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The Meaning Behind Our National Anthem

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 thru 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.
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 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 in 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!

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, 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 home 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, 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!

For those of us in the United States, we’ve grown up hearing this song sung at various functions, most notably sporting events. We all stand up and remove our hats and cross our right hand over our hearts. Many of us had to learn to sing it for Grandparent’s day in elementary school but we promptly forgot the words after our performance was finished. We all know its name, we all know its importance, but do most of us truly understand the meaning behind the Star Spangled Banner? Did we carry the meaning with us out of eighth-grade American history? Considering today we celebrate our National Anthem day, maybe we could all use a refresher course on our National Anthem coined by Frances Scott Key.

The anthem was officially penned after the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812. This war became known as “the second war of Independence.” The lyrics were penned in the year 1814 after the Americans won the Battle of Baltimore on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It wasn’t until 1931, though, that President Hoover made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem.

According to Key, this was “… the first time that someone had put down in words their feelings about their country and the flag.”

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light?

The commander of Fort Henry commissioned a flag so large that the British would have no trouble seeing it from far away.

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming-

The flag could be seen flying over the fort from several miles away; Key is suggesting the flag could be seen by the last light before nightfall and by the first light in the morning.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight-

The “perilous fight” is referring to the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming-

The flag flew high above the battlements (or “ramparts”) of the fort.

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air-

This is referring to the cannon fire from the British navy, as well as the cannon fire responding from Fort Henry.

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there-

The cannon fire lit up the sky enough for the Americans to see that their flag was still flying and that the British had not captured the fort.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The flag was still flying over “the land of the free;” this was a reference to the freedom of the states from the tyranny of the British empire. The “home of the brave” is in reference to the heroic Americans that fought for the freedom of their country.

So God Bless America; the land of the free because of the brave.

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