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Land Of Hope And Glory Controversy: Why Are The Lyrics Contentious, And What Are They About?

Following news that the patriotic songs might not perform at the BBC’s Last Night Of The Proms because of their alleged connections to slavery and colonialism, the songs gained widespread attention.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has also weighed in on the debate, declaring that it is time to end “this cringing embarrassment” over UK past.

According to the broadcaster, orchestral renditions of the songs without the lyrics will be performed, and the Royal Albert Hall event, which is taking place without an audience, would feature “familiar, patriotic components.”

But why are the songs considered contentious and what are the lyrics like?

Particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that got off earlier this year, critics have pointed out connections to the British Empire, colonialism, and slavery.

Land Of Hope And Glory Controversy: Why Are The Lyrics Contentious, And What Are They About?

The verse reads: “The nations, not so blest as thee / Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall/ While thou shalt prosper great and free: The terror and envy of them all.” It has lyrics like “Brits “never shall be slaves.”

Gareth Malone, a TV choirmaster, tweeted that the hymn was out of date: “The rule of Britain is now! to go.”

Here are the whole lyrics.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

When Britain first, at heaven’s command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And Guardian Angels sang this strain:

The nations not so blest as thee
Must, in their turn, to tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish great and free:
The dread and envy of them all.

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful from each foreign stroke,
As the loud blast that tears the skies
Serves but to root thy native oak.

Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame;
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse thy generous flame,
But work their woe and thy renown.

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles, thine.

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coasts repair.
Blest isle! with matchless beauty crowned,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Land Of Hope And Glory

Land Of Hope And Glory Controversy: Why Are The Lyrics Contentious, And What Are They About?

Land Of Hope And Glory features music by Edward Elgar and lyrics by AC Benson, and was written in 1902.

Again, its links to colonialism have led to criticism.

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It includes the lyrics, “By freedom gained, by truth maintained/ Thine Empire shall be strong”, and “God, who made thee mighty/ Make thee mightier yet!”

Here are the lyrics in full.

Land of Hope and Glory
Mother of the Free
How shall we extol thee
Who are born of thee?
Wider still, and wider
Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet!

Dear Land of Hope, thy hope is crowned
God make thee mightier yet!
On Sov’ran brows, beloved, renowned
Once more thy crown is set
Thine equal laws, by Freedom gained
Have ruled thee well and long;
By Freedom gained, by Truth maintained
Thine Empire shall be strong

Thy fame is ancient as the days
As Ocean large and wide:
A pride that dares, and heeds not praise
A stern and silent pride
Not that false joy that dreams content
With what our sires have won;
The blood a hero sire hath spent
Still nerves a hero son.

The Proms were first held in 1895, and the BBC has been hosting the events since that year. The final night, which is broadcast on TV, radio, and iPlayer, typically draws tens of millions of viewers and listeners from all over the UK.

Land Of Hope And Glory Controversy: Why Are The Lyrics Contentious, And What Are They About?

The yearly culmination of the festival of classical music is often watched live by over 6,000 people (with over 1,000 of them standing shoulder to shoulder), however this year it won’t be watched live due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory will be performed in new, symphonic arrangements, according to BBC director-general Lord Hall, who called the choice “innovative.”

However, he acknowledged that the topic of removing songs because of their connections to British imperial history has been brought up.

According to BBC media and arts correspondent David Sillito, it is thought that the songs will return to the Proms with singing once the coronavirus limitations are released.

The concert for this year is scheduled for Saturday, September 12.

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