Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Our National Anthem

On a different note from our usual focus on the political scene, I thought that we should celebrate one of the many high points in our country's history by remembering that this day in history is the day when Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem.

On September 13, 1815, Key was being held prisoner on board a British ship bombarding Fort McHenry near Baltimore during the War of 1812. It was a different era, and Key was allowed to be on deck as the fleet attacked the defenses to Baltimore. All through the night, the British fleet kept up their firing, but the fort never surrendered, and as the sun came up, Key saw that the flag was still waving over the embattled fortress. Inspired by the sight, he wrote the lyrics to what became the United States' national anthem, setting it to an old English drinking song titled To Anacreon in Heaven. According to Infoplease, this tune's origins are difficult to trace, but it might have been written by John Stafford Smith, born in 1750.

Although there has been a movement to change the anthem to something easier to sing, I personally like the Star-Spangled Banner, despite its difficulty (as can be proven by the many popular "singers" who attempt and usually fail miserably to sing it during professional sporting events) and the fact that there are few who actually know all of the lyrics. Usually only the first verse of the song is sung. The complete lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner also courtesy of Infoplease, are as follows:

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


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