Star Spangled Banner
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This melody was first published in England circa 1780 as To Anacreon in Heaven. The melody was probably written by British composer John Stafford Smith. The words to that song were written by Ralph Tomlinson. Both were members of the Anacreontic Club of London. To Anacreon in Heaven was their theme song. The Anacreontic Club was a group of wealthy men who met to celebrate music, food and drink.

The melody was particularly popular in America during the War of 1812 and several Americans wrote patriotic songs to it. The most famous of these was Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer.

While aboard an English ship trying to secure the release of a friend, Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When the bombardment was over, the American flag was still flying. He wrote a poem The Defense of Fort McHenry, which was first printed anonymously on a broadside in 1814. On September 20 it was published in The Baltimore Patriot. Key's brother-in-law suggested he set the words to the tune To Anacreon in Heaven. When the sheet music was published in 1815, the name was changed to The Star Spangled Banner. The song was first adopted by the army and navy as the national anthem. It was officially recognized as the American National Anthem in 1931 by an act of Congress.

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 as 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!

Related Links
From Songs of America and Homeland
See Bibliography for full information.