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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Big 200!

 September 14th marks a special day in the history of the United States. On this day, two-hundred years ago, a poem was written that would later become our National Anthem. Our nation was in the throws of the War of 1812 against the British, and a young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was aboard one of the ships outside Baltimore, Maryland. He was trying to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. He ended up spending the night on that ship due to the Battle of Baltimore, in which Fort McHenry was continuously bombarded by the British. Driving rain pelted the soldiers on both sides, and spectators like Francis Scott Key, and it became harder to see the giant flag above the fort, as smoke melded with fog and rain clouds. For hours, Key wondered who had won the battle...was our flag still flying there? He couldn't tell. 
  But then, as the morning dawned, and the smoke cleared, the flag once more appeared over the Fort! The Americans had held! Inspired by the scene that unfolded in front of him, Francis Scott Key penned four moving verses and called the poem, "The Battle of Baltimore." Sometime after, it was published in a local newspaper. Over a century later, in 1916, those words were adopted as our official National Anthem and became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner." 

 I find it interesting that we celebrate the anniversary of this poem's inception just days after 9/11, one of the worst tragedies ever to occur in our nation's history. Just as our flag flew high on the morning following the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, so, too did our flag still wave in the days that followed the terrorist attacks. The American spirit of triumph and faith has remained strong in the face of so many dark days. 
  Even though a lot of us can sing the words with great pride, many have never heard the full poem or have any knowledge that there are more verses than just the first. So, in honor of the two-hundreth anniversary of these immortal words being written, I now share with you "The Star-Spangled Banner" in its entirety. Thank you, Francis Scott Key, for continuing to inspire us with your beautiful words!

The Star-Spangled Banner

O 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 through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd 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 wash'd out their foul footstep's 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 home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd 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.

- Francis Scott Key
          September 14, 1814