A CAMEL, they say, is a horse that was designed by a committee. We hope this wise saying will be borne in mind by the committee of MPs and senators who must decide what to do about the words of our National Anthem, O Canada.
The committee has four choices open to it:
First, it might commission a French poet like Robert Choquette to translate the English words that R. Stanley Weir wrote to Calixa Lavallée’s music — “our home, our native land, etc.” Just how a French-Canadian poet would deal with the problem of five repetitions of “We stand on guard” in four lines, we shudder to imagine, but conceivably he might manage it somehow. What is not conceivable is Premier Daniel Johnson, or any premier of Quebec, or for that matter any French Canadian whether eminent or humble, putting up with such nonsense for a moment.
Secondly, the committee might commission a translation of the French words of Sir Adolphe Routhier — “0 Canada, terre de nos aieux” and so on. Actually there is a translation, but it is not well known. Anyway, imagine what the Francophobes of east and west would say and do about that suggestion.
Third choice would be to hire two poets, for a suitably bicultural fee, to compose a wholly new bilingual anthem. This project might be turned over to the Bye-and-Bye Commission, with instructions to have it ready in time for Canada’s second centennial.
The fourth choice, and the one we recommend, is to leave things as they are: Legalize the status quo, and that’s all. We all know the tune of 0 Canada, and in appropriate circumstances we all thrill to it. The words are undistinguished in either language, but we are used to them. English Canadians have long ceased to notice how often they are summoned to “stand on guard,” because of the late Mr. Weir’s inability to think of anything else that would scan. French Canadians are equally accustomed to dragging out the lame last line of their version — “proooo-taaay-geraaah nos foyers et nos droits” — and they don’t mind it any more. In neither language do the words mean much, literally at least, but in each they evoke a mood, and that’s what a national anthem is for. Let’s not disturb the one we’ve got already.
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