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God Defend New Zealand
New Zealand National Anthem
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English Version:

God of nations! at Thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our Free Land.
Guard Pacific's triple star,
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand

Men of ev'ry creed and race
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our Free Land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our Free Land.
Lord of battles in thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our Free Land.
From dishonour and from shame
Guard our country's spotless name
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our Free Land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy Glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.


Maori Version:

Maori Version
E Ihowa Atua,
O nga iwi matou ra
Ata whakarongona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau to atawhai;
Manaakitia mai

Ona mano tangata
Kiri whero, kiri ma,
Iwi Maori Pakeha,
Rupeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko nga hë
Mau e whakaahu kë,
Kia ora marire

Tona mana kia tu!
Tona kaha kia u;
Tona rongo hei paku
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa nga whawhai
Nga tutu a tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai

Waiho tona takiwa
Ko te ao marama;
Kia whiti tona ra
Taiawhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau

Tona pai me toitu
Tika rawa, pono pu;
Tona noho, tana tu;
Iwi no Ihowa.
Kaua mona whakama;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tu hei tauira;

Click the "Play" button (arrow) on left to hear an excerpt of New Zealand's National Anthem - 547kbs


God Defend New Zealand - History

On Christmas Day, 1876, 'God Defend New Zealand' had its first performance in Dunedin's Queen's Theatre. Played by the Royal Artillery Band and sung by the full complement of the Lydia Howard Burlesque and Opera Burle Troupe, the patriotic hymn found immediate support and favour with the Dunedin public.

Written by Thomas Bracken in the 1870s the words for 'God Defend New Zealand' were first published as a competition run by The Saturday Advertiser and New Zealand Literary Miscellany. The competition - the composition of a National Air based on five verses of the poem, appeared in the Advertiser on 1 July, 1876. The prize - Ten Guineas.

The competition would close on September 1, the copyright of the successful tune would become the property of the Advertiser's proprietors, and the entries would be judged by competent musicians in Melbourne, Victoria.

In a period of widespread home music and the growing popularity of the piano, there was no shortage of enthusiastic composers though few managed to stay the distance. In one Otago country town a young fellow sat down to his piano as soon as the Advertiser reached him late one night and did not go to bed until he had set it to music.

On September 9, the Advertiser reported that 12 completed entries had been forwarded to Melbourne, and that the decision could be expected in three weeks time. It proved to be an over-optimistic estimate, and not until the issue of 21 October was the newspaper able to print a letter from its Melbourne agent, Mr George Musgrave.

"I received the manuscripts safely, and have at last succeeded in my commission, I have had great difficulty on getting the best men to act. Zelman at first refusing, as he said he did not like to pass an opinion on other peoples work."

Musgrave stuck to the task and at last Zelman consented. Two other German musicians, Siede and Zeplin completed the panel - each judging the 12 scores independently. Of the winner, there was no doubt. All chose the score identified by the nom-de-plume 'Orpheus' saying that it had more melody than the other 11 entries. And 'Orpheus', the Advertiser revealed, was a Lawrence school teacher named J. J. Woods - the young man who had dashed off the music in a single sitting.

The popularity of 'God Defend New Zealand' continued to grow throughout the 19th century and entered the 20th century as one of the most popular hymns of the period. Through the efforts of many people, mainly John McDermott, chief engineer of the Post Office from 1935-39 and an enthusiastic admirer of Bracken's work, 'God Defend New Zealand' was made New Zealand's national song in time for the 1940 Centennial celebrations.

In 1976, almost 100 years after the first public performance, a petition carrying 7750 signatures, organised in Dunedin by Mr G. H. Latta and others and calling for 'God Defend New Zealand' to become the national anthem of New Zealand was presented to the Petitions Committee of Parliament.

With the permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Government adopted 'God Defend New Zealand' as a national anthem of equal status in New Zealand with 'God Save The Queen.'

The first Maori translation was carried out at the request of Governor Sir George Grey in 1878. The translator was Thomas H. Smith of Auckland, a judge in the Native Land Court. The most recent edition was translated by former Maori Language Commissioner, Professor Timoti S. Käretu.

John Joseph Woods — Composer (1849-1932)
At first glance John Joseph Woods was a man few would have picked to compose the music of 'God Defend New Zealand.' The son of a soldier, born and educated in Tasmania, and 'four-square' middle class all his long life, he seems to fit much better to the role of county clerk which he became.

'Anthem House' in Lawrence, South Otago where Woods wrote the music to 'God Defend New Zealand'.

Yet he was talented, very musical (able to play 12 instruments, primarily the violin) and creative. He was aged about 27 when the Advertiser ran its competition for a musical setting to Bracken's 'God Defend New Zealand' and was then teaching at the Roman Catholic School in the gold-mining town of Lawrence. It was 9 o'clock at night when the Advertiser reached him there. "On reading the beautiful and appealing words,' he wrote to A. H. Reed in 1927, 'I immediately felt like one inspired . . . I set to work instanter and never left my seat 'till the music was completely finished late on in the night."

It was this spark of inspiration which has given 'God Defend New Zealand' its enduring character and an ability to survive recurrent criticisms that the anthem lacks musical distinction. In many ways it is the ideal complement to Bracken's verse, which itself expresses the aspirations of ordinary people with little academic or poetic pretension, but with notable spirit.

Woods was a man of his community and its institutions. In his own district he was an all-round sportsman of note, a member and office-bearer in clubs and societies, long serving choir master of the Roman Catholic Church - and County Clerk for the Tuapeka County Council for an astounding 55 years. This final achievement alone probably makes him unique in New Zealand's history and when, on his retirement in 1932 at the age of 83, his services were recognised by creating him a 'freeman of the county', this was the first time that anyone in the British Dominion had been given such an honour.

Music, he would say, was a Divine art, and he saw heaven ". . . as a beautiful garden of celestial flowers, peopled by choirs of angels, whose songs of praise and adoration would replace their present-day earthly language." Not everyone's vision perhaps, but indicative of the populist sentiment that has kept his music for 'God Defend New Zealand' close to the aspirations of the average New Zealander.

Thomas Bracken — Author (1843-1898)
Born at Clones, Ireland on December 21, 1843, Thomas Bracken emigrated to Dunedin from Geelong, Victoria, in 1869. During his Australian years, he had written much verse, which he collected into a volume issued in Dunedin in February 1869. He was determined to make a career in journalism and talked his way into a job on the staff of the Otago Guardian.

It was at the Guardian where he met John Bathgate, founder and patron of the Advertiser. Bathgate founded the Advertiser in July 1875 "to foster a national spirit in New Zealand and encourage colonial literature" and believed he had found "the perfect man for the job of editor" in Thomas Bracken. Bracken accepted the position of editor on 17 July 1875 and immediately began a progressive editorial policy of encouraging local writers. He also wrote much of the paper himself. Due to Bracken's vigorous editorship the papers circulation soon reached 7000 copies and attracted talented contributors. The success of the paper encouraged Bracken who felt inspired to contribute the occasional verse himself, including 'God Defend New Zealand.'

Bracken led a life of great contrasts. Following on from the highs of the Advertiser, Bracken went on to have a selection of his poetry published in 'Flowers of the Free Lands' in 1877. In addition, Bracken also flung himself with his customary energy into politics. As a strong supporter of Sir George Grey's radical, egalitarian policies, he stood unsuccessfully for Dunedin City in 1879. Two years later he won Dunedin Central, but after three years he was defeated, by three votes, by J B Bradshaw. In 1883 he visited Samoa and joined with others in urging the New Zealand Government to annex the islands before the Germans did. When Bradshaw died in 1886, Bracken was returned at the ensuing by-election, but he did not stand again after the 1887 dissolution.

When he was elected in 1881, Bracken said in his speech of thanks, "I am tied to no Party, and I will work for all classes - for justice to all." His parliamentary career fulfilled this pledge. He was a firm supporter of Liberal policies but went his own independent way when he thought the occasion demanded it. He was a prime mover in encouraging the formation of a Trades and Labour Council in Dunedin in 1881 and a supporter of the eight-hour day. He was likewise a doughty opponent of centralism, and fearful of government "by a handful of official fogies in the Temple of Red Tape on Lambton Quay!"

Bracken re-entered the world of journalism after leaving parliament and formed Thomas Bracken and Co. with Alexander Bathgate and others, who bought the Evening Herald. He then conducted the paper until it was replaced by the Liberal journal, the Globe in 1890. After this Bracken concentrated on his literature, and ended publishing some 14 books of verse and prose. His final text Musings in Maoriland did not sell well in Australia, so at the request of his publisher, Bracken went on a promotional tour across the Tasman. Although he sold 700 copies of the expensive work, Bracken's lecturing failed to cover his costs. Upon his return to Dunedin, his health began to deteriorate. He had not been a prudent or temperate man, and he found himself in strained circumstances. A job was found for him as Bill Reader in Parliament, but after two sessions, worsening health forced his return to Dunedin.

Clouded in debt and with continuing poor health, the final highlight of Bracken's life came in 1897 when the then Prime Minister Seddon presented a copy of the words and music of 'God Defend New Zealand' to Queen Victoria. Less than six months later Bracken was found lying sick and poor "at a cottage at the back of a tram in Mornington.' He was taken to Dunedin Public Hospital where he died on 10 February 1898.

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God Save The Queen—History
'God Save The Queen' (or King, depending on who is Sovereign at the time) is the oldest and possibly the most well known of all national anthems. The composition of the anthem has been the subject of much scholarly debate with the words and music being of mixed ancestry. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable quotes the words 'Grand Dieu sauvez le roi' which were sung before Louis XIV in 1686 although it is probable that the words have their roots in both plainsong and popular traditions. The music can be translated back to a similarly wide variety of sources. There is a manuscript copy of words and music in Antwerp which says both were by Dr John Bull, who was organist of the Chapel Royal but became organist of Notre Dame, Antwerp, from 1617 to 1628. This manuscript alludes to the anthem being composed on the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, to which the words "frustrate their knavish tricks apply."

The first recorded conjunction of words and music occurs in a printed collection of songs issued in 1744 under the title Harmonica Angelica. Around this time the anthem was frequently performed in London playhouses: Thomas Arne's arrangement for the Drury Lane Theatre still exists and can be seen in the British Museum. Since then, minor alterations have been made to both the words and music. A range of composers, among them Beethoven, Brahms, Paganini and Debussy, have interpreted the music and there also exist various choral arrangements, the best known by Elgar and Britten.

Although no single version has ever received official authorisation, attempts at regulation have been made. In 1933, owing possibly to the influence of King George V, who is said to have taken a particular interest in its correct performance, an Army order was issued containing a set of guidelines to ensure the proper interpretation. The score for this version is available, published by Boosey & Hawkes.

'God Save The Queen' has been the traditional anthem of New Zealand since 1840. Early in the twentieth century there were attempts to include verses with special application to New Zealand. One such verse written by E S Emerson was approved by King Edward VII but never adopted.

A verse written especially for Commonwealth Day by David Scott is now in use in New Zealand. Initially used for the Commonwealth Day observance at Westminster Abbey in 1993, it is also sung in the Commonwealth Day observances at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Giving recognition to the family of nations that make up the Commonwealth, Scott's version replaces the second and third verses.

Not on this land alone
But be God's mercies known
From shore to shore.
Lord, make the nations see
That we in liberty
Should form one family
The wide world o'er.

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Parliamentary Action Timeline

Prime Minister Richard Seddon presents a copy of words and music for 'God Defend New Zealand' to Queen Victoria.

Cabinet considers a request, led by John McDermott, to make 'God Defend New Zealand' our National Song in time for the Centennial Year.

Announcement proclaiming 'God Defend New Zealand' as the National Song of New Zealand made by Prime Minister Peter Fraser.

Attempt made by Prime Minister Norman Kirk to promote 'God Defend New Zealand' to status as a National Anthem. This bid was unsuccessful.

Petition presented to Parliament asking that 'God Defend New Zealand' become New Zealand's official anthem.

On Monday, 21 November, then Minister of Internal Affairs Hon D A Highet, announced in the New Zealand Gazette "that the National Anthems of New Zealand shall be the traditional anthem 'God Save The Queen' and the poem 'God Defend New Zealand', written by Thomas Bracken, as set to music by John Joseph Woods, both being of equal status as national anthems appropriate to the occasion." This action was given with the consent of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.