Most of us know the National Anthem. We’ve sung along with celebrities at ballgames (as they’re forgetting the lyrics) or listened to the tune while fireworks lit the sky, but let’s remember the context of the writing.
During the dark days of the War of 1812, intense pressure was crushing in on Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Throughout the night, relentless bombardment rained down on the defenders and the question of it holding or falling (like Washington D.C. had previously done) lingered. Yes, our ancestors had much to be concerned about with the Capital City already burning and the same British commander, (General Ross) anticipating complete victory. But daybreak soon came and there it was…Old Glory. The moment was so incredibly moving that Frances Scott Key scratched down these familiar lines:
“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?”
However, there’s more. Several more lines were penned in the original poem, with the last ones being the strongest. Take a look:
“O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home 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!”
That morning, when the smoke cleared, a breath of fresh air lifted the spirits of those anxiously waiting for sunrise, and at least one person knew who to praise for it. So this year when you sing “…the land of the free and the home of the brave!” don’t forget the line in that last stanza, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’” …it’s a good one!