The story of the Anthem

The Star Spangled Banner

Words: Francis Scott Key, 1814
Tune: Anacreon in Heaven by John Stafford Smith, 1771 (?)

The following shows the four verses as written by Key, with some of the variations shown alongside. Spelling and punctuation variations haven't been included, and the variations have been restricted to a number of the earliest known versions and editions. After the four verses are listed two of the many additional verses that have been added over the years.

O, say can you see by the dawn's early light |ye - through
  What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming? |by
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, |bright stars and broad stripes -
  O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? clouds of the 
        And the rocket's red glare,
        The bomb bursting in air, |bombs
    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, |On
  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 conceals, now discloses
        Now it catches the gleam
        Of the morning's first beam,
    In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: |on
'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 |are the foes / are the hosts -
  That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion, sweepingly 
A home and a country should leave us no more!
  Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution. |This - his
        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 |And - foemen
  Between their loved home and the war's desolation! |homes - war's
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 long may it wave
  O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
The following stanza was written by George Spowers around 1824 in an attempt to redress the balance of the anti-British sentiment in Key's third verse. However, it was also considered to drag the National Anthem into unnecessary politics, and is rarely sung.
But hush'd be that strain! They our Foes are no longer;
  Lo Britain the right hand of Friendship extends,
And Albion's fair Isle we behold with affection
  The land of our Fathers - the land of our Friends!
        Long, long may we flourish,
        Columbia and Britain,
    In amity still may your children be found,
And the Star-Spangled Banner and Red Cross together
  Wave free and triumphant the wide world around!
Probably the best known additional stanza was written by Oliver-Wendell Holmes during the Civil War, and was intended to decry treasonable acts against the US flag.
When our land is illumined with liberty's smile,
  If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
  The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
        By the millions unchained,
        Who their birthright have gained
    We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
  While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

Last update: 22-Mar-00  ©1996-2004 Mike Todd