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The Fourth Stanza

The Defense of Fort McHenry

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?

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.

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.

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!

–F.S. Key

For those who never go to baseball games, this poem is now known as The Star Spangled Banner, is sung before baseball games and other events, and has a new line after the first stanza: “Play Ball!”

But that’s not why I put the whole thing in this post. You can follow Key’s thoughts that morning as he tried to see if Ft. McHenry had survived the night’s assault by the British. The first stanza questions his fellow prisoners as to what they can see. The second sees the flag flying over the fort in the early light of the dawn, and the third stanza trash talks the English over their defeat.

But the fourth stanza is the one we ought to memorize, because it is Key’s ideas of what we stand for as a nation; then, now and forever. “Thus be it ever” is not only how it starts but it is how long we need to follow its clarion call. Brave men must stand between their homes and war’s desolation in every generation, not just when it seems politically correct or when we have a “good” war. The war we are in now is the first war we have fought against a foreign foe that has inflicted casualities within our borders since Key’s time almost 200 years ago. We were blessed with victory in Iraq against their armed forces, and are now mopping up the desperate efforts of those who have been displaced from the power that Saddam had given them, and their allies in the radical Moslem terrorist movement. Despite the fact that we are in a war, most of the nation’s people live in peace, depending on our brave soldiers and Marines to keep the armed conflict away from us. We are maintained in that peace by the preventative actions of a President who has the guts to do whatever he can, including wiretapping foreign phone calls, to keep us safe. It is not by accident that we have not have another attack within our borders, it is the result of a lot of hard work and a lot hard decisions. Our cause is just, and our trust is well placed, no matter how hard the liberals try to remove Him from our country. “And the Star Spangled Banner forever shall wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Happy New Year! –Capt Bogs

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