The Star-Spangled Banner Turns 200 Years Old!

The Star-Spangled Banner Turns 200 Years Old!Courtesy of loc.gov

It’s sung at nearly every national sporting event, as well as at the Olympics. It’s referred to in numerous films, TV shows and literature, and happens to share the same birthday with Amy Winehouse, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Mark Webber (Pulp), Ashley Roberts (The Pussycat Dolls), Barry Cowsill, Steen Gaines (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and other musicians as well. The United States of America’s national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner turns 200 years old today! Should you be considering starting your own country, establishing your own nation of people, or have already done so, and are in dire need of a national anthem, here is FDRMX’s three-step how-to on making a national anthem as classic as the one dedicated to the U.S.’s  dear ole stars and stripes.

First: Be sure your country actually has need of a national anthem. Are you at war? Is your government floundering? Is the future of your nation hanging in the balance? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are indeed in need of a national anthem. Second: Now it is time to select an author for the anthem. Contrary to your initial thought, do not choose a professional, but rather an amateur with a day job in an entirely different field. Take for example, Francis Scott Key, a thirty-five year old lawyer and author who liked to write poetry on the side, especially when witnessing the terror that is a bombarding attack on one of your country’s forts (in Key’s case, the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812). Third: Now that you have a lovely poem (don’t fret – although your poet has only written about eight lines so far, he will later add more stanzas!), the next step is to put the words to music. For the sake of your citizens, pick a catchy tune, and for a nice boost in morale, choose one of your enemy nation’s familiar tunes. Francis Scott Key selected “The Anacreontic Song” written by John Stafford Smith and which was popular in a London men’s social club called the Anacreontic Society. Call it creative license to use an existing tune if you must; your rendition of the song will be better anyways.

Congratulations, you have now written a national anthem! All that’s left to do is rename the tune to something beautifully poetic, such as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and make it official by singing it whenever it’s even slightly appropriate to do so. Your citizens will soon catch on. Now, the long standing joke (made especially popular by British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, watchable in his stand up Dress to Kill), is that Americans don’t know the words to the national anthem past the first stanza. Just in case (and so you can prove the world wrong), the Encyclopedia of Music has provided all four stanzas for you below. Happy birthday to 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 rockets’ 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, 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, 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, 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.
 
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry 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!

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