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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beasts of England by Orwell with notes for Spanish-speaking learners of English

Just for fun. I begin the year in my English Learners class teaching them the basic genres, the history of the English language, phonics, pronunciation, literary devices with some short humorous limericks and poems. I try to teach them vocabulary but also cultural literacy. RICARDO MUNRO

BEASTS OF ENGLAND by George Orwell
Notes and Commentary BY RICHARD K. MUNRO
"Beasts of England" is a fictional song in George Orwell’s satiric allegoric novel masterpiece Animal Farm (1945). It alludes to the famous Communist-Socialist anthem "The Internationale as well as Shelley’s romantic poem "Men of England"[1]
In Animal Farm, Old Major the pig describes his dream of an animal-controlled utopia just a few nights before his death. Old Major recalls a tune he heard as a piglet, so many years ago, entitled “Beasts of England”. The pigs quickly memorize the song, foreshadowing their future dominance, while other animals follow rhythm and beat as best they can.

The animals joyously sing “Beasts of England” after the revolution against Farmer Jones. However, as Napoleon the Pig grows more powerful, using packs of dogs to terrorize the farm, he orders that the singing of "Beasts of England" be outlawed. Napoleon then replaces “Beasts of England” with an anthem praising himself! He changes the animal laws saying:


A very funny song from a very funny but also very sad book which along with 1984 are prophetic warnings about the dangers of Communism, totalitarianism and the power of the modern state.

BEASTS OF ENGLAND (George Orwell) tune: “La cucaracha”
Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings[2]
Of the golden future time.

Soon or late the day is coming,
Tyrant Man shall be o'erthrown,[3]
And the fruitful fields of England
Shall be trod[4] by beasts alone.

Rings will vanish from our noses,
And the harnesses[5] from our back,
Bit[6] and spur shall rust forever,
And cruel whips no more shall crack.

Riches more than mind can picture,
Wheat and barley, oats and hay,
Clover, beans[7], and mangel-wurzels [8]
Shall be ours upon that day.

Bright will shine the fields of England,
Purer shall its waters be,
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free.

For that day we all must labour[9],
Though we die before it break;
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys,
All must toil for our freedom's sake.

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken well and spread my tidings
Of the golden future time.


[1] To the Men of England by Shelley (fragment)
Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?

Wherefore feed and clothe and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat -nay, drink your blood?

[2] Tidings : news (noticias)

[3] Poetic for OVERTHROWN- derrocado ; echado del poder

[4] To tread (trod) trodden (pisar/pisó/pisado; as in downtrodden (pisoteado; oprimidio)

[5] Harness: arreos

[6] Bit= bocado, freno

[7] Wheat and barley (trigo y cebada), oats and hay ( avena y heno),Clover, beans (trébol y frijoles)

[8] Animals are known to thrive excellently upon this plant, both its leaves and roots providing a nutritious food. Mangelwurzel

[9] British spelling; closer to the original French like colour for color and valour for valor.

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