The Star-Spangled Banner

In Verse 3, “vauntingly” means “in a boasting cock-sure fashion”. “Hireling and slave” refer to the mercenaries paid to fight and to the soldiers who lived under the British Crown. The idea is that they did not have as much to fight for since one group fought for money and the other fought to benefit someone other than themselves. In contrast, the Americans fought for their homes, families and way of life–all that we consider to be a part of freedom.
When this volume was published, we had just begun to extend the blessings of freedom to those who had been enslaved in this country. I cannot imagine with what emotion they sang the third and fourth stanzas in light of their recent emancipation.

Verse 1:
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, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts, we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ 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.

Verse 2:
On the shore dimly seen thro’ 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 on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner; oh, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Verse 3:
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 footsteps’ 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.

Verse 4:
Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and wild war’s desolation;
Blest with vic’try and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the pow’r 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.

Francis S. Key/John Arnold

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