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Jerusalem and the West Lothian anthem question

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

I see that Laura Wright, the soprano who plays rugby for Rosslyn Park and also the singer of the official rugby anthem, has urged whoever takes these decisions to use Jerusalem as the anthem for England in this year’s rugby World Cup (for some reason the Standard story yesterday is not online).
She says the English need something to compete with Flower of Scotland and Land of My Fathers for inspiration. That isn’t to say that God Save the Queen isn’t inspiring. The point is – and Laura wasn’t so political – is that it is the anthem of the nation as a whole. It seems tactless, to say the least, to use it to inspire the English team when it is playing Scotland or Wales.
It is the cultural equivalent of the West Lothian Question and it won’t go away.
Personally, I think this is inevitable eventually. I’m sorry that, as usual, sheer conservatism is preventing some kind of decision.
I also think Jerusalem is the perfect anthem for the English nation because of its complex spiritual message – not just from Blake, but all those other people involved in its development from the poet Robert Bridges and the composer Hubert Parry to the great explorer and campaigner Francis Younghusband.
It seems to me that a really effective, inspiring anthem must point beyond either bombast or banality, to something with depth and authenticity – and something way beyond the everyday. Jerusalem does that.
You can read the whole strange story of the words and music in my ebook Jerusalem: England’s National Anthem.


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