In response to Margaret Ashworth: The Midweek Hymn: I Vow to Thee My Country,
I am in floods. I love my country and grew up in the village of Westerham where Sir Winston had his country home of Chartwell where I danced in the garden with others from my school. A beautiful statue of him reclining in an armchair stands on the village green. My heart is broken at the decline of all that we fought for, and all that we hold dear being destroyed daily in this green and pleasant land. God help us.
One thing Margaret didn’t mention is the now un-sung middle verse, ignored, disavowed and almost airbrushed from history because it’s deemed nationalistic, militaristic and unacceptably politically-incorrect. It goes like this:
I hear my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me;
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head;
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead;
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among her sons.
As a Forces parent who, like countless thousands of others, has had at least to think about what you’d do and what hymns you’d choose if the worst happened and your son or daughter came home from an operational tour in Iraq or Afghanistan in a flag-draped box, it never fails to produce a lump in my throat – followed by a cold anger that it would be almost impossible to find a cleric who would be prepared to have it sung in his or her church, even as part of a full military funeral.