Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Star-Spangled Banner
By Francis Scott Key (1779–1843)
O! SAY, 1 can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
  What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes, and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
  O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,        5
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,        10
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 on the stream.
  ’T is the Star-spangled Banner, O! long may it wave        15
  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 wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.        20
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,        25
  Between their loved home, and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heaven-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;”        30
  And the Star-spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
  O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Note 1. Key, of Baltimore, is the author of the short lyrical piece entitled The Star-Spangled Banner, which has enjoyed a high popularity. Of the occasion which led to the composition of these lines, the following account is given.—A gentleman had left Baltimore, with a flag of truce, for the purpose of getting released from the British fleet, a friend of his who had been captured at Marlboro’. He went as far as the mouth of the Patuxent, and was not permitted to return, lest the intended attack on Baltimore should be disclosed. He was, therefore, brought up the Bay to the mouth of the Patapsco, where the flag vessel was kept under the guns of a frigate, and he was compelled to witness the bombardment of Fort M’Henry, which the admiral had boasted that he would carry in a few hours. He watched the flag at the Fort, through the whole day, with an anxiety that can be more easily conceived than described, until the night prevented him from seeing it. In the night, he watched the bomb shells, and at early dawn, his eye was again greeted by the proudly waving flag of his country. [back]

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