Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The 44th Ever-Green Pine of the United States

In high school, a friend of mine once told us that "Hail to the Chief" had lyrics, but no one ever sung them for good reason, like the theme to Bonanza. He wasn't quite sure what the words were, however, and actually looking them up wasn't anything any of us bothered to do. I think he told us that the first line was, "Hail to the Chief we've elected for our country," which does scan.

Now it's easy to look up the lyrics. He was close, but no cigar: "Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation," is the first line. The rest of it is found here, along with a discussion of the song's origin, and why it's just another thing we have to thank President Polk for (actually Mrs. Polk.), besides the fact that we can use dollars in places like Phoenix and Santa Fe.

If you really want to stretch all the way back, the song started as Sir Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake" (1810), which goes in part like this:

Hail to the chief who in triumph advances!
Honoured and blessed be the ever-green pine!
Long may the tree in his banner that glances,
Flourish the shelter and grace of our line!

The Tribune had a special inauguration section on Wednesday, heavy with photos, including a remarkable image on a two-page spread, an image better on a large square of paper than it could ever be on a computer screen. The photographer's vantage was above the swearing-in platform, right before the oath of office or right after (including one detail not shown by TV cameras: seven-year-old Sasha Obama is standing on a block to boost her height by about a foot). Mainly the shot captures the long view from there at the Capitol out to the Washington Monument -- with every bit of open space in between full with people.

A million is a good guess at the number of people in the picture, whether the image actually caught the light reflected off a million human heads or not. Certainly the idea of a million people captures the imagination. But, as I pointed out to Lilly, if you were to capture every American in this kind of image, you'd need 300 or so photos. If you wanted every human being alive, you'd need well more than 6,000.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home