Song and music played a peculiar role in the novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider. In fact the title of the book was first mentioned as the lyric of a song, “pale horse, pale rider done taken my lover away.” This brought my attention to the two songs presented in the novel, “Pale Horse, pale rider” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”
The song “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” was arguably the most significant song in the novel as it was directly linked to the title of the book. This idea was reinforced by that the song was the extreme compact version of the book, with the lyrics detailing and foreshadowing the essential plot of the novel. Take for example the death of Adam, which is foreshadowed by the lyric “[death] done taken my lover away”, and the survival of Miranda, “Death always leaves one singer to mourn”. However, the irony about this song is that it does even not exist in real life.
Fortunately the other song do exist in real life. At my first reading of the book I was profoundly confused by the author’s choice of song, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, to be sung for the celebration of the armistice and her dismissal of the current national anthem. Shouldn’t the more appropriate song be The Star-Spangled Banner, the national Anthem of United States of America? However a brief internet search yielded that before 1931 My Country, ‘Tis of Thee was actually the de-facto national anthem of USA and was modeled after the British national anthem, God Save the Queen. Since the setting of the book was in 1918, it made sense to use the old anthem. However the current national anthem, though not mentioned explicitly, was expressed indirectly in the phrase “oh, say, can you see?” that came right after the singing of “My Country, Tis of thee”.
Here is the video of the old American anthem:
In the novel the lyrics of the de-facto national anthem was contrasted with Miranda’s view of United States of America. The lyric “sweet land” was directly contrasted with Miranda’s view, “terrible land of this bitter world”. This direct contrast could mark the alienation of Miranda as it expressed her contrasting view against the whole country. In addition this contrast could also be seen as a criticism towards the government and the society in general. The contrast could demonstrate that government didn’t fulfill its job and that society was living in deception.