There Are Actually Three More Verses to the Star-Spangled Banner

We only ever sing the first verse!

bannerNeil Lockhart

The term mondegreen refers to “a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung,” and, in all likelihood, you’ve experienced it. Some notable mondegreens can be found on this site, which gets its name from a misinterpretation of a lyric from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”; the lyric, for the record is “excuse me while I kiss the sky,” not “excuse me while I kiss this guy.”  

It’s a natural tendency, as a lead singer’s pronunciation isn’t exactly that of your 7th-grade grammar teacher and music can be just plain confusing. For example, most people think that the opening track of The Who’s  album Who’s Next is titled “Teenage Wasteland,” when it is, in fact, titled “Baba O’Reilly.” But this is popular music when it comes to the regimented nature of nationally endorsed anthems, everything must be cut and dry, right?

Well, not necessarily. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was designated as the national anthem by a Woodrow Wilson executive order in 1916 (it was officially adopted by Congress in 1931), but in its century of service, it has generally been performed fractionally.

The Francis Scott Key-penned poem actually has four verses in total, but when it is sung in public, just the first verse is used. The full lyrics to the ballad are as follows:

O 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 through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d 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, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in 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 footstep’s 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 home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d 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.

Key wrote the poem in 1814, based off the attacks on Baltimore he witnessed during the War of 1812. Originally, the ballad was known as “Defense of Fort M’Henry.” (Be sure check out these 10 facts about the Star-Spangled Banner if you want to learn more.)


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