Thursday, April 23, 2009

St George's Day Hurrah

I'm English through and through. Well, apart from the quarter that's Hungarian, and the other quarter that's Lithuanian - both those quarters are Jewish too. But the other half is from Barrow in Furness, surnames Bleasdale and Parkinson, very English.

So today I've been singing the English national song to myself all day, of course. Actually, I haven't, because there doesn't seem to be one.

Yellow Swordfish commented on his blog to say that some people think it should be William Blake's Jerusalem. And did those feet in ancient times - - etc. Now I'm quite fond of it and have been known to sing along enthusiastically to the Last Night of the Proms but really, I think it doesn't quite fit the bill for an English National Song.

I'd like a song that just somehow commemorated all the good things about England. I'm sure there must be some. (You see - very English - putting England down all the time, that's what we do).

So, what are they? Well, those qualities that are often thought of as "English" often seem to barely exist any more. Modesty. Manners. Make do and mend.

To me, the only thing I know about, and love, that really can be held to be specific to England is the countryside. Yes, other countries have glorious countryside too, including the rest of Great Britain. But in England there are many different kinds of stunningly beautiful scenery in a comparatively small area - Silverback has just written about one of my favourite parts of Yorkshire, the area around Sutton Bank, and illustrated his post with some glorious photographs.

I love so many regions of the English countryside and they are so different - everything from the mountains of the Lake District to the flat lands of East Anglia. So if someone can write a really good song about the English countryside, with a great tune, I'll be singing it next St George's Day.

Meanwhile - and again, thanks to Yellow Swordfish's link to the Archbishop of York, for reminding me of this - I think that this song from the 1960s by the splendid Flanders and Swann - now they were very English! - is the best that we have.


Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Well, between you and Silverback, I am now quite aware of St. George's Day. Is there a St. Andrew's Day for Scotland and a St. Whoever's Day for Wales as well? I'm not a complete neanderthal, I am aware of St. Patrick's Day, but what we've done to it in America is quite sad.

I enjoyed the Flanders & Swann song about the English. I do hope you come up with one you like by next St. George's Day.

I always rather liked the old Canadian song with the last line, "The thistle, shamrock, rose entwine the maple leaf forever" but it was replaced by "O Canada"....

11:47 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Google to the rescue!

St. David and daffodil for Wales!

11:50 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

As an English expat of many years I would like to have a 'day' and an identity to match those of my fellow expats who celebrate St Patrick's Day, the 4th of July or Chinese New Year. But who and what would represent England? Tony Hancock? Morrissey? Dusty Springfield or Michael Caine? As an Englishman abroad for two decades I'm still not sure what "English" is - the term still makes me think of the south of England: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice etc. I know it sounds parochial, but I still prefer to think of myself as a Yorskhireman first.

3:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:07 pm  

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