The Star Spangled Banner

During the 1800's, the tunes of popular songs often were used for another set of lyrics. For example, Maryland, My Maryland is sung to the same tune as O Tanenbaum (Oh Christmas Tree). Following this custom, Francis Scott Key used a popular English drinking song as the basis of The Star-Spangled Banner.

The drinking song that Francis Scott Key used was from the Anacreontic Society, which was a popular gentlemen's club in London (named after a Greek poet, Anacreon, who lived in the fifth century B.C., the "convivial bard of Greece"). The society's membership was dedicated to "wit, harmony, and the god of wine." The lyrics of the Anacreontic Song, the first four words of which are "To Anacreon in Heaven ...." have been credited to the president of the Society, Ralph Tomlinson, Esquire. However, it is entirely possible, and perhaps even probable, that the song was a collective effort by the members. John Stafford Smith (1750-1836), a court musician and member of the society, was probably the driving force (he is also the composer of the British national anthem -- God Save the Queen -- a tune set to different lyrics here in the US which we know as My Country T'is of Thee). As early as 1798 the tune of The Anacreontic Song appeared in American papers with various lyrics, among these was Robert Treat Paine's (1731-1814) popular Adams and Liberty, perhaps the most prominent American song prior to The Star-Spangled Banner.

As early as 1806 Francis Scott Key adapted the tune to an earlier poem he wrote entitled When the Warrior Returns in honor of an American naval victory over the Barbary pirates. It was the valiant defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during the British attack on September 13, 1814 that inspired 35-year old, poet-lawyer Francis Scott Key to write the poem, when he saw the flag over Fort McHenry "by the dawn's early light."

In 1931 the Congress of The United States of America enacted legislation that made The Star-Spangled Banner the official national anthem.

To Anacreon in Heaven The Star Spangled Banner
To Anacreon, in Heav'n, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent out a petition,
That he their inspirer and patron would be;
When this answer arrived from this jolly old Grecian --
Voice, fiddle and flute,
No longer to be mute;
I'll lend ye my name, and inspire ye to boot;
And, besides I'll instruct you, like me to intwine,
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine.
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, 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?
The news through OLYMPUS immediately flew;
When OLD THUNDER pretended to give himself Airs
If these mortals are suffer'd their Scheme to persue,
The Devil a Goddess will stay above the Stairs.
Hark, already they cry,
In transports of Joy,
Away to the Sons of ANACREON we'll fly,
And there, with good Fellows, we'll learn to entwine
The Myrtle of VENUS with BUCCUS's Vine.
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, now conceals, now 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.
The YELLOW-HAIRED GOD and his nine lusty Maids
From Helicon's Banks will incontinent flee,
IDALIA will boast but of tenantless Shades,
And the bi-forked Hill a mere Desart will be
My Thunder, no fear on't,
Shall soon do it's Errand,
and, dam'me! I'll swinge the Ringleaders, I warrant,
I'll trim the young Dogs, for thus daring to twine
The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS's Vine.
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 wiped 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.
APOLLO rose up; and said, "Pr'ythee ne'er quarrel,
Good King of the Gods, with my Vot'ries below:
Your Thunder is useless. - then, shewing his Laurel, Cry'd,
Sic evitabile sulmen, you know!
then over each Head
My Laurels I'll spread;
So my Sons from your Crackers no Mischief shall dread,
Whilst snug in their Club-Room, they jovially twine
The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS's Vine.
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must,
for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Next MOMUS got up, with his risible Phiz, And swore with APOLLO he'd cheerfully join
The full Tide of Harmony still shall be his,
But the Song, and the Catch, & the Laugh shall be mine
Then, JOVE, be not jealous
Of these honest Fellows.
Cry'd JOVE,
We relent, since the Truth you now tell us;
And swear, by OLD STYX, that they long shall entwine
The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS's Vine.
Ye sons of ANACREON, then, join Hand in Hand;
Preserve Unanimity, Friendship, and Love!
Tis your's to support what's so happily plann'd;
You've the Sanction of Gods, and the FIAT of Jove.
While thus we agree
Our Toast let it be.
May our club flourish happy, united and free!
And long may the Sons of ANACREON intwine
The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS's Vine.