O Say Can You See?

Something for the weekend.  The Star Spangled Banner.  Often assailed by critics as unsingable, too war-like and on other grounds,  I love it and I am proud that it is our National Anthem.   It is an interesting song for a national anthem in that the first stanza, the one we all attempt to sing, has an important question at the end of it:  Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?   That particular question has to be asked by each generation of Americans, ours no less than the generations who came before us.

Here is a superb video giving the historical back ground behind the writing of The Star Spangled Banner:

Francis Scott Key  achieved immortality by penning The Star Spangled Banner.    Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13-14, 1814 aboard the HMS Tonnant, held by the British after his successful mission to negotiate a prisoner release.  Key was moved by the successful defense of Fort McHenry and wrote a poem entitled The Defense of Fort McHenry which soon became immortal as the song The Star Spangled Banner.

Although it may seem an odd combination, Key was extremely religious while also being one of the ablest attorneys of his day.  He was Vice President of the American Bible Society from 1817 until his death in 1843.    Among many notable cases, he defended Sam Houston when he was accused of assaulting a Congressman and prosecuted an unsuccessful assassin of President Jackson.  He served as the District Attorney for the District of Columbia for many years.  In a cruel historical irony, a grandson of Key’s, Francis Key Howard, a pro-Southern newspaper editor in Baltimore, was imprisoned in Fort McHenry by the Union during the Civil War.

The song was adopted as our national anthem by Congress on March 3, 1931, although it had been our unofficial national anthem for many years before that.  John Philip Sousa, the March King, was one of the leading advocates of making The Star Spangled Banner the official national anthem.

O! 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 rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through 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 through 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 in 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 washed 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 freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved 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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