Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day 2011

Today is Flag Day in the United States, about which more here.

I am not going to get into the controversy over whether Betsy Ross of Philadelphia did or did not design and sew the first American flag in 1777. If she did, she did it here. And if she didn’t, she didn’t do it here as well:

(Photograph by English-language Wikipedia user Coolcaesar on August 30, 2007)

Today I am thinking of a specific flag, the one that was flying over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, one night in 1814 when a 25-year-old American lawyer named Francis Scott Key, aboard a British ship where he and others had gone to negotiate the release of prisoners, observed the bombing of the fort by the British navy during the War of 1812 (which was still going strong in 1814).

That flag, now in tatters and displayed in dim light to prevent further fading and deterioration, is at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Sometimes we wonder about a person, “What was he or she thinking?” Well, we know exactly what Francis Scott Key was thinking aboard that British ship because he wrote down his thoughts for posterity:

The Star Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key

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 rockets’ 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?

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 on 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!

Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory 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!

The flag is very large. Here is how it appeared in 1914, one hundred years after Key penned the stirring words that became our national anthem:

And here, not to scale, is the man who penned them:


Yorkshire Pudding said...

"The Star Spangled Banner" is a genuinely stirring anthem that must have brought countless tears of pride to the eyes of American patriots through the years.

Wine in Thyme said...

Yorkshire Pudding: tears of pride? Not so much anymore I think. Sadly, most people see it as the preamble to a ballgame or race. I've taught my children to remove their hats, stand at attention and place their hands over their hearts whenever it is sung or played. Other countries still honor their national anthem, ours seems to have lost this respect.

Putz said...

the big easy in cooridination with the big apple are giving big O a big hug in bigger's ville on bloggers sunday,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.//,././,././/////////././//.,//,./,././,./,/,.you may ask what this has to do with flag day or or any other post i get confused by like your pentecostal birthday my age etc agnnosium

rhymeswithplague said...

All, I have been away from the computer for several days celebrating my brother-in-law's 80th birthday in North Carolina. Please excuse my failure to comment on this post sooner.

What Pudding says is true. What Wine says is also true, unfortunately. I have no idea whether what Putz says is true, but I believe he meant ad nauseam, not aggnnosium.