« PreviousContinue »
city, hailed with delight by the excited people. Published in the succeeding issue of the "American," and elsewhere reprinted, it went straight to the popular heart. It was quickly seized for musical adaptation. First sung in a tavern adjoining the Holliday Street Theater in Baltimore, by Charles Durang, an actor, whose brother, Ferdinand Durang, had set it to an old air, its production on the stage of that theater was the occasion of spontaneous and unbounded enthusiasm. Wherever it was heard its effect was electrical, and thenceforward it was universally accepted as the National anthem.
The poem tells its own story, and never a truer, for every word comes direct from a great heroic soul, powderstained and dipped, as it were, in sacred blood.
"O say, can you see by the dawn's early light
The two that walked the deck of the cartel boat had waited long. They had counted the hours as they watched the course of the battle. But a deeper anxiety yet is to possess them. The firing has ceased. Ominous silence! Whilst cannon roared they knew that the fort held out. Whilst the sky was lit by messengers of death they could see the National colors flying above it.
". . . the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."
But there comes an end at last to waiting and watching; and as the first rays of the sun shoot above the horizon and gild the Eastern shore, behold the sight that gladdens their eyes as it—
". . . catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream "—
for there, over the battlements of McHenry, the Stars and Stripes float defiant on the breeze, whilst all around evidences multiply that the attack has failed, that the Americans have successfully resisted it, and that the British are withdrawing their forces. For then, and for now, and for all time, come the words of the anthem—
"O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
"... conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
The Star-Spangled Banner! Was ever flag so beautiful, did ever flag so fill the souls of men? The love of woman; the sense of duty; the thirst for glory; the heartthrobbing that impels the humblest American to stand by his colors fearless in the defense of his native soil and holding it sweet to die for it—the yearning which draws him to it when exiled from it—its free institutions and its blessed memories, all are embodied and symbolized by the broad stripes and bright stars of the nation's emblem, all live again in the lines and tones of Key's anthem. Two or three began the song, millions join the chorus. They are singing it in Porto Rican trenches and on the ramparts of Santiago, and its echoes, borne upon the wings of morning, come rolling back from far-away Manila; the soldier's message to the soldier; the hero's shibboleth in battle; the patriot's solace in death! Even to the lazy sons of peace who lag at home—the pleasure-seekers whose merry-making turns the night into day—those stirring strains come as a sudden trumpet-call, and above the sounds of revelry, subjugate for the moment to a stronger power, rises wave upon wave of melodious resonance, the idler's aimless but heartfelt tribute to his country and his country's flag.
Since the "Star-Spangled Banner" was written nearly a century has come and gone. The drums, and tramplings of more than half its years have passed over the grave of Francis Scott Key. Here at last he rests forever. Here at last his tomb is fitly made. When his eyes closed upon the scenes of this life their last gaze beheld the ensign of the Republic " full-high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted nor a single star obscured." If happily they were spared the spectacle of a severed Union, and "a land rent by civil feud and drenched in fraternal blood," it may be that somewhere beyond the stars his gentle spirit now looks down upon a Nation awakened from its sleep of death and restored to its greater and its better self, and known and honored, as never before throughout the world. Whilst Key lived there was but a single paramount issue, about which all other issues circled, the Constitution and the Union. The problems of the Constitution and the Union solved, the past secure, turn we to the future; no longer a huddle of petty sovereignties, held together by a rope of sand; no longer a body of mercenary shopkeepers worshiping rather the brand upon the dollar than the eagle on the shield; no longer a brood of provincial laggards, hanging with bated breath upon the movements of mankind, afraid to trust themselves away from home, or to put their principles to the test of progress and of arms; but a Nation, and a leader of nations; a world power which durst face Imperialism upon its own ground with Republicanism, and with it dispute the future of Civilization. It is the will of God; let not man gainsay. Let not man gainsay until the word of God has been carried to the furthermost ends of the earth; not until freedom is the heritage of all His creatures; not until the blessings which he has given us are shared by His people in all lands; not until Latin licentiousness fostered by modern wealth and culture and art, has been expiated by fire, and Latin corruption and cruelty have disappeared from the government of men; not until that sober-suited AngloSaxonism, which, born at Runnymede, was to end neither at Yorktown nor at Appomattox, has made, at one and the same time, another map of Christendom and a new race of Christians and yeomen, equally soldiers of the Sword and of the Cross, even in Africa and in Asia, as we have made them here in America. Thus, and thus alone, and wherever the winds of heaven blow, shall fly the spirit if not the actuality of the blessed symbol we have come here this day to glorify; ashamed of nothing that God has sent, ready for everything that God may send! It was not a singer of the fireside, but a heartless wanderer, who put in all hearts the Anglo-Saxon's simple " Home, Sweet Home." It was a poet, not a warrior, who gave to our Union the Anglo-American's homage to his flag. Even as the Prince of Peace who came to bring eternal life was the Son of God, were these His ministering angels; and, as each of us, upon his knees, sends up a prayer to Heaven for "Home, Sweet Home," may he also murmur, and teach his children to lisp, the sublime refrain of Key's immortal anthem—
"'Tis the Star-Spangled Banner, O, long may it wave
AMERICAN GOVERNMENT UNIQUE
[Oration by Daniel Webster, statesman and orator (born in Salisbury, N. H., January 18, 1782; died in Marshfield, Mass., October 24, 1852), delivered in Fryeburg, Maine, July 4, 1802, when Webster was but twenty years of age, and at the time principal of the Fryeburg Academy. This oration is referred to in Webster's Autobiography as unpublished, and so it remained till eighty years after its delivery, when the original manuscript was found, with a mass of Webster's private papers, in a junk-shop in Boston, and rescued from destruction. Passing then into appreciative hands, it was issued in pamphlet form in 1882, the centennial year of Webster's birth. The impression created by this early effort of the orator upon the minds of the townspeople who heard it, was deep and lasting, and it has been said that its sentiments were remembered and repeated by some of them after a lapse of more than fifty years. An interesting fact is seen in the strikingly similar peroration to the last speech made by Webster in the Senate of the United States on July 17, 1850.]
Fellow Citizens:—It is at the season when nature hath assumed her loveliest apparel that the American people assemble in their several temples to celebrate the birthday of their nation. Arrayed in all the beauties of the year, the Fourth of July once more visits us. Green fields and a ripening harvest proclaim it, a bright sun cheers it, and the hearts of freemen bid it welcome. Illustrious spectacle! Six millions of people this day surround their altars, and unite in an address to Heaven for the preservation of their rights. Every rank and every age imbibes the general spirit. From the lisping inhabitant of the cradle to the aged warrior whose gray hairs are fast sinking in the western horizon of life, every voice is,
Copyright, by C W. Lewis. Published by permission, 115a