The air to which 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is sung had its origin in England. Some time in the second half of the eighteenth century, a convivial club, known as the Anacreontic Society, was formed in London. Meetings were held regularly at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand, and musical entertainment, in which professionals were invited to participate, was a part of the program. Supper was served after the concert, and then all the members joined in choral singing. The singing was always opened with the club's constitutional song, 'To Anacreon in Heaven,' written some time between 1771 and 1776 by its president, Ralph Tomlinson.
To Anacreon in Heav'n, where he sat in full glee, A few sons of harmony sent a petition, That he their inspirer and patron would be; When this answer arriv'd from the jolly old Grecian -- Voice, fiddle, and flute, No longer be mute; I'll lend ye my name, and inspire ye to boot: And besides, I'll instruct ye, like me, to intwine The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine.
The news through Olympus immediately flew; When old Thunder pretended to give himself airs -- If these mortals are suffer'd their scheme to pursue, The devil a goddess will stay above stairs. Hark! already they cry, In transports of joy, A fig for Parnassus! to Rowley's we'll fly; And there my good fellows, we'll learn to intwine The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine.
The yellow-hair'd god, and his nine fusty maids, To the hill of old Lud will incontinent flee, Idalia will boast but of tenantless shades, And the biforked hill a mere desert will be. My thunder, no fear on't, Will soon do its errand, And dam'me! I'll swinge the ringleaders, I warrant I'll trim the young dogs, for thus daring to twine The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine.
Apollo rose up; and said, Pry'thee ne'er quarrel, Good King of the gods, with my vot'ries below! Your thunder is useless -- then shewing his laurel, Cry'd, Sic evitabile fulmen, you know! Then over each head My laurels I'll spread; So my sons from your crackers no mischief shall dread, Whilst snug in their club-room, they jovially twine The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine.
Next Momus got up, with his risable phiz, And swore with Apollo he'd chearfully join -- The full tide of harmony still shall be his, But the song and the catch, and the laugh shall be mine: Then, Jove, be not jealous Of these honest fellows. Cry'd Jove, We relent, since the truth you now tell us; And swear by Old Styx, that they long shall intwine The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine.
Ye sons of Anacreon, then, join hand in hand; Preserve unaimity, friendship, and love. 'Tis your's to support what's so happily plan'd; You've the sanction of gods, and the fiat of Jove. While thus we agree, Our toast let it be, May out club flourish happy, united, and free! And long may the sons of Anacreon intwine The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine."
Beats the heck out of "America the Beautiful," eh?