A Very Brief History: The National Anthem

 Whether you despise their existance for interrupting the start of your football match, or your adore their presence for striking patriotism into the hearts of the citizens of your country, every nation has its own anthem.

National anthems exist so that each country has its own idea of what it means to be a citizen of that country. Whether it may be the political system in which you encourage, or the land attributes that surround you and you remain proud of, there is definitely a national anthem that courages every nation in every situation.

So where did they come from?

Many people have suggested that the first ‘national’ anthem was written by the Dutch between 1568 and 1572 during a war that lasted quite some time. The anthem was written in order to strike patriotism into the hearts of the men fighting the war that lasted over 80 years as well as trying to bluff to the opposing forces about the great traits that their country had been endowed with. From this point, many other anthems popped up across the globe.

With the Japanese national anthem being a poem written (but never set to music until the 19th century) the idea of the national anthem was a growing idea which other countries soon liked the idea of – whether it was indeed to strike patriotism into the hearts, or as a competition to show off to other countries.

God Save the Queen being one of the most well known national anthems was written and first performed in 1745. Although, at that point, the song was of course God Save the King, due to the patriarchy still being in place. It’s not uncommon for national nathems to be changed over the course of the nations history to be applicable – as its also not uncommon for national anthems to be sung in a different language other than the vernacular.

When it comes to tradition, some countries choose to stick to an original language that has been used within the area, rather than the most common and widely spoken language. India’s national anthem is sung in a Sanskrit version of Bengali, and Pakistan’s anthem is sung in Urdu. When it comes to countries that have more than one official language, there are translations and notable changes in order to make the anthem more applicable.

Switzerland, for example, has four official languages due to its close border proximity within Europe. Its national anthem is sung in French, German, Italian and Romansh with slightly different lyrics, as is Canada’s anthem sung in both English and French.

Lyrics of the national anthems are often composed as a group effort. While they don’t change frequently at all, the original lyrics to an anthem are penned with a group of notable national musicians who agree on the context, and whether or not the lyrics would become appropriate for their use.

When it comes to national anthems, they’re sung in many different contexts. Whether it’s during a sporting event, or within a national mourning day context, they definitely have a show of patriotism and love for the country as a way of encouragement. They can also be used a victory war cry, just as is seen throughout the broadcasting of the Olympics, with the gold-medal winner awarded with the playing of their national anthem.

Anthems are seen as a great show of respect. Through their close associations with patriotism as well as the ideals that the country stands for, they have just as much close ties with their country as their flags do. While the lyrics may be incredibly naff, and it may take up a small portion of whatever event it is you’re attending, they definitely do create an air of proud patriotism that reminds you to stand by your country.

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