The Star Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key witnessed a battle in 1814 during the War of 1812 as a captive on a British naval ship. He was so inspired by what he witnessed that he wrote the Star Spangled Banner which was eventually be adopted as our national anthem.

Today the song is often sung as an artistic piece in ways that ignore any patriotic meaning associated with it. It makes me wonder how many people still recognize the feelings of love for his country that Key was capturing in his poem. As I was looking at this I realized that I had never noticed the third verse – I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sung.

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 wiped 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.

I suspect that Key had heard British sailors boasting that they would wipe America out of existence during that war before they began the attack. Considering the power of the British navy at that time he might well have expected them to succeed – no wonder then that he was so moved when he saw that the flag still flew over Fort McHenry after the bombardment. Personally I think that anyone who cannot recognize the power of that song and the love of country that it conveys should not bother to participate in the political process because without that love of country we are certain to make poor political decisions.

4 comments for “The Star Spangled Banner

  1. Krista
    June 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

    This song really is interesting. It became particularly poignant when I realized that he and his colleagues were watching this extreme bombardment of a fort that couldn’t fire back… helpless the entire time. It’s written like a conversation, and I can only assume that Key wasn’t the only one desperately seeking signs of survival with the dawn. The last verse is my favorite, since it’s the “stand between our loved homes and the war’s desolation” verse. That, to me, is the essence of what we’re still fighting for.

    • June 19, 2009 at 11:18 am

      I like your thoughts on the final verse. I think that standing between our loved homes and the desolation of war is the physical representation of what we must always be fighting for – as Ronald Reagan said it:

      Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. . . It must be fought for, protected, and handed on

      I am sometimes disappointed that we don’t sing that verse more often.

  2. Krista
    June 19, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks! We’re actually singing the song as a choir number in a couple weeks, and the congregation will join us *on that verse only*. Looking forward to it.

    Also, I view it as not just a physical fight, but a spiritual one, too; kind of along the same lines as “when America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great” thing. Whatever happens physically *and* spiritually outside our homes, we’re responsible for guarding them and protecting our families, and increasingly, our homes are the only places we *can* do that. Not sure whether Key was analyzing his words quite that way, but that’s what it’s come to mean to me. 🙂

    That’s a great quote, too; the “handed on” part is CRITICAL, if we are to spare our children slavery and war, where they’ll learn *the hard way* about the true principles underlying our Providential founding.

    • June 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm

      I absolutely agree. Thanks for commenting.

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