Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An American Anthem…In Esperanto

Dr.James McFatrich
Sought to select anthem
Probably not the Esperanto one
The status of the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, has apparently been of discussion ever since it was chosen (and clearly a bit before that). While it’s been the United States national anthem for forever, it only become so in 1931,[1] despite that the lyrics, “Defense of Fort M’Henry” were written in 1814.[2] People have complained that the song is difficult to sing, and that the music comes from a drinking song (which must have been damn difficult to sing drunk), “To Anacreon in Heaven,”[3] so maybe not the best tune for a sober nation.

There were various attempts to find a national anthem, because all the cool nations had one. England had “God Save the King,”[4] France had “La Marseillaise” and even the Esperanto movement had “La Espero” as anthems before 1911.[5] Unofficially, the United States was using “My Country, ’tis of Thee,” which has the problem of using the tune of “God Save the King.”

There were a variety of attempts at proposing something else and making it official, including “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which some Southerners objected to, since it uses the tune of the abolitionist hymn “John Brown’s Body.” In 1911, the Chicago School Board proposed a contest to find a replacement for “The Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem (please note that officially the “The Star Spangled Banner” would not be the national anthem for another twenty years, but it was clearly the de facto one).

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported on May 3, 1911 that an entry had arrived in Esperanto.
Woman Resorts to ‘Universal’ Language in National Hymn Contest.
Fifty Entries a Day Overwhelming Dr. McFatrich and the School Authorities
Fratoj de l’tuta ter’
Nun vivu en l’esper’
Ĉiu naci’.
Tro longe la glavar’
Restis kun la homar’
Nun estu la lander’
Pacim peri.
[This is going to be one of those moments when I break the transcribed article because I can’t wait to comment. I have no idea what the last line is supposed to be. It’s just too garbled to make sense of. One problem with this text is that, for no particular reason the final -o has been dropped from every word. In transcribing it, I added apostrophes that the Tribune did not use. Since tero rhymes with espero, there’s really no need for it. Okay, back to the article.]
Just after a postman had left the board of education yesterday noon the district superintendents, assistant superintendents, and other officials heard a mona of despair from the desk just outside the office of the president of the board.
Esperanto Is Too Much
They looked over and saw Charles Wilson, secretary to the president, sitting limply in his chair and staring that the latest addition to the contest for a new national anthem. It was called “Himno por la Paco Tutmonda,” and was in pure Esperanto.[6]

Mr. Wilson struggled through the first verse and then sadly placed the contribution on Dr. McFatrich’s desk. Since the suggestion of a prize for a new anthem to take the place of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which Dr. McFatrich maintains is the national anthem, letters and packages have poured into the office until now communications on this subject number upwards of fifty a day.

Is Hymn of Peace.
The hymn in Esperanto is the contribution of Mrs. Evelyn Leeds-Cole of Michigan City, Ind., and is translated to “A Hymn for Universal Peace,” the first verse reading:
Brothers of every clime,
Led by a hope sublime,
We sheathe the sword.
Longs has the earth been rife
With hate and deadly strife;
Pledge we our heart and life,
O grant thy peace.
Here is the chorus of a St. Louis contribution:
O say can you see
My country, ’tis of thee?
Our national anthem should be sung
By every, every, EVERY one.
Many of the songs are sent to Mrs. Young, who turns them all over to the president of the board as sponsor for the contest. Mr. Wilson gets them eventually.

Before considering Evelyn Leeds Cole, there is Dr. McFatrich to consider. In addition to being principal of the school board, he was a doctor of medicine, president of the Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology, and one of the founders of the Murine company. That’s right, the eye drops.[7]

Between his practice, the college, and the company, Dr. McFatrich probably didn’t have a lot of time for the day-to-day duties of the Chicago school board, and so the Mr. Wilson mentioned in the article probably had to deal with most the responsibilities. We can hear him muttering that it just didn’t make sense for the Chicago school board to host a contest for a national anthem.

The contest applicant, Evelyn Leeds Cole, was the widow of physician and this was not the only song to her name, as the Catalog of Copyright Entries make it clear that in 1916 (so later) she published “Dear Hoosier Land.” “A Hymn for Universal Peace” was composed in English, and then subsequently translated into Esperanto (and she did not do the translation herself), so she actually submitted a joint work to the Chicago school board. Of the two songs, her “Hymn” (in either language) seems to have been the more popular. The Advocate of Peace Through Justice noted in February 1912 that the song was available at 20 center per copy. According to the November, 1911 Amerika Esperantisto, the Esperanto translation was done by A. B. Deans. In Esperanto, it cost 22 cents a copy.
This won the prize in a contest for such songs a short time ago, as our readers doubtless knew at the time. That the author at one had the words translated into Esperanto is a fact which will be noted with interest, and our musical esperantists will therein an additional reason for being pleased with the hymn.
In 1924, the song was part of the festivities of the annual convention of the Indiana League of Women Voters. And in 1926, the Esperanto version was republished in Kantaro Esperanta, edited by Montagu C. Butler.

Dr. McFatrich died in 1914, less than three years after the contest. The Optometrical Record ascribed his death to heart failure brought on by a severe cold, but are we certain it wasn’t the strain of the 1911 anthem contest? In the end, “The Star Spangled Banner,” the de facto national anthem, became the official one, twenty years later.

  1. Eighty-eight years ago, as I write this.
  2. All this from the Wikipedia entry I linked to at the words Star Spangled Banner.
  3. With its stirring lyric, “To Anacreon in heav’n, where he sat in full glee…” The Wikipedia page on the song doesn’t link to the page on Anacreon, who was a “Greek lyric poet, notable for his drinking songs and hymns.”
  4. Or, currently, and at other times, queen, though between this post is referring to a 1911 event (which I’ll get to), which means that between the time of the event and 1931, the British anthem was “God Save the King.”
  5. I was tempted to make a snarky comment that Germany had “Deutschland über allies” as their national anthem, but then I looked things up and found that the “Deutschlandleid” [literally, “Germany song”] didn’t become the German national anthem until 1922, But it does begin with “Deutschland, Deutschland über allies.” That first stanza is no longer used, in part because during the Nazi era it was the only one used.
  6. You wouldn’t want it in impure Esperanto. Of course not. Also the Tribune messed up the name, giving it as “Himmo.” Twinned consonants are extremely rare in Esperanto.
  7. Murine eye drops seem to no longer be available in the United States, though the company makes a ear wash (the founder was president of a college of otology, after all), although its UK and Australian affiliates are still producing eye drops. It’s still a mystery to me why the company was named after a family of rodents that include rats and mice.  ↩

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1 comment:

  1. >>> One problem with this text is that, for no particular reason the final -o has been dropped from every word. In transcribing it, I added apostrophes that the Tribune did not use. Since tero rhymes with espero, there’s really no need for it.

    In poetry and songs, the final -o is very often dropped. And the two main reasons are meter of verses and not to be tedious.
    - "tero" rhymes with "espero" as "ter’" rhymes with "esper’" but the second ones are shorter.
    - And having to much final -o in songs and poemes can be very boring.

    But you are right: the missing apostrophes is an error in esperanto.

    (see: http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/apostrofo/normala_uzo.html)

    Also, the last line may be a typo. It *could* be:
    "Nun estu la lander’
    Pacism’ peri."
    => "Now, be the land the pacifism provide"


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