Apr 01 2009

Two Canadian National Anthems and a Revelation

Published by at 9:21 am under MyLife

This is more than a little humbling for your loyal Canuck. While meandering through the Interweb links off of the bizarre story about the New Brunswick school principal who cut back on the daily singing of our national anthem, I happened to Wikipedia ‘O Canada’ to learn a bit about the heritage of the song. And there, I came across a revelation.

In elementary school, I learned to sing our national anthem in both English and French. Not being a particularly gifted French speaker, I never bothered then or since to check whether the English version was substantially different from the French version — I just assumed it was a fairly literal translation, one to the other. I was very, very wrong. Am I the last Canadian to figure this out? I may have to actually take up hockey and start drinking Timmy’s coffee every day for the rest of my life to make up for this.

Without further ado, the two versions of O Canada:

For us Anglos, the one we all know and love

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.

And now, the English translation of the French version

O Canada!
Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As is thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits.
Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Am I really the very last Canuck to figure this out? How frickin’ embarrassing.

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Two Canadian National Anthems and a Revelation”

  1. CMPon 01 Apr 2009 at 11:55 am

    A colleague of mine trots this out as one of his regular wheezes on the various political agendas of our time. While the English lyrics have been meddled with over the years, the French remain unchanged. His conjecture is that no one wants to open that can of worms, so as not to stir up the separatists, thus the conspiracy of silence and taboo surrounding them. My counter-theory is that the Quebecers and francophones in general don’t give a crap about the lyrics to O Canada, and are happy to sing Gens des Pays or whatever it is they consider their real national song.

    By they way, I prefer the second verse of O Canada, and think it really ought to be the one we sing.

  2. Nicola Timmermanon 01 Apr 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Well, actually I think there were a few rumblings about getting rid of the carrying the cross part. But so far it remains ‘politically incorrect’.

    I preferred the English version before they dragged God into it. Anyway I always forget the new version, so there you go.

  3. Lunacyon 01 Apr 2009 at 12:59 pm

    And as most of the Quebecers I know, know, in the French version “Canada” refers to Lower Canada, ie. Quebec, just the same as the “Canadiens” hockey team is a reference to Quebec, not Canada as we know it.

  4. The Happy Ottawanon 01 Apr 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Politically incorrect or not, the French version is by far the “manlier” of the two. Talk about getting the blood going. Now that’s a fighting anthem – the English one’s a little wimpy.

  5. Earnest Canuckon 03 Apr 2009 at 1:08 am

    “Terre de nos aieux…” Yeah, I think you’re about the last nerd to figure it out, Narvey. Shame on ya! I wd also note that the “translation” you’re looking at is a very dull and literal-minded one. Our “aieux”, for example, wd literally be our “old ones”; “ancestors” is probably a better equivalent.

    I don’t see why any of this should faze a patriotic anglo, mind. The central meaning of our “different” (but equally singable!) anthems is identical: we have a history of the most brilliant exploits; we will protect our homes and our rights; we will stand on guard; we will wield the sword if we must; we’re glorious, and free.

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