United States


Length: 316 words

Anthem lyrics (use the arrow on the left to collapse this section):

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 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!

Historical context:

The U.S. anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written in 1814, but only made the official anthem by law in 1931. It was a popular patriotic song before then, and was often played as an unofficial anthem of sorts, but so were others, like “America, the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (set to the tune of “God Save the Queen”), and “Hail, Columbia.” There was some debate over which song the government would elevate to the status of official anthem.

The music and rhyme scheme of “The Star-Spangled Banner” were lifted wholesale from “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a song about a Greek poet written for a British gentlemen’s club and used by members as a song to drink to, among other things. The song itself is challenging to sing given the range it demands from the singer, and is also in an unusual meter.

The first verse is traditionally sung; the other verses are almost never played. Moreover, it is almost impossible to find a version sung with the third verse, possibly due to its reference to slavery. In many cases, an unofficial fifth verse, added by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in 1861, is substituted — or the third verse is simply omitted.


Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top