The Star Spangled Banner

Lyrics and History

star spangled banner
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Before you look at the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, here's a simple, one-question quiz. No skimming ahead and peeking at the answer:

How many verses does the Star Spangled Banner have?

If you answered four, congratulations! You’re correct. Most of us have any idea that there are more than one—after all, that’s all we hear one at sporting events, right?


A Brief History

On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key was detained by the British and held on a ship which was positioned off the Baltimore coast.

From the vessel he watched and listened to a fierce battle taking place at Fort McHenry—at least until there was silence, and he saw the American flag still waving.

Inspired by the sight, Key wrote a poem called "Defense of Fort McHenry."

Years later, the poem was put to music and renamed as “The Star Spangled Banner.” The patriotic song quickly grew in popularity, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson requested that the song be played at all sporting events. In 1931, Congress drafted a proclamation naming the Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem. President Herbert Hoover signed the proclamation, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, without further ado, here are the lyrics to the song that we've all heard (well, at least some of it). Make sure you read all four verses.


Lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner Song

Oh, 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, 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.
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 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: 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 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.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation.
Blesed with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause 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!


Okay, now that you know the story behind “The Star Spangled Banner” and you’ve read all four verses, go ahead and show off your knowledge by quizzing your family and friends. 


Updated by Armin Brott, January 2016