Thursday, September 14

The Anthem's Other Verses

The War of 1812 was still fiercely raging when Francis Scott Key, a Washington attorney was sent to the British naval command to secure the release of a prisoner when the fleet began to bombard the placements of American fortifications in Baltimore at Fort McHenry. Key had to watch in agony, wondering if his nation could possibly withstand such a barrage.

Though the battle raged through the night on this day in 1814, the American defenses stood firm. The sight of the flag still flying over the fort the next morning inspired the young lawyer to pen the immortal words of the Star Spangled Banner.

Later it was set to a popular English hymn tune, Anacreon in Heaven, and it became a standard in the patriotic repertoire. Congress officially confirmed it as the national anthem more than a hundred years later, just before the First World War.

Though the first verse of the anthem is well known-sung at the opening of most political and sporting events--the other verses are almost entirely unknown:

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 rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:

O! say, does the star-spangled banner still wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through 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, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is the band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country would 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 cloth 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 homes and the foe's desolation;
Bless'd with victory and peace, may our heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for 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.

4 comments:

Lawrence Underwood said...

I find it interesting that the song survived so long as an unofficial anthem given all the discussion today about how difficult it is to sing, how verbose are its lyrics, how ethnocentric it is, etc. Perhaps for the first 100 years of our nation's history its citizens were better musically educated, had a better grasp of syntax and vocabulary, and were glad they were citizens of these blessed United States.

Suzi said...

I had no idea that the Anthem was so explicitly Christian. No wonder they don't sing the other stanzas at football games.

covenantpromise said...

Dr. Grant, Thank you for posting these other stanzas you referred to in your lecture this morning. The moral philosphy lectures on American Culture have been stellar!! I am about 1/3 of the way through "An Emerging Nation" and am thoroughly enjoying myself. Thank You for your labors. Hope you feel better soon. Jason Parolini

Dr. Knox said...

Reading these stanzas reminds me of why it was that the Americans prevailed over us Brits at a time when we were the world's sole remaining superpower. "The hand of God upholds the cause of the righteous."