On September 13th of 1814, a writer named Francis Scott Key penned a poem, which was later set to music. On March 3rd of 1931, the song, by then called The Star Spangled Banner, became America's National Anthem.
Key wrote the poem after watching the bombing of the Maryland Fort by the British during the War of 1812. He witnessed it from about eight miles away. When the flag still flew at daybreak, the poem's narrator can hardly believe his eyes. He wants to be sure the flag is still flying. So he asks someone nearby, Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Key was inspired by the sight of that lone United States flag still flying, which he was able to see the previous night because of the bombs exploding (… and the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there).
Many people are unaware that the poem actually has four verses. Most of us are only familiar with the first verse, which is the part sung at baseball games.
Here is the poem in its entirety:
O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight O’er the ramparts we watch’d 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, 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 wash’d out their foul footstep’s 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 victory and peace may the heaven 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.