Jaunty forebears to the National Anthem

July 2

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, but there were many versions that preceded the one we sing now. Here is the first verse of the National Anthem, followed by the first verses of two other old songs that used the same melody:

The Star-Spangled Banner
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 rocket’s 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?

(Via the Internet Archive.)

To Anacreon in Heaven
This song, from the 1770s written by church musician John Stafford Smith, had the original melody that was later used for the Star-Spangled Banner.
To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition
That he their Inspirer and Patron would be;
When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian:
“Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, no longer be mute,
I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I’ll instruct you, like me, to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

(Via the National Museum of American History)

When the Warrior Returns from the Battle Afar
This song was written by Francis Scott Key in 1805, nine years before he wrote the National Anthem, using the same melody.

When the warrior returns, from the battle afar,
To the home and the country he nobly defended,
O! Warm be the welcome to gladden his ear,
And loud be the joy that his perils are ended:
In the full tide of song let his fame roll along,
To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,
Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

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Robert Samuels · July 2