Dictionary.com

The Forgotten Verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner”

star-spangled banner 2

In 1814, the poet and lyricist Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” originally known as “Defense of Fort M’Henry.” During the War of 1812, Key witnessed the attacks on Baltimore and wrote the words based on his experiences this night. These lyrics were printed in local newspapers and set to the tune of an existing song called “Anacreon in Heaven,” and then officially arranged by John Philip Sousa. Key’s famous lyrics entered the world as a broadside ballad, or a song written on a topical subject, and printed for wide distribution.

More than a century later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order designating “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, and in 1931, the US Congress confirmed the decision. The tune has kicked off ceremonies of national importance and athletic events ever since.

While the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is widely known by the American public, the last three verses are generally omitted in performances. Here are all the four versers, as they were written 200 years ago by Key:

O say 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 rocket’s 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 wash’d out their foul footstep’s 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 lov’d 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 preserv’d 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.

See also:
7 Wacky Words Born in the USA
Everyday Words Coined by American Presidents
O Say Can You Hear? A Look at Our National Anthem’s Poetic Roots

97 Comments

  1. not an american -  July 23, 2013 - 6:21 am

    I’m not an American. I don’t particularly like America. But your anthem rocks. And, YES I am entitled to an opinion!

    Reply
    • Vanessa Tong -  July 3, 2014 - 6:07 am

      You certainly are! By the way, most Americans don’t particularly care for the anthem. Very difficult to sing you see.

      Reply
    • TurningLeaves -  July 6, 2014 - 9:59 am

      To all that I agree.

      Reply
  2. mamimama -  May 21, 2011 - 10:26 am

    My ten-year-old daughter recited the poem from memory for a class assignment. She chose it herself. I’d never have attempted it! Her comment after reading it through the first few times was: “I think the last verse should be ‘The National Anthem.’ It is more inspirational.” She got a perfect score, by the way. Yes, I’m a proud mamimama.

    Reply
  3. sabran -  February 22, 2011 - 8:36 pm

    I hate to burst anyone’s bubble (esp. Livewire below :)) but the US lost the war of 1812 – they may have won the battle described in the anthem – but they lost the war.

    Not a great choice, in my opinion, for a country’s anthem – aside from the fact it’s a bout a war – about time we stop embedding violence into our brains at every turn isn’t it?

    Reply
    • Djfgreene -  July 6, 2014 - 9:26 am

      Actually the U.S. did not lose the War of 1812. The final battle, the Battle of New Orleans, confirmed for the British that no matter how many battles they won, and they won most of them in the 3-year war, the Americans were not going to give up. As the Battle of New Orleans was being fought, British and U.S. diplomats were in Ghent, Belgium working out a peace agreement to end the war. The war ended in a draw – the American nation still sovereign; the Btrish still w/o their American territory.

      Reply
  4. proud to be an american -  February 14, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    @ Random Commenter: I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. Thanks

    Reply
  5. wordjunkie -  February 12, 2011 - 9:24 am

    I absolutely love this song. I do believe that dumming down the lyrics would severely decrease the sentimentality of it. Why should it be modernized? This is a symbol of our heritage. Should we vamp up the American Flag, as well?

    Reply
  6. ShanghaiExpat -  February 11, 2011 - 7:57 pm

    The best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I ever heard (Coincidentally, as a prelude to one of the best Superbowls I’ve ever seen) was Whitney Houston’s in 1991. It brought everyone in the room to tears of pride. THAT’S what a national anthem is meant to do. Shame on Ms Aguilera for taking this opportunity to grandstand (and screw up), instead of signing the song properly – especially at a time when our soldiers are overseas fighting. She’s a disgrace.

    Reply
  7. Jason -  February 11, 2011 - 11:19 am

    I find the anthem a very difficult song to sing. I barley reach “O’er the ramparts” before I find myself choking up and picturing the summer of 1814, the Battle of Bladensburg, the burning of Washington and the very real threat that this, the country that I truly believe to be the last, best hope of the world, might “perish from the Earth.” God forbid it.

    Reply
  8. Shannyn -  February 10, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    It’s a pretty nice poem – you can definitely feel the history.

    I always feel so proud when I hear my national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand” (I’m a proud Kiwi). What I love about our national anthem is that we have two versions: a Maori version and an English version.

    Reply
  9. Daniel Westrick -  February 10, 2011 - 10:39 am

    I am still wondering which line she messed up!

    Reply
  10. louis paiz -  February 9, 2011 - 12:58 pm

    well it surprice me to read that many people complain about thi or about that remove this part or add this other.i am positive that the complainners are our next generation or viceversa. let me tell you this or ask you how about patriotism how about pride in our simbols. instead of critrizase each others it would not be better to write or say or scream how much we love this land of ours that is called united states of america one nation undivicible under god.and make shure that no body but absolutly no body will take away that pride away from us or our children.because when i see the eagle fly or the flag in its pole or i hear the anthem my heart grows so big that i feel so great so unique that no contry is better then ours in the whole universe. thank you .

    Reply
  11. Leslie Nivens -  February 9, 2011 - 8:00 am

    Several years ago at our church, the choir stood and started singing the 4th verse of the Star Spangled Banner. I immediately stood, placing my hand over my heart. I was the only one in the entire congregation who stood and my friend tried to pull me back down. The director of the choir turned, saw me standing and immediately asked the congregation to stand. You’re right–most people don’t know much of that song.

    Reply
  12. Wrasfish -  February 9, 2011 - 7:32 am

    Hey, 9th-Grader. Don’t confuse national patriotism with a totally correct assessment of a poor piece of music. The Star-Spangled Banner hasn’t been our national anthem for “over a hundred years.” Nor was it handed down from on high by an archangel. (It was chosen by Congress in 1931, probably quickly, so that they could get on with important matters). Disliking a song because its words are legalese and its melody spans an octave-and-a-half (which is well beyond my vocal range, and that of most people) has nothing to do with love of country.

    Yes, the author of the poem was a prisoner of war, and a lawyer, not a soldier.

    By the way, I heard Dolly Parton sing this unsingable song once. She got the words right, and she didn’t have to fiddle with the tune, either; she had the range.

    Reply
  13. Richard Durst -  February 9, 2011 - 7:27 am

    Thanks for the informative article, dictionary.com staff!

    > Steve Russell on February 8, 2011 at 10:55 am
    > All the points about the words are well taken, but the big reason it
    > ought to be replaced is that the tune is unsingable by anyone not a
    > professional.

    I’m going to call BS on this, along with all the similar sentiments that have been expressed by others.

    My singing experience consists of a few years of high school chorus, along with a few more years of singing in church. I’ve never been offered money to perform, nor sang for a bigger venue than a school auditorium. I don’t fit any definition of “professional,” yet I have no difficulty singing the tune to our national anthem. Nor have I heard anyone with real singing experience, professional or not, ever complain about it (including Miss Aguilera, most saliently).

    If you’re not a singer, I wouldn’t expect you to be able to sing it, just as I wouldn’t expect someone who isn’t an artist to be able to paint a proper portrait. But just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

    Reply
  14. Taboondox -  February 8, 2011 - 10:39 pm

    @sioux0: Silly me. See. This is why you don’t try to write with flawless grammar late at night when you’re exhausted. It makes your composition more susceptible to error. Though, in truth, it’s not that I’m incapable of spelling “fourth” right, it’s just that when you’re tired you have the tendency to mix up words. You know, “forth” is also a word; it just had a completely immaterial meaning in comparison to the way I was obliviously using it. That’s my fault, for which I take blame. Say though, while we’re on the topic of errors, you’re not exactly immaculate either. You didn’t properly secure your finger to the keyboard when trying to address me, thus culminating in your initial error. Your post, and I quote, said “2″, whereas, I’m pretty sure you meant “@.” If this is not true and you were using ’2′ in the place of ‘to’ when addressing me, then you’re just downright indolent, no offense. Besides, using the number ’2′ in place of the word ‘to’ would produce results deserving of derision; or, better yet, rebuke. For example, “We’re heading off 2 the grocery store now.” (Compare) “We’re heading off two the grocery store now.” The translation is a folly at best. On a separate note, being able to point out another’s flaw when you had no business in the situation is quite a feat, so why not properly punctuate the sentence in which you reproached me? Also, the sentence that proceeded the aforementioned began with “Australia,” yet, for some reason, you fail to capitalize the name of the country. It’s a proper name, and as syntactical etiquette dictates, you always capitalize proper names. To reiterate, you started the sentence with a proper name. So, that gives you two reasons to capitalize the first word of that sentence. With all the facts laid out, I really do love how you’re so willing to saddle up your high horse, albeit you’re more in the wrong than I was. The golden rule to reproaching others’ grammar is that you better make d*mn sure that your grammar is the reflection of perfection or else it’ll come back to haunt you.

    @laurie: Don’t even start with me. Firstly, you informally misappropriated the word “yah.” Secondly, “puttin” isn’t even a word. I believe you were looking for the word ‘putting.’ To refute your meat of the matter, I wasn’t putting anyone down. I was requesting, in a mild manner, might I add, that whomever carries out the operations of creating definitions for words on this site correct a minor mistake they had made in the word “ecclesiastical” on the fourth definition for the word ‘admonition.’ If you had to use one word to closely describe how I went about my business, it would be ‘reprove,’ or, maybe even ‘admonish.’ While sioux0′s comment might’ve been more oriented on an error I had made in my request, your comment completely blew my request out of proportion. You made it seem like I was consigning this entire site to doom for making one miniscule error on a definition, which wasn’t the case. Has anyone ever called you a troublemaker? I think that whether or not anyone has, you certainly acted like one; at least in this instance. Finally, to give you a taste of your own pestilence: Yah, Laurie, putting people down for spelling, and you misspelled “spelling.” That’s criminy, woman! How about you ease up instead?

    Reply
  15. Wilddwarf -  February 8, 2011 - 10:00 pm

    Tom, (the anti-american Tom) do you even know anything about the middle east?
    I only know about Afghanistan, so I’ll take about them. Their government has a history of power struggles, bloody coups, and unstable transfers of power. Afghani police are illerate and often demand bribes. In Afghanistan, the criminals are radical and are killing the police in droves. Afghani are ready and willing to carry and use arms to settle disputes.

    Reply
  16. Random Commenter -  February 8, 2011 - 7:59 pm

    Okay, first of all, this is a perfectly fine article. Honestly, people, it’s just a blog. Don’t take it so seriously and if you don’t like the content, ignore it. There’s a thin line between constructive criticism and biased flaming and a lot of people are overstepping it. As for the person who apparently was insulted that the article was talking about the meanings of “ramparts” and “streaming”: not everyone has an extensive vocabulary and you don’t need to be all cocky and “holier-than-thou”. We’re living in a modern society where a lot of people honestly don’t know what those words mean, considering that they are rarely used in everyday speech. In case anyone is unaware, that is the primary way that humans learn language. We hear words and understand their meaning more and more by the context they are used in. Obviously, you could see how people not knowing would be possible, seeing the connection between hearing and learning and the words not being commonly used. Personally, I forgot what ramparts meant until I read this because it’s not a word I have used recently.

    As for the people insulting the anthem, I think a lot of you didn’t take the time to think about this particular literary piece. It was written over 200 years ago and, though it is a very slow process, we are all constantly changing and evolving in the way we perceive things and the issues that were important to people then aren’t such a big deal to people now. The poem is obviously talking about America gaining its independence from Britain. Some of it is militaristic, yes, because that was written by a person over two centuries ago. Ever noticed that we don’t publicly execute(hang, behead) criminals anymore? It’s the same principal. What seems incredibly violent and bloodthirsty now was less severe then and it’s obviously going to be militaristic, considering that it is a reference to a war. As people evolved from that time into a more peaceful era, our naturally violent natures subsided a little. Yes, they still had war after all those years and when they chose the national anthem, but not something as serious as a battle for independence. That’s why only that particular part of the anthem is the part we sing and are taught. The rest of the poem really isn’t relevant to what the people choosing the anthem wanted. Nevertheless, humans do have a violent nature and quite a bit today. There’s plenty of violence in media and everyday life that people just seem to find normal today whereas that poem is about a time of war. If someone was trying to takeover the country today, we’d obviously be fighting back, so take time to actually think about when this poem was written and the person who wrote it.

    Either way, it is still a beautifully written poem and a very important part of our culture, so it is not like it can just be changed on a whim. America is a very young country, so, who knows, maybe a new anthem will be adopted several hundred years from now; but something like that would take time for the whole population to evolve to something more modern for another lyrical piece to appeal more than the current anthem.

    As for the words, yes, some of them are quite archaic and the writing style may seem odd to modern society, but one must take into mind the mood and tone. The style of writing is the way it is because the author was going for a specific mood that he wanted the piece to convey; it instills a feeling of triumph and I think he did a great job with what he was trying to do. Of course, if you’re not a writer, you probably wouldn’t understand this or even think about it, but that’s modern society for you. Less romantic and passionate and more boring, if you ask me.

    Thus, with the points I’ve presented, I do not believe that there is problem with our current anthem, its wording, or anything else mentioned here. Seriously, if I, a sophomore in highschool, took the time to actually formulate an opinion about this and thoroughly research the material before, then it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone else. As for Aguilera, she made a very poor performance and I’m not going to even try and justify it. I was taught the anthem in Kindergarten and have remembered it since and the tone and notes of singing the actual song has nothing to do with forgetting words. And even if she didn’t remember the words, could she not have made the effort to rehearse before her performance? You know she was notified ahead of time. Also, she couldn’t have been that nervous, seeing as she is a performer/entertainer and has performed in front of large audiences before with apparently no trouble because I haven’t seen anything criticizing any of her past performances.

    Reply
  17. American By Choice (ABC) -  February 8, 2011 - 7:14 pm

    The post from Someone at 1:44 pm resonates with me. Thank you.

    I lived in the USA as a resident alien for 22 years before I sought to earn the right to call myself “American.” I don’t take the citizenship for granted, and I wear the title proudly since 1995.

    I have been privileged to lead the recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance” followed by the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at public gatherings at least twice each year since 1995. I always invite the assembly to recite and sing with me (we sing in the key of G).
    G makes the octave-and-a-half range very comfortable for the whole assembly. None of us “perform.” We just sing it proudly as every American should.

    Reply
  18. jasdanu -  February 8, 2011 - 6:41 pm

    @Brenda:
    Honestly that was uncalled for. That is one beautifully written song. For the fact that it was written by a captured American that watched the Battle of New Orleans out of a British naval ship means something ([b]I am not hating England. I love that place. I am talking in context of the time period.[/b]).

    Furthermore, if you realize the time period this was written in, the lyrics make sense. America was in a time of struggle and peril. We had recently won the American Revolution and then we had to face another war.

    For the flag, I want you to think about it. The stripes stand for the original thirteen colonies that broke away from the British world power and became the first independent nation. The stars equal for what the country has become over time; 50 total states that stand United (Hence the United States of America).

    Reply
    • Paul Rosenfelder -  July 28, 2014 - 10:13 am

      Jasdanu, as a proud Marylander, I cannot ignore your statement that FS Key composed the Star-Spangled Banner while witnessing the Battle of New Orleans. Fort McHenry is in Baltimore, Md.! You should have learned that in 3rd grade.

      Reply
  19. George Day -  February 8, 2011 - 6:16 pm

    No one has commented on the real, the main, problem. It is this: The national anthem is nota solo. It is not an operatic aria or a rock tune. It is something for ALL of us. The proper singing of the National Anthem is for every person at the event to stand and seriously sing the words to the music. No fancy stuff. No showing off how brilliant and dramatic and powerful the singer is. Everyone joins together into a unified group of citizens and pay tribute to their country. It is meant to be respectful, quietly respectful, not a ham sandwich (Look at me!
    Listen to ME! I am wonderful!) No, it is our country that is wonderful Full of mistakes and hypocrisy, etc.etc. but wonderful nevertheless.

    George

    Reply
  20. Annabelle -  February 8, 2011 - 6:14 pm

    I do not really care that Christina Aguillera messed up the lyrics and I do not believe you should criticize her. In an interview she said that she just got caught up in singing the anthem. Anyways does it really matter??? What would have happened if you were the one singing???

    Reply
  21. proud to be an american -  February 8, 2011 - 3:00 pm

    Ok guys if kindergarteners can sing the right words (and I have heard several do it from memory) then anyone over that age can with a little effort.

    And to all of you who are complaining about the tune, get over it. Perfect pitch is not required. Get some national pride people. We wouldn’t be a country today if not for the war during which this song was written.

    Reply
  22. Isabella -  February 8, 2011 - 2:35 pm

    The British National Anthem is pretty awful too.
    “Confound their politics
    Frustrate their knavish tricks.”

    Doesn’t it make you squirm? I think our tune is easier to sing, but I could think of better.

    Reply
  23. Tom(7:42) -  February 8, 2011 - 2:25 pm

    ‘Wren’
    ‘Random Thinker’

    Excellent points.

    Either song is a part of our collective history, if i had to choose it would be ‘America the Beautiful’, but yes if you’re going to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”, sing it Loud n Proud.

    ‘Bat-Mite’ Thanks for the history lesson, never was good at it.

    ‘Tom(7:42)’

    Reply
  24. STAR SPANGLED BANNER | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  February 8, 2011 - 2:13 pm

    [...] criticize B’More or Less now living and having been born there. — And the Point of Fort McHenry visited by land and by the harbor seen – Where — “Short People” would be [...]

    Reply
  25. anomonous -  February 8, 2011 - 2:01 pm

    I sung it 3 times! although some parts were hard to sing

    Reply
  26. Someone -  February 8, 2011 - 1:44 pm

    Wait – Daniel – did you just accuse people who do NOT want to change the traditional anthem which has represented our country and stirred our hearts for over a century and honors all the men and women who risk their lives to protect our republic and American way of life of being COMMUNIST (which, of course, due to certain historical events has come to have connotation of subversion and betrayal of democracy, regardless of it’s actual definition)?

    just want to make sure I’m clear here….

    On a related note, my Grandmother is a Canadian but has lived in the US since she was married sixty years ago. When I asked her why she hasn’t gotten her US citizenship, so that she could vote and have a say in the policies that govern her home, she said that she could never give up her Canadian citizenship becuase she still cries every time she hears her national anthem, O Canada. And THAT is the reason why we do not change our anthem, here in the US, or other countries. The songs – from the melody to the words, stirs something so deep in most patriotic souls that it defies explanation. The meanings of the individual words themselves are not nearly as important as the meanings which citizens have derived from that particular group of words. Singing a national anthem serves an outlet to show and share – literally give a voice to – a deeply rooted love for one’s motherland. There are those for whom any change would be as radical as rewriting Shakespeare or the Bible. (And before anyone starts attacking me for saying the anthem is like the Bible, remember there are people who don’t practice any religion but do honor and love their country and define themselves by its ideals, so the anthem is very much like a sacred hymn to many people. I am not saying the anthem should be or is part of any religion, Christian or otherwise, I’m just stating the fact that it is of near-religious significance to many.)

    Reply
  27. random 9th grader! -  February 8, 2011 - 1:20 pm

    Anf bashing Christina, that’s just stupid, mean, petty, and absolutely ridiculous. Do not bash her because she made a mistake. I agree with you Wren. YouTube is easy and free. Knock yourselves out. She did a phenominal job and it should be appreciated. SHAME ON YOU ALL WHO BASH CHRISTINA AGUILERA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  28. random 9th grader! -  February 8, 2011 - 1:17 pm

    Ok… You guys need to look at yourselves. Bashing the national anthem. Shame on you. This song is gloriuos and unique in its own way. Like me. So are you going to bash me. You only don’t like it because its different and it scares you. Shame. If you are truly american, you will see that this song is right for us. And all you really need to sing this song is the voice, the right key, and I have that. (To see this please visit TTJSP’s YouTube channel) But if you believe that this song is truly that bad, move to a diferent continent! This isn’t the right place for you. This song is the only one for the glorious United States!

    -Random 9th grader named Serenity

    Reply
  29. random 9th grader! -  February 8, 2011 - 1:14 pm

    Ok… You guys need to look at yourselves! Look at these comments. Bashing our national anthem. Shame on you. This song is glorious in its own individual way. Like me. So are you going to bash me now? All you need to sing this song is the right voice. And if you go to TTJSP’s YouTube channel in a few days you will see that I have the right voice. But you shouldn’t bash the national anthem. Its wrong and you know it. W

    Reply
  30. Wrasfish -  February 8, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    The author of the poem was a lawyer–’nuff said. No wonder the language is dense. The melody is an old English drinking song, designed to test the level of drunkenness of the singer, as in “I bet you can’t.” There are several better candidates out there for a national anthem; Woody Guthrie wrote a good one, for example.

    There is absolutely no excuse for a performer to mess up the words, and to croon because she can’t find the proper pitches, either. I’m sure there are several thousand other folks out there who could do a better job of singing it than Whatsherface. Hire one of them, instead.

    Reply
  31. Random thinker -  February 8, 2011 - 12:43 pm

    To the Tom who wrote “Your national anthem is actually a bloodthirsty call to arms, and all this “In God is Our Trust” nonsense – talk about pseudo-religious radicalism, and misguided theology. The middle east has nothing on America. It won’t be long before your foreign policy blows up in all our faces – literally.”: You are a foolish ignoramus. Do some research before you go spouting hate language and judging people and the things they love. It is not an, as you put it, “bloodthirsty call to arms.” It is an eyewitness tale of what happened at a great battle in our nations history, and I will thank you to not insult it. As you are not, I am guessing, American, it is somewhat excusable. But to all of you Americans who are putting it down, it is not excusable. You should know better than that. This is our national anthem. It is a beautiful song speaking of valor and bravery. I am betting that not half of you truly know its history or the reason that it was written. This is sad and a disgrace. Our schools are too busy teaching our children evolutionary theory and world history to even teach them the history about our own nation, how it was founded, and where we come from, and what they do teach is a watered-down, rewritten version that has most of the founding fathers as atheists or agnostics when the vast majority of them were either Christians or theists, with only 3 exceptions. It is pathetic and it explains a lot of the comments on here. And talk about laziness! “It is too hard to sing” is a common comment on here, and that is pathetic! So sing it to the best of your ability, and sing it proudly, not caring if you are on key or not (Ms. Aguilera apparently did not; she was flat most of the song). This is our national anthem, and I will proudly sing it every chance that I am afforded.

    Reply
  32. Wren -  February 8, 2011 - 12:17 pm

    I’m not a fan of Aguilera, but all this ragging on her is petty. Yes, she’s a pro. Even pros can get nervous or make mistakes. I’ve known musicians to have a song memorized, practice until it was perfect, and still make a mistake on stage. It’s not like she did it on purpose. If you think you can do a better job, YouTube is easy and free. Knock yourself out.

    As for the anthem, it glorifies war and an icon more than it does the country or its people. It’s so hard to sing that most people don’t even try. Yes, it has vivid imagery, but it glorifies one moment in the distant past as wittnessed by prisoners and focuses on war. That pretty much describes our country — fixated on past glory and war and standing around pontificating about how great we are instead of being participants. How appropriate, too, that the tune is an old drinking song. You almost have to be drunk to stand a chance of hitting the notes.

    I’d rather have an anthem that inspires us about our country’s virtues and future and that the average person could feel confident in their ability to sing. America the Beautiful can be sung easily and has far more positive images.

    Reply
  33. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 11:39 am

    Nina
    Just following my heart with my limited knowledge.
    I included women, because we all know that men are not the Whole Story of “history”, and our True Reality. Enjoyment of our Natural Surroundings, are lost to many people nowadys.

    Let’s all remember what really matters.

    Enjoy Life
    Live and Appreciate the Beauty that Surrounds All of Us, and be Thankful, for those Men and Women that Helped start this Country.

    : )

    (too many angry posts everywhere, just trying to interject love principles)
    ps Nina, did you mean 2:22 Tom??lol
    Not Me.

    Reply
  34. JJ Rousseau -  February 8, 2011 - 11:32 am

    Francis Scott Key was an attorney, not a soldier, Oui?

    Reply
  35. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 11:12 am

    The big deal about the rampart and flag still standing, is that men. and women most likely, died one after another, each one holding the flag upright as the brithish warship focused their bombardment on the colonial flag.

    It was noted in the documentary that I had seen on this, several years ago, that the opposing forces couldn’t understand why the flag would not fall.

    It’s a very dramatic story of how the star spangled banner was written by an imprisoned revolutionary soldier (francis s. key?) on a british ship, watching as the song unfolded in front of him.

    I’m just going by memory, anyone interested and knows more than i do, I welcome any comments.
    Tom 7:42 : )

    Reply
  36. Karen -  February 8, 2011 - 11:07 am

    I had no idea there were additional stanzas to the national anthem! I don’t remember ever learning them.

    I think the obsolete wording of the anthem adds to its poetic appeal. The words are very descriptive, enabling the listener to visualize the images they convey. It seems counterintuitive that a war could inspire such beautiful imagery.

    The anthem’s music requires a vocal range that very few people possess, so most performers alter the notes to suit their abilities. The other day, I watched several online videos of noted singers performing the anthem. The two who, as far as I could tell, sang all of the right notes AND all of the right words were Whitney Houston (of course!) and Carrie Underwood. It was my first time to hear Carrie Underwood sing, so I was pleasantly surprised by her talent.

    Reply
  37. Steve Russell -  February 8, 2011 - 10:55 am

    All the points about the words are well taken, but the big reason it ought to be replaced is that the tune is unsingable by anyone not a professional.

    I nominate “This Land is Your Land.”

    Reply
  38. A careless mans careful daughter. -  February 8, 2011 - 10:27 am

    “Oh, 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 thru the perilous fight,

    O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

    And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

    Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    wow in 5th grade i only had to sing this part of it and now since it offends some people my school wont let us sing it in the mornings any more but the point is i really didnt learn the rest of it.

    Reply
  39. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 10:27 am

    Just to clarify, the 2:22am post was not from me I posted at 7:42am.

    He has a right to his viewpoint and opinion, but not me.

    : )

    Peace Be With All

    Reply
  40. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 10:24 am

    :2am* not me, i posted at 7:42am and in no way endorse the other Tom’s oppinion.
    Please don’t confuse me with other tom.
    I respect his viewpoint and opinion, but not me.
    : )

    Reply
  41. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 10:20 am

    just now reading other comments.

    No Iam not the same Tom from 2:2am

    : )

    Peace be with All

    Reply
  42. Bat-Mite -  February 8, 2011 - 9:50 am

    Key and companion John Skinner were onboard a British warship in the Baltimore Harbor. They were there to negotiate the release of some American prisoners. The warship had plans to assault Fort McHenry with canon fire and try to take it. Key and Skinner learned of the plans, and thus the Brits determined to keep them on board as prisoners themselves until the assault was over.

    Key and Skinner watched the warship blast away at Fort McHenry through the night, as a ground party was sent to capture the fort. Eventually the canon fire ceased, and then it was pitch dark over the harbor.

    As the sun began to rise at dawn, both the British officers and American prisoners were on deck, straining to see whose flag was flying over the fort. Both the Star Spangled Banner and the Union Jack were red, white and blue, and thus in the dawn’s early light, no one was sure whose army had won.

    Imagine the elation of Key, Skinner and the other Americans as the sun finally revealed the Star Spangled Banner waving over the ramparts of Fort McHenry. The enemy’s assault had been unsuccessful!

    The Americans were released, and on his way home, Key couldn’t help but write a poem about the ordeal, and everything it meant to him.

    In later years, Key became the Vice President of the American Bible Society, a non-profit group that prints and distributes Bibles world-wide, and is still in existence today. He died at the age of 63 in Baltimore.

    Reply
  43. headfood -  February 8, 2011 - 9:44 am

    I am a singer myself, so I think we should be merciful to her. Anyway, we sang all the verses one year, and it was difficult, to say the least. I really messed up the alto harmony.

    Reply
  44. LiveWire -  February 8, 2011 - 9:43 am

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was chosen to rub the British faces in the fact that they weren’t able to beat us in 1812. It was a drinking song and it is now an embarrassing relic of a wartime nationalist attitude that has been giving our government license to tell anyone else what we think of them and how they should be running their countries. If you don’t think this is accurate, read the fourth verse again!

    “America the Beautiful” is a far more appropriate song in this respect; it lets the rest of the world know how wonderful our country is, without pounding our chests and behaving like Neanderthals.

    Reply
  45. Sandy Walters -  February 8, 2011 - 9:40 am

    Don’t give me any of this “oh the lyrics are tough” BS. How popular it is these days to make excuses for everybody’s screw-ups. This woman is a disgrace to music and to the U.S.

    Reply
  46. Merle -  February 8, 2011 - 9:27 am

    This anthem is horrible and meaningless and very difficult for many good singers let alone the rest of us. Can’t understand why it was chosen. Plus current versions used by pop singers are terrible. “America the Beautiful” is a glorious tribute, both words and music, and a change would be wonderful.

    Reply
  47. Chet Y. -  February 8, 2011 - 9:06 am

    Not to concerned about a little flub, at least she didn’t butcher it like that ignorant pig Rosanne Barr.

    Reply
  48. Brenda -  February 8, 2011 - 9:05 am

    The “Star Spangled Banner” is a an ugly song, with inappropriate, contorted lyrics, and a miserable tune. The words barely makes sense, and what sense it does make, is militaristic and again–ugly! The music is a wretched drinking song from the 18th century, if I remember correctly. Ugh. “O, say, can you see” is just horrible on so many levels. Can you see that torn and burning flag in the dawn’s light? It was there last night, too; we were proud to see it still over the crenellations of that fort.

    You know what? Our flag is also rather unnattractive, outside of any symbolic or ideological concerns. Too busy, assymmetrical, too many stripes, stars, patches, boxes and stuff. Look at Canada’s and Japan’s flags for nice design.

    We should gently and respectfully retire both of these anachronistic warhorses in favor of America the Beautiful, which does feature comprehensible and evocative descriptions of the landscape, and a tricolor with one star in the middle for the Union.

    Terrible music, grotesque antiquated lyrics, and poor design aesthetics really diminish the so-called meaning in our gibberish national anthem and our poor ugly old flag.

    Reply
  49. TBH -  February 8, 2011 - 8:57 am

    It shouldn’t be left for “great” singers to be able to sing it. We all should be able to sing it — and it is difficult. It would probably help if once and awhile we heard a straight-forward simple version. But what we get are vocal pyrotechnics (or whatever you call today’s multi-note messes). Today’s singer is more concerned about style and vocal interpretation demonstrating a wide note-range, than just singing the lyrics correctly.

    And that third verse, oh my.

    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:

    Reply
  50. Nina -  February 8, 2011 - 8:56 am

    Tom: I can’t believe you didn’t get clobbered after that statement. But just so you know: My thoughts exactly. Very appropriate anthem.

    Reply
  51. Jane -  February 8, 2011 - 8:51 am

    I still get goosebumps every time I hear and/or sing the Star-Spangled Banner. We don’t rewrite literature to make it more comprehensible to modern (more or less) literate ears; we shouldn’t change our stirring, profound national anthem.

    Reply
  52. Mr. D [A.K.A] Elysian -  February 8, 2011 - 8:48 am

    So she messed up, no one is perfect. I could barely read it without having problems; let alone try to sing it as beautiful as she did…even if she did mess up…

    Reply
  53. Zenwoman47 -  February 8, 2011 - 8:45 am

    I know it that it can’t be the national anthem for a dozen reasons, but it “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” that makes my hair stand on end.

    Reply
  54. random 9th grader! -  February 8, 2011 - 8:22 am

    And if you look at it, Star Spangled banner… That means the flag, right? Exactly, so just leave it alone people! Leave any responding comments at TTJSP’s youtube channel.

    -Random 9th grade girl

    Reply
  55. random 9th grader! -  February 8, 2011 - 8:19 am

    Ok… first of all, I’d like to say that the anthem is a song. Does it really matter that there are three other verses that virtually no one had any idea about? I think that if you demote the song from our anthem, its really just a song. JUST A SONG. It has meaning yes, but its simply a song by a guy that no one even remembers. And if the flag was changed twenty-six times then does it really matter? I mean, whoever made the flag is probably turning in her grave. And yes I said “her” because it was a woman that sewed the flag by hand. But the anthem is the anthem no matter what.

    -Random 9th grade girl

    Reply
  56. Mykeljon -  February 8, 2011 - 8:14 am

    She should have done a lip sync. That way, we would have something else to complain about but at least she would have got the song right.

    Reply
  57. at peace -  February 8, 2011 - 8:01 am

    I find it unfortunate that she messed up the lines, but I understand. Pro or not we all get nervous, excited, and “caught up in the moment”. I know many people that sing in public on a regular basis and have done similar things at one time or another. Flubbing a line, forgetting the words completely, singing verses out of order… it happens. She just had the misfortune to do it in front of a world wide broadcast (not to mention the crowd actually in attendence).

    The range of our national anthem is very difficult. It drops low and soars high. MANY pros have trouble with the notes, let alone the words. It is very musical and so hard to sing.

    I’ve often wondered why THIS particular song was chosen as the anthem and not a song that actually mentions our location by name? Should it be changed? I don’t know… it is what it is.

    Reply
  58. g -  February 8, 2011 - 8:00 am

    Since I am a ” philomath”(your word of the day), I enjoyed the discussion about our national anthem. However, regardless of the various difficulties singing the song presents, it is an honor to be asked to sing our National Anthem. I feel that Ms. Aguilera did not sufficiently appreciate the honor and did not prepare as diligently as she could have. Does anyone remember the magnificent rendition performed by Whitney Houston? Obviously, it can be done.

    Reply
  59. laurie -  February 8, 2011 - 7:58 am

    yah Taboondocks, puttin people down for spelliing and you, misspelled “fourth”. Ease up man.

    Reply
  60. Marc -  February 8, 2011 - 7:52 am

    I think “Streaming” in this context means almost exactly the same as it does in reference to downloading, to wit: flowing (as a data stream) or appearing to flow (as in a flag waving in a stream of air)

    Reply
  61. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 7:42 am

    (definition as a noun given by Dictionary com)
    ram·part   /ˈræmpɑrt, -pərt/ Show Spelled
    [ram-pahrt, -pert] Show IPA

    –noun
    1. Fortification .
    a. a broad elevation or mound of earth raised as a fortification around a place and usually capped with a stone or earth parapet.
    b. such an elevation together with the parapet.
    2. anything serving as a bulwark or defense.

    The rampart is a big part of the story/mythos surrounding the birth of the USA.

    Research it through your favorite search engine.
    This is an amazing time we live in. Everyone reading this story, or the comments below the story, is looking at a computer screen and using a keyboard of some sort.

    You have the ability to search for answers from many sources, to almost Any question at the speed of thought(or speed of internet connection).
    Type in a question, look at the science, opinions, news, and form your own thoughts.
    Follow your Hearts, and the Mind will follow through with action if you are motivated to do so.
    Enjoy this Technology as you would a car, you don’t need to know how everything works, you just need destinations.
    Think for yourselves, Question Everything.
    : )

    Reply
  62. Curtis -  February 8, 2011 - 7:14 am

    Great song. Great topic. And my hat’s off to the NFL for their presentation of the Declaration of Independence!

    Reply
  63. Fan -  February 8, 2011 - 6:50 am

    Wow, do you think so little of us that we don’t know what ‘gallantly streaming’ means? or ramparts?

    As to the screw up, she’s a professional. She needed to remember EIGHT lines. I’ve known them since 5th or 6th grade. And while the song may be hard to sing, it’s because of the music and flow…not the words. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song and if one takes time to understand it’s meaning, it’s almost hard to comprehend a time such as that in our history.

    The Super Bowl is seen all over the world. Next time, use a teleprompter if you’re performing live at such an event. What an embarrassment.

    Reply
  64. bobbovienzo -  February 8, 2011 - 6:36 am

    lets see. if someone told me i’d be singing in front of millions of people, all over the world, at the worlds greatest sporting event, and she’s not doing it for nothing, what could she make, 100k, 200k? 1 song. maybe i’d rehearse it 1 or 2 times before. how hard is this? dumb blond.

    Reply
  65. Martin -  February 8, 2011 - 6:29 am

    It’s a nice tune, but because it’s difficult to sing, we too often don’t sing it at all at public events. Instead, we procure some sort of virtuoso to sing it solo before the gathered crowd. Not only is this hardly as much of a patriotic bonding experience as if everyone were singing together, but if the virtuoso takes too much liberty in his or her performance (which is often the case), it takes on such a “pop” quality that it hardly resembles itself. I’ve had to sit through some VERY painful interpretations of the national anthem. Not everybody is Whitney Houston.

    My personal preference is that everyone, off-key though we might be, sing it together and sing it as it’s written. Either that, or change the anthem. I read once that Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean was a close runner-up for national anthem. It’s more singable if nothing else.

    Reply
  66. nate -  February 8, 2011 - 6:17 am

    If the Star Spangled Banner is difficult to sing, then let’s bring in talented singers that can handle a tough piece. Why lower the bar to suit bad singers; let’s keep the bar high and bring in qualified people.

    Reply
  67. Jo Ann Casey -  February 8, 2011 - 6:15 am

    Actually there are five verses. A fifth verse was added two years after the song was written. In 1991 I read the story of the fifth verse, entitled, “All Five Verses” in a magazine. The words were beautiful. I have since tried to research the fifth verse without any success.

    Reply
  68. Daniel Westrick -  February 8, 2011 - 6:02 am

    Which Line did she mess up on? I kinda overlooked it

    Reply
  69. john -  February 8, 2011 - 5:52 am

    Great song for a great nation! Never change it. Christina looked like she was in torture singing it — get someone else. See Jackie Evancho’s rendition at age 9 on YouTube!

    Reply
  70. AMY-LOU -  February 8, 2011 - 5:40 am

    WOW! Is all i will say because she messed up. To me it doesnt matter really. She did her very best and made a mistake. Big deal.

    Reply
  71. AMY-LOU -  February 8, 2011 - 5:33 am

    WOW! That is all i’m going to say. Dose it really matter if she messed up? I mean she still is a great singer to me and people make mistakes sometimes.

    Reply
  72. Liza with a Z -  February 8, 2011 - 5:28 am

    The “over/under” bet for someone singing the National Anthem at the Superbowl is around 1 min 54 seconds…could you imagine how much longer it would be if we included all the verses with several hundred (?) extra notes that singers always seem to tack on? The game wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes!

    Reply
  73. David -  February 8, 2011 - 5:20 am

    @ Daniel – The next time you write something, please predict which words in the English language will change meaning or be gone altogether 200 years from now, and be sure not to use them. Also predict the new meanings of other words, so that you may use them now in the way that makes sense 200 years from, even though it will be complete non-sense to your contemporaries. Also please expect your intellectual property (not to mention the expressions of your heart) to be unrecognizibly altered to suit the tastes of the day. Tell that to Shakespear or John Bunyan. Unless you were being sacastic – Then… right on!

    Reply
  74. SharlzG -  February 8, 2011 - 5:05 am

    I’m an Australian but, being an NFL fan from a very young age (to my Aussie friends disgrace), I’ve heard the Amreican National Anthem for many years, but in 95 I was lucky enough to work at a summer camp in Michigan where the girls in my cabin had me sing Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful & my own Advance Australia Fair (for thir benefit) every morning while we were getting ready for breakfast (that and the Pledge of Allegiance and TAPS).

    That was the first time I’d actually learnt the lyrics rather than just heard the tune, and I was blown away by how amazingly descriptive and powerful those words are. I think it’s an incredible anthem that is not just a credit to the counrty, but a credit to the people that fought to make it what it is today.

    fyi, even though I’m still proudly Australian, I proudly sing along every NFL game I watch.

    Reply
  75. Caroline -  February 8, 2011 - 4:29 am

    Rather than changing our national anthem let’s educate our children what those tough words mean, let them know the history that provoked the writing, and why a number of people cry when they hear it.

    Reply
  76. Walt -  February 8, 2011 - 4:28 am

    As a native of Baltimore with at least two ancestors who fought in defense of that city, I love that the “Star-Spangled Banner”. It’s 200th anniversary is just around the corner. I believe that it should be studied in our schools both as a poem, and an anthem. It reflects the passion of a people who had to defend its’ fledgling nation, against a world power still smarting from its loss.

    The Anthem needs to be sung as written. It should not be sung as if it were an audition piece for “American Idol”. The only thing the singer needs to add is passion. The passion of a citizen who fully understands the sacrifices that won and held the freedoms which we now enjoy.

    America has no shortage of these citizens in the home of the brave.

    Reply
  77. Sam Lott -  February 8, 2011 - 3:33 am

    Our national anthem here in the UK has some verses which we don’t sing any more with mentions of ‘Rebellious Scots to crush’ and such.
    I don’t know if a rewritten national anthem with modern lyrics would have such an impact.

    Reply
  78. inviting a handlename -  February 8, 2011 - 3:14 am

    A national anthem…

    Reply
  79. Tom -  February 8, 2011 - 2:22 am

    Your national anthem is actually a bloodthirsty call to arms, and all this “In God is Our Trust” nonsense – talk about pseudo-religious radicalism, and misguided theology. The middle east has nothing on America. It won’t be long before your foreign policy blows up in all our faces – literally.

    Reply
  80. Orion -  February 8, 2011 - 1:35 am

    These words are cake. Any bally child should know them.

    Reply
  81. J.D. WOHLERS -  February 8, 2011 - 1:32 am

    I love “The Star Spangled Banner” .. ( and that IS the name of OUR FLAG.. in case you didn’t know)

    The words tell the story of a battle and ask “is our flag still flying?”
    …meaning ..” are we still a nation?” It asks “did we survive?”

    the words are moving and spiritual and have meaning.

    to those who think “America the Beautiful” would be more suitable (maInly because it’s easier to sing, as if that should be the main criteria for a national anthem) … please look at the words of “America the Beautiful”… do ‘amber waves of grain’ instill patriotic feelings?
    … do ‘purple mountains majesty” really mean diddly-squat?
    … would you feel patriot pride if you saw marchers in parades carrying sheaves of wheat??? I don’t think so . . .

    ………. I love hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” … the sound of it instills pride and love of country……….. and I am constantly appalled at the stupid hip-hop or pop singers who feel they have to “up-date” the melody with strange twists of the lyrics.

    if Christina Aguillera spent more time learning the words ( which obviously she NEVER learned in school … if she went to school…)
    instead of trying to be cutsy-poo perhaps she wouldn’t have made such a huge fool of herself……. what an imbecile!!

    if you know you are going to sing the national anthem in front of 100 million people…. LEARN THE WORDS ..DUMMY!!

    Reply
  82. sioux0 -  February 7, 2011 - 11:12 pm

    2 taboondocks – being able to spell ecclesiastical is an amazing feat, so why not ‘fourth’. australia’s anthem could be a bit more stirring. no mention of the fact that we have stood bravely alongside others to keep the world free from tyranny and slavery. and last but not least, the star bangled banner is a beautiful song. how about making it a study topic in primary school instead of denigrating it for being ‘old-fashioned’. and if you need an hour to translate each line, perhaps a course in English wouldn’t go astray. an anthem is what gets a stadium of people standing, holding their hands across their hearts and thanking god and those who fought so bravely and are still fighting, or whoever they wish too, that they live in peace.

    Reply
  83. Taboondocks -  February 7, 2011 - 10:26 pm

    @The writer(s) of the Hot Word Blog: Firstly, I appreciate the refresher on the word “rampart.” I had long forgotten what it had meant. Now I know its official definition(s). Secondly, I know this is off-topic and I’m not even sure if you could help the situation, but on the forth definition listed for the word ‘admonition’ there is a misspelling. The misspelling is in the word ‘ecclesiastical.’ The person who wrote in the definition for “admonition” wrote ‘ecclesiastical’ as “eccleslastical.” Again, that’s on this site, on the forth definition for the word ‘admonition.’ I know it’s a minute error, but it would give me peace of mind if it were fixed. Thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  84. kima -  February 7, 2011 - 9:33 pm

    Wow, I believe I learned something today. Never would have guessed that there were three other verses to the anthem.

    Reply
  85. Alex -  February 7, 2011 - 7:43 pm

    Live up to the lyrics yourselves! There’s a lot of room for improvement.

    Reply
  86. Daniel -  February 7, 2011 - 7:23 pm

    Make a competition for people doing a Creative Writing degree to rewrite it. Modernise it a bit, but keep traditional values. Don’t you wish the old-fashioned writers would edit for clarity and long-lasting appeal? I’m not saying write it for Twitter users, but sheesh! Good writing does not necessarilly mean writing that you have to spend one hour per line TRANSLATING into something legible!

    Old people who object to a clearer, more concise, better written version must be communists :p

    On a related note: Australia (my country)’s anthem could use a bit of an edit for clarity too. I assume. We have the same problem. So does England, probably.

    Reply
  87. TL -  February 7, 2011 - 7:06 pm

    She is supposed to be a pro, but she screwed it up big time, the star spangled banner is not meant to be a commercial for the singer. There is NO EXCUSE for what she did.

    Reply
  88. David E. -  February 7, 2011 - 6:55 pm

    I heard that the middle two paragraphs aren’t generally recited so as not to offend our limey allies.

    Reply
  89. James Zhou -  February 7, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    I memorized all four stanzas in 5th Grade… Only remember the first one and half of the second one now lol :P

    Reply
  90. Jodi G -  February 7, 2011 - 6:38 pm

    Yep, I know what “ramparts” means in this reference. So….does that make me a nerd or classically educated? lol
    This is a GREAT song, for various reasons, and its poetry reflects its history.

    Reply
  91. Ben Wade -  February 7, 2011 - 5:40 pm

    Let’s change it for good! How about America the Beautiful?

    Reply
  92. Jess lee -  February 7, 2011 - 5:13 pm

    love this song :P

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top