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Recently, your resident historiorantoligist was invited to weigh in at a distinguished symposium - truly an august, but impromptu, gathering of gentlemen, gentlewomen, and scholars - on the history of the National Anthem of the United States of America.  Alas, the Moonbat was far from the Cave, far from the scrolls and the tomes (and the little bowl of orange 4s) that sustain the historant lifestyle, and found that the free-ranging, question-punctuated discussion quickly exhausted the bloviator's readily accessible supply of anecdotes and factual certainties.

Translated, I was in a bar with a bunch of folks, talking about "Nuestro Himno," and since I always seem to be babbling about things historical, I was asked many questions about the history of "The Star-Spangled Banner."  Some I knew the answer to; others, not so much.  Now, back safe and secure amidst the tools of my trade, I've looked into some of the more obscure corners of our National Anthem - and if you'd be so kind as to step into the Cave of the Moonbat, we can go Behind the Music (tm, r., patent pending)...

*  Mid-Diary Construction Update from the Moonbat:  Okay, I don't know where the debate on this issue is going - the libs seem to have declared it of subservient interest to the larger matters of immigration and the Republican Culture of Corruption, and the cons don't seem to be getting much traction with it, despite Michelle Malkin's histrionics.  To make things worse for the Moonbat's brief departure from the Crusades, on Thursday night, John Stewart essentially stole my diary-topic thunder by doing a segment which covered a lot of the information I was assembling into this diary.  To my horror, even some of the jokes and highlighted points of historiolunacy were similar to what I'd already put together.  Bummer for me, but if you're not feeling overly saturated with flag-talk and anthem-pimping by this point, please read on for a handy-dandy compilation of a whole bunch of Banner lore.

The Object of Our Affection

The flag that inspired the poem eventually entitled "The Star-Spangled Banner" looked like this:

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There are fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, with the two new ones representing Kentucky and Vermont.  This particular design served from 1795-1818, when the Flag Act established guidelines that set the number of stripes at 13, for the original colonies.  It also stipulates that any changes made to the flag must occur on July 4th (the last time this happened was in 1960, to reflect the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii the year before).

The actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key was of special design and construction.  Prior to the Battle of Baltimore, it had been commissioned (cost: $405.90 - a little under $5000 in today's dollars) by the American military for the expressed purpose of being visible for great distances.  The thing was huge: 30'x 42', 400 yards of cloth, with stars that were 2 feet from point to point and stripes 2 feet wide.  It was so large that the final construction by Mary Young Pickersgill and her 5-person team (interesting question: were the two African-American women who worked on the flag slaves?) had to take place in the cavernous malthouse of a Claggett's Brewery, the only clean, level, covered space large enough for the flag to be laid out.  The home of Mary Pickersgill - who, like the country, was born in 1776 in Philadelphia - is now the Baltimore Flag House Museum; the Star-Spangled Banner itself is at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History, where it has undergone two extensive renovations and is displayed with special precautions in place to minimize its exposure to light.

James Madison: A Cut-and-Run President?

The causes and effects of the War of 1812 are worthy of a diary of their own, so I'll resist the historian's tendency to blather and cut right to the chase:  In the late summer of 1814, things were going pretty poorly for the United States of America.  The British, who were still a trifle irked that the Americans had sacked and looted the Canadian capital of York (now Toronto) early in the war - while most of England's armies were in Europe, contending with Napoleon - had entered Chesapeake Bay and were landing troops near Washington.  With ole Boney safely imprisoned on Elba, a lot of veteran Redcoats were now freed up to settle some old scores.

American forces assembled under the inept leadership of a previously captured general named William Winder near the town of Bladensburg, Maryland.  With the arrival of the much-admired General Robert Ross on the morning of the 24th, the British infantry advanced on the American positions.  In the humiliating rout which followed - the panicked American retreat was mockingly dubbed the "Bladensburg Races" - a smaller British force swept Winder's militia from the field (only a group of sailors and United States Marines acquitted themselves well), sending his army and a gaggle of spectators, including President Madison and Secretary of State James Monroe, into a headlong, musket-dropping flight back to Washington.

The British were hot on the heels of the fleeing American army, and entered Washington on the evening of August 24.  Dolley Madison was among the last to evacuate; it was she who tore the famed Stuart portrait of George Washington from its frame, as she scrambled to save a few portable treasures from the doomed building.  The President himself took to horseback, and watched from afar as the enemy put the city of Washington to the torch.  Indeed, you could hardly miss it: They say the flames were visible in Baltimore, 40 miles away.  The citizens and troops there prepared their defenses and braced for the inevitable attack.

(Weird historical sidenote: During the burning of Washington, Admiral George Cockburn is said to have demanded that all the "Cs" from all of the printing presses in town be gathered and burned, so that "the rascals can have no further means of abusing my name.")

A Classic Pincer Movement

Symbolic as sitting in the Capitol Building of an enemy and drunkenly passing a resolution to burn his center of government may have been, Washington was not nearly as strategically important as Baltimore in early 19th century America.  Baltimore was a center of commerce, with a much larger population and greater military value than the fledging capital city, and its capture would likely force the upstarts to capitulate.  Additionally, there was the matter of Baltimore harboring ships that the Crown considered privateers.  Yes, Baltimore would have to be dealt with.  Robert Ross would lead the land assault, and would be supported by the ships of His Majesty's Navy, commanded by Admiral Alexander Cochrane - after they battered their way into the northern reaches of Chesapeake Bay.

Given the technology of 19th-century warfare, operations like these took time to prepare.  The British army would need time to loot Washington, rest, and board ships bound for Baltimore (why march through hostile territory if your navy controls the water?).  The ships which were to support the ground assault needed time to assemble and prepare their lines for battle.  Under the capable command of Major General (and US Senator) Samuel Smith, the Americans in Baltimore used the interregnum to prepare their defenses.    

On September 12, an American force of 3000 under the command of Brigadier General John Stricker sallied from Baltimore to engage and delay the 4500 British troops near where they had landed at North Point.  In the ensuing battle, General Ross was killed by an American sharpshooter - deliberate targeting of officers was considered very bad form in those days, and history has chosen to punish this particular sniper by forgetting his name - and command of the British army fell to Colonel Arthur Brooke, a leader for whom the troops had little regard.

The Americans retreated to Baltimore, having yielded the field but achieving an important strategic victory.  The death of Robert Ross caused morale in the British army to plummet; the rank-and-file redcoats had little confidence in Brooke's ability.  Brooke knew this, and knew they he had to act quickly and decisively if the attack were to succeed.  He desperately needed the reinforcements and the naval guns of the ships still in the Patapsco River, but to be of any help to him, those ships would have to get past Fort McHenry.

Francis Scott Key: Lawyer, Poet, Hostage Negotiator

When the British captured Washington, they took several VIPs as hostages.  Among these was a certain Dr. William Beanes, a member of Washington's cabinet and by all accounts a super-swell guy.  So swell, in fact, that a 35-year-old lawyer named Francis Scott Key joined up with a prisoner exchange agent, Colonel John S. Skinner, and got special permission from President Madison to approach the British under a flag of truce.   On September 3, they did just that.  The two were taken aboard the flagship, HMS Tonnant, on September 7, and there dined with Admiral Cochrane and the soon-to-be-dead General Ross.  The British officers casually discussed their war plans before the Americans, and flatly refused to release the good Doctor Beanes.

Key and Skinner then presented letters from wounded British soldiers who had been treated by American physicians, including Dr. Beanes, and the officers relented somewhat.  They agreed to release Dr. Beanes, but would hold him until after the imminent battle.  The Brits would also hold Key and Skinner, as the two had heard a bit too much over dinner.  The prisoners were then escorted off Tonnant and held on two different ships - HMS Surprise and the sloop they had sailed out on, Minden - over the course of the next few days.  The morning of September 13 found Key and Skinner well to the rear of the action, behind a line of warships with their guns trained on Fort McHenry.

No pressure, guys

Fort McHenry sits on a little peninsula that juts out to create a chokepoint at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor, and though its cannon couldn't quite reach the other side of the harbor entrance, a chain and a bunch of shipwrecks made perilous any passage too close to the opposite bank.  The fort (which was named after another of George Washington's buddies) had an effective range of about 1.5 miles; the mortars on British ships offshore had a range of around 2 miles, their rockets around 1¾.

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The bombardment began on the morning of September 13, and continued unabated - like the driving rain that added gloominess to the battle's death and destruction - into the evening.  The shelling stopped around 1 AM on September 14, when a small group of British ships slipped past Fort McHenry and tried to land troops near to Baltimore.  These ships were driven off by fire from the city's last line of defense, Fort Covington, and the bombardment resumed.

It was a rainy evening, and Fort McHenry was flying a smaller "storm flag" that remained visible only so long as the rockets and bombs were exploding.  Key, along with the entire British fleet, waited anxiously through the darkest stretch of the night to see if the bombardment had been successful in reducing the fort.  It was not: The US suffered only 4 KIA (including one woman) and 24 wounded, and the fort, though damaged, was serviceable enough to prevent the enemy ships from passing.  The city was saved, the British troops already on land were obliged to retreat, and the King would be forced to accept a negotiated settlement to end the war.  Before dawn, the soldiers of Fort McHenry raised the Pickersgill flag, the great size of which ensured that it was clearly visible to anyone around Baltimore Harbor who cared to look - and needless to say, everyone who saw it had an opinion about it.

Have you ever gotten a tear in your eye at the sight of the flag?

Francis Scott Key sure did.  The sight of the Star-Spangled Banner, flying huge and proud in the dawn, so moved him that he began to compose the poem that would ensure the appearance of his name on history tests for centuries to come.  He wrote it on the back of a letter he had with him, and he entitled it "The Defense of Fort McHenry."  It's on display at the Maryland Historical Society.

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Though most of the poem was written shipboard, Key finished it while staying at a hotel in Baltimore after being released by the British on the evening of September 16.  The next day, Key gave the poem to his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, the kind of bewigged socialite who could bump things up the "recommended list" as it existed in those days.  The poem appeared as an anonymously-published broadside on September 17, along with the notation, "Tune: Anacreon in Heaven" (more on that in a minute).  By September 20, newspapers throughout the states had picked up and republished the lyrics, and by the end of the month, the Thomas Carr Music Store in Baltimore was publishing the words and music together under the title, "The Star-Spangled Banner."  Here are the full lyrics:

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, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' 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 on 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 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.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-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!

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Birth of an Anthem

The first public performance of the song was in October, 1814, when Baltimore actor Ferdinand Durang sang it in Captain McCauley's Tavern.  It remained popular throughout the 19th century, and in 1889 was designated by the Navy as the song to be played when the flag was raised.  In 1916, Woodrow Wilson ordered it be played at all military and appropriate occasions.

The song made its sports debut during Game 1 the 1918 World Series, in which Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox pitched a shutout to defeat the Chicago Cubs 1-0.  During the 7th-inning stretch, the band spontaneously began playing the "Star-Spangled Banner," everyone on the field faced the flagpole, the crowd sang along, and applause broke out when the song ended.  It was played during the next two 7th-inning stretches, too, but when the series moved to Boston, owner Harry Frazee decided to one-up the Chicagoans by having the song played before the game.  Even so, it wasn't until WWII that the playing of the National Anthem became a fixture in pre-game ceremonies (and even then, the idea started with Canadian hockey teams).  An interesting analysis has this somewhat cynical take on how it all came about:

It would be nice to say that all of this was due to pure patriotic expression, but of course much of it was created by PR-conscious owners who wanted to make sure that no one would question the patriotism of athletes who played games during World War II while others went off to serve their country. Four years of war, followed by the Cold War and the emergence of the American Empire, solidified the practice and made it into a national ritual

The pop culture influences on the making of our anthem don't end with sports.  Robert Ripley, the Believe-it-or-Not guy, drew national attention to the issue in 1929, when his cartoon stated flatly, "Believe it or Not, America has no national anthem."  In 1931, John Philip Sousa came out in favor of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and on March 3 of that year, Herbert Hoover signed a resolution making the song our National Anthem.  

So was it a British drinking song?
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Sort of.  The tune was likely written in the 1760s by an English teenager named John Stafford Smith for lyrics written by Ralph Tomlinson.  Tomlinson was the president of a group of musicians called The Anacreontic Society, named for a 6th-century BC Greek poet who entertained the court of King Teos with stories of women and booze.  [Wikipedia ] succinctly dispels the myth that it was a widely-heard pub sing-a-long-song:

The connection with Anacreon, along with the "drinking" nature of the lyrics, have caused many people to label "To Anacreon in Heaven" as a drinking song. In all probability some drinking did occur at Society meetings, but the primary purpose of the Society (and its song) was to promote an interest in music. This, however, did not keep the song from being associated with alcohol, as it was commonly used as a sobriety test: If you could sing a stanza of the notoriously difficult melody and stay on key, you were sober enough for another round.

The Society was made up of professors, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who acted out their Enlightenment-era middle-age fantasies by playing concerts and talking knowledgably about long-dead Greeks.  Don't envision a rugby team singing the following words; instead, try to conjure up the image of a bunch of guys dressed like Beethoven attempting to act dignified while on a bender:

"To Anacreon in Heaven"

To Anacreon in Heav'n,/Where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony/Sent a petition
That he their Inspirer/And Patron would be;
When this answer arrived/From the Jolly Old Grecian:
"Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,/No longer be mute,
I'll lend you my name/And inspire you to boot,
And besides I'll instruct you,/Like me, to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus,/With Bacchus's Vine."

The news through Olympus/Immediately flew;
When Old Thunder pretended/To give himself airs.
"If these Mortals are suffered/Their scheme to pursue,
The devil a Goddess,/Will stay above stairs.
Hark, already they cry,/In transports of joy,
'Away to the Sons/Of Anacreon we'll fly,
And there with good fellows,/We'll learn to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus/With Bacchus' Vine.

"The Yellow-Haired God/And his nine fusty Maids
From Helicon's banks/Will incontinent flee,
Idalia will boast/But of tenantless shades,
And the bi-forked hill/A mere desert will be.
My Thunder no fear on't,/Shall soon do its errand,
And dam'me I'll swing/The Ringleaders I warrant.
I'll trim the young dogs,/For thus daring to twine
The Myrtle of Venus/With Bacchus's Vine."

Apollo rose up,/And said, "Pry'thee ne'er quarrel,
Good King of the Gods,/With My Vot'ries below:
Your Thunder is useless"--/Then showing his laurel,
Cry'd "Sic evitabile/Fulmen, you know!
Then over each head,/My laurels I'll spread,
So my sons from your Crackers/No mischief shall dread,
While, snug in their clubroom,/They jovially twine
The Myrtle of Venus/With Bacchus's Vine."

Next Momus got up/With his risible Phiz
And swore with Apollo/He'd cheerfully join --
"The full tide of Harmony/Still shall be his,
But the Song, and the Catch,/And the Laugh shall be mine.
Then, Jove, be not jealous/Of these honest fellows."
Cry'd Jove, "We relent,/Since the truth you now tell us:
And swear by Old Styx,/That they long shall intwine
The Myrtle of Venus/With Bacchus's Vine."

Ye Sons of Anacreon,/Then join hand in hand;
Preserve Unanimity,/Friendship, and Love!
'Tis yours to support/What's so happily plann'd;
You've the sanction of Gods,/And the Fiat of Jove.
While thus we agree,/Our toast let it be:
"May our Club flourish Happy,/United, and Free!
And long may the Sons/Of Anacreon intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine."

Historiorant

Its origins lie in a war that most Americans couldn't tell you much about.  Its lyrics are written to the tune of an 18th-century frat boy sing-a-long song.  It does not mention the name of the country whose praises it sings.  Yet, even here in cynical early-21st-century America, "The Star-Spangled Banner" can still conjure a tear in the eye of an Olympics-watching anti-globalist, can still compel the brashest, most-outspoken anti-governmentalist to acheive silence for the duration of its playing.

Some of us remember a time of three networks, when television stations signaled the end of the broadcast day with a montage of patriotic scenes and a (usually) instrumental rendition of the anthem.  Some of us might also remember the song from standing along the first base line of a Little League field, listening to a cassette recording played through a tinny, scratchy single speaker attached to a plywood announcer's booth, or from performances ranging from astounding to painful at any number of high school assemblies and sporting events.  If you happen to be a military brat, you remember standing in the movie theater as it was played before the feature.  "The Star-Spangled Banner" in some way connects all of us, for we all have had at least a sliver of our lives defined by its status as our National Anthem.

Is nationalism still jingoistic if it comes dressed in nostalgia?  I don't know, so to evade trying to answer, I'll just leave you with the Moonbat's most-moving anthem experience:  When I was in junior high, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a Patriots game in Foxboro.  It was late 1979, just after the hostages had been taken in Iran, and the weather was miserable.  At halftime, most of the spectators fled the stands to the cavernous, leaking, 115%-humidity hallways beneath the bleachers - and there, amidst an incredible press of soggy, distraught Americans, someone started singing the Anthem at the top of his lungs.  By the third line, thousands of people throughout the stadium were adding their voices to the spontaneous expression of resolve and solidarity at yet another uncontrollable situation in a region of the world that seemed chock full of them even back then.  

It was powerful - awesome, in its way.  It went beyond lyrics, beyond the origins of the tune.  It was a frightening display of pride and unity, and at its heart it was an expression of the same sense of defiance, obstinacy, and solidarity that inspired Francis Scott Key to write it in the first place.

Originally posted to Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:10 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  a better national anthem would be (3+ / 0-)

    "this is the song that never ends" from lamb chop's play along.

    •  Better (best?) (7+ / 0-)

      Guthrie's "This Land Is My Land"

      "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

      by ogre on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:21:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that song ends (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        x, homogenius

        mine doesn't. it never ends. and a sockpuppet sings it.

      •  What???? This Land is Your Land? (9+ / 0-)

        As I was walkin' - Down by the river,  
        I saw a sign there - said no tress passin'
        But on the other side  .... it didn't say nothin!
        Now that side was made for you and me!

        Chorus

        In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
        Near the relief office - I see my people
        And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
        If this land's still made for you and me.

        What kind of pinko anti-American sentiments are those anyway?????

        (snark - snark, I swear!)

        We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both - Louis Brandeis

        by dsteffen on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:40:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Guthrie was a communist. (6+ / 0-)

          An anti-Soviet, honest-to-God American communist.

          All the more reason, I say, to make the song our national anthem.  It was, by the way, written because of his distaste for "God Bless America."

          Four hundred years ago, we were all illegal aliens according to the Comanche.

          by DC Pol Sci on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:30:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Holy Fuck! (8+ / 0-)
            You said:

                 It was, by the way, written because of his distaste for
                 "God Bless America."

            Can you imagine what he would have written if he ever had to endure Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA?

            That's worse than listening to It's a Small World 24/7. I'm breaking out in hives just thinking about it.

            •  Thank heavens... (3+ / 0-)

              That particular audio delight is not our national anthem. It would drive me into hermitage.

              The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

              by Shapeshifter on Sat May 06, 2006 at 10:17:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  It's a Small World (5+ / 0-)

              True story: I grew up in Australia, singing God Save the Queen as our anthem every morning.  When I was in 6th grade (in the 70s), people decided that maybe it might be a nice idea to have an actual Australian song as our anthem instead, so there was a whole process (including a national referendum) to pick a new song.  In the meantime, we couldn't sing God Save the Queen anymore, but we didn't have a new song yet -- we needed something to fill in the gap.  My school decided to have us sing It's a Small World every morning for months in place of the anthem.  Ugh.

              As for the referendum, personally I was hoping Waltzing Matilda would win (for a start, everyone already knew and loved it).  But then I was only in 6th grade, and apparently cooler heads decided that a song about a sheep thief wasn't exactly the best possible face that Australia could put forward.

              When I had my interview w/ the INS before becoming a US citizen a couple of years ago, my US History and Government test consisted of exactly 3 questions, the first of which was who wrote the SSB.  I knew the answer, but it seems ridiculous to me that that should even be one of the questions -- I mean, how can that possibly be relevant to anything?

            •  God Bless the USA (4+ / 0-)

              I'm married to an immigrant who recently got her citizenship.  She has many friends who are also in the process of naturalizing (not, by the way, because of any great love for America but because doing so makes it much easier to travel and to bring one's relatives over).

              One friend, who is a telejournalist (a real one, not a talking head...she does documentaries) also got her citizenship, and one of her friends from work downloaded the particular piece of Lee Greenwood schmaltz to which you refer and played it for her over and over and over and over again....as a huge joke about how faux-patriotic the whole naturalization experience was.

              When my wife naturalized, I went to the ceremony with her (mostly to keep her from laughing too loudly).  They showed a videotape of Chimpy McCokespook welcoming all of the new Americans...and then, the videotape, an official production of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (legacy INS) goes into...you guessed it...a photo-montage, with "God Bless the USA" playing in the background.  We were nearly apoplectic sitting there trying not to laugh.

              Four hundred years ago, we were all illegal aliens according to the Comanche.

              by DC Pol Sci on Sun May 07, 2006 at 06:52:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Well, why the hell not? (0+ / 0-)

            I mean, the Pledge was written by a socialist, and the right is just all agog and cemented to it.

            Given a decent song that people could sing (and comprehend immediately, without explanations...), people would be just beside themselves over this.

            "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

            by ogre on Tue May 09, 2006 at 01:49:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  if national anthems (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DC Pol Sci, x, Unitary Moonbat, va dare, NJwlss

      could be spoken-word poems, than it's all about ani difranco's "grand canyon."

  •  America the Beautiful (8+ / 0-)

    Is my choice for a national anthem, particularly with Ray Charles singing it.

    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." J. Lennon

    by trashablanca on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:22:17 PM PDT

  •  Columbia the Gem of the Ocean (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    x, trashablanca, Unitary Moonbat, NJwlss

    If I'm not mistaken was a song often used in lieu of a national anthem prior to the adoption of the Star Spangled Banner.  

    •  It was the Navy Department in 1889 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      x, trashablanca, NJwlss

      that first "officialized" the ceremonial use of "The Star-Spangled Banner," so it would make sense that "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean" was one of its predecessors.

      Just imagine if we'd gone with the Army's choice: "When the caisons go rolling along..."  

      "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

      by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:37:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Close, but no cigar. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        x, trashablanca, Unitary Moonbat
        That would have been Hail, Columbia which was usually played for the entrance of the President prior to Ruffles and Flourishes / Hail to the Chief and is now usually played for the Vice President.
        •  now usually played for the Vice President. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          x, Shapeshifter, trashablanca
          does it go like the Imperial March?

          I'm kind of stalling for time here...They told me what to say. George W Bush, 03-21-2006 10:00 EST Press Conference

          by Tamifah on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:56:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I stand corrected (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          x, trashablanca, NJwlss

          Am I thinking of lyrics, or is "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean" a separate song?  If so, did the Navy use it as an official anthem in the early 1800's?

          "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

          by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:00:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not sure about the Navy connection. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            x, Unitary Moonbat
            But it might well have been. Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean is, in fact, a different song. There are a number of songs about "Columbia", which brings up a fascinating digression (aren't you glad you asked? Oh wait, you didn't ask. Well, that's OK. I try never to let that stop me!).

            There is a whole backstory to the whole deification of Columbus and the efforts and influence of the Italian/American community. It includes the adoption of Columbus Day and the mythology of Columbia--all very contrived and designed to serve a purpose. Kind of like the Apotheosis of Reagan.

            •  My father (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ActivistGuy, Unitary Moonbat

              recalled as a little boy being surprised as were people around him that The Star Spangled Banner and not the tune whose opening words are "Columbia, the gem of the ocean..." became the National Anthem.

              The latter tune is very rarely heard these days.  I can recall one instance in some decades.

            •  Sounds like a moonbat feeding ground (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              x

              I'll look into it - unless you or some other historiorantologist does a diary on patriotic holiday origins first.

              "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

              by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:50:16 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Postscript (yet another) (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                x, Unitary Moonbat
                Did you know that Hail to the Chief was first requested by a First Lady (I think it was Julia Tyler, but I'm too lazy to look it up) who asked the Marine Band for something imposing because her husband was short in stature?

                And military regulations dictate that it be played only for the Commander-in-Chief? And they specify the number of ruffles and flourishes for the President and Vice President?

                And speaking of the flag (you did earlier), did you know that it wasn't until 1959 when Congress adopted the 50-star flag that the precise proportions of the flag were codified?

                And now (drumroll) the only thing I learned in twelfth grade civics: What is the difference between a Joint Session of Congress and a Joint Meeting? (It's tied with Smithsonian Institution/Institute for the most misquoted piece of Americana on TV newscasts and game shows.)

                •  Joint sessions require concurrent HRs and SRs (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  x, homogenius

                  and are called when doing things Presidential, like counting electoral votes or listening to the State of the Union Address.  Joint Meetings are for US and foreign dignitaries other than the President, and foreign heads of state.  They are convened by unanimous consent agreements about when to meet and recess.

                  Or is there an easier way to remember all that?

                  "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

                  by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 09:24:49 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Joint session means "in session" (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Unitary Moonbat
                    The congress is in session to conduct the nation's business and the House mace is on whichever side of the dais it usually is when the House is in session.

                    Joint meeting is like the House convening as the Committee of the Whole and the mace is on the other side.

                    But you're right about the parliamentary mechanisms used.

  •  Another winner from the Cave! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unitary Moonbat, NJwlss, RickBoston

    Thanks!   You didn't even get distracted by the military fiascos around the capture of Washington!  Most people do. Excellent diary as usual.

    BTW funny you should turn up tonight. I just gave you a plug in the open thread about your 4th crusade diary.

    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness." Mark Twain

    by dougymi on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:26:58 PM PDT

    •  It was tempting (7+ / 0-)

      The defense of Washington was a Bush-sized fiasco, complete with Presidential strafe (a la Katrina) and deer-in-the-headlights flight (a la 9/11's pingponging between Louisiana and Oklahoma), and it took a Moonbat-sized muzzle to keep from going all tangental about it.  Like Madison, eventually I was able to get things under control, but it took a little anarchy first.

      Karma must be guiding us this evening.  I'll keep mine in balance by annointing your OT comments with mojo - thanks!

      "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

      by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:44:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow I feel so much smarter (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, Unitary Moonbat, NJwlss

    Thanks for the diary Moonbat. I knew a few of those facts but....a British drinking song? Thats cool.

    "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." -- Abraham Lincoln

    by proudprogressiveCA on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:45:11 PM PDT

    •  I have a recording of a guy singing (3+ / 0-)

      to Anaecron in Heaven--on a DVD that I play in class. There are great musical resources recorded for the Early Republic period (1789-1848).

      •  I had some choir kids try it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        x, proudprogressiveCA

        from the sheet music in the diary, and they did a pretty good job.  The tune is a little different from the one we're familiar with - still perfectly recognizable, but different - and the words don't exactly roll off the tongue, but if you can get past the first couple of lines and hit a stride, the part about "the Myrtle of Venus, and Bacchus' vine" comes out sounding just right.

        "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

        by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:33:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Strange you say that (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          x, Unitary Moonbat

          I had heard Anacreon once in a kid's concert by the National Symphony where they played the different versions. Hadn't seen the words since then, but as I read them above, my first thought was "Wow, those are much more singable (and understandable) than Key's three-legged poem."

  •  Moonbat, how could you think (6+ / 0-)

    that Jon Stewart could hold a candle to you?

    I love The Daily Show, but it is, after all, fake news, and you a real history.  Or histrionics.  Sometimes both.  Love your stuff, though.

    Live Free or Die-words to live by

    by ForFreedom on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:45:29 PM PDT

  •  It can't be translated into Klingon. (5+ / 0-)
    Or at least, it hasn't been (I assume that's something that would be on the internets right off...) I did lots of googling after watching TDS the other night. I was a bit disappointed (but not all that surprised) to find that Jon wasn't the first to use the sentiment "sing the thing in Klingon, for all I care". I did find a translation into binary -- don't know how you'd sing that. I only  found one auto-translator into Klingon, and I suppose that the language of the SSB is too archaic for that program to work. Or the words haven't been invented in Klingon yet. And while I spent way too much time googling "star spangled banner lyrics Klingon", I'm not quite ready to translate the SSB into modern english to see if the translator works. Much less learn Klingon to do it. My geekiness is only half-hearted.

    And yes, this is a terribly random post. Apologies.

    (great diary, btw. Obviously you put your research skills to more sensible pursuits than I do.)

    •  Klingon has that problem with the 'to be' verb (6+ / 0-)

      in that it doesn't really exist.  That was why General Chang had to cite Shakespeare in the original Klingon when he quoted, "aH pagh taHbe'. DaH mu'tlheghvam vIqelnIS. - To be or not to be, that is the question before us."

      I couldn't find a Kligon translation of "The Star-Spangled Banner," but I did locate some guy's translation of "The Seasame Street Song":

      Sunny day
      Sweepin' the clouds away
      On my way
      to where the air is sweet.
      Can you tell me how to get,
      how to get to Sesame Street?

      pem Hov jaj. Haw'choHnIS 'eng 'ej Haj.
      ghoch vIghaj;
      'ej pa' muDmo' jIbel.
      chay' Sesame He vIghoS?
      SIbI' jIHvaD 'e' yIDel.

         A day of the daytime star.
         The clouds are compelled to commence fleeing,        
      and are filled with dread.
         I have a destination;
         and there, because of the atmosphere, I am pleased.
         Describe to me immediately
         how to go to Sesame Street.

      "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

      by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:10:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary (6+ / 0-)

    The minute I saw it, I broke out the tail-end of my Christmas bottle of Johnny Walker Black in preparation for being able to sing To Anacreon in Heaven in proper form when you got to it.

    For what it's worth, my great-great-great-grandfather was a foot soldier in the British army from 1812?--1815.  He saw action at the battle of Queenstown Heights near Niagra Falls in Canada in 1812, but as far as we have been able to determine, wasn't among the troops fighting near Washington and Baltimore.  He later immigrated to the US.

    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both - Louis Brandeis

    by dsteffen on Sat May 06, 2006 at 07:58:33 PM PDT

  •  I like it! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    x, redcardphreek, Unitary Moonbat

    I've always liked The Star Spangled Banner. It reliably makes me tear up.  America the Beautiful is great, but it just doesn't invoke the same feeling. I think part of it is that the anthem is hard to sing; you really have to work at it, and that is appropriate. Being a citizen is work and we should be reminded that 'we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.'

    I have a friend who claims Francis Scott Key was his grandfather. He is no spring chicken, but I'm still skeptical that the math works out on that.  

  •  You're funny enough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unitary Moonbat

    To go on tour with this.
    I see you as a Bill Nye the Science Guy type (QUIT hitting!).
    Just in terms of segment length, I swear!  Kids of all ages would love this if, IF it were short enough.  

    War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

    by Margot on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:04:12 PM PDT

  •  It's Been My Hands-Down Favorite Melody (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unitary Moonbat

    of any national anthem, although I do recognize the difficulty of many (Americans and various ethnic groups) to reach the octave & a half range. Personally I've been into Irish trad for many years where that range, and the tonality of the melody, fit comfortably.

    This song also strikes me as remarkably defensive compared to some anthems. In the end God steps in and saves us.

    Our military has come a long way since those days.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:04:32 PM PDT

    •  Favorite Melody? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unitary Moonbat
      Hmmmm. I would probably go with Germany. Growing up I knew it from the protestant hymnal ( Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken, hymn tune: Austrian Hymn).  Hey, it's Haydn, for cryin' out loud!

      Overall, I favor Nkose Sikelele Africa, Advance, Australia Fair, O Canada, La Marseillaise and USSR/Russia (Although there's this one killer musical phrase in Finland's anthem that always knocks me out). Honorable mention to Norway and Greece.

  •  BTW Has ANYBODY Got a Translation of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unitary Moonbat

    "Nuestro Hymno" so we can intelligently consider whether it's some kind of translation of SSB or a new lyric?

    I tried googling the title +lyrics or +translation and all I could find were people ranting about what they'd heard it accused of being.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:10:12 PM PDT

    •  Please look for my post tomorrow evening (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      homogenius, Skennet Boch

      I've done some research into the origins of "Nuestro Himno," and will post it as soon as the diary rules allow.  To have included three more sets of lyrics - but a bunch more contextual historioranting - would have made this one way too long.

      "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

      by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:15:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Too long? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unitary Moonbat
        But Moonie, this is already too long.

        < /snark>

        I think you should make this a whole series:
        * Yankee Doodle
        * Home Sweet Home
        * Dixie (was the original Dixie really in NYC?)
        * America, the Beautiful
        * All the songs with obscure historical/sociological references that no one gets anymore, not to mention all the Southern songs that are too racist to be believed.
        Oooooh, I can't wait...baited breath and all.

        •  Oh give me a home... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Unitary Moonbat, RickBoston

          I want the history of "Home on the Range."  In my Kansas schools we always learned that our state song was written there but that other states had tried to claim it.  Given the present standing of my state's educational system I'm wondering if we learned the truth.

          I think most of the lyrics capture the prairie well even if it does include verses like these:

          The red man was pressed from this part of the West,
          He's likely no more to return
          To the banks of Red River where seldom if ever
          Their flickering campfires burn.

          How often at night when the heavens are bright
          With the light of the glittering stars,
          Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
          If their glory exceeds that of ours.

      •  I hope you're going to make a reference to... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unitary Moonbat
    •  here's one (0+ / 0-)

      From wikipedia

      Do you see it arising, by the light of the dawn,
      That which we hailed so much when the night fell?
      Its stars, its stripes were streaming yesterday
      In the fierce combat, as a sign of victory,
      The brilliance of battle, in step with freedom,
      Throughout the night they said: "It will be defended!"
      Oh say you! Does it still wave, its starred beauty,
      Over the land of the free, the sacred flag?

      Its stars, its stripes, liberty, we are equal.
      We are brothers, it is our anthem.
      In the fierce combat, as a sign of victory,
      The brilliance of battle... (My people keep fighting.)
      ...in step with freedom, (Now is the time to break the chains!)
      Throughout the night they said: "It will be defended!"
      Oh say you! Does it still wave, its starred beauty,
      Over the land of the free, the sacred flag?

  •  Awesome! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unitary Moonbat, RickBoston

    Thanks for the details... great writing! Question. Were the soldiers that burned Washington British or Canadian? I read in Canadian interpretations that is was Canadian troops that sacked DC in retaliation. Apparently the troops were statinoned in Halifax, NS. I always reponded that Canada wasn't a nation until 1867, so anyone north of the border was British. Were these soldiers shipped over after the wars in Euroland?

  •  Picking nits. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unitary Moonbat
    Really, REALLY incredible survey of this riveting subject.

    First, "Capitol Building" is technically redundant. "Capitol" is a building and "Capital" is a city.

    Next, by some accounts, the SSB was the most popular patriotic song in the 19th century. Why, I couldn't tell you. Maybe they never had to actually sing it.

    When you mentioned the Olympics, you left out the absolutely vile, retched, and atrocious arrangement of the SSB introduced at the Opening Ceremonies of the Atlanta games and (for reasons that I cannot fathom) repeated in Salt Lake City. FYI, my award for the best rendition of a national anthem goes to Sydney (who hit it outta the park) with a close second to the Opening in Athens (A'Capella men's choir, reminiscent of the Red Army Chorus). For those who care (and I'm sure I'm the only one) the best rendition of the Olympic Hymn was at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Lillehammer, performed by Sysel (Sysel Krykcheba). Death is too good for the bright young guy at NBC who came up with the truncated version in Torino.

    You covered the use of the SSB in baseball during WWII and in movie theaters on military posts, but didn't link the two. In fact, there is a broader tradition for playing the SSB before a variety of events, not just in wartime. In WWII, it was played before all kinds of events, including live concerts and radio broadcasts. In recent decades I can remember hearing it begin concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. I particularly like Zubin Mehta's schtick of having the drumroll begin when his foot hit the conductor's platform. Curiously, in recent times it has been played at the conclusion of the Inauguration of the President and Vice President.

    You know, there's an equally fascinating history of America, the Beautiful, most notably the tidbit that Katherine Lee Bates began it as a poem for her wife who remained back on the East Coast while she traversed the country to Colorado.

    Toodles.

    •  I used to be really good about the capitol/ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      homogenius, RickBoston

      capital thing.  Must be getting sloppy in my dotage - thanks for catching it.

      There were many contenders for most patriotic song of the 19th century.  My favorite is "Battle Hymn of the Republic," if only for the Great Awakening-preacher style in which it's written.  Never understood how Bates managed to write "America, the Beautiful" where history says she did: the top of Pike's Peak is real cold and damn windy.

      Thanks for filling in some of the blanks I might have inadvertently strewn about - you know how it is, trying to decide what to leave in and what to leave out...

      "he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king" - Lucian

      by Unitary Moonbat on Sat May 06, 2006 at 08:25:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dude, this was really awesome. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unitary Moonbat, RickBoston
        All snark aside, you really did a job here. And you better clean it up!

        Now maybe I'll sit down and write my 12-part treatise on the White House. It'll be riveting, I tell you. At least it will drive away the trolls!

        As they say in the Navy (and FedEx), Bravo Zulu.

  •  Wow, what a history. (6+ / 0-)

    An interesting note: I don't know many nations that have a national anthem everyone buys into. We make fun of ours all the time (and not unjustly) and the fact that so many people screw up (or are completely ignorant of) the words.

    I have lived abroad for long periods, and the situation is the same (or even worse) in most countries.

    • Sweden has a very weird anthem (Du Gamla, Du Fria), a brief paean to "Norden"; many Swedes mumble the words after only the second of four lines.
    • Germany, of course, does not allow the singing of the first two verses of their national anthem, which is good because the first verse defines geographic boundaries no longer in Germany; the tune is stolen from the old Hapsburg anthem.
    • Netherlands, too, has an archaic anthem (de Wilhelmus) to which few know all the words. In it Dutch citizens declare themselves to be of "German blood" and that they "have always honored the King of Spain."
    • Italy has an anthem that no one loves (Fratelli d'Italia), with music that sounds of a third-rate bel canto opera. There is a perpetual lobby to replace it with "Va pensiero" from Verdi's opera Nabucco. At that time the latter was written it was a crypto-seditious hymm for freedom from Austrian rule; nonetheless, however stunning the music, it remains the Hebrew slave chorus longing for the liberation of Jerusalem.

    Tons of other examples, not the least of which includes all the newly (or not so newly) independent states of the Soviet Union trying to invent new national symbols in one fell swoop.

    We are not alone.

  •  Armistead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moiv, Unitary Moonbat

    Fort McHenry was commanded by George Armistead, whose nephew, Lewis Armistead, commanded one of Pickett's brigades and was mortally wounded during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

  •  Jimi (2+ / 0-)

    still did the best version ever, at Woodstock.

    "Rovus Vulgaris Americanus" nasty, freshly-demoted, soon-to-be-indicted co-conspirator -7.63, -9.59

    by shpilk on Sat May 06, 2006 at 09:36:16 PM PDT

  •  I still say... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moiv, Unitary Moonbat

    Foggy Mountain Breakdown would make a better national anthem...

  •  The Hilliard Ensemble (2+ / 0-)

    recorded he Anacreonatic Song on their CD "The Singing Club" (Harmonia Mundi 901153, 1984).  The original arrangement is for three voices, two tenors and a bass, which accounts for the extremely wide range of the melody.  This recording is now available in a budget (i.e. inexpensive) version on Harmonia Mundi's "Musique d'Abord" label:

    http://www.amazon.com/...

  •  I got kicked off high school radio (2+ / 0-)

    because I played the Jimi Hendrix version at the end of broadcast hours.  The ROTC teacher/officer complained, I think I had to remain off-air for two weeks.

  •  Isaac Asimov on all 4 stanzas (0+ / 0-)

    (First:  wOOt! for the Hilliard Ensemble!!

    I saved this piece the other day:
    Pure Water Gazette http://www.purewatergazette.net/...

    By Isaac Asimov

    [Introductory Note.  Unless you're already well acquainted with our "national anthem," this interesting piece by the late Isaac Asimov will be an eye-opener.  It was for me.  It's especially appropriate at a time when there is much talk of tossing out this difficult-to-sing and difficult-to-comprehend old song in favor of something that better suits Ray Charles' voice.  You'll understand the song much better after you read Mr. Asimov's explanation.--Hardly Waite, Gazette Senior Editor.]

    I have a weakness--I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem.
    The words are difficult and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I'm taking a shower I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time.
    I was once asked to speak at a luncheon. Taking my life in my hands, I announced I was going to sing our national anthem--all four stanzas.
    This was greeted with loud groans. One man closed the door to the kitchen, where the noise of dishes and cutlery was loud and distracting. "Thanks, Herb," I said.
    "That's all right," he said. "It was at the request of the kitchen staff."
    I explained the background of the anthem and then sang all four stanzas.
    Let me tell you, those people had never heard it before--or had never really listened. I got a standing ovation. But it was not me; it was the anthem.
    More recently, while conducting a seminar, I told my students the story of the anthem and sang all four stanzas. Again there was a wild ovation and prolonged applause. And again, it was the anthem and not me.
    So now let me tell you how it came to be written.
    In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over freedom of the seas. We were in the right. For two years, we held off the British, even though we were still a rather weak country. Great Britain was in a life and death struggle with Napoleon. In fact, just as the United States declared war, Napoleon marched off to invade Russia. If he won, as everyone expected, he would control Europe, and Great Britain would be isolated. It was no time for her to be involved in an American war.
    At first, our seamen proved better than the British. After we won a battle on Lake Erie in 1813, the American commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, sent the message "We have met the enemy and they are ours." However, the weight of the British navy beat down our ships eventually. New England, hard-hit by a tightening blockade, threatened secession.
    Meanwhile, Napoleon was beaten in Russia and in 1814 was forced to abdicate. Great Britain now turned its attention to the United States, launching a three-pronged attack. The northern prong was to come down Lake Champlain toward New York and seize parts of New England. The southern prong was to go up the Mississippi, take New Orleans and paralyze the west. The central prong was to head for the mid-Atlantic states and then attack Baltimore, the greatest port south of New York. If Baltimore was taken, the nation, which still hugged the Atlantic  coast, could be split in two. The fate of the United States, then, rested to a large extent on the success or failure of the central prong.
    The British reached the American coast, and on August 24, 1814, took Washington, D. C. Then they moved up the Chesapeake Bay toward Baltimore. On September 12, they arrived and found 1000 men in Fort McHenry, whose guns controlled the harbor. If the British wished to take Baltimore, they would have to take the fort.
    On one of the British ships was an aged physician, William Beanes, who had been arrested in Maryland and brought along as a prisoner. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and friend of the physician, had come to the ship to negotiate his release. The British captain was willing, but the two Americans would have to wait. It was now the night of September 13, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to start.
    As twilight deepened, Key and Beanes saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. Through the night, they heard bombs bursting and saw the red glare of rockets. They knew the fort was resisting and the American flag was still flying. But toward morning the bombardment ceased, and a dread silence fell. Either Fort McHenry had surrendered and the British flag flew above it, or the bombardment had failed and the American flag still flew.
    As dawn began to brighten the eastern sky, Key and Beanes stared out at the fort, tyring to see which flag flew over it. He and the physician must have asked each other over and over, "Can you see the flag?"
    After it was all finished, Key wrote a four stanza poem telling the events of the night. Called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," it was published in newspapers and swept the nation. Someone noted that the words fit an old English tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven" --a difficult melody with an uncomfortably large vocal range. For obvious reasons, Key's work became known as "The Star Spangled Banner," and in 1931 Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States.
    Now that you know the story, here are the words. Presumably, the old doctor is speaking. This is what he asks Key

    "Ramparts," in case you don't know, are the protective walls or other elevations that surround a fort. The first stanza asks a question. The second gives an answer
    On the shore, dimly seen thro' the mist 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 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!

    "The towering steep" is again, the ramparts. The bombardment has failed, and the British can do nothing more but sail away, their mission a failure.
    In the third stanza, I feel Key allows himself to gloat over the American triumph. In the aftermath of the bombardment, Key probably was in no mood to act otherwise.
    During World War II, when the British were our staunchest allies, this third stanza was not sung. However, I know it, so here it is
    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 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.

    The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling.
    Oh! 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 Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
    And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
    I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears.
    And don't let them ever take it away.
    --Isaac Asimov,  March 1991

    "Someone from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail." --Stephen Colbert

    by gazingoffsouthward on Sun May 07, 2006 at 08:27:00 PM PDT

    •  oops--first stanza here (review): (0+ / 0-)

      This should have followed Asimov's narrative where the good Doctor asks of Key the question:

             Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
             W hat 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 thro' 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?

      "Someone from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail." --Stephen Colbert

      by gazingoffsouthward on Sun May 07, 2006 at 08:44:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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