Saturday, August 22, 2009

All above is azure bright, usually*

Recent events have inspired me to have another go at reviving my dedicated Aust Lit blog, Australian Literature Diary, which has been lying dormant (or, as my mum would have said, lying doggo) since I began this one in September last year. There is a place for such a blog, and a potential readership for it, and many uses for it. So I've prettied it up a bit and cross-posted all the posts from here that belong there as well, and have several posts in mind for it over the next few days.

*I do believe that in some states the Song of Australia isn't very well known, but most South Australians would have preferred it as a national anthem to Advance Australia Fair. At coffee this morning we were trying to remember when Australia's national anthem moved on from God Save the Queen; I thought under Hawke, but D said Fraser, while M, who wasn't born till 1987, just looked bemused. I had a vague memory that what everyone really wanted was Waltzing Matilda but couldn't remember why, if that was the case, it didn't get up. I seem to remember someone pointing out that it was a song about a sheep-stealing suicide and an incompetent police force and as such a tad inappropriate for a national anthem, but I may be making that up. Does anybody know?


d said...

I wiki'd it

The Song of Australia" was written by English-born poet Caroline J. Carleton in 1859 for a competition sponsored by the Gawler Institute. The music for the song was composed by the German-born Carl Linger (1810-1862), a prominent member of the Australian Forty-Eighters.

The song was one of four included in a national plebiscite to choose Australia's national song in 1977. Nationwide it was the least popular of the four choices, but it had the distinction of being the most popular choice in South Australia.[1]
The four songs in the plebiscite were: Waltzing Matilda; the then current anthem, God Save the Queen; the now current anthem, Advance Australia Fair; and Song of Australia.

Bernice said...

If we lose the fifth test, it's back to God Save the Queen, because nothing will save the Australian cricket team.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Heh! I'd better start watching the cricket again -- it sounds as though history is in the making.

D, t'anks for info re national song. It was indeed Fraser then. Did you know that you can sing the Song of Australia and Advance Australia Fair at the same time and it just sounds like slightly strange part-singing? Same time signature, similar chord progression.

TimT said...

I heard a story about the selection of the 'new' Australian anthem from the mouth of Pete Sculthorpe (at music class, Sydney Uni), who was apparently on a selection committee of judges to separate the appropriate nominations from the duds: apparently there were a lot of duds, including a variation on Click Go The Shears, with the refrain:

Bang go the guns, boys, bang bang bang!
We'll shoot all the commies - every last one!

I must have started school just after the new anthem was selected. We sang the anthem at every school assembly, and over the years the singing became less and less enthusiastic and more or more 'yeah, whatever'.

I have never heard of 'Song of Australia', so I'll google that now.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

The Song of Australia has a better tune than any of the others, and some might argue better words. It starts 'There is a land where summer skies / Are gleaming with a thousand dyes' -- we used to sing it at school and for years, until I actually saw it written down, I thought it was 'gleaming with a thousand eyes', as though the sky were alive and looking at you. For some reason I found this the opposite of scary. Happy childhood, what can you do.

Unknown said...

I see that the last stanza features the "girdling sea". Which came first? this or "girt by sea"? And which is better, do you think? And I wonder how many other island nations draw on this metaphor?

Deborah said...

My daughters' school sings the national anthem at their assemblies. I always sing along dutifully, but every time I get to these lines in the second verse...

For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share

...I want to add an asterisk and point out that this doesn't include people coming by rickety boat from Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

Personally I'm more a Ruby Hunter fan ("Welcome to All People" does that "for those who've come across the seas" thing but more graciously) or, in my darker moods, I could vote for Dan Warner's "Don't Sing Me Your Anthems".

Of course, neither of my favourites will ever get up because small children are unlikely to mis-sing them as Australians All Eat Ostriches", which always makes me smile and feel better about the nation's future.

Deborah said...

Australians All Eat Ostriches

Which reminds me of the time when we visited Australia from NZ a few years ago, when my Miss Eights were Miss Fours. They were sure that "emus" were in fact, "menus".

Deborah said...

Also, a possum just ka-thumped across my roof. Why is this not mentioned in the national anthem?

Bernice said...

God save our cricket team
from Poms who're being mean
God save our team.

Send them a Number Three
bowlers without injuries
Captains who know their strategies
God save our team

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...


She said sadly.

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia: "'Advance Australia Fair' is the official national anthem of Australia. Created by the Scottish–born composer, Peter Dodds McCormick, the song was first performed in 1878, but did not gain its status as the official anthem until 1984. Until then, the song was sung in Australia as a patriotic song. In order for the song to become the anthem, it had to face a vote between the Royal anthem God Save the Queen, the "unofficial anthem" Waltzing Matilda and Song of Australia. Other songs and marches have been influenced from Advance Australia Fair, such as the Australian Vice-Regal salute."

In 1984, Hawkey was the Boss Cocky.

Casey said...

How interesting. A clarification of what happened from DFAT, cause it took ages for the change to come and has a history even pre-77:

"In May 1977, however, a national poll was conducted to ascertain the public choice of a national song. This time more than seven million people were issued with ballot papers. The results were: ‘Advance Australia Fair’ 43.2 per cent, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ 28.3 per cent, ‘God Save the Queen’ 18.7 per cent and ‘Song of Australia’ 9.6 per cent. Despite the poll results, adoption of the new national anthem met widespread opposition.

It was not until April 1984 that the Governor-General issued a proclamation that ‘God Save the Queen’ was designated the Royal Anthem, to be played at public engagements in Australia attended by the members of the Royal family. ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was finally declared to be the Australian national anthem."

I do wish they had chosen Waltzing Matilda myself. What's wrong with a song about sheep theft, unions and suicide???? Fits in with the traumatics of Australian history.

Leonid Cowan said...

Unions, Case? Ya wha'?

Casey said...

Oh I do hate to wiki you, you of all people, and yes, it is tenuous, contested by historians, but wtf, we may never pass this way again, so:

"It has been widely accepted that "Waltzing Matilda" is potentially based on the following story:

In Queensland in 1891 the Great Shearers' Strike brought the colony close to civil war and was broken only after the Premier Samuel Griffith called in the military.

In September 1894, on a station called Dagworth (north of Winton), some shearers were again on strike. It turned violent with the strikers firing their rifles and pistols in the air and setting fire to the woolshed at the Dagworth Homestead, killing dozens of sheep.

The owner of Dagworth Homestead and three policemen gave chase to a man named Samuel Hoffmeister – also known as "French(y)". Rather than be captured, Hoffmeister shot and killed himself at the Combo Waterhole.

Bob Macpherson (the brother of Christina) and Paterson are said to have taken rides together at Dagworth. Here they may have passed the Combo Waterhole, where Bob may have told this story to Paterson."

Fyodor said...

A few too many mays there for my liking, Case. Pretty tenuous, I reckon, given the open & shut jumbuck-rapine case actually related in the song. Now, if you'd gone with the generalised class-warfare angle I coulda seen it, but Vagrants' Union? Nah.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I can't get past the detail that the nickname Frenchy was bestowed upon a man called Hoffmeister. I suppose them foreigners is all the same.

Fyodor said...

Clearly, ol' Frenchy was an Alsatian probatophile. This story gets curiouser and curiouserer.

persiflage said...

Advance Australia Fair was proclaimed as the national anthem on 19 April 1984 by the Governor-General. Non-sexist words were adopted. Advance Australia Fair is used on all occasions other than those on which the Royal Anthem or the Vice-Regal Salute is used. Until 1974 the anthem used was God Save the Queen/King. The Whitlam Government, following the result of a public opinion poll conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, changed the anthem to Advance Australia Fair, except for specifically royal occasions. In January 1976 the Fraser Government reinstated the use of God Save the Queen for royal, vice-regal, defence and loyal toast occasions. Advance Australia Fair was played on all other official occasions.
The National Song Poll was held on 21 May 1977, at the same time as four referendum proposals. Advance Australia Fair was the clear choice of the voters. The Minister for Administrative Services then announced that the anthem was Advance Australia Fair. From 1985 both God Save the Queen and Advance Australia Fair are played at the beginning of official functions attended by the Queen or members of the royal family.

The proclamation also announced that green and gold "shall be the national colours of Australia."

The national votes for the national song were 18.78% for God Save the Queen, 43.29 for Advance Australia Fair, 9.65 for Song of Australia, and 28.28 for Waltzing Matilda.

These details are given in the Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia, 28th edition 1999. I researched the details and wrote the text.

It is a matter of regret that the words of our anthem concentrate on geographical and physical features rather than the qualities we value in our democratic system of government.

TimT said...

Interesting Persi, and I wonder about the last comment you make - does the focus of the Australian anthem on natural environment/geography reflect perhaps a romantic rather than an enlightenment focus? That virtue is found in nature rather than society?

Anyway, I was inspired enough by all this (if inspired is the right word) to post this.

Casey said...

"It is a matter of regret that the words of our anthem concentrate on geographical and physical features rather than the qualities we value in our democratic system of government."

What qualities did you have in mind? That we could all agree on? In a referendum?

You know, I've never read the whole thing, certainly never sung it. Check the anxiety of the final verse:

"Shou'd foreign foe e'er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We'll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean's roll,
Her sons in fair Australia's land
Still keep a British soul.
In joyful strains the let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Well goodness me, as long as Brittania knows.

How embarrassing. Isn't it time for a new one yet? Come on. Even the Qantas song will do...

And, the word verification looks suspiciously like: mabo....

Nabakov said...

We have at least one perfectly good song which really catches the national ethos and with words that are very easy to learn.

Even the WV bot agrees. "lunchro" break everyone!