A church proposal to scrap the pugnacious second verse of "God Save the Queen" and replace it with rhymes about brotherly love has drawn some crusty responses.
They range from a worried editorial in the Times of London to the bizarre spectacle of Auberon Waugh, acid-tongued son of the novelist Evelyn Waugh, going on television with an off-key rendition of his own lyrics.Currently, the second verse of the anthem goes:
"O Lord our God arise, Scatter her enemies, And make them fall; Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On Thee our hopes we fix; God save us all."
Some Church of England clerics feel such language is inappropriate in an age of world brotherhood. The church's Liturgical Commission has proposed a different verse: "Nor on this land alone, But be God's mercies known, From shore to shore. Lord, make the nations see, That men should brothers be, And form one family, The wide world o'er."
Clerics point out that the bit about scattering enemies and frustrating knavish tricks has fallen into disuse and that the proposed substitute itself is more than 150 years old, having been written in 1836 by a London shoemaker.
There is no authorized version of "God Save the Queen," and the commission's proposal applies only to the singing of the anthem at war memorial services.
The government notes that "Nowadays it is usual on official occasions to sing the first verse only."
To some conservatives, the proposed change is just one more attempt by the clergy to confuse red-blooded English folk with wishy-washy sentiments. Thus when "Newsnight," BBC-TV's nightly news program, asked for expert advice, it got some sardonic responses.
"O Lord we got it wrong, For peace we now must throng, So pass the cup," sang Waugh, editor of The Literary Review and arch-defender of traditional English ways.
Ian Hislop, editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, parodied diplomatic jargon by singing: "O Lord our God arise, And report our enemies, To the United Nations. Make them observe treaties, So hostilities may cease, And we all then live in peace, With normal diplomatic relations."