National Anthem: Remembering The Words And The Meaning

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During the presidential inaugural ceremonies, cameras zoomed in closely on political leaders and their families as they sang our national anthem. It was clear that some of those singing did not know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner. Like many of us, they may have learned the first verse in elementary school but have since forgotten the words and possibly the meaning. With the Super Bowl only days away, we all have an opportunity to redeem ourselves before the anthem is sung. Here are the words penned by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 as he witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. The sight of the American flag still flying over the fort at daybreak inspired him to write this poem, the "Star-Spangled Banner" which became our national anthem in 1931. The rarely sung second and third verses are not only inspiring, but remind us of the faith of our forefathers in the God who blessed us with this free land.


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 thru 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 thru 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! Oh, long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever, when free men 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, 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!

Text: Francis Scott Key, 1779-1843

Music: John Stafford Smith, 1750-1836

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