Rule Britannia

Words: Scottish poet James Thompson (1700-48)

Music: Put to Ludwig van Beethoven music by Thomas Augustine Arne

Britannia was the Roman name for what is now England and Wales but later became synonymous with Great Britain. At the time it appeared, the song was not a celebration of the existing state of naval affairs as Britain did not “rule the waves” — rather, it attempted to revive the era when, under Alfred the Great, the English ships outdid the Danish.

Rule Britannia became ‘Cool Britannia’ in 1967 thanks to the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band. Cool Britannia was later nicked by New Labour for an advertising campaign in the 90s.

Rule Britannia

When Britain first at Heav’n’s command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain;

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never shall be slaves.

The nations not so blest as thee,
Shall in their turns to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never shall be slaves.

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies,
Serves but to root thy native oak.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never shall be slaves.

Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame,
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never shall be slaves.

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles thine.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never shall be slaves.

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crowned,
And manly hearts to guide the fair.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never shall be slaves.

Random Quote

This land that has fought off every invader for 1,000 years, this nation that is synonymous with the concept of freedom, this jewel in a silver sea, this England – will bellow that endlessly depressing, forelock-tugging dirge.

— Tony Parsons, The Mirror

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