The Most Beautiful Song Ever Written

“And now, for tonight’s rendition of the most beautiful song ever written…”

That is the introduction my friend and PRCA announcer Tim Fuller gives before the presentation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of every rodeo he announces.  I’m sure he’s not the only sports announcer to turn that phrase but the phrase itself certainly does ring true for many Americans.

This year we mark the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry” which, when later set to the tune "The Anacreontic Song,” became what we know today as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  The vocal range required for the song makes it one of the most difficult to sing but, when done properly, also makes it the most dramatic anthem of any nation.

I certainly agree that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is one of the most beautiful songs in our modern hymnal but not simply because it has become our nation’s anthem.  In fact, the lines we sing to honor our great nation is only the first verse of this great hymn.

Here’s the full text of “The Star-Spangled Banner”:

  • O 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, 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 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.

 

  • O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
  • Between their loved 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 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 poem obviously paints us a vivid picture of the United States flag flying over Fort McHenry while it was being bombarded by British Naval Forces during the tail end of the War of 1812.  In the first verse we see the visibility of the flag waning as twilight sets upon the battlefield but the bright flashes of light produced by the battle gave Key and American forces brief glimpses of the flag remaining.  The second and third verses give us an even greater picture of the steadfastness of the flag and the fighters it represents in holding off an overwhelming attack by British forces (at the time, the world’s only superpower).

While we rarely hear it, it is the fourth verse that truly makes “The Star-Spangled Banner” the most beautiful song ever written.  Key closes his great and epic poem with two key points that we should remember and celebrate on a day like today. First, we remain free because of those who are willing to “stand between their loved home and war’s desolation.”  Second, we remain free because we are “Heaven rescued” and therefore should “praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.” 

We read in Romans 13 that the main purpose of civil government is to protect us from evil.  Many of the great nations in human history have been forces of terror that have scared people into submission and order.  The United States, however, started, and remains to this day, a force of liberation having freed itself, and many others, from the oppression.

I am thankful, this Fourth of July, to have been born in a country that, while not perfect, was formed with a heart of liberation and certainly has a heritage of bringing justice to the oppressed and building a society based upon liberty. 

Thank you Jesus and have a Happy Fourth of July!

Francis Scott Key's original manuscript copy of his "Star-Spangled Banner" poem. It is now on display at the Maryland Historical Society.

Francis Scott Key's original manuscript copy of his "Star-Spangled Banner" poem. It is now on display at the Maryland Historical Society.