This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

What the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner mean

If, like most people, the only words that you know to the American National Anthem are "play ball!", I understand. Like a lot of things that puzzled me when I was a kid, it was something that most grownups couldn't explain. But I wanted to know, and what I found out was interesting. I hope that you will think so, too.

The poem was written by a young man who was standing on a ship in Chesapeake Bay in 1814. Even though the United States had won its independence in 1783, the British were still making things difficult for us. Many people in America were afraid that our fragile independence would be swept away. This young man, Frances Scott Key, was standing on a ship watching the British gunboats pound Chesapeake Bay all night. The bombing had gone on all night and through the following morning. When the sun started coming up, he could see the American flag still waving. The words of the poem make perfect sense when you see it from his point of view. He is standing at the railing of a ship, called a "rampart". In poetic language, he says,

"Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming"

He, and the other people on the ship, had seen the American flag flying at sunset, and now, at the beginning of sunrise, they were seeing it clearly again, to their great delight. During the night, it had been lit up by the explosions.

"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."

These were no mere fireworks, these were bombs. And the although the life of a young nation was at stake, there was much more than just that hanging in the balance. The world was wondering if this new concept of freedom, that is, the type of liberty and justice for all, that never existed before, would survive.

"Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

It does.
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