In Full Glory

I thoroughly enjoyed the selection of poems this week. I have to say that I am surprised at how many of these poems I had to juggle between for my favorite. I was excited going into this week because I knew we would read Poe, who did not disappoint, but John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (who looks like my dad!), Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Ralph Waldo Emerson all touched me in some way this week. I think it’s funny that there is so much written into poems. I feel like that is the main reason I typically do not enjoy poetry. I read to escape and to not think, but I feel like for me to understand poetry, I need to read it more carefully and with more consideration. It’s funny, I’ve been told to lighten up and not try to wrench down to hard on understanding a poem; that I need to let emotion guide me and stop trying to force an interpretation. I get that, I suppose, but I still think that you can’t just skim a poem and call it a day. To fully appreciate it, you really need to pay care to every word. After all, the poet had to pay care to each word as he or she wrote them.

Even though I had difficulty choosing my favorite, I have settled on Francis Scott Key’s “In Defense of Fort McHenry” otherwise known as The Star Spangled Banner. Now, I’ve been know to frequent many a hockey and football game so I’ve heard the song so many times. I’m embarrassed to say that I never thought to look beyond those few lines. It’s become a moment for me to teach my children which hand to place on their heart and why we take our ball caps off. This week I read, truly read, the piece behind the song. I read the stanzas not included before a ball game and I rediscovered the patriot that has been buried underneath tons of cynicism and malcontent.

Take a moment and read the poem, not the lyrics, the poem. I feel like as a nation we’ve become deadened to its significance. It’s just a prelude for the main event anymore. It’s a few minutes we have to suffer through to get to the good part, it’s a chance to see how bad (insert famous person here) will mess it up and give us water cooler fodder for the next day. The power of the final stanza sticks with me and makes me think of all my friends and family who have and still serve. It makes me think of anyone who has served or will serve. “O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand / Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!” (Key lines 25-26). This is a beautiful poem. It is a wonderful anthem, but the beauty of the poem deserves to be revisited and absorbed. It seems as though many in our nation could use the reflection that this poem offers.

The Star-Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key
O 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 through the perilous fight,   
O’er the ramparts we watched 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, now conceals, now 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 washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. 
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,   
From the terror of flight and 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 homes and the war’s desolation!   
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land,   
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.   
Then conquer we must, for 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.

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