It has been urged lately by some who, being of revolutionistic turn of mind, like to see any change, whatever it may be that we adopt "America" as our national anthem instead of the more martial song to which we now pay reverence. One reason set forth is that the "Star Spangled Banner" is well enough as an anthem in the bloody times of war, but in peace we need some more dulcet sentiment. Another is that "America" is well suited to the orchestration of the people's voices, whereas our present unlegalized national anthem is of too intricate a nature to be rendered to perfection by any save trained singers.
It is true that "America," both in tune and words is characteristic of the grand simplicity of our people. In ten thousand kinds of impromptu choruses its music is borne to the heavens. Is there one town meeting, one sixth-grade class, one Sunday school picnic, in which every one to the very least may not arise and join in, at the close of any festivity, with praise to the "Sweet land of liberty"? Is there one small corner of this broad land where rocks do not their silence break?
On the other hand the "Star Spangled Banner," while revered by all, like the Sultan of Turkey, is, like the Sultan of Turkey, known to few. When the band or the orchestra strikes up the first bars, we stand, remove our hats, and begin valiantly with the heroic query of "Oh say, can you see?" Finding that no one can see we relapse into a humming monotone, cheerful, although unintelligible. It is only at "the rockets' red glare, the bombs' bursting in air," that our patriotic choruses come out with full assurance again. That bit or warlike description has fixed in our memory where other things have faded. This speaks somewhat for the power of our associations with the 4th of July.
The misfortune with "America" as a national anthem is not that it is too intricate, nor too subtle, nor too martial. It partakes of all the grand simplicity of a Wesley hymn or a ballad of the people. The misfortune is that, like some other good things, it is not exclusively our own. In England it is known as "God save the king." And in the tuneful land of Germany the words people sing to it are "Heil dir im Siegerkranz, Herrscher des Volkes ganz." It would be somewhat of a pity if at some patriotic gathering Americans doffed their hats to the pilgrim fathers, while our cousins of England began, prayers for the salvation of their king, and some well meaning although recent, patriot, burst forth with a paean to "Heil, Kaiser, dir!"
It is certain that Keys' anthem will remain the battle song and the peace jubilation of our nation. For that some millions of our people will rejoice. It, like our ideals, is all American.