Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Star-Spangled Banner: Lyrics & Links

The original star-spangled banner (The Smithsonian)
The Star-Spangled Banner
Lyrics by Francis Scott Key
Music by John Stafford Smith

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 vict’ry 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.

The originals ...
The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC houses what remains of the original flag that Francis Scott Key saw wave in the morning light after the battle at Fort McHenry. Although the flag has been restored, it remains very fragile. Was all this damage from the battle? Yes and no. Bits and pieces of the flag were given away in the years that followed, a custom similar to people collecting bits of the Berlin Wall.

To see Key's original notes, the first published broadside of the poem, or to learn more about the events that inspired the song (Key was "a guest" on a British warship at the time he wrote it), check out this link to The Smithsonian. It is the best around. No kidding.

The National Anthem Project
Did you know people are forgetting the national anthem? Some people never even learn it. 

Early sheet music (Photo: web archive)
Perhaps you, dear reader, are asking the question why learning the anthem is important. It is a legitimate question. 

The simple answer is that anthems make community. Think of all the songs you and your friends know and love – not patriotic songs but the songs you grew up with. Think of how those songs make you feel. They have the power to remind you of your friends, of significant times in your life, and of deep feelings.

Anthems, like so many other symbols, are symbols that unite one person to another. A national anthem becomes a shared heritage that every one of us owns. 

The National Anthem Project is an effort by The National Association for Music Education to keep the anthem alive and well and includes resources for teaching the anthem.

A historic replica of the Star-Spangled Banner (

Let it fly! collects the history behind The Star-Spangled Banner and other patiotic songs. If you have stories to tell, please share them with us!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

No comments:

Post a Comment