Friday, November 15, 2013

"I Vow to Thee, Humanity" – Is patriotism displeasing to God?

From Father Silas:

Time was when “the silly season” referred to the dog-days of August: almost everyone was on holiday, there was not much real news, and journalists had to dig up daft stories to fill the pages of their newspapers. We used almost to look forward to reading stuff falling into the “Man Bites Dog” category, adding, as they did, to the general sense of unseriousness that was a normal and healthy part of the summer break. Perhaps it is now because there is so much “news” – by which I mean space which has to be filled with news, on dedicated TV and radio channels and the internet, in addition to the press – that silly seasons occur all the time. There isn’t enough actual news, so we make do with what we can find. What is sometimes called Remembrance-tide is a rich vein of such stories, this year’s provided by a north London vicar, the Reverend Dr Gordon Giles.

Dr Giles wrote a column in last week’s Church Times headlined: “Can ‘I vow to thee’ be renovated? I was wary: my instinct was to say to myself “No, obviously it can’t”, and move on to Andrew Brown’s waspish press column. But I’m glad I stopped to read it, not least because a generally unsympathetic report on it surfaced in the next day’s Daily Mail: “Words to patriotic hymn I Vow To Thee My Country are ‘almost obscene’ and not fit for Christians, claims vicar.” 

It needs to be said that, in the Church Times article, Dr Giles did not say that the words were “obscene". He said that “…if the cause is wealth, power, influence or national pride, then the sacrifice is diminished, and its connection to the 'pride' of suffering is, for many, almost obscene”. I find this rather convoluted and not entirely convincing; but no matter. The gist of his generally reasonable article was that “I vow to thee” was very popular, particularly at this time of year; but that some people nowadays disliked its patriotic sentiment and disapproved of its being sung in church (some argue that it’s not really a hymn since it doesn’t mention God). But in recognition of its popularity, especially when sung to Holst’s soaring tune 'Thaxted', Dr Giles proposed that some amendment of Cecil Spring Rice’s words could redeem it and, so to speak, render it respectable. And he helpfully presented to us some new words, presumably of his own composition. I will spare you their reproduction here: suffice it to say that they – shall we say – lack the poetry of Spring Rice’s, while nonetheless relying heavily upon them.

Now I will confess to you a prejudice. It is that I dislike hymns whose words, learned in childhood by many of us, are summarily changed to reflect supposed modern sensibilities; so that when we sing them by and from the heart, we stumble over small alterations that have been recently introduced, usually in the interests of gender-inclusiveness or to tone down military imagery. (The modern hymn-book Hymns Old and New is an egregious example, and actually includes a hymn called “Onward Christian Pilgrims” – which I suspect nobody sings.) And that is my first point. The fact that the words of hymns may not exactly reflect a modern outlook is not of itself sufficient reason to change what people have sung for decades. Continuity, familiarity and affection are important and should be respected. The words of “I vow to thee my country” are, for many, beautiful and moving and express something of what they actually feel, both about their earthly country and about their heavenly country. If you dislike or disapprove of them, by all means don’t sing them – but please don’t presume to change them.

The second point is this. The fact that patriotic sentiment is now politically incorrect (more so in England than elsewhere, I have noticed) does not make it wrong. A love of one’s country does not displace or diminish one’s love for God or the recognition that His reign and His commandments are first in our love and loyalty. I know where my ultimate home is, and nothing can change that. But for the time being, my earthly home is here, in a land created by God and inhabited by generations of extraordinary human beings, some of whom have loved it to the extent of laying down their lives for it. Who is to say their, or my, patriotism is displeasing to God?

Father Silas is an undistinguished (he says) priest and deacon of the Church of England who loves it in spite of everything.


Blogger David Hussell said...

Father Silas,

Absolutely ! Well said, and many thanks.

And where do you and ++ Cranmer stand on "Jerusalem....." , I ask. Could that one be dealt with too in some appropriate way, please?

15 November 2013 at 08:23  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

The 11th of November has just passed ...
Lest we forget ... something else:
In WW1 ( & WWII, actually, I think. ) every single German soldier had, somewhere in or on their uniform, the words: "Gott mit uns"
What was that about patriotism & the BigSkyFairy, then?


15 November 2013 at 08:59  
Blogger Len said...

Our masters in the EU do not like 'patriotism' in fact they dislike patriotism almost as they dislike sovereignty and God.
The reason they dislike these things are because they want a herd of leaderless sheep that they can manipulate and control.
So those behind the EU are tearing up the foundations of our society so they can re- lay them in their image.

15 November 2013 at 09:10  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David H@ 08:23

The meaning of 'Jerusalem (Blake-style)

1. Why did Milton use classical models rather than druidic ones?

2. Did Joseph of Arimathea visit England?

3. Why did the Church distort Christ's message?

4. The Church has oppressed our natural sexuality, grinding it down on its altars (the mills).

5. Blake will keep fighting until the state of sexual liberation (Jerusalem)is achieved.

Note: Blake was crazy. Look at 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'!

In a rush, so won't be able to respond to this.

15 November 2013 at 09:42  
Blogger BeeLZeeBub said...

"The reason they dislike these things are because they want a herd of leaderless sheep that they can manipulate and control."

Well done.

You have just described organised religion to a tee.

15 November 2013 at 09:45  
Blogger William Lewis said...


You're pushing on an open door. :)

15 November 2013 at 10:16  
Blogger Len said...


We Christians are not' leaderless 'sheep we have a shepherd...who is your leader ?.

(excluding yourself of course)

15 November 2013 at 11:00  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

I hate politically correctness and patriotism is OK as I see it because God has allowed our country to be a good place to live. It is liberal modernisers that have done their best to destroy all that is good because they are jealous they do not have as good an answer. Yes, we should be proud of what our God has done and we should all be counted as being in support of a God fearing country.

15 November 2013 at 11:09  
Blogger Ars Hendrik said...

I love this hymn, precisely because I've never seen it as being jingoistic or overly patriotic. The problem is that the second verse is often omitted (because of its militaristic theme) and without it, the hymn makes no sense.

It is really about a young man's journey from blind patriotism to faith. In the first verse he makes a naïve pledge of blind allegiance to his country (the love that asks no question). In the second the horror, futility and failure of war is revealed in combat (note how his country, represented by Britannia, has 'her sword girded at her side' – he is fighting, she is not). Finally, the beautiful and liberating last verse, in which he capitulates to the 'other country – only in love and peace, faithful to God and divorced from the futile ambitions of state, is there true sanctuary and hope.

Here it is in full:

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

15 November 2013 at 11:26  
Blogger Manfarang said...

1. In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North.
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

2. In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.

3. Join hands, disciples of the faith,
Whate'er your race may be!
Who serves my Father as his child
Is surely kin to me.

4. In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South.
All Christly souls are one in Him,
Throughout the whole wide earth.

15 November 2013 at 11:36  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Well said ! You have it spot on.

The EU and its legal system is based on French style secular thinking, that denies God and hates any centres of opposition to its power. It abhors power sharing or a balance of powers, as explained by Burke. Therefore the EU bears down hard on families (the little battalions), Christianity, nation states, and therefore well thought out patriotism. Like atheistic states it just want a sea of individuals, (the leaderless sheep of the New Testament parables) because then it has total, unchallenged power. Unchecked by the reemergence of patriotism it would create a great tyranny. Its trajectory is clear.
I long for the liberation of the nations and reestablishment of our Common Law. If this is not achieved democratically, and that is not certain, it will happen anyway, I conjecture, but eventually, through disorder, disillusionment, economic failure and things that none of us want to happen. Tyrannies always fail, after a terrible price is paid by the ordinary people.
Utopia is not available on this earth through political means, that is the lesson of history.

15 November 2013 at 11:38  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


Great points - I love this hymn for very similar reasons. The layering of the verses (when all three are sung) is rare among "patriotic anthems" in that it refines the meaning of each preceding verse. Love for one's country is very different at the end than it seems at the beginning, and is a beautiful testimony to the transformative power of faith.

It doesn't surprise me that there have been more than a few CofE clergy who don't like it.

15 November 2013 at 11:51  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack says patriotism is a fine thing so long as the country has values that serves God. Jack thinks that patriotism serving just the country's own selfish interests would be bad and thinks of Hitler's patriotism that was built on hatred and bitterness and a desire for revenge.

Songs should never be changed. No. This is very rude to the author. And "Onward Christians Pilgrims" is just silly. Pilgrims don't march to war. Jack believes people forget how manly and strong Jesus was. He was not a woman or a wimp! Boys today are not being taught to be men. He saw a mother the other day soothing her son when he fell over and saying, "You poor little boy come to mummy and she will make it better." She should have said, "There's my brave little soldier. No tears now."

15 November 2013 at 12:37  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This song has always troubled me because it isn't in any sense a hymn to God. It is rather a hymn to the nation state that unashamedly draws a parallel between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God. I don't see progression in this song. I see comparison. "My mother country is to me as the Kingdom of God in regard to my obligation and its character." The song has more than a whiff of idolatry about it.

The song would stand better without the third verse as a conventional patriotic song. It is the inclusion of the third verse that causes the problem. For it is there that the implicit comparisons are made. Unfortunately the third verse is critical to the song's intent. It layers the approval of heaven upon the call of the mother country. That blending is the spiritual heart of the song and the only reason it would receive any place in a worship service.

This song is roughly analogous to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the US. It is song with deep religious imagery but no actual religious content. People love its inclusion in a worship service for all the wrong reasons. It is sung in many churches here around the Fourth of July. And it shouldn't be.


15 November 2013 at 12:39  
Blogger David B said...

I idly wonder whether the emphasis on patriotism in some hymns is anything to do with the feeling that, some hundreds of years ago, a lot of people, some influential, some not, were rightly or wrongly seen as, or portrayed as, committed more to Rome than Westminster.

I further wonder whether a God who would allow one country to be a pleasant place to live in, as claimed by Mr Integrity, and allowing other countries to be metaphorical hell-holes, is a character of any merit.

And, lastly, I always thought, and believe that I was taught it in primary school, that the 'dark satanic mills' was a reference to the landscapes of the industrial revolution.


15 November 2013 at 12:49  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

David B

If God was a man who saw like a man and reasoned like a man and acted like a man, then your critique might have some substance. But He is God and He isn't a man. Neither is He answerable to you. You demand a bread king for this what you think right and proper. God isn't an ATM machine. He has His own purposes.

Fear not however. You will not wonder at these things forever. One day you will understand.


15 November 2013 at 13:07  
Blogger Ars Hendrik said...

Thanks Anonymous.

David, I suspect you are right and that English patriotic hymns are a way of confirming the separateness of the Anglican Church from its Roman forebear. I too was taught that 'dark satanic mills' was a clear reference to the harshness of the industrial revolution (Jerusalem is a very pastoral hymn).

I also remember reading an interesting analysis that it was a rebuttal of sexual repression – 'arrows of desire', etc. It is quite a subversive song and also happens to be the school hymn at my son's school – traditional all-boys – which does make me chuckle.

15 November 2013 at 13:22  
Blogger OldJim said...

I love my house. I care about its affairs, I exercise an investment in it and a jurisdiction over it. My neighbour loves his house. He exercises an investment in it and a jurisdiction over it. We have a slight but moderate and ordinate interest in the affairs of each others' houses.

If his chimney blows smoke into our attic, or he beats his wife, I will have to tell him that that is wrong and maybe do something about it. But if he eats his supper at a different time to when I eat mine, I don't mind. In fact, I rather like it. I enjoy going round to his and having supper at a strange time now and again. It gives me the pleasure of remembering how good it is to be invited to live as someone else does, it reminds me how good it is that he gets to decide how he lives, and it sharpens the pleasure of knowing that most of the time, I decide when it is that we eat.

He eats different things, and this is good too. He has learned all sorts of tricks for making his food well, and I enjoy being invited to eat it. Sometimes I take some tricks home, but mostly my family and I have developed our own cuisine that makes us feel comfortable and happy and a family. Learning a new trick is one thing, and knowing I can take what is good and implement it at my own leisure is lovely, but mostly I know that my family take pleasure in eating the things that we already eat. This is as it should be; it is human and it is healthy that people should within a limited space have an ability to live partly as they wish, and partly as they have agreed to live, according first to their own conscience, and secondly, equally according to their habit and custom and to their creative whim.

Sometimes my neighbour might get ill, and if it would be best for him, he might come over to stay with us, so that we can take care of him. Maybe his power goes out, or he has nobody at home to cook for him, and so we invite him around for a meal or to use the telephone. Perhaps my son and my neighbour's daughter get along well, and they marry and come and live with us whilst they get on their feet. And whilst they do, they live according to the habits and traditions of the house, with an understanding that if the arrangement becomes more permanent, my new daughter-in-law will have an input into the way that the house is ordered.

15 November 2013 at 13:42  
Blogger OldJim said...

Sometimes there are thefts and sometimes vandalism, and so my neighbors and I might form a neighbourhood watch. We might have a small patch of land between our houses, and we might make informal or formal arrangements as to who is going to do what with it and when, both privileges and responsibilities. Sometimes my neighbour and I might be displeased and argue over a tree of his that overhangs my garden, or a tree of mine that threatens to grow into the telephone line and disrupt his ability to call others. Sometimes we might have a patch of land between our gardens that nobody really knows who owns, and we might fight about who it really belongs to. Sometimes, another neighbour might prove a neutral party to administrate some of these disputes.

If my neighbour and I have families which heavily intermarry, or we do a lot of things together, or we are both in financial difficulty, we might even knock the walls down and become a bigger house, or both into one of our houses, if we both think that that would be sensible.

One of our previous neighbours wanted to knock down the walls between some of our houses without permission and to evict some of our family members, and then place his children by force or by marriage in each of some of the other houses on our street. He liked some of us and hated others of us in some very strange ways and had all sorts of opinions on how we should all live that he wanted to impose. We get strange people like that sometimes.

Some people think that the solution to the problem of people like that is to just go and live in any of the houses that we please, any of the time, and that all of the houses should have basically the same rules, and that it is unhealthy that they have relationships in them that are of any permanence. They think that if we value relationships, then we must of logical necessity only value the familial relationships of a nuclear family, and if we value tight familial relationships, we must hate other peoples' families, and our own extended family. Some people hate other peoples' families, it's true. Some people hate all sorts of things. But I don't. I just value relationships of some sort as the main glue of houses. Some of these people also think that we should knock down all the walls and just make it one giant house, and that that would solve all of our problems and that we would then all live well together.

We laugh at these people and feel pity for them, because they might sometimes know something about the architecture of houses, but they obviously have never known what it is to have a home.

15 November 2013 at 13:43  
Blogger OldJim said...


I should have thought that the third verse, far from confusing two different things, one secular, the other sacred, did precisely the opposite. The way I see it, the point of the third verse is precisely to circumscribe and delimit the meaning of the first two. In other words, I think that it fulfills the highest virtue of a patriotic anthem: it simultaneously inspires and teaches due reverence, obedience, and appreciation of duty to earthly authority, and reminds us of those occasions where earthly reverence is misplaced and inordinate, earthly authority cannot command, and of the space in which mere ungraced nature cannot obey.

If that's right, it might be a hymn, where an understanding of the height of our duties to heaven is made by analogy to our feelings of reverence for our nation. In which case, it's a hymn, but not a very good one today, because you must first feel a lively patriotism if you're to be brought to understand those feelings in relation to the higher idea of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But I take the point that it undoubtedly glorifies patriotism itself, and seems to have that glorification as its primary raison d'etre; and that it probably also has a fair amount to do with the Establishment of the Anglican Church and the interlocking of Throne and Altar. I'm just disposed to try to look kindly on such things, insofar as I can. They're part of the British animus and atmosphere and of our inheritance. I don't think that it is a very good hymn for a standard church service, but on the other hand the idea of hearing it at a remembrance day service doesn't offend me at all.

15 November 2013 at 14:14  
Blogger Owl said...



15 November 2013 at 14:20  
Blogger OldJim said...

Incidently, if I were wrong about the role played by the third verse, then the thing wouldn't be a good patriotic song at all. Not only because of the thing that Carl pointed out: that there would be a dangerous mixing of the secular and of the sacred; far more fundamentally, without being circumscribed by the third verse, the first verse itself strikes me as completely inordinate. It needs to be marked out and moderated by the third verse for the limited thing that it is, if it is not to be wholly overstating its case.

"The love that asks no questions"? I cannot offer my country that, in any circumstances, save if that love is understood within the wider order of "another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her,
most great to them that know;"

15 November 2013 at 14:26  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Old Jim

Here is how I read the song.

Verse 1. "I await the call"
Verse 2. "Then come for I call."
Verse 3. "It is He who calls."

The third verse describes the caller. It presents the reason for responding to the call. But which Kingdom is in view? It seems to me that the British Empire is being held up as the physical representation of the Kingdom of God. I don't see how this limits the nature of the call.

You are suggesting that the song makes a sudden turn to describe the limits of response. How does this maintain the integrity of the flow of thought? He would first have to present his temporal case for responding which he does not do.


15 November 2013 at 14:41  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

David B

"I further wonder whether a God who would allow one country to be a pleasant place to live in, as claimed by Mr Integrity, and allowing other countries to be metaphorical hell-holes, is a character of any merit."

The difference largely appears related to the culture within which they live and breathe...How did it go in Atheist Soviet Union and China, my lad. Where was the merit in that 'No God' Hellhole???

For them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be
lightly esteemed. I Samuel 2:30


Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach
to any people.” ..Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous are in authority the
people rejoice: but when the wicked rule the people morn.” and II Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and
pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; THEN will I hear
from heaven, and forgive their sin, and will heal their land." This is as appropriate to Christians in our land as the Jewish nation it was declared to...But obviously the Christian heritage we have in our nation is completely lost on the neo-atheist...You see and hear what best suits, do you not.


What's up, lad...Did Daddy and Mammy not show you the differences in life such as reward and punishment and it's varying outcomes, in relation to your actions??? Tsk Tsk.

15 November 2013 at 14:56  
Blogger OldJim said...

To get back to the house analogy though: I suppose my real point is that, whilst there are real dissimilarities between houses and countries, I think that the chief issue here is the same in both: people who are suspicious of patriotism itself have an insufficient understanding of the love a person can have for the local, the tangible, and the personal simply because it is local, tangible, and personal.

My neighbour and I might be fortunate enough to love and to marry different women. But if some chap comes along who isn't married, I won't have him tell me that he is married to every woman. He is married to no women. My neighbour and I might be married to different women, but we have a better understanding of each other than this chap does of either of us. Even if I have a healthy belief that the woman I am married to is a finer prize, it doesn't mean that I wish to impose her on my neighbour. In fact, I absolutely do not. And that I have chosen to have a wife doesn't mean that I have developed a hatred for all other women. I have recognised that I cannot marry all other women. I can only approach the joys of marriage by marrying one that is special to me in particular.

The Frenchman and I both have our own cuisines, our own fashions, our own histories, our own languages, our own texts. I can understand his attachment to his through my own attachment to mine. The cosmopolitan doesn't understand both sets of things. The whole point is that he probably understands neither. He might understand the pleasures of food, but he doesn't understand a national childhood comfort food. He might understand history, but he doesn't understand a national story from the passionate perspective of the inside. He might understand languages, but he doesn't know the intimacy of puns or the joy of malapropisms. He might have read both our texts, but he doesn't understand what it is to think in Shakespeare or to have taken on the spirit of Baudelaire as ones' own. These things require a choice for one thing. You can best approach the other not by denying your own thing, but by choosing your own thing and understanding the other chap's by analogy.

In other words, the modern cosmopolitan thinks in only two categories: the compulsory, and the interchangeable. He sees "human rights" and all of his other recently formulated rules as iron-cast laws to be imposed from on high on every nation. Everything else is a consumer item or an affectation or a fashion of some kind. Take it if you want, noncommittally.

So when he meets a patriot who loves particular things, he assumes that these things that to him are interchangeable consumer fashions are to the patriot iron-cast laws, to be imposed on all to whom they can be imposed by force, and to be used as the criterion by which to dismiss all other people as savages.

The idea of a middling category or gradation, things that one loves because they are personal or local or tangible, without seeking to force them on others or treating them as mere disposable, pick-and-mix consumer cultural items, doesn't occur to him. That is the category missing from his thought.

This is all to do with the ever-increasing atomisation of the individual and the subsequent development of the supremacy of two institutions - consumer capitalism on the one hand, government and law on the other. What is going on is that people think about things by analogy to one or the other. The middle thing, community and relationship, is the thing that has vanished, and its disappearance has wilted our mental categories too. In that state of affairs, a person cannot see the difference between patriotism and nationalism, because the two things look the same to them.

15 November 2013 at 15:00  
Blogger OldJim said...


We are told that it the Kingdom spoken of in the third verse is another country, and that "all her paths are peace", where in the preceding verse the protagonist hears of his own country "the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns".

Even if the two countries were read as being allied, I think that they must still be read as being distinguished and distinct.

15 November 2013 at 15:16  
Blogger Ars Hendrik said...

Indeed OldJim

'And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase'

The other country is clearly Heaven - her 'shining bounds' increased by each departed soul.

'Silently' is the key word - there is no mention of denomination or nationality.

15 November 2013 at 15:22  
Blogger IanCad said...

Some heavy stuff here.

Flanders and Swann have it about right:

"The English, the English, the English are best:
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest!
The rottenest bits of these islands of ours,
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers,
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot,
you'll find he's a stinker as likely as not.

The Scotsman is mean, as we 're all well aware,
And bony and blotchy and covered with hair,
He eats salted porridge, he works all the day,
And he hasn't got bishops to show him the way.

The English; the English, the English are best:
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest!

The Irishman, now, our contempt is beneath,
He sleeps in his boots and he lies in his teeth,
He blows up policemen (or so I have heard),
And blames it on Cromwell and William the Third.

The English are noble, the English are nice,
And worth any other at double the price!

The Welshman's dishonest, he cheats when he can,
And little and dark, more like monkey than man,
He works underground with a lamp in his hat,
And he sings far too loud, far too often, and

And crossing the Channel, one cannot say much,
For the French or the Spanish, the Danish or Dutch;
The Germans are German, the Russians are Red,
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed.

The English are moral, the English are good,
And clever and modest and misunderstood!

And all the world over, each nation's the same,
They've simply no notion of Playing the Game:
They argue with umpires; they cheer when they've won;
And they practise beforehand, which ruins the fun!

The English, the English, the English are best:
So up with the English, and down with the rest!

It's not that they're wicked or naturally bad ...
It's knowing they're FOREIGN that makes them so mad!
For the English are all that a nation should be,
And the flower of the English are Donald
(Michael!) and me!!"

15 November 2013 at 15:23  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

The whole idea of changing a hymn/song so that you can sing it with conviction really annoys me.
I have heard Stuart Townend's words changed from "The wrath of God was satisfied" to "The love of God was magnified" and Matt Redman's "You give and take away" turned to "You give and give again" and, to be honest, it sickens me! And don't even get me started on "Father God" being changed from "Now I am your son" to "Now I am your child"!!!
The whole point of singing a song is that you sing it as intended or not at all. If you don't like it then don't sing it! If we all start not liking some of the words then we might as well all start rewriting the lyrics as we see fit and recreate Babel with a cacophony of noise with no meaning in our services!

15 November 2013 at 15:26  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Too many clerics preach the Gospel of the Church Miliband and not the Church Militant these days...(sighs)

15 November 2013 at 15:30  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

...and 'Fight the good fight' has turned into 'engage in interfaith dialogue.'

15 November 2013 at 15:33  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Even more heavy-

From the ruins risen newly,
to the future turned, we stand.
Let us serve your good weal truly,
Germany, our fatherland.
Triumph over bygone sorrow,
can in unity be won.
For we shall attain a morrow,
when over our Germany,
there is radiant sun,
there is radiant sun.

May both peace and joy inspire,
Germany, our fatherland.
Peace is all the world's desire,
to the peoples lend your hand.
In fraternity united,
we shall crush the people's foe.
Let all paths by peace be lighted,
that no mother shall again
mourn her son in woe,
mourn her son in woe.

Let us plough and build our nation,
learn and work as never yet,
that a free new generation,
faith in its own strength beget!
German youth, for whom the striving
of our people is at one,
you are Germany's reviving,
and over our Germany,
there is radiant sun,
there is radiant sun.

15 November 2013 at 15:48  
Blogger IanCad said...


I am really starting to accept that patriotism is, indeed, the last refuge of a scoundrel.

15 November 2013 at 16:13  
Blogger Kennedy said...

A very interesting discussion. As an Irish Catholic who spent some years in England, I'd never hear of this hymn until Lady Diana Spenser chose it for her wedding. I'd never read the words until today. I'd fully support the interpretation of "OldJim". It is a very beautiful hymn. I hope people continue to sing it and hymns like "Onward Christian Soldiers", just as I wish that Catholics would revive "Full in the Panting Heart of Rome", but I have more hope in the Anglicans than the Catholics on this one. I'm afraid I can't say the same about "Jerusalem" as I associate it with the "Last Night of the Proms" and jingoism from drunken louts and not patriotism.

15 November 2013 at 16:43  
Blogger David B said...

@youthpasta, who said -

"The whole idea of changing a hymn/song so that you can sing it with conviction really annoys me."

What do you think of the persistent dropping of verses, which aren't deemed politically correct?

I'm thinking in particular of the hymn I was taught in school, All Things Bright and Beautiful, the generally missing verse being -

" The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate."

I rather regret the passing of that verse, as it shows the church in a very poor light, to my mind.

Get a massive inheritance - thank God, and if you are deserving poor, suck it up, that is what God wants.

No thanks!

And then again, I suppose the British National Anthem counts as a hymn. Weren't some verses of that somewhat temporary?


15 November 2013 at 16:46  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

I finally steeled my stomach to read the "revised and throughly acceptable to modern ears" version. It stinks of the corpse of liberalism. It removes all the things that inspire soldiers to love it - primarily because those the very things that drive liberals to hate it. heroically campaigning for 'social justice & interfaith dialogue' isn't quite the same thing as going over the trench line.


15 November 2013 at 18:09  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Old Jim

It's not just 'another kingdom.' It is transparanetly a reference to the Kingdom of God. Artistically the third verse represents the response to the answered call. It would make absolutely no artistic sense at this point to spin off into a disquisition about the soldier's service to this other kingdom in distinction from his service to the first.

In fact, the response comes back "Soldier, you don't just serve the king. You serve the King." The magnitude of the sacrifice established in verse two is honored in verse three by divine sanction. And therein lies the blending, for the purposes of Empire become the purposes of the Kingdom of God. The characteristics ascribed to the Kingdom of God become by inference the characteristics of the Empire. Why do you think soldiers like it so much?

1. I stood ready.
2. I answered and gave all.
3. I was honored by God and king for my sacrifice.

That is the song in a nutshell.


15 November 2013 at 18:17  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Old Jim,

Well said ! Excellent comparison.

15 November 2013 at 18:31  
Blogger Balaams Ass said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

15 November 2013 at 18:34  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David B @ 12:49/ Ars H @ 13:22

Satanic mills (industrial) may be there as a secondary meaning. Blake refers to the suffering of chimney sweeps (eg 'London').

But 'Jeruslaem' is the preface to 'Milton', and it's in the tradition of 'The Garden of Love', 'A Little Girl Lost' and 'The Sunflower'.

15 November 2013 at 18:47  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Oh Lord, nothing the Inspector loathes more than effeteness. Damn PC crowd are out to feminise the lot of us. Take Jack and his little boy. When it happened to this then small lad, he was told “Stop that, or I’ll give you something to cry about”. You’ve got to harden up in this life, it’s the best way to stop your children putting a rope around their teenage necks because some child called them names, or the more likely scenario of the young turning to drugs, illegal and prescription, to ‘cope’. And it pays off. Today, you see the result of that hardness before you…

Same goes for the country. If we hadn’t been reduced to pitiful shadows of generations of Britons past, do you think the EU would have its rope around our servile necks !

Well, do you ??

{Snorts, indignantly}

15 November 2013 at 18:49  
Blogger bluedog said...

Carl @ 14.41 says, 'It seems to me that the British Empire is being held up as the physical representation of the Kingdom of God.'

By George, I think he's got it!

15 November 2013 at 19:35  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

For sure, that hound !

15 November 2013 at 20:14  
Blogger non mouse said...

Hear, Hear, Messrs. bluedog and OIG!

Jr. J might consider viewing the hymn in terms of the US understanding of "compare and contrast." The piece views both empires, but ultimately to show the glorius superiority of God's Kingdom --- He whom we may not see, and whose armies we cannot count. He to whom we British provide a fortress when our hearts are faithful, and when we suffer for His sake.

How utterly tragic, though, that so many who presently claim to be British neither know, understand, nor love the wonderful country they continue to destroy.

In the days when I travelled worldwide, I used to come back Home and just drink it in, loving every sight I passed for the next few days. For me it was, quite simply, the most wonderful and beautiful place in the world. Then I saw how they were beginning to destroy it, and us; and I could find no one who was prepared to do anything about it ....

15 November 2013 at 20:38  
Blogger non mouse said...

Sorry - that was Mr. J ... in a rush here...

15 November 2013 at 20:39  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Non mouse,

I have a similar reaction. I am still traveling the world and although I have always loved to go and visit new landscapes and cultures, reading up on all aspects of the country, and its history, before and after the trip, I always took delight in returning to our green and pleasant land. There was always that lump in my throat when, from the ship, I saw the coast of Britain or caught a first sight of the land below me, as the plane crossed the shoreline or circled Heathrow.

But starting say, ten years ago, and certainly the last five years, I just feel differently about returning. Because having a fairly accurate idea of what is really happening behind the scenes, the treachery and the destruction of our hard fought for heritage and culture, and having seen the sights in our towns and cities, I often feel that we are losing our country, to so many bad influences, and all without a proper public debate, decision or anything really, other than an insidious doublespeak and a permanently high geared spin. The only referendum we had, and a long time ago, was based on lies, and the Blair years did untold damage to most of our institutions. And that is just two of the matters that should be held up to the light.

15 November 2013 at 21:11  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! Well here I am sitting before the fire in the drawing room putting the last few stitches onto my sampler - 'Praise God and pass the ammunition' has a good ring to it, don't you think? Mr. Harding insists on Hymns Ancient and Modern I'm glad to say, and under his charge the music in the cathedral is sublime. Mr. Slope did try to sneak in 'Glad to be gay am I,' but Mr. Harding objected to being tampered with. Who can blame him.

15 November 2013 at 21:49  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Inspector, Happy Jack says there's a world of difference between a reassuring: "There's my brave little soldier. No tears now" and a harsh, uncaring: “Stop that, or I’ll give you something to cry about”. One builds character and the other resentment.

15 November 2013 at 22:23  
Blogger William Lewis said...

Mrs P

One can just picture the guns and roses festooned around the border of your sampler. Who needs a defender of the faith when we have Barchester's very own.

15 November 2013 at 22:24  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear William, how kind of you to notice my sampler! I will send you an inspiring antimacassar by the morning post. Now the ice is broken do say hello whenever you are on site, and join us at The Palace for hobnobs when you are passing. Oh, and dear Happy Jack, your approach to child rearing does veer towards the you not think it is this sort of approach that has brought society to where it is now, or do you ascribe the dreadful decline in moral standards to the adoption of the Liberty Bodice? Methinks the latter...

15 November 2013 at 22:34  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

But where is Avi? Has there been a coup in Canada which has cut off lines of communication? one feels bereft...and I was going to invite him to address the Barchester Primrose League on the subject of 'Lumberjacks - pioneers or pin-ups?'

15 November 2013 at 22:38  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Sorry, Mrs P. That's my fault. Avi only pops up to shout "anti-Semite!" whenever I post, a bit like Father Jack roaring "feck!" at intervals through episodes of Father Ted. I haven't been around the board much recently, so natuarlly, there's been no need for Avi to post.

15 November 2013 at 23:20  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Hello Mrs Proudie. Happy Jack has has recovered from your shocking revelations of the other evening. Jack has never raised children so he speaks only from observation. Jack believes boys should be taught to withstand misfortune and expect knocks without being over indulged or over protected but not in a brutal way.

Happy Jack has memories of young ladies wearing liberty bodices and especially those with suspenders. Very fond memories, Jack is ashamed to say. He also recalls a time when the brassiere was abandoned and mini skirts were all the rage. He agrees with Mrs Proudie that these developments in fashion removed barriers to sin and gave less time for sober reflection during encounters between young men and young women when the passions were aroused.

15 November 2013 at 23:27  
Blogger Edward Spalton said...

My Dear Mrs Proudie
( with copy to Corrigan)

My utter favourite modernisation of a well-loved and serious hymn was of "Eternal Father strong to save" where the heresy hunt for thees and thous turned
"O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea"

Into the sublimely dreadful
"O hear us when we cry to you,
For those who sail the ocean blue"

It takes real, perverted genius to come up with that

16 November 2013 at 00:11  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Hello Edward, Happy Jack loves this song - not the horrible changed one! When Jack was at sea he discovered it was inspired by Psalm 107. This is a wonderful Psalm.

Towards the end of this are these words: "Let the upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths."

16 November 2013 at 00:46  
Blogger Manfarang said...

He's five foot-two, and he's six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He's all of thirty-one, and he's only seventeen,
He's been a soldier for a thousand years.

He'a a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn't kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you.

And he's fighting for Canada,
He's fighting for France,
He's fighting for the USA,
And he's fighting for the Russians,
And he's fighting for Japan,
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way.

And he's fighting for Democracy,
He's fighting for the Reds,
He says it's for the peace of all.
He's the one who must decide,
Who's to live and who's to die,
And he never sees the writing on the wall.

But without him,
How would Hitler have condemned him at Labau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone,
He's the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war,
And without him all this killing can't go on.

He's the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame,
His orders come from far away no more,
They come from here and there and you and me,
And brothers can't you see,
This is not the way we put an end to war.

16 November 2013 at 01:06  
Blogger non mouse said...

Yes. Well they've put an end to war as far as euros think they can.

And just look at what their alternatives have wrought - by infiltration, subversion, and Macchiavellian treachery.

Britain no longer is; Britons have neither home nor identity.
Very soon we'll have no language, because they're changing that, along with everything else (to wit the re-written hymns and scriptures). But that won't matter because the concept of freedom of speech will be anathema to the new creed; in any case, no one will have anything to say.

And so it will continue, as no script older than five (-->4, --->3...) years is accepted as a valid source of information or inspiration. No longer, then, will our wisest and bravest see afar because they "stand on the shoulders of giants." Homo Sapiens won't even know what the words mean, let alone the irony of the misnomer: because all his sources will have been destroyed.

And war? What was that?
Improve? What strange noises those old people make. They must have Alzheimer's - time to put them out of their misery.

16 November 2013 at 03:00  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Mrs Proudie,

"Praise The Lord and pass the ammunition"

is a more excellent approach, in necessity of course.

16 November 2013 at 09:15  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Maybe, but never give up on hope and never stop trying to regain, part at least of what we had, which will be a new thing of course, but not hopefully, with God's help, as awful as your suggested future, I think, put up by you, perhaps, to point to a danger, rather than being an inevitability.
All is not lost and hope springs eternal. God is always with us.

Chin Up !
Vote UKIP !

16 November 2013 at 09:22  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear David, bother and confustication! Having read your post I feel obliged to unpick 'God' and insert 'the Lord' as my Lord mutters 'To your text, dear, to your text' from his armchair. Still, a needlewoman must, and I do love to needle...

16 November 2013 at 09:38  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Edward,

Have you come across that awful

'Autumn days when the grass is jewelled,
And the silk inside a chesnut shell,
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled,
All these things I love so well.

So I mustn't forget,
No I mustn't forget,
To say a great big "Thankyou"
I mustn't forget.

A thankyou to whom? The Labour government perhaps?

16 November 2013 at 09:40  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear Jack, I am sure if you had raised children they would be just as happy as you. I'm glad you are fully recovered from the shock of 'What Hamster did' and 'What Hamster did next.' As for mini skirts, they passed me by. I stuck to the bombazine and am thankful for it. So, I suppose, is the rest of Barchester...

16 November 2013 at 09:44  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear Corrigan, I had no idea that you and Avi were not on speaking terms! Both of you must come to The Palace and sort things out over a pot of Earl Grey and a macaroon. We can round the afternoon off on the harmonium, though it may be a tight fit.

16 November 2013 at 09:46  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

David H: "Chin Up ! Vote UKIP !"

With people like Julia Gasper and Godfrey Bloom as (former) poster people? How many more like those are making up the ranks?

16 November 2013 at 11:18  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

David B, I have less of an issue around removing verses, so long as the reason is not for the sake of political correctness.
There are certain songs that are much better to fit in to a service if they are shortened.
I know that Amazing Grace, for example, can sometimes seem like a bit of a dirge if all 6 are sung, so removing 4 and 5 makes things flow better in some circumstances.

16 November 2013 at 15:06  

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