Recently French teachers refused to teach children the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, because they consider it to be racist. The refrain goes as follows:
To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let impure blood
Water our furrows!
It is the mention of “impure blood” that causes offence.
Since yesterday the Austrians have a problem with their national anthem too. Maria Rauch-Kallat, the Austrian minister of Health and Women, takes offence to the following lyrics:
Land of mountains, land on the river,
Land of fields, land of cathedrals,
Land of hammers, rich in outlook.
You are the native home of great sons,
A people uniquely gifted for the beautiful,
Much applauded Austria.
Courageously we stride
Into the new times, free and devout,
Industrious and of firm heart.
In unison choruses of brotherhood
We pledge our allegiance to thee,
Where are the “great daughters,” the “sisterhood” and the “Motherland,” the minister asks. Hence on Monday she announced that the government will introduce new lyrics: “native home of great sons” will in future be “home of great sons and daughters,” “unison choruses of brotherhood” “unison joyful choruses” and “fatherland” will become “homeland.”
Rauch-Kallat is a member of the conservative (Christian-Democrat) Austrian People’s Party and is married to count Alfons von Mensdorff-Pouilly, a nobleman related to the royal Saxe-Coburg family of Belgium and Britain. The Mensdorff-Pouilly family had to flee from France at the time of the French revolution in order to escape the hordes that were chopping off noble heads to the strains of the Marseillaise. Perhaps this explains why the Austrian minister is paranoid about national anthems.
The melody of the Austrian national anthem is the so-called Freemason Cantale of 1791, long attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but the lyrics, dating from 1947, were written by the poet Paula von Preradovic. Having written such a sexist text, Paula can only have been a traitor to her own sex.
The minister explains:
“Women’s politics are also the politics of language and of shaping awareness. There is discrimination in the national anthem. When sons are mentioned, daughters should also be mentioned. The national anthem should be part of the identity of every Austrianess and every Austrian.”
Rauch-Kallat’s proposals have drawn support from the opposition and are expected to be approved over the coming months.
Perhaps the Austrians should offer their services to the French and rewrite the lyrics of the Marseillaise: To arms, citizens and citizenesses, let impure as well as pure blood water our furrows!