The Swiss national anthem

Today’s second-hottest political story — the hottest is President Obama’s affirmation of same-sex marriage, which I’ll get to in another posting — is Michele Bachmann’s Swiss citizenship. So this would be a good occasion to talk about the Swiss national anthem.

The main facts in the political story, from Kim Geiger in the L.A. Times:

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is downplaying reports that she and her family recently became Swiss citizens, saying she has technically enjoyed dual citizenship since she married her husband in 1978.

Bachmann’s husband Marcus is eligible for Swiss citizenship because his parents are Swiss immigrants, but he only recently registered with the Swiss government, Politico reported earlier this week. Michele Bachmann and her three youngest children became Swiss citizens on March 19, according to the Politico report.

As I understand these things, Marcus Bachmann was a Swiss citizen at birth, because his parents were Swiss. But as a non-resident of Switzerland and citizen of another country, he has to have his Swiss citizenship recognized by registering with the government, which involves submitting documents to prove that you’re entitled to citizenship through descent. (I don’t know how the details of the Swiss triple citizenship levels — in the Confederation, the canton, and the commune — are managed in cases like this.) My father, like Bachmann, had Swiss parents, but never chose to register his citizenship; in fact, I could have registered, and so could my daughter, but we also chose not to.

The Bachmann children are also eligible to register, but Michele Bachmann is another matter. Spouses of Swiss nationals can become naturalized citizens, but the law is complex and in any case involves “close ties to Switzerland”. I don’t know how Michele Bachmann managed that.

But on to something more interesting: the Swiss national anthem. The Wikipedia summary:

The Swiss Psalm (German: Schweizerpsalm, French: Cantique suisse, Italian: Salmo svizzero, Romansh: Psalm svizzer) 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. On April 1, 1981, the Swiss Psalm was declared the official Swiss national anthem.

(Everything comes in all four national languages, of course.)

There’s a choral mp3 version of the anthem here, and a variety of versions are available on YouTube.

The music is strikingly reverential in tone. Verse 1 (of 4) in German:

Trittst im Morgenrot daher,
Seh’ ich dich im Strahlenmeer,
Dich, du Hocherhabener, Herrlicher!
Wenn der Alpenfirn sich rötet,
Betet, freie Schweizer, betet.
Eure fromme Seele ahnt
Eure fromme Seele ahnt
Gott im hehren Vaterland!
Gott, den Herrn, im hehren Vaterland!

There is, surprisingly, an official English version (which leaves out the fourth verse), which is something of a loose translation (I especially miss the appeal to ‘free Swiss’, freie Schweizer). Verse 1:

When the morning skies grow red,
and over us their radiance shed
Thou, O Lord, appeareth in their light
when the alps glow bright with splendor,
pray to God, to Him surrender
for you feel and understand
that He dwelleth in this land.


4 Responses to “The Swiss national anthem”

  1. Stephen R. Anderson Says:

    Bachmann managed her Swiss citizenship because prior to 1992, a woman who married a Swiss man became a citizen automatically (indeed, ineluctably). The same was not true in the reverse direction: a foreign man marrying a Swiss woman simply got the required period of residence prior to applying for — non automatic — citizenship cut in half. But since Bachmann and her husband were married in 1978, she falls under this principle rather than the new one.

  2. Greg Lee Says:

    Speaking of renowned relatives, I’ve wondered whether there might be some kinship to the infamous Arnold Zeck (see And Be a Villain.

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