A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
(Also at Huffington Post at this link.)
This year the USA celebrates the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics, inspired by the battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, and it officially became the National Anthem in 1931. Notoriously difficult to sing (my favorite rendition is Whitney Houston’s, complete with combat jets at the end), it’s a song of resolve and resilience suffused with images of battle, which only makes sense given the conditions under which it was composed.
Along with the National Anthem, the other patriotic song most commonly sung at sporting events and other official gatherings is God Bless America. Penned by Irving Berlin in 1918 and made famous by Kate Smith’s renditions, it’s usually performed today without its placatory preamble (“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea/Let us swear allegiance…
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