Back to top

Oh say can you see my eyes? Then my hair's too short

The tune commonly known as "The Star Spangled Banner" has been around since the 1760s with quite a few sets of lyrics. The most recent, timed for release on May Day 2006, is "Nuestro Himno" - an anthem for the USA's second largest ethnic group. It hasn't pleased El Presidente Jorge W Bush, but you can't make everyone happy, especially an Anglophile neo-con.

Take it away guys:

Amanece, lo veis?, a la luz de la aurora?
lo que tanto aclamamos la noche caer?
sus estrellas sus franjas
flotaban ayer
en el fiero combate
en señal de victoria,
fulgor de lucha, al paso de la libertada.

Por la noche decían:
"Se va defendiendo!"
Oh decid! Despliega aún
Voz a su hermosura estrellada,
sobre tierra de libres,
la bandera sagrada?

Sus estrellas, sus franjas,
la libertad, somos iguales.

Somos hermanos, en nuestro himno.

En el fiero combate en señal de victoria,
Fulgor de lucha, al paso de la libertada.
Mi gente sigue luchando.

Ya es tiempo de romper las cadenas.

Por la noche decían: "!Se va defendiendo!"

Oh decid! Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada
sobre tierra de libres,
la bandera sagrada?

Nuestro Himno is not the first Spanish version of the song whose tune was composed by John Stafford Smith and first published in around 1778 as "To Anacreon In Heaven" (and more about that later). La Bandera de las Estrellas was published in 1919. The Germans did a translation in the 1860s. It's been translated into Yiddish, and the citizens of American Samoa have recently identified a need to use their own translation:

Aue! se'i e vaai, le malama o ataata mai
Na sisi a'e ma le mimita, i le sesega mai o le vaveao
O ai e ona tosi ma fetu, o alu a'e i taimi vevesi tu
I luga o 'Olo mata'utia, ma loto toa tausa'afia
O Roketi mumu fa'aafi, o pomu ma fana ma aloi afi
E fa'amaonia i le po atoa, le fu'a o lo'o tu maninoa
Aue! ia tumau le fe'ilafi mai, ma agiagia pea
I eleele o Sa'olotoga, ma Nofoaga o le au totoa.

There's a translation into Latin of FS Key's famous ditty, composed while he was a POW on a British warship in 1813 - but it's only a translation of the third verse!

Surely Mad Mel can commission an Aramaic version for us?

In 1969 at Woodstock, NY, presumably in protest at the lack of a Cherokee translation, Jimi Hendrix performed an electric guitar version of JS Smith's original score with no lyrics at all.

But back to the original, which had nothing to do with bombs bursting in air, la bandera sagrada, dem soynes makhne iz fartayet in shrek, or even caligata lues expurgatast cruore!

To Anacreon In Heaven has six verses, but as you watch the FS Key rendition being performed at the NBA playoffs, don't forget to sing the following when they get up to the "O say does the star spangled banner yet wave" bit:

And besides I'll instruct you,
Like me, to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus
With Bacchus's Vine.