I have watched Last Night of the Proms occasionally, and have marvelled at the flag-waving, well-fed audience who grinned and bopped to the Sailor’s Hornpipe, and had hysterics when a balloon popped as the conductor was speaking.
And I’ve enjoyed Land of Hope and Glory and even Rule, Britannia. They’re both rousing tunes and the words, when I could make them out, were predictable – Brits rule the oceans, Brits never will be slaves. And God made England absolutely top, and He would make her even topper in the future.
There was a time when England was a great maritime power, and a time when it was awash with prosperity, at least for the Top People. So if some English people want to keep thinking that, I say, knock yourselves out, guys. As for Brits never being slaves – I don’t know of anyone who plans to enslave them, and historically they’ve been the ones doing the enslaving.
But in these sensitive times, it’s been decided for this year they’ll just play the tunes at Last night of the Proms and have no singing. No woman no cry, no words no outcry.
But what sets my teeth on edge is that they’ve lumped in Jerusalem with the Jingoistic Two, and I gather they plan to have music only for it as well. I’d call that near sacrilegious.
The music of Jerusalem is sweet and mournful, the lyrics, by William Blake, are superb. Blake was an ardent republican and was even tried for high treason. The contrast of the green and pleasant land England might be, even touched by the feet of Jesus, is the dream. The dark Satanic mills of the industrial revolution are the nightmare reality.
Somebody should sue the Proms people for classing a great politically-minded poet with a couple of fat-headed jingoists.