A Spangled “Ode to the Fourth of July” (1826 Style)

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United States, a Mrs. K.A. Ware did what many in the 19th-century did — she wrote a song by creating new lyrics to a beloved and well known tune. This cultural conversation in song is known as the broadside ballad tradition. Building on the patriotic associations of the tune “Anacreon in Heaven” (spurred by Francis Scott Key’s immediately popular and patriotic tune “The Star-Spangled Banner” which used and further popularized the tune), Ware chose to write new lyrics to the same melody. Her words celebrate George Washington and the other heroes of the nation’s founding, while threatening war yet again if the nation is threatened. Her conclusion calls for peace and predicts a bright future for the nation “Till earth shall to chaos her empire resign!” Coincidentally, two of those heroic founding fathers would pass away this very day—John Adams (the nation’s second president) and Thomas Jefferson (the nation’s third).

As part of our Poets & Patriots recording project, we present what is probably the world premiere video and recording of Ware’s song.

When through the dark clouds of political night,
Burst the glorious Sun of our fam’d Revolution!
Mid the blue arch of Heav’n, the seraph of light,
Unfurl’d the proud scroll of our bold Constitution!
While the Herald of Fame
Bore our Washington’s name!
Through regions of space, upon pinions of flame!
And ne’er shall one ray of his glory decline,
Till earth shall to chaos her empire resign!

As soared his bright form to the realms of the Just,
His Mantle descended to bless his successors
And his sword—though it sleeps in its scabbard of rust,
Is a symbol of dread to our haughty oppressors.
The fame of the sage,
Still illumines our age:
And forever shall glow o’er America’s page
For a Halo of glory around him will shine,
Till earth shall to chaos her empire resign!

The deeds of our heroes, their courage sublime,
Have long been the pride, and the theme of our story
And their triumphs shall mark the divisions of time,
And be hallow’d as Epochs of National Glory!
On this festival Day,
Our glad homage we’ll pay
To the God of the Pilgrims! who lighted their way;
And ne’er shall his flame on our altars decline,
Till earth shall to chaos her empire resign!

Though “Peace is our aim” yet our voice is for War!
Should our birthright be threaten’d with foreign invasion
And Columbia’s sons shall be proud of each scar,
Their breasts may sustain in defence of their Nation.
Though in peace with the world,
Our Standard is furl’d
And the demon of discord to darkness is hurl’d.
Yet ne’er shall one star of our union decline,
Till earth shall to chaos her empire resign!

Smile on lovely Peace! may thy soft balmy wing,
Spread its shadowy plumes o’er the Warrior’s seclusion
May thy olive entwine, where his bright laurels spring,
And thy mild spirit calm the rude battle’s confusion!
Oh! stay lovely guest
for the bowers of thy rest,
Are bright as the Eden our parents possess’d,
And ne’er may thy glory depart from our shrine,
Till earth shall to chaos her empire resign!

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