Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day 2008

Those who have followed this blog over the past nearly three years know that from time to time I blog on hymns -- familiar and not-so-familiar. I try to tell a bit of the history and include the original words, when I can locate them.

Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and poet, was commissioned by President Madison in early September 1814 to negotiate the release of an American prisoner held aboard a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay. In the course of these negotiations, he heard portions of a plan to bombard Fort McHenry, and while his negotiations were successful, he and his co-negotiator were held aboard until the attack was over. Following is Key's poem, with its original title, begun the night of September 13-14, 1814 and completed following his release on September 16 in Baltimore.

The Battle of Baltimore was a key victory for the United States in the War of 1812. The loss of such a major port would have been devastating.

Defence of Fort McHenry

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.
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!

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!
-- Francis Scott Key (1814)

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