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Friday, January 19, 2007

March, March Dąbrowski!

In general I have always found most foreign national anthems to be much of a muchness. There are obvious exceptions like the Marseillaise which for all its dubious associations with the revolutionary killing machine is a damn good tune. There is the Internationale which has even worse associations and almost as good a tune. The American one does nothing for me but the now revived and de-Stalinised Soviet one is quite good. The 'German' national anthem (which is nicked from the Habsburgs) is very fine but is rather processional (plodding in a good sense) much like 'God Save the Queen'. The rest, however, I have never even been able to remember. In fact, when I hear them visions of tin pot generals with operatic epaulettes and implausible rows of medals immediately spring to mind and I bless heaven for democracy and proper drains.

I have always assumed that the Polish national anthem fell into this general category. This is for two reasons: (1) statistically it's a reasonable assumption; (2) de facto I've never heard it. I say 'de facto' because I have heard it sung to me many times with great passion by drunken Polish friends. But this is no help at all. For a start the passion tells me nothing. If I so much as mention Poland in the presence of some of my Lechite friends they go off into a terrifying poetic fervour about the Christ among the nations and the battle of Vienna and Britain's abandonment of Poland in 1944 and John Paul II. Now, all of this is doubtless justified but it leads one to assume that if the Polish national anthem were 'My Old Man's a Dustman' they would sing it just as tearfully and with just as much passion. Finally as they are always drunk it is impossible to tell what the tune is anyway. However, I have now thanks to YouTube really heard it... and its great! Its rousing and misty and romantic all at the same time. In fact its most obvious fault - that it is so historically particular - is actually an asset because it sums up the national genius for pulling off republican revolutionary fervour and ardent Catholicism at the same time. (Well, I know there is no actual mention of ardent Catholicism but its sort of implied...) As Belloc said "When you have reconciled these two things - I mean the high Stoicism of the Republic and the humility of the Church (for they can co-exist) - then you will have the perfect state."