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?
Sunday, September 14, 2014
#767. 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner"
Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was a guest aboard the HMS Tonnant (yes, a British ship) when the bombardment of Fort McHenry began on September 13th, 1814. The rest is history. He composed "The Star-Spangled Banner," which became the national anthem in 1931, the next morning. It's the defining moment of the otherwise forgotten War of 1812, a conflict I've come to study (in a strictly amateur fashion) over the years and admire as one of the defining formative moments of America's past. It was a deeply unpopular war (although I struggle with finding popular ones) and as such probably did James Madison a lot of harm despite an otherwise stellar legacy (Father of the Constitution). Key was a man of his time, a lawyer and proponent of slavery (yeah, kind of sucks) and so while building a significant legacy of his own was also part of an ignominious one that was hotly debated in his day and years away from being addressed directly. They were days that pushed the country toward Civil War. But for one brief moment, the survival of a flag was cause for immeasurable pride, relief, joy. Other than the raising of another one during WWII, Old Glory has no more defining moment, one many Americans take for granted today, a song they find hard to appreciate, but it's some of the truest poetry we've ever produced. To wit, the famous first stanza: