DSC00496Here’s a secret about me that not many people know: I tear up when I hear “The Star Spangled Banner.” Not just when I hear it, mind you, but whenever I read it, too. At the beginning of football and baseball games, I’m a blubbery mess.

It wasn’t always like this. But after two decades of living in multiple U.S. states, traveling around this great land of ours, around this great planet, even, I now experience the land of the free and the home of the brave in a very profound and personal way. And the gorgeous words, “proof through the night that our flag was still there” get me every time.

But what we know as our American National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” is really just the first quarter of the 1814 poem the “Defence of Fort M’Henry” by lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key. The poem was set to the British tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven” written by John Stafford Smith. And the poem was renamed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Here is the poem in its entirety. Get your Kleenex ready. And have a safe and wonder-filled 4th of July.

The Star Spangled Banner
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 thru 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,
In full glory reflected now shines in 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 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! 

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory 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!

~
Download a copy of my first novel, Upside Down Kingdom, set in Washington, D.C., for your holiday weekend reading.

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