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Last Night of the Proms

Rule Britannia – but who wants waves?
On Saturday the Royal Albert Hall will ring to the stirring refrains of Rule Britannia in the belief that ‘Britons never shall be slaves.’ Far be it for us to spoil the party, but a moment’s thought will show how easily we are beguiled into thinking we are free.

Everybody knows what happened in 1066. The Norman Conquest. Having been conquered, on what date were we freed? The Normans enslaved the Anglo-Saxons and subjected them to feudalism. The land was given to, and then appropriated by, lords who controlled the people with the sword and taxes. The title deeds became private property.

But the conquest was only one link in the chain in our slavery. The Enclosure Acts forced the people off the land into the mill towns where, in order to eke out a basic existence, whole families were forced to beg for work and live in atrocious conditions. With so many hands seeking work of any kind, man competed against man for whatever job was on offer, thus reducing the level of wages to the least a man was prepared to accept. And so another form of slavery became acceptable – wage slavery. We joke about being a wage slave now, but it is not so long ago that men lined up at the factory gates or the wharf and were dependent on selection for a day’s work – uncertain when he would get another. And because wages are still at the minimum, we have come to accept state benefits as our right, forgetting our human right to the natural elements provided as a free gift by Nature.

Of course, we live in a society where there is art, scholarship, entertainment and every kind of modern convenience. We are extremely fortunate to live in a country where the rule of law prevails and the majority of citizens respect each other and the law.

But let us not forget that our basic freedom – the right of access to land, and the right to use the land value created by the community for the good of the community, is denied us, and that the main function of thousands of people is to toil and carry the burden of taxes.

And the significance of ‘who wants waves?’ This was a favourite line at our Saturday morning economic classes held by Mr Andrew MacLaren when he addressed us at this time of year. It made us realise that despite our relative freedom we are still bound to pay our rent on a Monday morning to the successors of the knights who were victorious at the Conquest.

Rule Britannia

When Britain first, at Heaven’s command
Arose from out the azure main,
Arose from, arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter, the charter of the Land
And Guardian Angels sang this strain:

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

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

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

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

The Muses still with Freedom found
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Shall to thy happy, happy coast repair.
Blest isle with matchless, with matchless beauty crown’d,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.