A song for our times

`Banner': Its words were inspired in 1814, but time hasn't dulled their salience.

September 27, 2001

WE MOSTLY sing its first verse at ballgames, and a lot of people can't manage to remember even that much.

But The Star-Spangled Banner was written purposefully, and hopefully, at a time of national crisis. It was written on board a boat in Baltimore's harbor, by a native who was moved by the sight of the flag at Fort McHenry following a night of furious British shelling.

Its words should matter more to all of us.

They already speak to Rob Ross Hendrickson, a Sun reader whose fondness for the national anthem's words moved him to write us a letter, offering a "humble suggestion."

Print the words, he prompted. All four stanzas. "Our national anthem ... has an eerie currency after the lapse of 187 years almost to the day between its writing and Sept. 11, 2001," he wrote. "The nation needs to be shown that long hidden in its national anthem is as good an expression of its convictions as one might wish to compose."

Indeed. The last verse, in particular, seems on point.

Below is The Star-Spangled Banner, in its entirety. When you're done reading it, clip it out and save it, and thank Mr. Hendrickson for reminding us all of this national treasure's importance.

The Star-Spangled Banner

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 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 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 of 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.

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.

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