Oh Say, Do You Hear?

1844—Era & Topic: Anti-Slavery

This anti-slavery lyric is one of the most powerful and visceral texts ever to be created to the Anacreontic melody.

1.         Oh, say do you hear, at the dawn’s early light,
                The shrieks of those bondmen, whose blood is now streaming
        From the merciless lash, while our banner in sight
                With its stars, mocking freedom, is fitfully gleaming?
        Do you see the backs bare? Do you mark every score
        Of the whip of the driver trace channels of gore?
        And say, doth our star-spangled banner yet wave
        O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

2.        On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
                Where Afric’s race in false safety reposes,
        What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
                As it heedlessly sweeps, half conceals, half discloses?
        ’Tis a slave ship that’s seen, by the morning’s first beam,
        And its tarnished reflection pollutes now the stream:
        ’Tis our star-spangled banner! Oh! When shall it wave
        O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

3.        And where is the band, who so valiantly bore
                The havoc of war, and the battle’s confusion,
        For Liberty’s sweets? We shall know them no more:
                Their fame is eclispsed by foul Slavery’s pollution.
        No refuge is found on our unhallowed ground,
        For the wretched in Slavery’s manacles bound;
        While our star-spangled banner in vain boasts to wave
        O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

4.        Shall we ne’er hail the day when as freemen shall stand
                The millions who groan under matchless oppression?
        Shall Liberty’s shouts, in our heaven-rescued land,
                Ne’er be shared by the slave in our blood-guilty nation?
        Oh, let us be just, ere in God we dare trust;
        Else the day will o’er take us when perish we must;
        And our star-spangled banner at half mast shall wave
        O’er the death-bed of Freedom—the home of the slave.

The Star Spangled Banner New Version of the National Song

Author Lyricist

Edwin Augustus Atlee

Era and Topic


Tune Identified

The Star-Spangled Banner


The Signal of LibertyNewspaper: Signal of Liberty (Ann Arbor, MI): July 22, 1844


Battle Creek, MI

Book Pages


Songbook Number

Track #25 (CD#2)