One hundred twenty years ago, a Confederate sympathizer named James Ryder Randall watched as Union troops marched through his home town of Baltimore. Thinking that Maryland, a border state, was about to be occupied, an alarmed Randall did what he could to stir Marylanders into joining the Confederacy. To the tune of "O Tannenbaum," he wrote "Maryland, My Maryland," which later became the Free State's official song.
Today, it sounds like a manifesto of malice.
"Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!" says the ninth stanza. "Burst the tyrant's chain, Maryland!" says the sixth stanza, in an apparent reference to Abraham Lincoln. "Avenge the patriotic gore, that flecked the streets of Baltimore," says the first stanza, in a blatant call to arms.
Marvin A. Marx wasn't alive when Randall took pen in hand. Nor is he a Maryland native. But he has lived in Silver Spring for 31 years, and that's more than enough to have convinced him that the state song needs replacing. So Marx has taken 20th Century pen in hand to do just that.
But Marx is a lobbyist as well as a lyricist. So zealous is he that he paid $10 to the city of Takoma Park last weekend for the right to set up a table at the annual city fair. There, dressed in his patriot's outfit -- white hat, white shirt, red tie and blue shorts -- this 72-year-old former postal clerk collected 132 signatures from Marylanders who want 1981 Marx lyrics to reflect their state.
Also to the tune of "O Tannenbaum," here is Marx's "Maryland, My Maryland:"
"No other land can be as grand As Maryland, my Maryland; From Baltimore to Eastern Shore, We love it all, forevermore Our ocean beach, within our reach Brings joy untold, to young and old; So let me take you by the hand Through Maryland, my Maryland No better place to hunt or fish Than Maryland, my Maryland The Orioles are just our dish In Maryland, my Maryland In winter, summer, spring or fall In Maryland, we've got it all, These are the things that I recall In Maryland, my Maryland"
"Okay, so maybe it isn't deathless prose," said Marx, as he handed pencils to arriving petition-signers. "I just thought the state song should say something good about Maryland. There's lots of good to be mentioned."
The next stop for Marx's song: Annapolis. He has asked state Sen. Howard Denis (R-Bethesda) to sponsor a bill that would unchristen Randall's song and replace it with the Marx version.
"He told me he wants to wait till after the 1982 elections," Marx said. "Maybe by then there'll be more sympathetic people over there, he thinks."
In the meantime, is Marx beating an unimportant horse? "I grant you there are more important things," he says. "But does Maryland have to have such a negative song?"