The Australian National Anthem

Let’s deconstruct the Australian National Anthem. Well the first verse anyway, because very few Australians know the second or subsequent verses (and I’m amongst the group that has no idea about the other verses).

Ok, lyrics are as follows and the history of the anthem is here:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Actually I might put the second verse in at the end of this post. Its full of things that some people might find interesting, but I’m going to provide no comment on it.

So, the first two lines:
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;

So, the first line isn’t too hard to understand. They gender included the anthem because it used to be ‘Australian sons let us rejoice’, and since there at least 50% of Australia are Australian daughters, someone thought it might be nice to share.

The second one doesn’t refer to the average age of Australia, which currently is around 34 years (here) which means that next year I’ll be an average Australian – how nice – but that as a nation we are relatively young, what with only declaring our independence in 1901 and becoming our own country and not another outpost of the United Kingdom – this also involved the Federation of a whole lot of kinda independent states/outposts of the United Kingdom into one country as well. Any history errors here are all my fault, I’m doing this from memory.

The free bit doesn’t refer to Australian prowess in bed and our propensity to be easy to pick up on holidays (all gossip I’m sure), but to how we’re a free nation, and given this was written before Federation, I’m really not sure what else the author meant. But anyway, we’re free… isn’t that nice. Though with the current climate of fear regarding terrorism, I’m not sure that we’re as free as we were 20 years ago – but don’t get me started on exchanging my freedom for safety.

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;

This… song… was written in sometime on or before 1878. Apart from the lovely fertility of Australian soil, it probably also refers to the huge amount of gold that has now been removed from Australia and used for all those things that gold is used for.

And yes, if you work (toil) then you can get wealthy, that’s bleeding obvious really. So perhaps if you work hard in the gold fields, you can get very rich… or in the farming lands. Though although today there is still a lot of money to be made in the mining industry for things usually other than gold, there isn’t as much money to be made in farming – but I think that’s the story all over the world.

Our home is girt by sea;

Ah girt… one of those ancient and unused words of old. According to the Macquarie Dictionary, its the past tense of “Gird” which can mean “to surround; hem in”. So Australia is surrounded and hemmed in by the sea. Well given we’re the biggest island continent in the world, yes we’re surrounded and hemmed in by the sea. Though that doesn’t sound anywhere near as nice as “girt by sea”.

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;

Less and less of our land is currently abounding in nature’s gifts, beautiful or rich… and more of them are becoming increasingly rare. However, Australia is still a beautiful country and there are things here that aren’t replicated anywhere else in the world – hence the rare bit. If it disappears in Australia, its gone everywhere forever.

In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.

So history should be full of saying how wonderful Australia is. How lovely… lets not have an accurate history of stupidity, waste, bad decisions, just the good that is done… lets forget the rest and fail to learn from it.

I’m much more for an accurate recording of history, from learning from our mistakes and from being brave enough to report the failures as well as the successes. Changing history is much harder these days. I’d prefer the anthem to say something about truth, but that’s not to be.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

So anyway… lets all be happy that Australia is wonderful and sing its praises highly.

Well that’s my take on the anthem… here is the second verse… make of it as you will.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

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