Does that Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?

The Star Spangled Banner

I used to get annoyed by our national anthem. Seriously? The United States’ #1 chief patriotic theme is about bombs going off, and ends (after all, we only ever sing the first verse, right?) with the question of whether our flag even survived the chaos of battle fire. Just by hearing the song, one wouldn’t know. The question isn’t answered. In essence, the song says, “Last night, at twilight, I could see by the explosions that the flag still stood, but now it’s almost morning.” The end of the final cadence sings, “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave over land of the free and the home of the brave?” Basically, “Did we win? Are we still a free country?”

Done. End of song. Play ball.

Maybe that’s why I had such a hard time coming up with an appropriate arrangement of the piece.

I toyed with the idea of staying true to the bold, triumphant style that is traditional for this song, and which fits the second and third verses well. But I couldn’t do it.

I decided to be fair to the lyrics of the first verse, the one portion of the text that we all know and sing, to that question of, “When the morning comes, will we still be a free country?” So I tried something a little different.

Picture a soldier on assignment, watching the fight from his station, and seeing during the evening battle the periodic flashes of bombs illuminating the flag, but when the lights and explosions stop, the night darkens, leaving the question of victory or loss in the air. Then imagine the insufferable night of worry, of questioning, of insecurity, of fear. What about my land? What about my family? What will happen if we lose? The hours passing in darkness, the fear of even lighting a candle lest it spark more chaos. Did we win? Are we safe now? Does the flag still stand?

That’s what this arrangement is about.

Oh, and just for the record, I really like our national anthem now.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…

His truth is marching on.

The sheet music is finally ready! Click to learn how to buy it.

Battle Hymn of the Republic has always been my favorite patriotic song, as it captures the why of all that the founding fathers of America did. The strength of their devotion to God, and the faith they had in Jesus Christ gave them the courage to move forward when they knew it could cost their lives and the lives of their families.

The lyrics were written in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe. The tune belonged to another song, which was more of a spoof than a serious song. When a friend suggested to Julia that she write new words to the music, Julia took the challenge. The new lyrics came to her when she woke early one morning. She said, “I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, ‘I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

Here are the original lyrics:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…

His truth is marching on.

The sheet music is finally ready! Click to learn how to buy it.

Battle Hymn of the Republic has always been my favorite patriotic song, as it captures the why of all that the founding fathers of America did. The strength of their devotion to God, and the faith they had in Jesus Christ gave them the courage to move forward when they knew it could cost their lives and the lives of their families.

The lyrics were written in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe. The tune belonged to another song, which was more of a spoof than a serious song. When a friend suggested to Julia that she write new words to the music, Julia took the challenge. The new lyrics came to her when she woke early one morning. She said, “I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, ‘I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

Here are the original lyrics:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.