German National Anthems- couldn't they have been more original?

Ok, so Imperial Germany’s national anthem was the Kaiserhymne, which I’m sure you’ve heard…you know, “Heil dir im Siegerkranz, Herrscher des Vaterlands, Heil Kaiser, dir!”

And, of course, it’s just God Save the King with new words. Then the Imperial government is overthrown, and the Weimar government is set up, and so they need a new anthem. They choose the Deutschlandlied “Deutschland, Deutschland, ueber alles, ueber alles in dem Welt…”, and that remains Germany’s anthem to this day, although only the last verse is used now because after World War II, everybody’s scared of the first few verses.

And, of course, that’s just a version of Imperial Austria’s national anthem, “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” with revised lyrics.

So what’s going on here? Is Germany unable to come up with its own national anthem? East Germany managed to. Auferstanden aus Ruinen was an independent composition. I realize Germany’s not the only country to take an existing melody and write an anthem round it…America’s “Star Spangled Banner” is to the melody of the song “To Anacreon in Heaven”, but at least “To Anacreon…” wasn’t already being used as an anthem at the time.

I think it’s probably desirable to use a recognizable tune when trying to get people to rally behind something. Estonia uses the same melody for their national anthem as Finland, and for some reason Finlandia by Jean Sibelius was chosen as the anthem of Biafra. And that’s just what I could find while I was looking up the shared melody between Estonia and Finland, there has to be many more cases of shared anthems all over the world.

I think the Swiss for many years used a national anthem which had the same tune as God Save the Queen, and I think the same tune is the basis of an American patriotic song, although that was never the anthem.

There are various criteria that might be used to choose a national anthem. Does it sound well when played by a brass band? Is it not inconveniently long? Does it have suitable phrases than can be taken out and used as the basis for royal or presidential salutes? And in many cases, is it already popular, especially as a patriotic song? But I don’t see that orginality is a particularly relevant criterion.

An interesting article on the origins of the melody here. Anecdotally I can vouch for its veracity somewhat, as a bookstore I used to work at years ago had a CD of folk chants from South Central Europe (it may have been specifically Croatian) containing one of the variations of the carol. Blew our minds the first time we put it on rotation; we all looked at each other and said “Are those monks singing Deutschland uber alles?”

Liechtenstein’s “Oben am jungen Rhein” is the same song as God Save the Queen. Same with Norway’s royal anthem, “Kongesangen.”

UDS, you’re thinking of “America,” aka “My Country Tis of Thee.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, newly independent Russia decided to write a new anthem, abandoning the familiar war-time anthem for the sake of a instrumental ditty no one liked. It lasted a couple of years before they returned to the old tune with new lyrics, relinquishing some of the parts about ‘Party of Lenin - People’s strength’/‘Will lead us to communism’s triumph’ and the like.

The people just like a familiar tune, I suppose, and as far as anthems go, the National Anthem of the Soviet Union is pretty damn good!

Won’t comment on what Russians thought of it, but the first post-Soviet anthem wasn’t written for the occasion; it comes from Glinka’s Patriotic Song.

OK, wrong. :stuck_out_tongue: It hadn’t been the official anthem of the German Empire but of Prussia – which was already reason enough for many non-Prussians to dislike it and for the southern German states to not recognize it officially; the fact that it shared the melody with the British anthem wasn’t a winning point either.

More popular was Die Wacht am Rhein; it was quite often played on ceremonial and official occasions; just like the Deutschlandlied which was, not surprisingly, sung when Helgoland was returned to the German Empire.

The Deutschlandlied was also often played in the colonies when the colours were hoisted to avoid any confusion with the British anthem.

From 1922 on, the Deutschlandlied was the official national anthem of the Weimar Republic; but during the Third Reich only the first stanza was used, usually immediately followed by the Horst-Wessel-Lied; so, both were used in unison instead of an official anthem.

Things continued to be confusing after Germany was parted into halves: East Germany used Auferstanden aus Ruinen (by Johannes R. Becher, set to music by Hanns Eisler) since 1949 as a national anthem; it followed the measure of the Kaiserhymne apart from its final.

West Germany had a controversial debate about the correct selection and the result was that no national anthem existed when the Republic was founded. President Heuss wanted to establish the Hymne an Deutschland but he couldn’t push it through, though he had the right to select one.

The President and Chancellor Adenauer agreed in 1952 to use the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied, set to music by Haydn’s melody.

Heuss admitted that he had underestimated the importance of the song for many citizens and the traditional popularity of the music.

When the German halves united, we had, once again, a discussion about the anthem, but President Weizsäcker and Chancellor Kohl agreed in 1991 to use the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied as the only proper lyrics, the tune stayed the same.

Nowadays, the anthem seems to be more popular than ever; I like it best when it is played as it should be: by a string quartet. Slowly.

That song is America, lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith, also known by its first line, My Country, 'Tis of Thee. And of course, the US’s own national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner uses the British song To Anacreon in Heaven as its melody.

I really love the word “spangled.”

Use it in a sentence NOT referring to our flag. :smiley:

I’m given to understand that God Save the Queen was written by/for the supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Is this accurate?

It was actually called The Anacreontic Song. “To Anacreon in heaven” is just the first line.

No, but it was popularized during his insurrection. Nobody really knows who wrote it, though the tune seems to have been taken from one of several hymns that were knocking about in the 17th century.

The California Spangled Cat is a new breed you should know about.

  1. The text of the Deutschlandlied was originally republic, not jingoistic. The melody is nice and fits with the text, which is why von Fallersleben choose Haydn’s melody.

Here the relevant short explanation

  1. Why should we care that the Austrian Kaiser, who no longer exists, also heard this song for his birthday? Why should we let the jingoists determine the meaning of the texts?

  2. Both melody and text are easy to sing and to remember, a very important requirement in anthem that many people have to sing.

Tell me, why doesn’t the US change their national anthem to a more normal melody, that’s easier to sing than a drinking song? Why not something more solemn and festive than a drinking song?

“My girlfriend’s spangled miniskirt is quite fetching.”


I am remembering a horrid-pun Arthur C. Clarke short story about a spaceship which undergoes a near encounter with a neutron star, tidal effects destroying the ship. It builds up to a punchline about the one recognizable artifact found in the wreckage: a wrench (spanner in British idiom) that had been deformed by the intense gravitational pull – i.e., “a star-mangled spanner.”

I had thought the official anthem of Prussia before unification was the Preussenlied, written by August Neithardt and Bernhardt Thiersch

Yes and no; I am going to quote from a contemporary news article published by the Amtspresse Preußens, to be precise: The Provinzial-Correspondenz (PC) (1863-1884), which was reporting on royal affairs; the most important passages are highlighted:

The Preussenlied was indeed played on ceremonial and official occasions and it was considered a Nationallied which is usually put on a level with the Königslied (later Kaiserlied) Heil Dir im Siegerkranz; both were used like anthems.

In the article, Heil Dir im Siegerkranz is identified as the anthem (Nationalhymne), but in earlier texts (1840- ) it’s merely the preussische Volkshymne (anthem of the people); though later (from 1860 on) the Preussenlied is far more often called a Volkshymne because of its origins and its popularity among the Prussian people who identified, quite correctly, Heil Dir im Siegerkranz with the royal family and the Preussenlied with themselves.

Both songs together constituted the Preussenmarsch (Prussia’s March), which was usually played by the military and very often on official occasions too.

Prussia had a couple of anthems to represent itself but it didn’t have a national anthem in a modern sense.

I forgot to add a hypothetical case to illustrate my point:

If a Prussian representative of the government on an official visit in the U.S. had been welcomed only by the Preussenlied, it would have been considered a not so cleverly veiled commentary against the monarchic rule. If it had been a member of the royal family, it would have been a deliberate slight.

As long as a country is ruled by a dynasty, the anthem is primarily meant to address/honour them; the state isn’t considered an independent entity and the people are subjects, not the sovereign.

So, to address the state, you address the dynasty; and that happened with Heil Dir im Siegerkranz. But if you wanted to address the nation or honour someone’s nationality, you would haven chosen to play the anthem of the Prussians, which was the Preussenlied. There might also have been a question of protocol when no official representatives of the state were around, but I’d have to ask someone who is an expert on Prussia to be sure about protocol.

Anyway, from 1820 to 1840, the Prussian national anthem was Borussia, written by G.R. Dunker and set to music in 1820 by G. Spontini (chant national prussien).