Wednesday, 26 October 2011

National Day (Vienna, Austria)

What embodies a nation's National Day? Is it the sword? And why does a nation feel the need to have a National Day anyway? Is an official National Day a sign of insecurity? Or is it a sign of pride in a nation's achievements? Is it perhaps a search for an identity? Or is it merely a pretext; an excuse for a holiday; a piece of street theatre? In Britain should St. David's Day, St. George's Day and St. Andrew's Day be designated as National Days in Wales, England and Scotland respectively and celebrated with holidays and local displays by the military? Or is this kind of thing divisive? There are 27 countries within the EU. Should they all celebrate their National Days on the same day?

I ask myself
these questions
in the silence
of this misty morning
as the thousand soldiers
stand in ranks
and wait
(what do they think?)
in this gray
and slanting rain
falling soft on Hero Square; the square
named for those
who died
(it is said with valor)
on a field
of Prussian blue; this square
that hosted
the overture

the Thousand Years of Reich.

And when
its Leader
played his part
and spoke in tones
that thrilled
the Sieg Heil! crowds
they handed him
their Alpine lands
and raised their hands
and swore to carry out
whatever things
that Leader
of the Third Reich

And each year
on that Leader's birthday
all were tuned
to the manic

from their radios. These
bellicose birthday broadcasts
were now
their National Days.

Until that Leader's end.

And then.

There was a period of erasure.

And then.

There was a period of reflection.

And now.

An elected president
before the thousand waiting troops

they swear an oath
and salute
the National Day.

A plane
starts circling



  1. A beautifully laid out blog! Good to see photos of friends old and new, at the side. As for National Days - we have days, months and years for just about everything - probably every day were we to research it, is some kind of special day, decided by goodness knows who. As far as my knowledge of history goes, there were many in Austria who were unhappy about the invasion, designated - not by the Austrian people - as the Anschluss. Nations may well become things of the past...

  2. Morelle, thanks for those nice words. Yes, you are right of course there were also those against the Anschluss but they were the few. They were called to resist Hitler by Otto von Habsburg but they failed to make even a token gesture of defiance, such as blowing up the bridge at Passau for example. In a church near me there's a memorial to a priest who led a small resistance group who was captured and beheaded by the Nazis.

  3. p.s.
    please see my post:

    "Heinrich Maier, the quiet man" for little-known information about a local Nazi resistance group.

  4. That is one cracker of a poem, Gwilym. Thin but with depth.

    And yes, if things go the way they are there will be fewer national days; only European days or Euro days or conform to the norm days: perhaps each country in the south of Europe will have a national bailout day.

  5. Let's all just celebrate St. Patrick's Day and have done with it and I say that and I'm not even Irish ;)


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