Monday, August 2, 2010

The Swiss Palm

The Swiss Psalm is the national anthem of Switzerland. It was composed in 1841, by Alberich Zwyssig (1808-1854). Since then it has been frequently sung at patriotic events. The Federal Council declined however on numerous occasions to accept the psalm as the official anthem. This was because the council wanted the people to express their say on what they wanted as a national anthem.

From 1961 to 1981 it provisionally replaced Rufst Du, mein Vaterland ("When You call, my Country", French O Monts indépendants; Italian Ci chiami o patria, Romansh E clomas, tger paeis) the anthem by Johann Rudolf Wyss (1743-1818) which was set to the melody of God Save the Queen. Finally on April 1, 1981 the Swiss Psalm was declared the official Swiss national anthem.

Until the end of the 19th Century, there was no Swiss national anthem. The German-language patriotic song Rufst du, mein Vaterland (French O Monts indépendants, Italian Ci chiami o patria, Romansh E clomas, tger paeis), composed in 1811 by Johann Rudolf Wyss (1743-1818), was the first national anthem, used until 1961.

The setting of the hymn to the British tune of God Save the Queen led to embarrassing situations when both countries' anthems were played. Therefore it was replaced with another tune in 1961. After a trial period of three years the Swiss tune was adopted indefinitely in 1965. The statute could not be challenged until ten years later but did not totally exclude the possibility of an ultimate change.

A competition was set up in 1979 to search for a successor to the anthem. Despite many submissions, none of the others seemed to express the Swiss sentiment. The Swiss anthem finally got its definitive statutory status in April 1981, the Federal Council maintaining that it was purely a Swiss song suitably dignified and solemn.

The postal card above shows the Swiss Palm in French.