Analysis: How to be a European
(illustration + two songs)

     What we have here is the cover of the book " How to be a European", edited by E.O. Parrott and Noel Petty and two poems that were published inside it, written by Stanley J. Sharpless in 1991. The three documents deal with the controversy around Britain joining the European Union.

     The cover shows the drawing of a blond lady dressed in a red tunic riding a white bull on the beach. She is carrying the blue flag with golden stars of the European Union, while the bull's flank has been branded with the Union Jack, the British flag. In the background, we can see white cliffs and a sign pointing to the tunnel so we may imagine the scene is set in Dover, England and that the sea represents the British Channel that separates Britain from the Continent. We notice the lady is determined to make the bull advance as she is whipping him with a stick. The bull is sweating and very reluctant to go towards the big tidal wave that is rising before him in the sea.

     This is a reference to the classical Greek myth of Europa and the bull. The woman symbolizes Europa, who was seduced and abducted by Zeus disguised as a bull. Unlike the myth, when Zeus swam across the sea and named the land to which he took her Europe, here the bull, which represents Britain, does not feel like facing the sea or crossing the ocean. He is afraid of being engulfed, losing his identity and drowning.

     While the cover page illustrates well the fear many British people have of becoming part of the continent, the two poems which follow explicit the arguments for and against it.

     Both poems are written in the first person and give the narrator's personal point of view. They are both made up of verses of a regular length with a regular rhyming pattern. However, although both give advice and arguments to convince the listener, the views expressed are poles apart and because of this, the tone of each poem is very different.

     The verses in the first poem are longer and heavier, with an alternate lines rhyme (a b c b d e f e). The tone is serious and even insulting. The narrator is self-righteous and his arguments invoke religion, health, government, food, customs and traditions:

     The vocabulary used by the author is that of separation, fear and danger.

     He is xenophobic because he describes the Channel as "a wog-defying sea". The word " wog" is extremely offensive and implies that all foreigners need to be held at bay. He opposes "us" to "them". He thinks Europe is full of dangers and dreads English people catching rabies from rabid foreign dogs.

     There are a lot of negative words like "no" and "won't", which show the author refuses to abandon the British traditions and open himself to the novelties suggested by Europe. He's extremely conservative because he does not want any changes to the British way of life and he wants the British to remain "the way we've always been". This is also echoed by the use of the past simple and the expression "used to". His jingoism and nostalgia for the British Empire is seen in phrases like " We used to rule the waves" and the fact that he seems to believe that God is on Britain's side against the rest of Europe.

     In contrast to this, the tone of the second poem is much lighter and more cheerful. The rhythm, reinforced by the rhyming pattern in
aa b cc b, is happier. The chorus using words from different European languages (German, French, Italian)after each verse invites people to raise their glasses to Europe: prosit, santé, ciao.

     The arguments are all hedonistic, related to enjoying life and having a good time, particularly as a tourist.

      He says that people on the Continent are friendly, that you can let your hair down, dance , whisper messages of love and visit famous sites.

     This time, instead of opposing "us" and "them", the narrator invites the British to imitate their European neighbours: " Let yourself go---be more like them, dear". Unlike the first poem, the author does not use the past tense but "will" and "shall", projecting the readers enthusiastically towards a new experience in the future. The use of "shall" evidences a strong belief, almost an engagement.

    He gives readers advice based on his own positive experience of European life. We can see he is a keen European because he sprinkles his poem with foreign words and pronounces other words in a French way (Continong, Paree) or uses a kind of "franglais" (parley-vooing).