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The Star-Spangled Banner

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The original Star-Spangled Banner is on display at the National Museum of History and Technology

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The words were written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key after the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British. The words were paired with a well known tune by John Stafford Smith first published in 1778. "The Star-Spangled Banner" became the official national anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931 by a congressional resolution which was signed by President Herbert Hoover. The anthem is sung or played at State functions, and has become a ritual at American sports events.

History[edit | edit source]

Francis Scott Key about 1825

The words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" were written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key after he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. His poem was titled "In Defense of Fort M'Henry". The poem has four stanzas, but in modern America only the first stanza is usually sung.

The poem was partnered with a tune composed by John Stafford Smith for a men's social club in London. This tune was called "To Anacreon in Heaven". It was already known and popular in the United States. This tune is difficult to sing because it ranges over an octave and a half.

Lyrics[edit | edit source]

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![1]

References[edit | edit source]


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