I was moved to see a photo of the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” 200 years ago in the Deseret News. Our national anthem is a great song, but so familiar that many people do not realize how important Key’s poem is as art.
Eli Siegel, the 20th century poet and founder of Aesthetic Realism, is the critic who explained why Key’s poem is distinguished as poetry. In his essay, “ ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as a Poem,” he writes that “history aside, Francis Scott Key had a great emotion. Dark and light came together; what seemed good persisted amid what appeared to be the unrestrained storminess and disarray of evil. Somewhere, even in the midst of bellicosity, bombardment,and confusion, Key brought the tranquility which gave structure to what he felt. The permanent meaning of the quietness in the turbulence and hurly-burly of life he must have felt.”
So, as we celebrate its bicentennial, the poetic value of “The Star-Spangled Banner” should be better known and also the meaning it can have for people today. We can all feel we are in the midst of dark and light, good and evil.
Karen Van Outrye
New York City, New York