July 1st marks Canada’s 148th Birthday. I thought as we remember Canada’s Birthday on this day with celebration and fireworks, we also remember its heritage and history. Canada was (and hopefully will continue) to be a nation founded under God.
‘O Canada’ was proclaimed Canada’s national anthem on July 1, 1980, 100 years after it was first sung on June 24, 1880. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallee, and French lyrics to accompany the music were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Many English versions have appeared over the years in fact in 1901 a Toronto doctor, Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson penned these lyrics:
“O Canada! Our fathers’ land of old Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold. Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross Thy children own their birth No stains thy glorious annals gloss Since valour shield thy hearth. Almighty God! On thee we call Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall, Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall.”
(Notice the prayer…)
In 1908 Mercy E Powell McCulloch won a competition with these lyrics to go with Lavallee’s music:
” O Canada! in praise of thee we sing; From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring. With fertile plains and mountains grand With lakes and rivers clear, Eternal beauty, thos dost stand Throughout the changing year. Lord God of Hosts! We now implore Bless our dear land this day and evermore, Bless our dear land this day and evermore.”
(Again, notice the prayer…)
However in 1908, the lyrics by Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer in Montreal, after a few minor amendments, the first verse of Weir’s poem was finally proclaimed as the official English version of ‘O Canada’ in 1980:
“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North, strong and free! From far and wide, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee. God keep our land glorious and free ! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”
I don’t know if many Canadians realize that there are several more verses to ‘O Canada’. I particularly want to draw attention to the last verse. It leaves no doubt that ‘O Canada’ is more than a national anthem, it is our nation’s heartfelt prayer to God every time we stand to sing it. Here is the original poem of 1908 by Stanley Weir:
“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love thou dost in us command. We see thee rising fair, dear land, The True North, strong and free; And stand on guard, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee.
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! O Canada! We stand on guard for thee. O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! Where pines and maples grow. Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow. How dear to us thy broad domain, From East to Western Sea, Thou land of hope for all who toil! Thou True North, strong and free!
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.
O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise, To keep thee steadfast through the years From East to Western Sea, Our own beloved native land! Our True North, strong and free!
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.
Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer, Hold our dominion within thy loving care; Help us to find, O God, in thee A lasting, rich reward, As waiting for the Better Day, We ever stand on guard.
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.”
Today I pray that God will indeed “keep our land strong and free”! He is our Sovereign, even though many in this land choose to ignore that fact.