Beethoven 9th Symphony

December 12, 2008

This is the piece of music which many people argue is the greatest of all music. It is the 9th Symphony of Beethoven. It certainly has a valid claim for consideration as the greatest. This version of it, by the conductor Herbert von Karajan, is one of the most majestic interpretations.

Bethoven himself was a great European, who, I feel sure, would have welcomed the events of the present day, regarding the unification of Europe. He was one of those who supported the ideals of the French Revolution, and when Napoleon rose to power, Beethoven believed the new leader would bring the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity to the whole continent, ushering in a new golden age of enlightenment and peace. He even dedicated his 3rd Symphony, called the Eroica (Heroic) to Napoleon. When Napoleon had himself proclaimed Emperor, Beethoven’s hopes were dashed, and he angrily scratched out the dedication. He realised that all Napoleon wanted was power, and not the welfare of the European people.

The final movement of the 9th contains the famous tune which has been adopted as the anthem of the European Union. You can hear it in the second video of Karajan’s performance, which appears below this.

Happy listening!


Dulce et Decorum Est

December 8, 2008

There’s a lot of debate around at the moment as to why the Europeans have made the European Union. Are they fools to willingly surrender their sovereignty? Is it a giving up of democratic rights? Is the EU just a big business conspiracy? Will the EU challenge the USA to a duel?

But if you want to know the real reason, deep down, why the Europeans have made the EU, I think you’ll find it’s very simple. The Europeans are sick to death of war. That’s why, however much we may criticize, however Eurosceptic we may profess to be, if we really think hard about it, we love the European Union. Because it guarantees peace in Europe. In fact it makes war in Europe impossible.

Below is one of the most influential pieces of writing that set the Europeans on the road to creating peace. It was written by an English soldier, Wilfred Owen, during World War One. If you read this, why will you need to ask again why we made the European Union?

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Note: The phrase Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a quote from a poem by the Roman poet Horace. It means “How sweet and fitting it is to die for your country.” It was widely quoted at the beginning of the War to encourage young men and boys to join the army.