In Chapter 1 of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the song “Beasts of England” is first sung to the other animals by Old Major. It is a revolutionary song, designed to promote the overthrow of human tyranny. As a piece of political propaganda, the song is effective for a number of reasons, including the following:
- It is sung to “a stirring tune, something between Clementine and La Cucaracha.” (This comment is a good example of Orwell’s satire and sarcasm, since both songs associated with that tune are a bit ridiculous.)
- The song uses a good deal of anaphora, or repetition of initial words, thus making it easy to remember. Consider, for example, the first stanza:
Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time.
- The song uses much repetition in general, once again making it easy to remember.
- The phrasing of the song is very simple, clear, and straightforward, again making it easy to recall.
- The song begins on a very optimistic note, thus making it appealing to potential singers.
- The song is as simple in its message as it is in its phrasing: animals are good; humans are bad. There is nothing complex or sophisticated about the song’s meanings or purposes.
- The song appeals not only to the self-interests of its intended singers but also to their patriotism.
- The song promises not only material abundance but also freedom from cruelty and oppression.
- The design of the song is simple: each stanza consists of only four lines; only the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme; and the length of lines alters between eight syllables and seven. There is nothing artistically sophisticated or challenging about the song.
- The final stanza echoes the first stanza, thus giving the song a strong sense off symmetry and completion.