When God, fate or other force created humans, it seems that one of the common traits baked into our minds was the need to believe that our nation (whatever its name) is the best on earth. This would be reflected in each country's music, anthems, poetry and attitudes.
Today the globe is home to about 195 separate countries, principalities, and/or other recognized organizations, some of whose names you might recognize. I've heard of most of them, but don't ask me to tell you exactly where on earth they are.
But if someone asked me to name the most self-satisfied, imperialistic-sounding national anthem on record, I would cast my vote for the song of the U.K.: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which includes England, Scotland, Wales and an assembly of other nations who once pledged allegiance to Queen Victoria until her death in 1901.
The anthem I refer to is known as "Land of Hope and Glory," and I'm sure you've often heard it played and sung. Here is the complete verse:
Land of hope and glory, mother of the free
How can we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider, may thy bounds be set
God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.
The melody was composed in 1901 by Edward Elgar. His fellow Englishman, A.C. Benson, contributed the lyrics one year later. It has long been one of Britain's unofficial national anthems. The other one — also unofficial — is "God Save the King." (And occasionally the Queen.)
When "Land of Hope and Glory" was first played and sung, the British empire was indeed deserving of the adjective "mighty." Its member nations (in one form or another) included India, Canada, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In the 120 or so years that have followed, those members and others have achieved their own forms of limited allegiance to the throne.
But longstanding forms of loyalty still exist, and Elgar's masterpiece today and possibly forever will bring millions of diverse Limeys (forgive the expression) from around the globe to their feet when "Hope and Glory" is played or sung. Memories of imperial pride are slow to fade.
I can't help comparing all the above to another patriotic anthem, "Deutschland Uber Alles" — Germany Over All. Its three verses were sung proudly by millions of Germans from 1922 until the 1940s, when Hitler's detestable visions of a new world order for the fatherland came crashing to the ground. Today the old anthem's title remains in use, but only the third verse is sung, for reasons easily found on the web.
Our own country's musical history contains patriotic lines that, boiled down, suggest that "We are the greatest nation ever." That may well be true, but dozens of the globe's other 190-plus nations would contest that idea, with cause. And who would be the winner, and what would it mean?
History should not be allowed to become a bar fight among braggarts. When it does, the alleged winners will soon be forgotten, and millions of non-contestants may have died.