O Say Can You See?

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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:

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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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  1. Bless them all.

    Today is the third Saturday, 19 May this Year of Our Lord 2012.

    It is for the Top One-Percent of Americans and their relatives Armed Forces Day.

    For many, it will not be parades or receptions. It will be a day of combat operations.

    And, some may give the last full measure of devotion for you and me.

    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  2. Interesting, I didn’t know that what we sing are only the first and last stanzas of the poem. In 1931 those who adopted it as our national anthem accepted the lines
    Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

    Were there no editorials, no ranting letters to the editor, no demonstrations or marches protesting that these words and sentiments indicate a national belief in God and his providence (which somehow deprives citizens of the ‘right’ not to believe?).

    That led me to google Emma Lazarus’ poem The New Colossus which appears at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It also had stanzas I had not remembered. It reflected an openness to the idea of the immigration of poor people to this country in search of a land of opportunity on the other side of the golden door.

    How many today consider that God made and preserved our nation and praise Him for that? How many consider America a land of opportunity where those who come here to work hard will succeed and will enrich the nation.

    This is not to belittle the real sacrifices of the armed forces and their families. It’s just my reflection on how our national ideals have changed over time.

  3. That marine’s words could be taken seriously, that second verse could be printed along with the first verse, handed out and sung at church picnics and family gatherings and sporting events.. I wish it would be so.

    He mentioned educating our children– we learn so much in musical mode! we learn our alphabet that way– putting those ideals and hopes to words and to music gives us a better chance of surviving as America.

  4. . . .
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    Bravery is the way we all – in our differences of opinions and maintenance of private lifestyles – can grow beyond the rising tide of the word war being waged on all elements of society. The melting pot will crack and the over boiled contents will go to waste.

  5. I don’t remember ever singing this is with a crowd and not have tears forming in my eyes. It’s so sad that it has become a solo performance. When only one person sings it, it loses some of it meaning.

  6. These lines have a special meaning on September 11:

    “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

    And forgive me for altering the lyrics, but on September 11 I think it appropriate to sing:

    “Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous flight.”

  7. Time for alll nations to re-write their anthems that glorify the “War is Hell” anthems and encourage our leaders to wage peace.
    In earlier days the leaders lead the troops, today the poor are the troops, lead by the social elite who command from behind desks and computers. Visit their graves on high holidays and ignore the medical needs of the survivors.

  8. a bit of sarcastic humor I think, Mr. McClarey, which I appreciate. At the same time there is a real need to discuss this at depth, since so many people hold the positions roughly outlined by O’B.
    After all, as JPII said: “war is always a defeat for humanity.” (to the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See in Jan. 2003)
    I personally disagree with O’B ‘s comments about our anthem– heck, I even like that bloody “Marseillaise”. I do think we have to fight wars, and rarely use capital punishment. However I also think we could really look at some of O’B's implied point about poor people becoming our soldiers for lack of better employment, and also his point about caring for injured veterans and survivors.

  9. I found Mr. McCleary’s comments immaturely offensive and sophomorically dismissive. The “war is hell ” quote came from Sherman in the US Civil War. The US is flat broke now and being deserted by its former allies in practice, including the new president of France after a short Sarcozy honeymoon and kissy-kissy after the USA arrogantly dismissed “Old Europe ” under Mr W. and villified France and “French fries” even.
    The world since has realised the US did it to itself and is broke financially and moraly as world leader, apart from the Gay;POTUS and his VP and their pro-death in the womb stance and efforts to change the furst Amendmenr. AND still sin by backing nazI-gestapo SS tactics of Israel’s ruthless leaders against the entire Gaza Strip because of the many whose frustrations with the take-over in 1948 still festers and causes untold horror and violence. And returned with helicopter gunship fire indiscriminately all over their old people and children and other innocent non-combatants. The Brits tried that in the McCleary homeland and gave jus trying to kill all Catholics who were real and imagined enemies of their fake tax-supported Six Counties whose protestant leaders hate both them and “Red Socks,” the Bishop of Rome, equally now after the Parliament got tired of their whining “loyalty” and it changed tactics to allow peace to blossom.
    ANY US CATHOLIC, individual or magazine writer who has read JESUS Beatitudes and St Augustine’s Rules for war could find little justiication for WW11 AND none for SE Asia. Cenrral America and messing with Chile and Gulf 11and its aftermath that will continue there after everyone leaves is living in a make believe world of computer games, not REALITY. .

  10. “I found Mr. McCleary’s comments immaturely offensive and sophomorically dismissive.”

    Not bad, you managed to mispell my name but you did manage to correctly spell sophomorically, although I haven’t been a sophomore in decades.

    “The “war is hell ” quote came from Sherman in the US Civil War.”

    Actually the quote is from a speech that Sherman gave at the Michigan Military Academy after the War:

    “I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
    Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!”

    Of course that sentiment did not prevent Sherman from regarding the Civil War in which he fought for the Union as a completely just and necessary war.

    “AND still sin by backing nazI-gestapo SS tactics of Israel’s ruthless leaders against the entire Gaza Strip because of the many whose frustrations with the take-over in 1948 still festers and causes untold horror and violence. ”

    When in doubt, blame the JOOOS!

    “The Brits tried that in the McCleary homeland and gave jus trying to kill all Catholics who were real and imagined enemies of their fake tax-supported Six Counties whose protestant leaders hate both them and “Red Socks,” the Bishop of Rome, equally now after the Parliament got tired of their whining “loyalty” and it changed tactics to allow peace to blossom.”

    My homeland is the United States. The homelands of my ancestors, aside from the Cherokees, are Ireland and Scotland. The peace was worked out by two men, Winston Churchill and Michael Collins, who both knew something about successfully waging war.

    “ANY US CATHOLIC, individual or magazine writer who has read JESUS Beatitudes and St Augustine’s Rules for war could find little justiication for WW11 AND none for SE Asia. Cenrral America and messing with Chile and Gulf 11and its aftermath that will continue there after everyone leaves is living in a make believe world of computer games, not REALITY. .”

    I assume that you are referring to World War 2 and not World War Eleven. I disagree with you about World War 2 and Vietnam not being just wars from the US perspective. I rejoice that the people of Central America did not have Castro style regimes imposed upon them. In regard to Chile, we had no involvement in the coup that toppled Castro’s pal Allende. In regard to Gulf War I, as opposed to Gulf War Eleven, I view that conflict as completely just from the US perspective.

  11. more smart alec comments. Your pro-war atttitude is so non-catholic and un-Christian. The reference to the Civil War and the Sherman quote did not need a professiorial correction, you are not in the academy as a teacher, I said the MCCLEARY, proper spelling of that name, sorry I got yours wrong, HOMELAND is as I suggested IRISH, SCOTS which is also the LATIN for the IRISH, the SCOTTI. I am of Eastern Meditterranean Irish, and Scots (maternal) extracion myself. You missed my reference to the Brits making peace, that was the modern N IRISH 1969-recent years, not the horse’ buttocks compromise made by the treachery of Churchill and the compromise that still divides Ireland politically and emotinally. I did not attack or insult JEWS. i REFERRED to the ISFRAELI army and its political manipulators, not the religion of most of its citizens. I have traveled there and spent time as a journalist there and in N Ireland and keep up with the ex-ISRAELI officers and soldiers who are disgusted at the crud they had to do and witness. I have also traveled in South America and extensively as a pilgrim and sometimes tourist and journalist all over Europe and am quite familiar with the hatred of the USA for its war-mongering. Bush W could not do a book signing in Dublin and was torn apart for his defence of his Gulf war 11. Native-son Reagan was heckled in Galway for his policies in C America when he did not visit to his ancestral homeland
    MY MAIN POINT is valid. Read, or re-read Augustine’s Rules for war AND the Beatitudes and pray about it all. Do not reply again on here with your arrogant, “mind made up” do not confuse with facts” scribbling and petty corrections (11 for II and such) Bring it to JESUS in prayer. And please include me.You may also check what General Eisenhower, after he left the presidency and LBJ said about war and its cost. Peace 11 U.

  12. “more smart alec comments.”
    Remove the alec and you are correct.

    “The reference to the Civil War and the Sherman quote did not need a professiorial correction, you are not in the academy as a teacher”

    Not, but on this blog I am always willing to instruct the historically ignorant gratis.

    “I said the MCCLEARY, proper spelling of that name,”

    No, I assure you that the proper spelling of my last name is as I spell it.

    “You missed my reference to the Brits making peace, that was the modern N IRISH 1969-recent years, not the horse’ buttocks compromise made by the treachery of Churchill and the compromise that still divides Ireland politically and emotinally.”

    You of course are referring to the peace of Ireland of 1921 that gave the Irish their first independent state since the seventeenth century. There was nothing treacherous in the peace worked out by Churchill and Collins, but was rather a compromise as most peaces are. Churchill understood that it was not worth it for the Brits to try to retain Ireland outside of Ulster. Collins realized that the IRA lacked the strength to drive the Brits from Ulster and then win the ensuing war with the Ulster Protestants that would have immediately erupted.

    “I did not attack or insult JEWS.”

    Yeah, because no one associates Israel with Jews. Got it.

    “all over Europe and am quite familiar with the hatred of the USA for its war-mongering. ”

    There are few people in Europe who do not owe what peace and freedom they enjoy to US “warmongering”.

    “Native-son Reagan was heckled in Galway”

    Somehow that doesn’t surprise me since Galway is attempting to put up a statue to Castro’s hangman Che Guevara.
    http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/04/12/honoring-a-murderer-in-galway/

    “Read, or re-read Augustine’s Rules for war ”

    My constant study, along with Saint Thomas Aquinas’ variant and the variants that have been proclaimed at different times by the Church. Anyone who believes, as you do, that World War 2 was not a just war for the US obviously could use a refresher course.

    “Do not reply again on here with your arrogant, “mind made up” do not confuse with facts” scribbling and petty corrections”

    Sorry, I hadn’t noticed that you were one of the owners of this blog. Hey, wait a minute..

    “Bring it to JESUS in prayer.”
    Indeed I do, as I bring all things to Jesus prayer.

    In regard to Eisenhower quotes:

    “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have
    striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The
    hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
    In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on
    other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war
    machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of
    Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

    Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well
    equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

    But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of
    1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats,
    in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their
    strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home
    Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions
    of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
    The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to
    Victory!

    I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in
    battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

    Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great
    and noble undertaking.”
    ? Dwight D. Eisenhower

  13. I think “The Star Spangled Banner” is a fabulous national anthem. Great musically, uses classic English – much better than some of the” lingo-speak” we hert today which passes as English, and shares the birth pangs of a nation fighting for its identity and self reliance.
    Some of the European national anthems are great musically but the words don’t mean much. ;-) ( to me anyway)
    Our national anthem is actually a hymn, written in the 1860′s I think, in the South Island city of Dunedin, during the early days of settlement and development in NZ. Ii always preferred it to “God Save the Queen” – the English national anthem which we used – much to the annoyance many Kiwis, up unitl, I think the early 1970′s before “God Defend NZ” became our anthem.
    Thanks for the history lesson ( again :-) ) Don. I’m surprised that it wasn’t installed officially though, till 1943.

  14. The words to My Country T’is of Thee, sung to “God Save the Queen” are very meaningful to me– I usually start to cry when I get to “I love the rocks and rills, thy woods and temples hills”; but by the time I get to “my heart with rapture thrills like that above” I’m pretty enthusiastic! – and the last verse:
    Our fathers’ God to Thee,
    Author of liberty,
    To Thee we sing.
    Long may our land be bright,
    With freedom’s holy light,
    Protect us by Thy might,
    Great God our King.

  15. I hope someone can help me with my concern about the Yemen Al Queda’s ability to almost get another underwear bomb on a plane, foiled by a double-agent, how long more will their technicians be able to achieve that? More of a concern is that they were able to use their now infamous suicide bomb tactic to kill 86 soldiers. Is there some planet or a County in the USA or the UK where the unemployed could be forced to enlist to become the counter-terrorist force there as NATO and Co are pulling out of the failed efforts to destroy them in Iraq and Afghanistan? We can also hope that there will be no sleeping, too-trusting US President or UK PM who might sell out the area to the Enemy, whomever that may be. And still be able to borrow money from China to pay for it all.

  16. Thanks again Don. Brought a lump to my throat :-)

    A line up of some incredible Kiwi manhood there – the 2011 All Blacks.

    The Rugby World Cup final against the French last year was a great game – we won, but the French certainly were very worthy oponents. They always seem to lift when they play us.
    The All Blacks won, but it was a nail biter right to the last minute.

  17. While we’re getting all nationalistic and sentimental, here’s the full version of our National anthem. Some beautiful wording.
    The history can be found on Wikipedia.

    God of Nations at Thy feet,
    In the bonds of love we meet,
    Hear our voices, we entreat,
    God defend our free land.
    Guard Pacific’s triple star
    From the shafts of strife and war,
    Make her praises heard afar,
    God defend New Zealand.
    2
    Men of every creed and race,
    Gather here before Thy face,
    Asking Thee to bless this place,
    God defend our free land.
    From dissension, envy, hate,
    And corruption guard our state,
    Make our country good and great,
    God defend New Zealand.
    3
    Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
    But, should foes assail our coast,
    Make us then a mighty host,
    God defend our free land.
    Lord of battles in Thy might,
    Put our enemies to flight,
    Let our cause be just and right,
    God defend New Zealand.
    4
    Let our love for Thee increase,
    May Thy blessings never cease,
    Give us plenty, give us peace,
    God defend our free land.
    From dishonour and from shame,
    Guard our country’s spotless name,
    Crown her with immortal fame,
    God defend New Zealand.
    5
    May our mountains ever be
    Freedom’s ramparts on the sea,
    Make us faithful unto Thee,
    God defend our free land.
    Guide her in the nations’ van,
    Preaching love and truth to man,
    Working out Thy glorious plan,
    God defend New Zealand.

    Its obviously too long to be used in its full length, – but I particularly like the last verse to be used in the usual 3 verse rendition of the anthem.

  18. I like the style of the NZ anthem, praises the normal, the natural beauty and invokes God. My earlier references to Ike and war implied his famous farewell reference to the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Then his statement at one point that a nation needs violence for self-defence then moved on to advocate peace and stability. Jesus was the icon of the invisible God as Paul tells us, all humans are made in God’s image and likeness. Using our men and wmen as fodder in wars whose winners are never really known has not done much for the life, treasure and stability of the world for a while. The war to end all wars fathered another one. Trying to wipe out threats to economics/capitalism/God’s/Side, political ideology, onto more defeating of communism, and defeating terrorism is a spiral that seems to have no end. More so now as NATO exits the Coalition and the seeds of the next conflict, and possible 9/11 ~ Two or a real shoe bomb expolsion is not improbable. As experts warned after 9/11, the question was not whether, but when. .

  19. “My earlier references to Ike and war implied his famous farewell reference to the dangers of the military-industrial complex.”

    I understood your reference, and it is directly contradicted by much else that Eisenhower said throughout his career. During his administration Eisenhower opposed building up conventional forces due to cost and favored a policy of massivenuclear retaliation in the event of conflict with the Soviet Union and the use of battlefield nukes to make up for the relatively weak US conventional forces. The issue of a weak US military was a theme that Kennedy used relentlessly during his campaign in 1960, much to Eisenhower’s considerable annoyance. His reference to a military-industrial complex, was actually a slap at the incoming Kennedy administration and his Democrat Congressional critics.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/gregory-hilton/ikes-farewell-address-liberals-are-wrong-about-the-military-industrial-complex-b/10150140028336028

  20. I have been reading “Mindzenty the MAN” today and can’t help but wonder as I read the words of both Mr. Mac and Mr. O’B. I wonder about Eisenhower and about war, what I should believe about generals and politicians and war in the late 40′s and 50′s in eastern Europe, (specific Hungary). What good influence could Eisenhower have had if he had really wanted to… back at the end of the war and the fall of Berlin to the Russians.
    I’ve got a little prayer book “Mary Save Us” smuggled out from Siberia that was handwritten and tied together by a young woman, a catechism teacher from Lativia during her imprisonment in Siberia. It still startles me that growing up in the 50′s and 60′s I was really so unaware of what was going on in Russia and China. (South America too)
    Yes war is hell… there was also hell for millions of people during the “cold” war. I don’t know what the right answers are.

  21. I appreciate the context of Ike’s comments, that was before my time of course but the quote is cited quite regularly at the end of various daily posts of meditations and uplifting thoughts. The one about use of violence as a prelude to stability/peace is also used. I am still a Jesus pacifist, irrational as it seems as the alternative seems not to work whether for spear chuckers or nuclear threats of MAD. Peace- BTW the original form of the family name is O’CLEIRIGH. descendant of CLERIC, also known as Clerk, same idea, they were the only educated ones. It is spelled CLERKIN in the North of Ireland and in the ROI as CLERY, CLEARY, they made our boarding College school blazers!