What is The American National Anthem: Full Lyrics, History and Other Patriotic Songs
|"The Star-Spangled Banner" - Full Lyrics of US National Anthem|
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States.
The lyrics come from the "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.
The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "To Anacreon in Heaven" (or "The Anacreontic Song"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. This setting, renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", soon became a well-known U.S. patriotic song. With a range of 19 semitones, it is known for being very difficult to sing. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was recognized for official use by the United States Navy in 1889, and by U.S. president Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. § 301), which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.
Full lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner" - US National Anthem
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 rocket's 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?
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, 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 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 homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry 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!
The lyrics video of "The Star-Spangled Banner" - US National Anthem below
Francis Scott Key's lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner"
On September 3, 1814, following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, a cartel ship flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison. Their objective was to secure an exchange of prisoners, one of whom was William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro and a friend of Key who had been captured in his home. Beanes was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner while the two officers discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.
Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise and later back on HMS Minden. After the bombardment, certain British gunboats attempted to slip past the fort and effect a landing in a cove to the west of it, but they were turned away by fire from nearby Fort Covington, the city's last line of defense.
During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort's smaller "storm flag" continued to fly, but once the shell and Congreve rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. On the morning of September 14, the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised.
During the bombardment, HMS Terror and HMS Meteor provided some of the "bombs bursting in air".
Key was inspired by the U.S. victory and the sight of the large U.S. flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, had been made by Mary Young Pickersgill together with other workers in her home on Baltimore's Pratt Street. The flag later came to be known as the Star-Spangled Banner, and is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.
Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on September 16, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it "Defence of Fort M'Henry". It was first published nationally in The Analectic Magazine.
Much of the idea of the poem, including the flag imagery and some of the wording, is derived from an earlier song by Key, also set to the tune of "The Anacreontic Song". The song, known as "When the Warrior Returns", was written in honor of Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart on their return from the First Barbary War.
US Independence Day
Independence Day (colloquially the Fourth of July) is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain, King George III, and were now united, free, and independent states. The Congress had voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2, but it was not declared until July 4.
Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches, and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the national day of the United States.
How many national anthems: other patriotic songs of America
|America’s Five National Anthems|
While “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been the official national anthem since 1931, there have been other patriotic songs with more popularity (and easier to sing) over the years. And all—including “The Star-Spangled Banner—have generated their share of controversy.
“America” (My Country, Tis of Thee)
In 1831, Samuel Francis Smith, a student at Andover Seminary in Massachusetts, had been given the task of translating texts from several German song collections. One of the songs--“God Save Saxony”—had an attractive tune that inspired Smith to write new words for a patriotic hymn for the United States.
Engraving of Samuel Francis Smith.
Astonishingly, Smith was unaware that the tune of “God Save Saxony” had been lifted from the British national anthem, “God Save the King”—and, it seems, thousands of Americans were equally unaware of the connection to the once-hated English monarch, for soon, Smith’s hymn was everywhere.
My Country, ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty.
Of thee I sing.
Despite the tune’s link to the British national anthem, “America” served as our de facto national anthem for a hundred years--until “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the official song in 1931.
“America the Beautiful”
One song often touted as a replacement for “The Star-Spangled Banner” is “America the Beautiful.”
The original words are from a poem by Katharine Lee Bates, first published in The Congregationalist in July, 1895. The music is by Samuel A. Ward, originally written for a hymn called “O Mother dear, Jerusalem,” in 1882, and published in 1892. In 1910 Ward's music was combined with the Bates poem and titled “America the Beautiful.”
As the title indicates, the words most often sung are not patriotic in the usual sense. In fact, some have complained that the song is essentially a musical travelogue, with no true patriotic fervor at all:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
However, patriotic sentiments do show up in later verses that are seldom sung:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
Interestingly, these lyrics are quite different from Bates’ original words, which portray America as a work in progress—and an imperfect work, at that.
God shed His grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!
A lifelong, active Republican, Bates broke with the party in 1924 because of its opposition to American participation in the League of Nations.
“God Bless America”
Another suggested replacement for “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” written in 1918, but not published (and revised) until 1938.
It begins with a verse not sung today, reflecting the growing threat of war in Europe:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God bless America, land that I love….
The song stirred some significant controversy. Many on the Left found the lyrics jingoistic and presumptuous.
There were complaints from the Right, as well. Not only was the song penned by a Tin Pan Alley tunesmith instead of a “serious” composer, but Berlin was an immigrant (born in Russia) and a Jew—in the view of some, not a “real” American, at all.
Cooler heads prevailed, in part due to the hit recording by the “all-American” Kate Smith. Also, as war drew nearer and finally became reality, the invocation to God to “stand beside” and “guide” the United States resonated with most Americans.
“This Land is Your Land”
For those embarrassed by Irving Berlin’s heart-on-sleeve sentiment, there is “This Land is Your Land.” It was written by Woody Guthrie in 1940, in direct response to "God Bless America," which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent, given what he’d seen and experienced as he crisscrossed the country during the Great Depression.
Guthrie’s verse celebrates the natural beauty of the country—not unlike “America the Beautiful”— while the chorus drives home the populist credo that the nation belongs to all the people, not just the rich and powerful.
Most recordings feature only the first four verses of the song, omitting the ones that include more overtly political sentiments, like this one, which speaks directly to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,
By the relief office I saw my people.
As they stood hungry,
I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.
Lines like these have prevented “This Land Is Your Land” from serious consideration as a national anthem, even though it’s clear that Guthrie loved America as much as Irving Berlin did—although in very different ways.
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