Day By Day

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

This Day In History

On this day in 1931 "The Star Spangled Banner" became our national anthem by Congressional resolution, and ever since March 3rd has been "National Anthem Day". The lyrics for the anthem are taken from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 titled "The Defence [sic] of Fort McHenry". If you visit the fort today in Baltimore you can view the original star spangled banner that flew over the fort during the British bombardment. The tune was a British drinking song titled "To Anacreon in Heaven" which was at that time popular in the United States. The song was an instant hit and was regularly performed at public events through the Nineteenth Century. The Navy adopted the song during the Spanish-American War and in 1916 President Wilson ordered that it be played at all military ceremonies. As early as 1897 it was performed on opening day of the baseball season in Philadelphia. Finally, in 1931 Congress got around to naming it as our national anthem. There were a number of other songs that could have been chosen. I personally prefer "God Bless America"; it's easier to sing.

Usually only the first stanza is performed; occasionally the fourth stanza is added. The second, and particularly the third, stanzas are only rarely performed. Here, for your consideration, are all four stanzas.

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 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! 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 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!
"Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps pollution." Hmmmm.... I'm starting to see why it isn't performed.

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