Home of the brave

Jun 30, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

The Fourth of July is at hand. We'll take a paid holiday on Wednesday so the newspaper staff can observe Independence Day.

There's no more patriotic holiday than the Fourth of July. Many people rate it the most fun holiday of the year as well. We'll leave the fun part up to you, but today we make a contribution to the patriotic side of things.

Francis Scott key was an attorney and U.S. Army officer during the War of 1812. The bicentennial of that conflict is being marked this year in the United States. Key had been taken prisoner by the British in 1814 and was being held aboard a ship in the Baltimore Harbor. He and a companion watched with heavy hearts as the British Navy pounded away at Baltimore all night long.

When dawn came, the city remained in American hands. The proof came on the flagpole at Fort McHenry in the harbor -- which still flew the American stars and stripes as day broke.

So moved was Key by the sight that he wrote a poem about it while sill a prisoner (he was released shortly thereafter).

Key's words were set to the tune of a familiar song later that year. The tune had been sung for many years with different words at drinking clubs around both London and U.S. cities, and many Americans knew the melody. When Key's stirring poem was added to it, the song underwent the 1814 equivalent of "going viral." By the end of the year it was known nationwide, strictly by word of mouth and the exchange of some printed pamphlets.

"The Star Spangled Banner" was widely sung as the first, unofficial national anthem for more than 100 years before getting the official designation in 1931 through an act of Congress.

Key wrote four verses, but only the first is used as the lyric for the national anthem. With a salute to Old Glory, here are Key's words in their entirely. Enjoy your Independence Day.


Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof thro' 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 thro' 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 on 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 wash'd 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 lov'd homes and the war's desolation;

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause 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!

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