Du gamla, Du fria ("Thou ancient, Thou free") is the de facto national anthem of Sweden. It was originally named Sång till Norden ("Song to the Nordic"), and the first words of its lyrics has just been assumed also to be the title over the years.
Although the Swedish constitution makes no mention of a national anthem, the song enjoys universal recognition and is used, for example, at sporting events. It first began to win recognition as a patriotic song in the 1890s, and the issue was debated back and forth up until the 1930s. In 1938, the Swedish public service radio company Sveriges Radio started playing it at the end of transmitting in the evenings, which really marked the beginning of the "almost official" status as national anthem the song has since then.
Despite a widespread belief that it was adopted as the national anthem in 1866, no such recognition has ever been officially accorded. In 2000 a Riksdag committee rejected, as "unnecessary", a proposal to give the song official status. However, there have since been repeated motions with a similar intent.
The original lyrics were written by Richard Dybeck in 1844. Swedish composer Edvin Kallstenius arranged the traditional melody from Västmanland. Dybeck himself originally wrote the beginning as "Du gamla, Du friska" (Thou ancient, Thou hale), but in the late 1850´s personally changed the lyrics to "Du gamla, Du fria" (Thou ancient, Thou free). The song was already published in several song books and sung with "Du gamla, Du friska", but a priest who had known Dybeck got the opportunity to tell the singer who performed the song the most, opera singer Carl Fredrik Lundqvist, about the change in the year 1900. From that point on, printings of the "friska" version ceased to be seen in song books, but there is a recording from 1905 where it is sung with "friska" spread.
By the early 1900´s, many regarded the song unsuitable as a national anthem. In the 1890´s it started getting printed in song books in the section for patriotic songs, but as late as in the 1920´s it could be published just as "folk music". In 1899 a contest was held for writing a national anthem. It led to Verner von Heidenstam writing his "Sverige", but did not lead to any new national anthem.
Patriotic sentiment is notably absent from the text of the original two verses, which is because they were written in the spirit of Scandinavism popular at the time (Norden refers to the Nordic countries in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish). After the song started to acquire its informal status as the national anthem, various people wrote additional verses to increase the "Swedishness" of the song. Aforementioned Lundqvist wrote an own third verse beginning with "Jag älskar dig Sverige" (I love thee, Sweden), Frans Österblom wrote four verses beginning with "Jag älskar min hembygd" ("I love my native area") and Louise Ahlén in 1910 wrote two verses which have been printed a little now and then still to this day, not the least lately on the Internet. For a long time, they were very seldom published, and are still largely unknown to the public.
A very common mistake is singing "Jag vet att Du är och förblir vad du var" ("I know that You are and remain what You were") instead of "Jag vet att Du är och Du blir vad du var" ("I know that You are and You will be what You were").
In instrumental performances, the last line of the melody is often played once first as an introduction.
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