Francis Scott Key—Author, Poet, Patriot

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Francis Scott Key. Yes, he wrote the words to the “Star-spangled Banner,” but what else do you know about this American icon?

You probably know that he was a lawyer, but did you know that he was also an amateur poet and hymn writer? Like writers of the present time, Key aspired to write great things, but had it not been for that hastily scribbled poem, “The Star-spangled Banner,” he might not have achieved his goal.

3363412Key was a deeply religious man. He thought about becoming a minister, but instead he studied law. He opposed the War of 1812 on religious grounds, but he often visited war prisoners and shared with them the hymns he wrote.

While Key earned his living as a lawyer, he continued to write. Some of his poems conveyed his keen sense of humor and found their way into the courtroom, like this one written to a judge:

“May it please your honor to hear the petition
Of a poor old mare in a miserable condition,
Who has come this cold night to beg that your honor
Will consider her ease and take pity upon her.
Her master has turned her out in the street,
And the stones are too hard to lie down on, or eat;
Entertainment for horses she sees every where,
But, alas! there is none, as it seems, for a mare.
She has wandered about, cold, hungry, and weary,
And can’t even get in the Penitentiary.”

from Petition for a Habeas Corpus
to the Honorable James Sewall Morsell

Key and his wife, Polly, had 11 children, 6 sons and 5 daughters. His love for writing must have been passed along in his DNA because his great-grandnephew was F. Scott Fitzgerald (Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald), author of “The Great Gatsby.”

This week, please remember our great country’s history, and give thanks to all those who fought and continue to fight to keep us free.

Do you know who made the famous star-spangled banner flag? The answer might surprise you. Click HERE.

And one last fact about the “Star-spangled Banner”: The melody Francis Scott Key used for his song was the popular English tune known as “To Anacreon in Heaven” (MP3). Anacreon was an ancient Greek poet noted for his praise of love and wine. Written about 1775 by John Stafford Smith, the tune was originally the “constitutional song” of the Anacreontic Society, a gentlemen’s music club in London.

Happy Independence Day!
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