Friday, September 11, 2009

Poetry Friday: 9/11 and the National Anthem

For those of you who don't live in the US, you'll need to forgive my patriotic tangent today. And I will get to the intended poem further down, I promise.

On this day eight years ago, my life was changed forever. Although some in this country have forgotten, what happened eight years ago made such an impression on my young life (I was a freshman in high school) that I easily recognized that I would never be the same. I didn't lose a loved one, but I still feel a loss for the brave men and women who did lose their lives that day, and their destitute families. And I will never, ever forget.

So for my US readers, go out and do something for our country today. If you're old enough to do so, register to vote. Pay tribute to our veterans. Send a card to one of the brave men and women fighting to protect your freedom. Donate blood. Volunteer to help your fellow community members. Don't let your citizenship as a member of this country be passive!

So on that note, I thought it would be interesting to spend this Poetry Friday post examining our national anthem. Think about it. Every sports game around the country starts with the singing of this familiar song. You've probably sung it yourself many times. But have you ever thought about where it came from? Can you even name the person who wrote it?

Didn't think so. So here's a crash course in the history of "The Star-Spangled Banner." As you can guess, the name derives from the stars on the flag held aloft by American patriots during the American Revolution. Now fast forward several years to the War of 1812, or as I like to call it, the American Revolution Part 2.

On the night of September 7th, 1814 an ammeter poet named Francis Scott Key was held prisoner on a ship while the British bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. Between the rainy weather and the constant smoke from artillery fire, the imprisoned Key struggled to see the small American flag that would indicate the fort had not yet fallen. As the darkness started to abate at the coming of dawn at the next morning, Key was thrilled to discover Old Glory still flying high above the top of Fort McHenry. The British had failed, and Baltimore was still free.

So inspired by the sight of his country's flag, Key penned a poem he called "Defence of Fort McHenry" and which would later be developed into the song "The Star-Spangled Banner." The song wouldn't be officially recognized as the national anthem until signed into law by Herbert Hoover on March 3, 1931.

Now take another look at this age-old poem, and this time read the lyrics without singing them. Does the meaning change now that you know the background?

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! 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.

O! 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!


Ladytink_534 said...

I was also a freshman in high school when the towers fell. I knew the background behind this particular song/poem but I always love it when bloggers do something like this. Wonderful post.

Zombie Girrrl said...

That was a nice tribute. I usually watch the ceremonies on the news, but sadly I couldn't find the time today. I don't need to see the footage again to remember them, though. I'll never forget. Do you remember all the flyers for missing people the first few weeks after it happened? I think that's the image that stayed with me the most. I was in junior high.

Anonymous said...

The 9/11 experience is this generation's Pearl Harbor. I asked family members to write down their memories to keep for my children (the oldest was in 2nd grade at that time). Although my family is scattered across the US all of us wrote of the shock, disbelief and helpless feelings we experienced. I didn't know anyone who was killed but I knew people whose lives were changed forever on that day.

Zombie Girrrl said...

I didn't know anyone and I lived on the opposite coast at the time, but this belonged to everyone. That's a great idea, writing down everyone's experience for posterity.

L said...

I was really young when it happened(7ish), so I don't remember much, but it still affects me. I also wanted to let you know that I have an award for you over at my blog:

Josette said...

Thanks for writing briefly about the history of your national anthem. I learnt something new today!

Haiku Amy said...

Thanks you for posting that. I did know a little bit about the history and that Francis Scott Key wrote it as a poem. I did not know there were four verses(stanzas). I had learned in 6th grade what I thought were the only 3 verses (which were stanzas 1,2,&4), but I had never read that 3rd stanza before. That is interesting to me.

I was a newly-wed in college when 9/11 happened. I also happened to work at the airport at the time, and after the terrorist attack so many things seemed to change at work. It also affected a lot of the security measures for the 2002 Olympics in SLC that I was involved in. It was just a crazy time, but nothing could beat the patriotism of our nation at that time. Even though it is too bad that it only happened because of the tragedy we endured.

It seems like with this economic hardship that patriotism is at an all time low. I love our flag and country and am glad to remember the heroes of our nation.