Thursday, September 13, 2012

The 198th birthday of "The Star Spangled Banner"

As This Day in History teaches us, it was on this day in 1814 that Maryland attorney Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem, "The Defence of Fort McHenry."

Never heard of it, eh? Oh, yes, you have.

After burning Washington, D.C. (even setting fire to the White House, although not before eating the dinner which President Madison had to abandon when the Redcoats hit town), the British fleet moved on to Baltimore. Usual Suspect This Day in History picks up the story from there:
After one of Key's friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren't allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.

The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven" by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.
You know the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" (the last two of which are really not "play ball") -- but tonight, consider singing the original words at your local:
To Anacreon in heaven 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 aud 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 entwine
The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine.
There's a few more stanzas, if you can stand it, at this site. While John Stafford Smith is usually credited with the melody (as in the This Day in History post above), Ralph Tomlinson is the one who should be blamed for these lyrics. Both were members of the Anacreontic Society of London. The song was first published in 1778, some years before this YouTube video:

If you need something else, however, today is also International Chocolate Day.

1 comment:

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