"Give 'Em a Few Bars of the Hymn of Hate": The German and English-Language Reception of Ernst Lissauer's "Haßgesang gegen England"
Ernst Lissauer’s “Haßgesang gegen England” is an Anglophobic German poem, written in the early weeks of the First World War. This thesis examines the poem’s reception in the German and English-speaking worlds, the imitations it inspired, the opposition it provoked, and the enduring discourse it instigated. The study begins by outlining Lissauer’s biography, and places his “Haßgesang” within the context of contemporary German poetry of hate. It discusses the changing reception of the poem in the German-speaking world over time, and the many and varied German works it inspired. The “Haßgesang” is shown to have captured the Zeitgeist of Germany at the beginning of the First World War, but to have been later rejected by the German public and renounced by its author, while the war still raged. The poem also established a discourse on hatred and hatefulness as motivating factors in war, sparking debate on both sides. In the English-speaking world, the “Haßgesang” was viewed by some as a useful insight into the national psyche of the Germans, while for others it merely confirmed existing stereotypes of Germans as a hateful people. As an example of propaganda in reverse the poem can hardly be bettered, inspiring parodies, cartoons, soldiers’ slang and music hall numbers, almost all engineered to subvert the poem’s hateful message. The New Zealand reception provides a useful case study of the reception of the poem in the English-speaking world, linking reportage of overseas responses with new, locally produced ones. New Zealand emerges as a geographically distant but remarkably well-informed corner of the British Empire. Regardless of the poem’s literary quality, its role as a vehicle for propaganda, satire and irony singles it out as a powerful document of its time: one which cut across all strata of society from the ruling elite to the men in the trenches, and which became an easily recognised symbol around the globe.