Canada Day 2013: “sing God save the land we love the best”

For the tenth time in this blog’s history: Happy Canada Day!

Today is the 146th anniversary of Confederation, and, as usual, Canadians temporarily cast off their restraint and display unbridled patriotism. This is, of course, most evident here in the nation’s capital, where the streets surrounding Parliament Hill become one very crowded block party for the day, culminating in a stage show and the annual 10 pm fireworks. The first Canada Day I attended, back in 1995, featured performances by Burton Cummings and Spirit of the West. This year, though, it’s Carly Rae Jepsen and literally no one else I’ve ever heard of, so I think I’ll skip the stage show (though I do have an invitation to see the fireworks from a well-situated downtown balcony).

This is also the 140th anniversary of Prince Edward Island, which joined Confederation on July 1, 1873—the eighth province or territory to do so. In honour of the anniversary, I devote this year’s customary patriotic song to PEI’s provincial hymn: “The Island Hymn.”

This song dates back to 1908. The lyrics were written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, best known of course as the author of Anne of Green Gables, that quintessential Canadian redheaded orphan:

Fair Island of the sea,

We raise our song to thee,

The bright and blest;

Loyally now we stand

As brothers, hand in hand,

And sing God save the land

We love the best.

Upon our princely Isle

May kindest fortune smile

In coming years;

Peace and prosperity

In all her borders be,

From every evil free,

And weakling fears.

Prince Edward Isle, to thee

Our hearts shall faithful be

Where’er we dwell;

Forever may we stand

As brothers, hand in hand,

And sing God save the land

We love so well.

The music was composed by Lawrence Watson specifically for this hymn. I’ve heard one recording of “The Island Hymn,” and in my opinion, the lyrics deserve better. In fact, when I first read the lyrics, I mentally matched them to “Olivet,” the Lowell Mason tune to which “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” is usually sung. “The Island Hymn” was officially declared as PEI’s provincial hymn in 2010.

2013 is also a sadder milestone, as it marks the passing of Stompin’ Tom Connors at the ripe old age of 77 in March. Connors was a Canadian patriot, with many of his best-known songs referencing Canadian culture, history, or folklore. Appropriately for today, his first single, and arguably his best-known, was “Bud the Spud,” a lighthearted ballad about a PEI potato trucker who raises the ire of the police.

This being my 10th Canada Day blog post, I thought it only fitting to go out with a twofer. Happy July 1, everyone.

Previous Canada Day songs:

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