Tuesday, February 9, 2016

O Canada

I was conversing with the voices in my head the other day, instead of working.  If I don't visit them periodically, they, like the Italian cook who couldn't get a date, become cannelloni.  We were discussing the proposed amendment to Canada's National Anthem "O Canada" to make it gender neutral.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Original O Canada sheet music 
The proposal is to change "in all thy sons command" to something a little less exclusive of all things female. We concluded this should not be an issue for two reasons.  One, the English words to the song have been rewritten at least forty-eleven times, though the most recent version is unchanged since 1967.  It was originally written in French in 1880 and the French version has remained unchanged since.  Two, I am sure the guys standing around and guarding stuff in the True North would not in the least mind if some females were to work some of the shifts.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the de facto English Canadian National Anthem was "The Maple Leaf Forever" and the French Canadian National Anthem was "O Canada".  The simple beauty of music of the French version prompted people to write English verses for it but none really caught on until Robert Stanley Weir took a crack at it in 1908.  His version was revised in 1913 when the second line was amended to include sons, just in time for The War. During the war O Canada, English variant, and The Maple Leaf Forever were equally popular and by the late 1920's, it was O Canada all the way in both languages. 

But it took until 1980 for O Canada to be legislated as the official Canadian National Anthem. Go figure.

Personally I quite like The Maple Leaf Forever but you can see why it never caught on in Quebec.  The opening lines kind of rub their faces in it.

In Days of yore, From Britain's shore, Wolfe the dauntless hero came And planted firm Britannia's flag On Canada's fair domain.

Now I always sang it in early grade school as Wolfe the donkless hero, never questioning why he was donkless unless it was an old war injury.  Nor, being young and innocent, did it ever occur to me why the song writer knew how firm Britannia was. In later years I gathered that he and Waylon Jennings may have shared a certain understanding of the finer things in life.

Also while The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined the Maple Leaf Forever, there was no room for the lily. O Canada is inclusive of Francophones and soon of females.  I should check and see if O Canada is in other languages as well. Another time.


  1. "Wolfe the donkless hero"! Bahahaha!!! I'm still laughing!

    I thought they'd pretty much agreed on "...in all of us command" for the latest gender-neutral rendition. And I thought there had been a change to the line 'God keep our land' a coupla decades ago or so, but I'm probably making that up - with a memory like mine, life is a constant series of surprises...

    1. You are right; I couldn't remember what the new line was, nor if it is official yet. There were complaints about reference to God but no changes that I can find.

    2. Aha! I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken. It wasn't the "God keep our land" line that I was remembering differently; it was the "From far and wide" line. It was originally "We stand on guard, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee.", and in 1980 they changed it to the current version. (Guess that was more than a coupla decades ago, though. Oops.)

      And you're right - they haven't approved the gender-neutral version or the secularized one. It'll be interesting to see if they ever do.

    3. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia (http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/o-canada/) the current version was recommended in 1967, and I am sure sung since that time. It became official in 1980 along with the entire piece as our National Anthem.

  2. I still like your's ...love to sing it too..sons, daughters..who cares..you fecking love Canada.

  3. I didn't know much about the Seven Years War (French and Indian down here)until 1975 when The Band did "Acadian Driftwood". It is nice that Canadians can adapt to societal changes. Many on this side of the border want to revert back to a mythical time of about a hundred years ago because things were so much better then.
    Apparently "donkless" means unafraid, but it sure sounds like it should mean something else.

    1. Dauntless means unafraid. I did find a definition of Donk meaning a large bottom usually applied to the female of the species. Who knew?


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