Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Star-Spangled Banner lyrics

Take a tune from a British men's social club in London: "To Anacreon in Heaven" by John Stafford Smith, and a lyric from a poem: "Defense of Fort McHenry" by Francis Scott Key, and by the alchemy of creation emerges: "The Star-Spangled Banner". This moving song written in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 went on to become the national anthem of the United States of America.

The War of Independence was something of an inter-family quarrel where the former colony was showing that it had grown up and wanted to be independent. It is fitting then that this song taking elements from the old and the young should be this bold new country's way of expressing its identity.

The song is difficult to sing as it has a range of one and a half octaves, and only the first stanza is usually sung. The fourth is included when more formality is looked for.

Star Spangled Banner

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 thru 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.
Oh, 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!

Oh! 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!

Image of Battle of Baltimore where the Star-Spangled banner had its origins.

Battle of Baltimore Bombardment of Fort McHenry

Instrumental of Star-Spangled Banner
courtesy of U.S. Army Bands Online (ABO) a public service by the Chief of Army Bands.

The Star Spangled Banner Instrumental

From the time of President Woodrow Wilson (1916), "The Star Spangled Banner", was ordered to be played at military and naval occasions. It was not until an Act of Congress in 1931 that it became the national anthem of America.

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