Friday, September 14, 2007

Of Anthems and Postmodernism

Spain's national anthem has no words. This is a strange situation for a major country in which to find itself. For one thing, schoolchildren tend to fill the wordless vacuum with unsavory lyrics. Which takes the situation from strange to absurd.

What is more absurd is when postmodern poets try their hand at writing official lyrics. As Matt T points out in this Get Religion article, just what are they going to say? "We don't really believe in anything, but motherhood and peace come to mind. La. La la. La. Oh, and Love!" The list of what can't be spoken of proudly in a European country today is rather long: God, religion, national pride, the military, victory of any kind, God. That narrows it down to....well, let's see what the Spaniards have come up with. Here is the winning entry to an online contest run by a Spanish television station, by a poet named Enrique Hernandez-Luike:

Mother homeland, arms linked
in a sign of peace, our voices raised.

All your children at the foot of the flag
and in freedom, with the Constitution.

Art and strength, combination of cultures
firm pedestal of a triumphant people.

Hand of Europe outstretched to the whole world,
bow in the sea to the wind of Love.

So much for Allons enfants de la patrie...

Art and strength? Are we just free-associating here? Ah, art and strength represents "a combination of cultures" perhaps? And this is the Spanish national anthem. You know, the "Hand of Europe". Bow in the sea to the wind of Love. Who is going to fight this people's next war?

Here is another tortured sampling of a multicultural organization's attempt to chart a course for itself through hymnody. This is the United Nation's unofficial anthem, circa 1971:
Eagerly, musician.
Sweep your string,
So we may sing.
Elated, optative,
Our several voices
Playfully contending,
Not interfering
But co-inhering,
For all within
The cincture
of the sound,
Is holy ground
Where all are brothers,

None faceless Others,
Let mortals beware
Of words, for
With words we lie,
Can say peace
When we mean war,
Foul thought speak- fair
And promise falsely,
But song is true:
Let music for peace
Be the paradigm,
For peace means to change At
the right time, as the World-
Goes Tick- and Tock.
So may the story
Of our human city
Presently move
Like music, when
Begotten notes
New notes beget
Making the flowing
Of time a growing
Till what it could be,
At last it is,
Where even sadness
Is a form of gladness,
Where fate is freedom,
Grace and Surprise.

It may have--I dunno--lost something in translation.
But in any language: that, ladies and gentlemen, is about all you need to know about the United Nations.


Lutheran Lucciola said...

Oh, how sad. Poetry about nothing.

scott said...

As a common, non-peotic schlub concerning the aesthetic qualities of literature, I read that and it might well as not been translated for all the meaning I got out of it. Then I saw a version favored by Franco
Long live Spain, raise your arms, sons

Of the Spanish people

Who have returned to rise again.

Glory to the fatherland that knew how to follow,

Over the blue of the sea, the march of the sun.

Spain triumphs! The anvils and the wheels

Sing to the rhythm

Of the hymn of faith.

Together with them let us rise and sing

Of the new life, strong with work and peace.

You can feel the power behind the words. Regardless of what you think of him, it would be a real anthem if set to that. Such a clear distinction between non-offense and pride, but perhaps just a distinction between eras.

Bruce Gee said...

Dear Schlub;

You make a great point, and I would have included Franco's lyrics if I hadn't thought the post was already a bit lengthy, and that Franco was such a fascist.

So, what is the difference? Is the difference that Franco had true, passionate intent and meaning, and these moderns just don't have anything to say?

scott said...

I think its a reduction to the lowest common denominator. When we make sure our created works conform to what is acceptable to everyone, then of course, you can't really say much with meaning. That version you posted doesn't have anything any of us would even disagree with- peace? sure, peace isn't too shabby. Freedom? not too bad. Cultures combining? has its benefits. Wind of love? Sure, my lady friends will think me sensitive. Well, you get the point.

I think the moderns have plenty to say, but like modern politicians, they are generally afraid to say it. And, overall, as a popularity contest, they are generally shown to be right to not say anything with meaning since it removes any avenue of negative feelings. Of course, that whole point of view can produce nothing but mediocrity.

Almost like the ELCA version of Jesus (at least the part my ELCA friends express). It's all botherly love, turn the cheek, and throw out the old law. But, of course, if you bother to read what he actually said, you don't get a wishy washy Christ, you get a brutally honest one with a sword so sharp it must be ignored by the feel good churches.

Frankly, all these people would be unitarians if they could find a unitarian church closer to their house. But imagine how painful sunday morning must be for them, going to church ONLY because its church. Ouch.

Bruce Gee said...

Scott said, "I think the moderns have plenty to say..."

Interesting. What unique, not-said-before things do moderns have to say? Futuristic stuff? Technological stuff? Theological stuff?

I personally think moderns need to learn that they are not especially unique; that they share more in common with the early medieval thinker--nay, the OT thinker!-- than they are willing to admit, and that beyond saying things faster, they/we aren't offering anything new or unique at all. But I could be overlooking something.