Monday, January 19, 2009
The music was originally a setting for part of Sir Walter Scott’s romantic poem ‘The Lady Of The Lakes’. Scott’s “Highland Revival” romanticism is responsible for inspiring a number of parallel nationalist inventions. *
The ‘Boat Song’ from Cantata Two was set to music by nationalist plagiarists in the USA in 1812. It was first used as a Presidential salute in 1828.
When the Ku Klux Klan fabricated its Scottish White Purist myths in the decades after the US Civil War they drew on another episode in of Sir Walter’s work – the display of the ‘Crann Tara’ or Fiery Cross. Originally a sign of inter-clan declaration of war, this is described in Cantata Three. The transfer to Klan symbolism seems to have been via the novels of Thomas Dixon (The Clansman) which in turn inspired the film ‘Birth Of A Nation’ in which cross-burnings appeared as dramatic symbols.
In the early 20th century the Fiery Cross became a signal for a lynching.
I suspect that the complex strands of history will throw up even more odd purls and knots in the coming years.
Original Sir Walter words for ‘Hail To The Chief’:
Hail to the chief, who in triumph advances,
Honored and bless'd be the evergreen pine!
Long may the tree in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line.
Heav'n send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow;
While ev'ry highland glen,
Sends our shout back again,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! i-e-roe!"
The Gaelic title ‘dhu’ appended to the name means ‘The Black’ by the way.
* Other unexpected results of Scott’s popularity amongst activists of semi-defined emerging nineteenth-century nationalisms include the large number of east European men who thanks to their nineteenth century ancestors embrace of romantic fashion now carry variations on the names ‘Edgar’ ‘Edmund’ or ‘Edward’. Includes me. Thanks a bundle, Walt.