Bishop Notices That Wretched Hymn “I Vow To Thee My Country” Is Rubbish

Over here.

UPDATE [13.8.2004]: Four arguments have been made against the Bish, one by Backword Dave, two by the Guardian editorialists and the fourth by someone in the Daily Telegraph.

Backword Dave says that he can’t see the racism to which Bishop was alluding. Note first, though, that the word “racist” is the Guardian‘s, in the report linked to above, both in the headline and in the report, and that the Bish — on what’s given to us there — doesn’t link the question of race directly to the song (which would be silly) but only to “growing English nationalism, which he said was stoked by football fervour, and ‘a wish for a white-dominated simple world of Englishness’.”

The first reason presented by the Guardianistas can be dismissed. In fact, it’s precisely because the Holst tune is such a good tune that it needs to be saved from association with this wretched lyric so that people — perhaps not in our generation, but in a luckier one to come — can enjoy The Planets again, free from involuntarily making mental associations with Tories waving flags.

The Guardian‘s second reason is that Spring-Rice, author of these words, was no jingo, did some good things and had some fine opinions. But this is the kind of occasion when we can go for the ball without necessarily attacking the man, and call for the song to be retired without seeking to diminish the historical reputation of the Poet Spring-Rice.

The Telegraph writes nonsense, especially when it points to the unquestioning patriotism of the first verse and remarks that “that is fine, stirring stuff in the context of the First World War, when the hymn was written”. Well, some of us might beg to differ.

Incidentally, Dave, I don’t think the “rebellious Scots to crush” verse was ever officially part of the British national anthem. It’s a fun verse, though.

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