricidal schemes Will finally receive their prize! (repeated) Everyone is a soldier to combat you, If they fall, our young heroes, Will be produced anew from the ground, Ready to fight against you! Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors, Bear or hold back your blows! Spare those sorry victims, For regretfully arming against us (repeated) But these bloodthirsty despots These accomplices of Bouillé All these tigers who, mercilessly, Tear apart their mother’s breast! Sacred love of the Fatherland, Lead, support our avenging arms Liberty, cherished Liberty Fight with your defenders! (repeated) Under our flags may victory Hurry to your manly accents So that your expiring enemies See your triumph and our glory! (Children’s verse:) We shall enter the (military) career When our elders are no longer there There we shall find their dust And the trace of their virtues (repeated) Much less keen to survive them Than to share their coffins We shall have the sublime pride To avenge or follow them. In Gallup polling, more people in France would refuse to take part in any war than would agree. Why must they sing this merde?
Honduras A virgin and beautiful Indian, you were sleeping To the resonant song of your seas, When thrown into your basins of gold The bold navigator found you; And looking at your beauty, ecstatic At the ideal influence of your charm, The blue hem of your splendid mantle He consecrated with his kiss of love . . . It was France, that sent to death The head of the consecrated King, And that raised proud at his side, The altar of the goddess reason . . . To keep that divine emblem, Let us march, oh fatherland, to death, Generous will be our fate, If we die thinking of your love. Defending your holy flag And covered in your glorious folds, There will be many, Honduras, of your dead, But all will fall with honour. If nations would stop singing about how lovely it would be to die fighting each other, perhaps some of them would move closer to ceasing fighting each other.
Libya No matter the death toll if you’ve been saved Take from us the most credential oaths, We won’t let you down, Libya We will never be enchained again We are free and have freed our homeland Libya, Libya, Libya! Our grandfathers stripped a fine determination When the call for struggle was made They marched carrying Qur’an in one hand, and their weapons by the other hand The universe is then full of faith and purity The world is then a place of goodness and godliness Eternity is for our grandfathers They have honoured this homeland Libya, Libya, Libya! Hail Al Mukhtar, the prince of conquerors He is the symbol of struggle and Jihad . . . Our cubs, be prepared for the foreseen battles Since fortune-telling is BS, why not foretell peace once in a while?
Mexico Mexicans, at the cry of war, assemble the steel and the bridle, and the Earth trembles to its core to the resounding roar of the cannon . . . think, Oh beloved Fatherland!, that Heaven has given a soldier in every son. War, war! with no mercy to any who shall try to tarnish the coats of arms of the Fatherland! War, war! The national banners Shall be drenched in the waves of blood. War, war! On the mountain, in the valley, The cannons thunder in horrid unison and the sonorous echoes resound with bellows of Union! Liberty! O, Fatherland, if however your children, defenseless With their necks bent beneath the yoke, May your fields be watered with blood, May their footsteps be printed with blood. And your temples, palaces and towers Shall collapse with horrid clamor, And your ruins continue on, whispering: Of one thousand heroes, the Fatherland once was. Fatherland! Fatherland! Your children assure to breathe until their last for your sake, if the bugle with its bellicose accent calls them together to battle with courage. For you, the olive wreaths! For them, a reminder of glory! For you, a laurel of victory! For them, a tomb of honor! Mexico’s president makes speeches against war, but never against this awful song.
United States And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion, A home and a country, should leave us no more? Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation. Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” Celebrating the murder of enemies is standard fare, but celebrating the murder of people escaped from slavery is a particular low.
Uruguay Easterners, the Fatherland or the grave! Liberty or with glory we die! It is the vow that the soul pronounces, and which, heroically we will fulfill! It is the vow that the soul pronounces, and which, heroically we will fulfill! Freedom, Freedom, Easterners! This cry saved the fatherland. That his bravery in fierce battles Of sublime enthusiasm enflamed. This sacred gift, of glory we’ve deserved: tyrants tremble! Freedom in battle we’ll cry, And in dying, freedom we’ll shout! Iberia worlds dominated He wore his haughty power, And their captive plants lay The East nameless be But suddenly his irons chopping Given the dogma that May inspired Among free despots fierce A bridge saw pit. His billet chain guns, On his chest shield in battle, In his superb courage trembled The feudal champions of the Cid In the valleys, mountains and jungles Are undertaken with silent pride, With fierce rumbling roar The caves and the sky at once. The roar that echoes around Atahualpa the tomb was opened, And vicious beating palms Her skeleton, revenge! shouted Patriots to the echo It electrified in martial fire, And in his teaching more lively shines Of the Incas the immortal God. Long, with various fortunes, The freedman battled, and Lord, Disputing the bloody earth Inch by inch with blind fury. Justice finally overcomes Tamed the wrath of a king; And to the world the indomitable Homeland Inaugurates teaches law. This is an excerpt from a song that should be condemned for length alone. While there are dozens of national anthems that very nearly made the above list, there is not a law requiring that anthems celebrate martyrdom. In fact, some anthems are very different from those above:
Botswana May it always be at peace . . . Through harmonious relations and reconciliation Brunei Peace be with our country and sultan, Allah save Brunei, the abode of peace. Comoros Love our religion and the world. Ethiopia For peace, for justice, for the freedom of peoples, In equality and in love we stand united.
Fiji And bring an end to all things immoral The burden of change lie on your shoulders youth of Fiji Be the strength to cleanse our nation Be wary and not harbour malice For we must abandon such sentiments forever Gabon May it promote virtue and banish warfare . . . Let us forget our quarrels . . . without hatred!
Mongolia Our country will strengthen relations With all righteous countries of the world. Niger Let us avoid vain quarrels In order to spare ourselves bloodshed
Slovenia Who long to see That all men free No more shall foes, but neighbours be!
Uganda In peace and friendship we’ll live. There are also 62 national anthems that mention neither war nor peace, and seem to be the better for it. Some are even mercifully short. Perhaps the ideal is Japan’s, the entirety of which is not much more than a haiku: May your reign Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations, Until the tiny pebbles Grow into massive boulders Lush with moss
You may have already noticed that the attitude of a national anthem cannot be counted on to accurately predict the behavior of a nation. No doubt the latter is vastly more important — so important that you may find it so offensive for someone in the United States to complain about the Cuban national anthem that you decline to even look at how awful it is. You may want to forgive the hideous Palestinian national anthem while reading between the lines of the superficially more peaceful Israeli one. You may demand to know what it matters what a national anthem has to say. Well, you won’t find any of the big weapons dealers or military spenders among those mentioning only peace and not war. And we hardly need statistics to understand that a national anthem is one cultural influence among a great many — but one that often carries a special religious power, creating butterflies in the stomach of the worshipful singer or listener. One reason that some nations may seem to behave better or worse than their national anthems suggest, is that the darn things are so old. Even with Afghanistan’s anthem being officially adopted just last year, and Libya’s in 2011, the average age of adoption of these often much older songs, for the worst 10 anthems, is 112 years old. That’s old. Even for a U.S. Senator that’s old. An update would be the easiest thing in the world, if not for the power that these anthems hold over people. Anthems at Wikipedia Anthems at Lyrics on Demand Anthems at NationalAnthems.info Make Your Own Anthem Thank you to Yurii Sheliazhenko for inspiration and assistance. --