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Tony Grist

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Trafalgar [Jun. 28th, 2005|10:21 am]
Tony Grist
We are celebrating Trafalagar. Well, I'm not, but the British nation is. And what I want to know is why?

Two hundred years ago the British fleet under Horatio Nelson smashed the French and Spanish fleet. I guess the long term effect was that Britannia ruled the waves without serious challenge for the next century and a bit.

But the British Empire has gone now. The Royal Navy is a geopolitical irrelevance. The French and Spanish are our partners in a Europe where war between member states is all but unthinkable. The world of Tralalgar has disappeared. The work that Trafalgar accomplished has been undone.

And lets not forget that Tralalgar was a battle not a football match. Something like 7000 people were killed. We're doing this tribal dance of ours on a whole bunch of graves.

So what's left? The memory of a time when we were briefly "top nation"? Hooray.

"A British tar is a soaring soul,
As free as a mountain bird,
His energetic fist should be ready to resist
A dictatorial word."

Et cetera....

And now lets get over ourselves and move on.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dadi
2005-06-28 03:41 am (UTC)

Ah, Holidays...

Britain certainly suffers the remainders of being a big nation. I think the French have similar holidays.. though the main one is certainly the Storm on the Bastille, which does have some value on the democratic scale of things, even if lots of heads rolled there too.
Germany's big memories have all but been erased after the horrors of the last century, so "THE" big holiday is the re-unification. Not so very much celebrated by the Germans itself, after 10 years of deep economic crisis.
And Italy..well, Italy has two national holidays, a right wing one and a left wing one. Both stemming from the end of WWII, one celebrates the liberation of Italy by the resistance, mostly communist. The other holiday refers to the first elections after the war, where under not really clear circumstances the right wing won against the left/communist fraction, and established a "democratic" government. So, every year, there is one public holiday with all the red and green and rainbow coloured flags, and another one with the, ehm, conservative ones. That's Italy.. everybody gets his or her share, and in the end the decisions are made by other people anyway.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-28 03:48 am (UTC)

Re: Ah, Holidays...

I'd be happy to celebrate Bastille Day. That still means something.

I love your account of what happens in Italy.....
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-06-28 05:11 am (UTC)
And now lets get over ourselves and move on.

Horatio Nelson is a romantic figure to someone who has only seen the movies (he looked like Laurence Olivier, right?) and read history. You certainly put it in proper (and funny) perspective.

So many major holidays are the result of one kind of war or another. We have one coming up - July 4th.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-28 05:44 am (UTC)
Of course- he looked exactly like Laurence Olivier.:)

Nelson was a great military commander and, as military commanders go, an admirable person. And the affair with Emma Hamilton is worth a ripped bodice or two.

It's just this junketing over a battle I object to.

The Queen has been "reviewing the fleet" this morning. I wonder how she rates it out of 10?
"I loved the aircraft carriers, but the battleships just didn't do it for me- and I'd have liked to see a whole lot more of the motor torpedo boats...."
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-06-28 06:09 am (UTC)
And Emma Hamilton looked like Vivian Leigh...

There are a few places along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario (mentioned, of course, because I'm familiar with them) that, during the summer, still have the 'blessing of the fleet'. So every person with a seaworthy craft...rowboat to schooner, and sometimes even the Tall Ship that the Royal Canadian Naval Academy uses for training, is blessed by the local clergy. Not just the Catholic priests, but the rest of the clergy as well.

I think it's rather sweet.

Your comment about the Queen reviewing the fleet sort of made me think of that...what about the nuclear subs?



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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-28 07:49 am (UTC)
I don't know. They keep those at Faslane up in Scotland (I think.)

They were probably being reviewed as well.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-06-28 10:59 am (UTC)
By Mary, Queen of Scots?

(now I'm being silly...)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-28 09:41 am (UTC)
Rats. Since you are "moving on," I guess we won't be treated to a rousing Trafalgar poem from you.

But one still has hope...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-28 11:01 am (UTC)
One can hope......

And hope.....

And hope.....
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-28 11:13 am (UTC)
...until all hope has gone...
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-06-28 07:34 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to believe that Trafalgar accomplished the ultimate containment of Continental norms of justice that were essentially adaptations of Catholic canon law. In that sense, Trafalgar is ultimately the jumping off point for the takeover of Anglo-Saxon legal norms, economic programs, and restrained democratic government. All this was muddied by the colonial system and the Vienna peace, but all the same.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 02:05 am (UTC)
But you can bet your bottom dollar that that's not what they're celebrating down in Portsmouth this week.

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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-06-29 10:16 am (UTC)
Prolly so, but I've been a little jingoistic of late because I've been looking at different national anthems. Most of them are kinda bloody.

Which makes me wonder. Is there a Trafalgar song?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 11:25 am (UTC)
There are naval songs like Hearts of Oak, but there isn't one specifically about Trafalgar- not one that has captured the public imagination anyhow.

As folk guru Martin Carthy has pointed out, there are several stirring British songs about Napoleon Bonaparte but precious few about British military heroes of that era

Go figure.
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-06-29 02:30 pm (UTC)
Pretty much the same as here. There are lots of stirring songs about the (rightful) values of the nation or the beauty of the country but none really about any particular military conquest that is mentioned by name.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic comes awfully close (and I find it stirring at least), but doesn't really have the character of most war tunes. I think this is ultimately the expression of Puritan values--which are, to be anachronistic, somewhat Kantian (indeed Kant spends nearly his entire time justifying the particular beliefs of Lutheran Pietism)--that can't be rightly said to be possessed by "a people" or that cannot be brought out in others.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 02:48 pm (UTC)
The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a bloody good song and The Star Spangled Banner runs it close, but the French possess the all time winner in the Marseillaise.

The best British patriotic song- by a mile- is William Blake's Jerusalem, as set to music by Charles Parry. The National anthem- God Save The Queen- is a godawful dirge.
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-06-29 05:04 pm (UTC)
Actually, have you heard the Mexican National Anthem? It reminds me of Schoenberg, though it predates him considerably if I'm not mistaken.

Of course, a standard critique of Modernist composers is that it is merely a continuation of the Romantic cult of the artist-as-individual as opposed to the artist qua his ability to express cultural ideals.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-30 12:58 am (UTC)
I can't say I have ever heard the Mexican national anthem. Europeans remain woefully ignorant of everything Mexican (with the exception of Frida Kahlo).
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2005-06-30 10:46 am (UTC)
It's okay. I'll bring you up to speed with American knowledge of Mexico: Aztec, burritos, chimichangas, tacos, nachos, cheap labor, drugs, laws are written in pencil (green erasers available in all US financial institutions).

There ya go! Quiz Monday.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-30 12:28 pm (UTC)
I'll study hard over the weekend.
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