On this day, “by the dawn’s light,” Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The inspiration for Key’s great words was the British fleet’s shelling of Fort McHenry, which guarded the harbor of Baltimore, Maryland. The year was 1814, and the war was the War of 1812. Key watched the bombardment from an odd perspective. An American lawyer, Key had boarded a British ship prior to the battle to negotiate the release of another American being held by the British. Once on the ship, Key was detained by the British until the battle ended the next morning. Thus Key’s vantage point was from the enemy’s side, as the British fleet aimed its guns at the flag flying over the American fort.
A few days after Key wrote his poem, it was published in American newspapers. Soon people began singing the poem’s words to the tune of an English drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The song did not become the national anthem immediately,however. More than one hundred years later, in 1931, the U.S. Congress made it the official anthem.
Today’s Challenge: An A+ Anthem
An anthem is a rousing, reverential song of devotion or loyalty to a group, a school, or a nation. While the “Star-Spangled Banner” is certainly reverential, many have criticized it as a song that is difficult to sing. What would you argue would be a good alternative anthem? Identify a song that is already in existence (one that meets the definition of anthem) or compose your own original anthem.
Quotation of the Day:
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
(words from the 2nd stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner)