Wednesday, September 13, 2006

September 13, 1814 and our National Anthem

Betsy Ross FlagAll Four Stanzas See this referenced article for an excellent piece of writing by Isaac Asimov on the history of the anthem. He explains what F. S. Key was doing in Baltimore and why the anthem was written.

"The Defense of Fort M'Henry" was the original name of the poem, before it was set to music. It recounts the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the war of 1812. The first stanza - the only part most people ever hear - asks a question: Did the attack succeed, or is the US Flag still flying above the fort? The second stanza answers the question: the flag continues to fly "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!" The third stanza fell out of use during WWII when the British were our close allies, since although they aren't named, it discusses the "band who so vauntingly swore" they would destroy our country. The last stanza is a hope for peace.
Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! 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 mist 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. Oh! 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 washed out their foul footstep's 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.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes 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 preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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