Monday, July 07, 2008

O Canada Where Art Thou?

For some reason, the other day, I got the first couple of bars of the Canadian National Anthem stuck in my head. Only the first couple, mind you, because that's all I know (which is probably way more than any self-respecting American patriot ought to know, so please don't tell anyone). Of course, I only knew the first line lyrically speaking (i.e., "O Canada"), and was trying to remember the second ("our home and native land", the closest to which I got was "our dear and sainted land", which I knew wasn't right). Anywho, I looked up the lyrics to at least get it out of my head. For those of you non-Canadians out there, the lyrics, for future reference, are:
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Typical feel-good patriotic nationalism; nothing to complain about, really. But then I read the English translation of the official (and original, as they predate the English lyrics considerably) French lyrics:
O Canada!
Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic
Of the most brilliant exploits.
Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Wow! Talk about your bold statements! Those French-Canadians must really be some violent backwoods fundies! Sign me up!

Seriously though, what happened, Canada? How did you go from unabashed zeal for the "cross" and the "sword" to our nice-but-wimpy brother to the north? And how of all places did the original sentiments arise from the French? My mind... wobbles.

It's interesting to see the lyrics go from historical significance ("Thy history is an epic...") to mere geographical significance ("The True North strong and free!") and the (almost) total secularization and pacification from French to English. Also, the last bit may be noteworthy as well: from the collective valor of the nation protecting people's (individual, as I impute it) property and rights to the people acting to defend the collective? Maybe I'm reading too much into that. Is there some latent Conservatism within the Quebecois subconscious that we ought to be tapping, perhaps? Any Canadians reading this? Please comment!

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Marty said...

Ben, don't be coy. I know why that song's been playing in your head for the last week. It might have something to do with my Dominion Day post at Mazurland. It's OK to plug your other blog.

I'll ask my wife to comment, but don't hold your breath. She only lurks, never comments, on your other blog...

1:20 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Actually, I totally missed that fantastic post that everyone should go read right now, Marty! That was indeed the day that the song popped in my head, but it was at the airport, where I had no internet access (and having woken up at 3:00 am to get there, I certainly didn't have time to get my fix of Mazurland-authors-who-are-not-me!). Perhaps I saw something on the television about it being Canada Day; who knows.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Canadian Cincinnatus said...

Actually somebody is tapping into the latent conservatism of Quebec. It is the current Prime Minsiter of Canada, Stepehen Harper - who is also the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. For years, Quebec had no Conservative MPs. It now has 10. This number is poised to grow in the next federal election. The Federal Liberal party, which used to think of Quebec as their own backyard, is now polling 4th amoung Francophone Quebecers.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

You know, I didn't really think I had any Canadian readers, so I'm honored, even if you are just fallout from my Instalanche. Welcome, and thank you for the insight! Sarkozy in France, and now this in Quebec! Was l'Esprit du Francaises finally roused by the unbearable shame of "freedom fries"?

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Marty said...

"Oh, Canada" was not adopted as the official National Anthem until 1980. Before that, there was a time when "The Maple Leaf Forever" was the unofficial anthem. It was deemed to pro-British by the Quebecois (though it was not anti-French") My wife says that everything in Canada is done by committee. You can see some of the BS that "Oh Canada" has had to endure here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Canada#Proposed_changes_to_lyrics

10:04 AM  

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