It was on this day in 1814 that an American lawyer and poet named Francis Scott Key wrote what was to become his most famous poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” while on board a British Navy ship in Chesapeake Bay. Key had been negotiating with the British for the release of a prisoner they had taken in a raid on Washington, but because he had heard about the Navy’s plans for attacking Baltimore, he was not released until after the battle. That was how he came to witness the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the deck of H.M.S. Tonnant on the night of September 13. When the sun rose the following morning, and Key saw the stars and stripes flying over Fort McHenry, the sight inspired him to write a poem. Soon afterward, Key’s words were set to the melody of a popular song by English composer John Stafford Smith. “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931.
Good morning, brother pilgrim,
What, bound for Canaan’s coast?
March you toward Jerusalem,
To join the heavenly host?
Pray, wherefore are you smiling
While tears run down your face?
We soon shall cease from toiling,
And reach that heavenly place.
To Canaan’s coast we’ll hasten,
To join the heavenly throng;
Hark! from the banks of Jordan,
How sweet the pilgrims’ song!
Their Jesus they are viewing,
By faith we see Him too;
We smile and weep and praise Him,
And on our way pursue.
With streams of consolation,
We’re filled as with new wine;
We die to transient pleasures,
And live to things divine.
We sink in holy raptures
While viewing things above;
All glory to my Savior,
My heart is full of love.
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was an obscure Czech musician and composer until the publication in 1878 of his first set of Slavonic Dances set him on the road to success and international fame. The Slavonic Dances, written for piano four hands and later orchestrated by the composer, exemplify the 19th century movement that came to be known as musical nationalism. Like Frédéric Chopin in France, Edvard Grieg in Norway, Enrique Granados in Spain, Jean Sibelius in Finland, and Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály in Hungary, Dvořák created music that captured the spirit of his homeland by employing musical styles, motifs, harmonies, and rhythms specific to the region. Here is the seventh of the Slavonic Dances in its orchestral version.