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Inspired by the bombing of Fort McHenry

Our national anthem's origin story

Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key

Star Spangled Banner

[first verse]

  • 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?

[fourth verse]

  • O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
  • Between their loved homes 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!

Francis Scott Key (1779–1843) was an American author and poet who is most famous for penning “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which he wrote during the War of 1812 as he watched the bombing of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, Sept. 13–14, 1814. Seeing at dawn of the battle’s second day that the fort had held its own, Key was inspired later to write the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which American music publisher Thomas Carr adapted to “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a tune by British composer John Stafford Smith (1750–1836). The song was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931.

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Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key

Star Spangled Banner

[first verse]

  • 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?

[fourth verse]

  • O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
  • Between their loved homes 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!

Francis Scott Key (1779–1843) was an American author and poet who is most famous for penning “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which he wrote during the War of 1812 as he watched the bombing of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, Sept. 13–14, 1814. Seeing at dawn of the battle’s second day that the fort had held its own, Key was inspired later to write the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which American music publisher Thomas Carr adapted to “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a tune by British composer John Stafford Smith (1750–1836). The song was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931.

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