On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry.” The first verse has become the lyrics of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The tune was the official song of the Anacreontic Society — group of upper class London men who promoted music appreciation and drinking. I’ve never much liked the tune — it’s awkward and formal — hard to sing — boring. I was pleased to learn that it didn’t become the national anthem until 1931 — while still under Herbert Hoover.
As for Key, well, he was a slave owner and anti-abolitionist. At the same time, he wrote a lot of religious poetry. He was a good Episcopalian. It goes back to what I wrote about a week or so ago: there have always been two kinds of Christians in this nation — the liberals and the conservatives. The conservative ones today want to believe that are part of the movement that ended slavery, but they aren’t. They are part of the movement that Francis Scott Key was part of — the part that believed that slavery was Godly. But Key’s predilection does provide an ironic charm to the words, “O’er the land of the free…”
But the main thing for us to consider today is that Key was not a very good poet. I think it is great that people who don’t have much talent write. I think writing is a great thing. But we don’t need to hold such people up as masters of the art. And just a year earlier, Lord Byron wrote, “She Walks in Beauty.” Of course, it may help to be inspired by a beautiful woman in mourning, and not the excitement of the thought that more people on their side are dying than on ours.
See also: Musical Dreck to Commie Propaganda.