Monday, November 22, 2010

Home of the BRAVE!

     The "who?"...the British, Americans, and Francis Scott Key.  The "what?"...Fort McHenry and the War of 1812.  The "when?"...umm, 1812.  Actually, September 1814.  The "where?"...Baltimore, MD and the Chesapeake Bay.  The "why?"...the British had captured and burned Washington, D.C. and turned to Baltimore, mostly because it was a major port city.
     Francis Scott key was an attorney and amateur poet from Maryland.  He had been selected to discuss the release of a prisoner of war with the British commander aboard the commander's warship.  The prisoner was released only on one condition...Key had to stay aboard the vessel so as not to alert the Americans about the British plan to attack.  Watching the fight from eight miles away, Key became inspired by the action that he penned these words...

 Oh! 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 rocket's 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; 
Its full glory reflected now shines on 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 the band who so vauntingly swore, 
'Mid the havoc of war and the battle's confusion, 
A home and a country they'd leave us no more? 
Their blood hath 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! 

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand 
Between their loved home and the war's desolation; 
Blessed with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land 
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. 
Then conquer we must, for 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!

     This poem was set to the tune of an English drinking song (go figure) and was so popular that Congress declared it to be the National Anthem in 1931.  The National Anthem is comprised of just the first verse.  It is sung/played at many patriotic events along with sporting events.  It is interesting to point out that the National Anthem was selected by Major League Baseball to be played before baseball games...before Congress declared it the song of the land.
     I don't think I have felt more patriotism for this country than right after the first time I was able to vote in a presidential election.  I have also come to embrace my roots as far as where I grew up along with my familial background, namely my grandfathers' military service.  I occasionally get choked up at the singing/playing of the National Anthem because I know and understand the circumstances by which the song was written as well as the symbolic nature and meaning of the anthem.  I am proud to be an American and am grateful for those that have fought and died to preserve America's freedom and liberty.

Source of information: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by Kidder and Oppenheim, pg. 21
Source of poem:

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