Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

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Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by robbo277 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:13 am

12 days since England played Italy and with just 10 hours to go until the first Six Nations match of Week 4, I think we have pretty conclusively discussed the major issues:

  • Italy and their fox tactic and why it is the best/worst thing to ever happen to rugby and means they definitely shouldn't/should be relegated immediately
  • How quickly and in what direction Howley should **** off
  • Whether Wayne Barnes is secretly a terminator sent back in time to wreck Ireland's chances in various rugby games
  • Who should start hooker for England
  • How many tournaments between 2005 and 2010 would it have taken Scotland to match the 7 tries they scored in 3 games so far
  • Something about France


One thing that's come to my attention this morning that I thinks merit discussion is England's use of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" as their official song. Started off by the fans, it has been officially adopted by England Rugby and even their corporate partners. More information can be found here in this NYT article.

The argument goes that the song is about the release of death for a mistreated slave, and to sing it in a sporting context trivialises the suffering of the African-American slaves.

No doubt it has established itself as a big part of watching and supporting England, but that doesn't change the song's actual meaning and its links with the slave trade.

You can argue, as some have, that at £100 a ticket fans are free to sing what they want in the crowd. But whether they should is another issue and whether England Rugby should be encouraging it and profiting from it is another issue again.

So a Friday question: Is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the rugby a harmless bit of fun, or is it a horrible cultural appropriation that trivialise the suffering of the millions of black American slaves?

Obviously this is a serious debate that will require everyone to be mature and respectful of others. If you don't think you can manage it, please log on to Twitter and engage Matt Dawson with your opinion on Italy's approach to rucking.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:24 am

The US academic who brought this up has a main issue that people don't know why the song came about or the origins of it. I think it's actually down to the song being sung at rugby that quite a few of us do know where it came from. Points about the rfu profiting indirectly from slavery are stretching it to say the least.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by LondonTiger on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:27 am

robbo277 wrote: Is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the rugby a harmless bit of fun, or is it a horrible cultural appropriation that trivialise the suffering of the millions of black American slaves?

As a white, middle class male I am deemed far too privileged to have a worthwhile opinion on any subject around cultural appropriation (or so I have been told). Even being the parent of mixed race daughters means nothing (again so I am told). Perhaps the fact I am 1/8th Irish allows me to complain about The Donald misappropriating St Patricks Day (or St Pattys Day as the GOP called it)?


I do wonder why the RFU felt the need to make it the official song. I am sure that (even though we knew all the words unlike the Twickenham crowd) our renditions on buses back from away matches in the late 70s and early 80s, complete with a plethora of obscene gestures was extremely offensive.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by robbo277 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:32 am

No 7&1/2 wrote:The US academic who brought this up has a main issue that people don't know why the song came about or the origins of it. I think it's actually down to the song being sung at rugby that quite a few of us do know where it came from. Points about the rfu profiting indirectly from slavery are stretching it to say the least.

I think the point he rose about people not knowing where it came from was slightly off, but I guess it's harder to know the extent of it and what it means to some people.

I also don't think it's about profiting indirectly from slavery, as they aren't selling it on the back of it's links with the slavery. It's more that they are selling it with no acknowledgement of it's cultural beginnings.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Tattie Scones RRN on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:32 am

FFS. It's a song that is sung by English fans as a motivator to their team. They do not support slavery.

I hate the song because it's sh!t.....not because it had a different meaning years and years ago.

Religion is the first thing that should be banned.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by robbo277 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:51 am

Tattie Scones RRN wrote:FFS. It's a song that is sung by English fans as a motivator to their team. They do not support slavery.

I hate the song because it's sh!t.....not because it had a different meaning years and years ago.

Religion is the first thing that should be banned.

I think you've misunderstood my point. I'm not saying that England Rugby, their fans or anyone who has sung the song supports slavery.

I guess the question is if you were descended from slaves, would you be a bit irked that your ancestor's struggle is being compared to England being 4 points down against France and needing Ben Te'o to come off the bench and score?

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by robbo277 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:53 am

LondonTiger wrote:
robbo277 wrote: Is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the rugby a harmless bit of fun, or is it a horrible cultural appropriation that trivialise the suffering of the millions of black American slaves?

As a white, middle class male I am deemed far too privileged to have a worthwhile opinion on any subject around cultural appropriation (or so I have been told). Even being the parent of mixed race daughters means nothing (again so I am told). Perhaps the fact I am 1/8th Irish allows me to complain about The Donald misappropriating St Patricks Day (or St Pattys Day as the GOP called it)?


I do wonder why the RFU felt the need to make it the official song. I am sure that (even though we knew all the words unlike the Twickenham crowd) our renditions on buses back from away matches in the late 70s and early 80s, complete with a plethora of obscene gestures was extremely offensive.

I agree, I'm not sure why the RFU made it their official song, and if there is pressure to remove it they will feel it more strongly than the fans do. I can easily imagine a situation where the RFU change the official song and people carry on with SLSC regardless.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:58 am

This is the kicker......

"The song was first adopted by rugby crowds in 1988, after England completed an impressive comeback victory over Ireland.

On that day, Chris Oti - the first black player to represent England for 80 years - scored three tries."

Ummmmmm, mmmmmm


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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by IanBru on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:03 am

I try not be a pearl-clutcher about this sort of thing, but I think we should try to be as culturally sensitive as possible.

I don't think paying £100 for a ticket gives people the right to sing what they want - there are many reasons why Old Firm fans shouldn't sing sectarian songs (the Famine Song makes me absolutely cringe, though I wouldn't use state power to actually ban it). If we follow that line of argument, we can start to tolerate all kinds of offensive behaviour simply because a punter has paid for the privilege.

For me, it's not just that the song is about slavery and the mis-treatment of slaves, it's that Britain played a key role in the slave trade - one of the key terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 (along with giving Gibraltar to Britain) was to grant us a monopoly on the slave trade to the Spanish colonies in the Americas, which then included large chunks of what is now the USA. Although we banned slavery earlier than the US (although it was a state-by-state issue before 1865) we can't escape the fact that a large number of slaves were in the Americas because of us.

For that reason alone, I just think it's a bit crass for England supporters to appropriate an African-American spiritual. For the same reason, the Exeter Chiefs' mock-Native American 'war cry' is bloody awful.

All that being said, I'll admit my opposition to the song is primarily because it gives me the dry-boak... Run
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Scottrf on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:08 am

Is it worse than any of the anthems?
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by poissonrouge on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:08 am

May I propose an alternative song for the English rugby supporters - having thought about how Fields of Athenry is used by the Irish and Flower of Scotland by the Scots - Would it not be appropriate for the English to have an English folk song to sing, rather than an American negro spiritual. And having searched the web for inspiration I have come up with the perfect song. It celebrates a famous English victory - against the French no less. And it contains these stirring words which seem apt for a rugby match confirming the English triumph in the field of play
"In Agincourt feld he faught manly;
Throw grace of God most marvelsuly,
He had both feld and victory."
(apologies for the Old English - they couldn't spell as well in those days)
And for those of you who would like to learn the lyrics and harmony I include a link to Youtube.
Link to song on Youtube

However on reflection - not sure if the prawn sandwich brigade could cope with belting it out at Twickers.
Also I would recommend reading the comments below the Youtube song - especially the one by HeavensGremlin - which describes the Agincourt victory as
A vast bunch of well-fed poofs cornered a bunch of cold starving men with dysentery. Always beware pissing-off grumpy Brits.
Scots beware!!!
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:08 am

Nice stirring ebop but the complaint is that the history of the song isn't known.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by No9 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:12 am

BAN IT and ban that god awful anthem with its racist undertones as well...

... just saying like Whistle

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Cyril on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:12 am

I like Swing Low. It's something a bit different.

Obviously we need to be sensitive in certain areas but, as usual, it's academics getting offended on somebody else's behalf.

If you read the words of most anthems they probably wouldn't pass the PC test these days.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:12 am

Ah of course

An English sports crowd didn't see an opportunity to have a bit of a laugh and pull out some tongue in cheek stuff

My bad 7.5, all innocent stuff I'm sure
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:26 am

Cyril, your coach and half your team is culturally appropriated so appropriating a slave song as an anthem kinda works.
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Scottrf on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:27 am

ebop wrote:Cyril, your coach and half your team is culturally appropriated so appropriating a slave song as an anthem kinda works.
Any of your players not from another Pacific Island?


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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Cyril on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:27 am

ebop wrote:Cyril, your coach and half your team is culturally appropriated so appropriating a slave song as an anthem kinda works.
If you want to beat the best, follow their lead OK

When do you play you next? You can't keep running forever.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Barney McGrew did it on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:35 am

The hard core offended will always find a way to be offended. And cultural appropriation is the latest buzz phrase. Bit like institutional this or institutional that was 'til people got bored.
It's just a song, something you can sing between bites on your prawn sarnies.
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by TrailApe on Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:36 am

So a Friday question: Is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the rugby a harmless bit of fun, or is it a horrible cultural appropriation that trivialise the suffering of the millions of black American slaves?

Don't forget that we will also have to ask the opinions of the descendants of the Africans who sold the descendants of other Africans to the slavers what they think about this.

Let's be inclusive, all sides must be represented.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:17 am

Some of you guys lack awareness. Bit like your rugby team (who remembers the Italy game?)
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:19 am

Haka. And drop kicks. Poor wumming ebop must do better.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Cyril on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:19 am

ebop wrote:Some of you guys lack awareness. Bit like your rugby team (who remembers the Italy game?)
It's the drink and drugs culture in NZ that worries me if we're trying to grow the game.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Rory_Gallagher on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:24 am

Sigh. I wonder what will be next for the well-educated middle class whites to feel outraged on behalf of other minorities.

It's virtue signalling at its finest, nothing more. "Swing low" doesn't trivialise anything. Most people haven't any idea about the song's origins. Many old fashioned songs originated from times of great suffering which is often the very thing that makes them iconic.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by lostinwales on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:27 am

Simple - Flanders and Swan patriotic prejudice song..

'The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest.

The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You'll find he's a stinker, as likely as not.

Och aye, awa' wi' yon Edinburgh Festival

The Scotsman is mean, as we're all well aware
And bony and blotchy and covered with hair
He eats salty porridge, he works all the day
And he hasn't got bishops to show him the way!

The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest.

Ah hit me old mother over the head with a shillelagh

The Irishman now out contempt is beneath
He sleeps in his boots and he lies through his teeth
He blows up policemen, or so I have heard
And blames it on Cromwell and William the Third!

The English are noble, the English are nice,
And worth any other at double the price

Ah, iechyd da

The Welshman's dishonest and cheats when he can
And little and dark, more like monkey than man
He works underground with a lamp in his hat
And he sings far too loud, far too often, and flat!

And crossing the Channel, one cannot say much
Of French and the Spanish, the Danish or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are red,
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed!

The English are moral, the English are good
And clever and modest and misunderstood.

And all the world over, each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practice beforehand which ruins the fun!

The English, the English, the English are best
So up with the English and down with the rest.

It's not that they're wicked or natuarally bad
It's knowing they're foreign that makes them so mad!

For the English are all that a nation should be,
And the flower of the English are Donald (Michael)
Donald (Michael) and Me!

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:29 am

Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of the black slave?
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Rory_Gallagher on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:30 am

Nope.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:31 am

Ok
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:33 am

What about if people around the world know it's a slave song and you whitey guys dressed in white are singing it and pointing fingers at you guys for cultural appropriation after it originated after a black guy scored 3 tries, do you care?


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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:34 am

Erm. Not all English people are white. Up your game ebop.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Cyril on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:34 am

ebop wrote:Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of the black slave?
Yes, and I pinch myself so hard even my great, great, great, great grandfather can feel it.

For a while at least the guilt is assuaged.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by SecretFly on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:36 am

TrailApe wrote:
So a Friday question: Is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the rugby a harmless bit of fun, or is it a horrible cultural appropriation that trivialise the suffering of the millions of black American slaves?

Don't forget that we will also have to ask the opinions of the descendants of the Africans who sold the descendants of other Africans to the slavers what they think about this.

Let's be inclusive, all sides must be represented.


Well yes.  Slavery was, slaver is, slavery will be.  And every colour engaged in it through history.  We're close to the black American experience and it still resonates today, so it's understandable that it's a sensitive issue worldwide - but is it a sensitive issue in some of the areas of Africa where indigenous tribes walked their own slaves to the coast to furnish the white man's ships with workers for the plantations? - AND, slavery still exists; and slaves are still being boated around the world, and it's again not only white people doing the trading.

So my solution would be to let the rugby song be a rugby song, as it is for the vast majority who sing it - and then let the people that know the true meaning of the song seriously address the present day serious slavery trade and talk more about it than the historic version.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:36 am

Most people at twickers are 7.5

Don't be a mug
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Barney McGrew did it on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:36 am

ebop wrote:Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of the black slave?

No but I do think about when we beat the All Blacks though. Brings a tear to my eye.
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:38 am

No need to be offensive ebop just because your wums are in need of improvement.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by TrailApe on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:38 am

Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of the black slave?

Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of Angels coming after people in bands?

Do you guys REALLY believe in God?

Figures concerning attendance at Churches and Chapels (yes you Bread Of Heaven singers - I'm looking at you!) would indicate the British are a bunch of Heathens so it's rank hypocrisy to sing spirituals.
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:42 am

I'm serious though, you guys know the connotations and you know England has a rich history of exploiting new frontiers, do you guys seriously not think about slavery when you belt it out? Maybe there could even be a sense of historical pride in the song as in we dominated once upon a time. But alas, no more. But let's not give up hope, right?
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:44 am

Barney McGrew did it wrote:
ebop wrote:Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of the black slave?

No but I do think about when we beat the All Blacks though. Brings a tear to my eye.
Yeah I bet, it's such a long time between drinks it must be a great relief
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by TightHEAD on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:46 am

It backfired on the BBC this morning as they interviewed two American cultural professor types and neither had a problem with England rugby fans using it, sort of mucked up the beebs left wing agenda somewhat.

I don't have a problem with it and as an England fan I don't care if people do get upset by it.
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:48 am

Cyril wrote:
ebop wrote:Serious question. When swing low is belted out, do you guys think of the black slave?
Yes, and I pinch myself so hard even my great, great, great, great grandfather can feel it.

For a while at least the guilt is assuaged.
Cyril, that is amazing and you are a fine example
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by GunsGermsV2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:54 am

Cyril wrote:
ebop wrote:Cyril, your coach and half your team is culturally appropriated so appropriating a slave song as an anthem kinda works.
If you want to beat the best, follow their lead OK

When do you play you next? You can't keep running forever.

England dont play NZ till next November. Win streak will be long gone by then.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by SecretFly on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:57 am

ebop wrote:I'm serious though, you guys know the connotations and you know England has a rich history of exploiting new frontiers, do you guys seriously not think about slavery when you belt it out?

Come on now, ebop. They don't have a whole lot of alternatives. If they drop the Swing Low, they're back to the open warfare song:

"Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May be thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen"

That can't be good for crowd control at an England v Scotland game. But I'm glad to see Wade is playing - lovely little tricksty player.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by robbo277 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:57 am

Rory_Gallagher wrote:Sigh. I wonder what will be next for the well-educated middle class whites to feel outraged on behalf of other minorities.

It's virtue signalling at its finest, nothing more. "Swing low" doesn't trivialise anything. Most people haven't any idea about the song's origins. Many old fashioned songs originated from times of great suffering which is often the very thing that makes them iconic.

I agree with the last sentence, and that's definitely a good point to note.

I'm trying to not offer too much of an opinion here, because I only read about it this morning and I guess I still don't know what side of the fence I fall on. However I don't think the objection has been raised by well-educated, middle class whites and I don't think it's inappropriate now the issue has been raised for well-educated, middle class whites to join the debate on it.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Rory_Gallagher on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:00 pm

Maybe the haka should be reconsidered for its historical use on the battlefield which trivialises victims of Maori warfare as a form of entertainment.

Do you think about the villagers who were slaughtered in these tribal battles?

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by SecretFly on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:01 pm

robbo277 wrote: However I don't think the objection has been raised by well-educated, middle class whites and I don't think it's inappropriate now the issue has been raised for well-educated, middle class whites to join the debate on it.

You'd have to run that past me again robbo.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by SecretFly on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:02 pm

Rory_Gallagher wrote:Maybe the haka should be reconsidered for its historical use on the battlefield which trivialises victims of Maori warfare as a form of entertainment.

Do you think about the villagers who were slaughtered in these tribal battles?

I got to admit I don't. But I'd slaughter anyone who tried to ban the Haka ... Whistle

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by Rory_Gallagher on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:04 pm

robbo277 wrote:
Rory_Gallagher wrote:Sigh. I wonder what will be next for the well-educated middle class whites to feel outraged on behalf of other minorities.

It's virtue signalling at its finest, nothing more. "Swing low" doesn't trivialise anything. Most people haven't any idea about the song's origins. Many old fashioned songs originated from times of great suffering which is often the very thing that makes them iconic.

I agree with the last sentence, and that's definitely a good point to note.

I'm trying to not offer too much of an opinion here, because I only read about it this morning and I guess I still don't know what side of the fence I fall on. However I don't think the objection has been raised by well-educated, middle class whites and I don't think it's inappropriate now the issue has been raised for well-educated, middle class whites to join the debate on it.

That isn't my point, of course, as I also loathe the idea that white people can't have opinions on, well, anything, due to their "privilege". However, that line of thought comes from the same people who complain about this sort of thing.

Often, these sorts of objections come from people who are actively looking for something that may be deemed "offensive". Organisations make money from this sort of thing and some people live for it. If there isn't a bad guy to fight, you have to make one up.

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by tigertattie on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:05 pm

I believe the appropriate response is:

"You can swing that fecking chariot up your arse,
you can swing that fecking chariot up your arse.
You can swing that fecking chariot,
swing that fecking chariot,
swing that fecking chariot up your arse"

To the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountain"
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by lostinwales on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:06 pm

ebop wrote:I'm serious though, you guys know the connotations and you know England has a rich history of exploiting new frontiers, do you guys seriously not think about slavery when you belt it out? Maybe there could even be a sense of historical pride in the song as in we dominated once upon a time. But alas, no more. But let's not give up hope, right?

By the way its not 'you guys' its 'us guys'. The original British colonists of NZ and Australia were a) part of Britain when we were making money through slavery and b) their own actions and interactions with the native populations were nothing to write home about long after we gave up on the slavery thing

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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Post by ebop on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:08 pm

SecretFly wrote:
ebop wrote:I'm serious though, you guys know the connotations and you know England has a rich history of exploiting new frontiers, do you guys seriously not think about slavery when you belt it out?

Come on now, ebop.  They don't have a whole lot of alternatives.  If they drop the Swing Low, they're back to the open warfare song:

"Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May be thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen"

That can't be good for crowd control at an England v Scotland game.  But I'm glad to see Wade is playing - lovely little tricksty player.
Mm ok, relevant but a bit provocative

What's the tune, is it catchy?

Can they do the thing where one part of the crowd starts and the other starts later and it overlaps and sounds pleasant but not quite Welsh-level pleasant, or is it a bit messy?
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Re: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

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