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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Our inspiring poem of celebration

Francis Scott Key, 1779-1843, was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, Washington, D.C., who wrote the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry” that gave us our nation’s national anthem.  Key, who had been sent to negotiate the release of American prisoners aboard one of the British ships in Baltimore Harbor, was instead, detained aboard the ship himself as the British prepared to bombard Fort McHenry and capture the city.  Unable to do anything but watch the bombardment from the deck – on the night of September 13–14, 1814 – he saw at dawn that the American flag still flew above the embattled fort and reported this to the prisoners being held below.

After the assault failed, he was allowed to return to Baltimore and, inspired, he wrote his famous poem about the experience – the first stanza now used as our anthem.  Here, in it’s entirety on this 4th of July weekend, and for “Saturday’s Poem,” is

The Star Spangled Banner 

O 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 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, now conceals, now 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 washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.  
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,    
From the terror of flight and 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 loved homes 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, for 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. 


Happy 4th of July!

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