SIR FRANCIS SCOTT KEY wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” on this day. We celebrate this as a moment in Gay history because the theme of the anthem is based on the then popular “Anacreon in Heaven.” Ahhhh…Anacreon. Who was Anacreon? Born in Teos, Ionia circa 570 BCE, Anacreon was one of the nine Lyric Poets of the golden age of Greek poetry. And being the good and manly Greek he was, Anacreon’s poems and odes were largely about the beautiful boys he loved or longed for or held in his arms as he cooed lyrical poetry to them. He kisses and tells; he names names: Smerdis, Leukapsis, Smialus, Eurylus and Bathyluss, probably the boy band of the day.
The structure of his poesy was so popular in its own time that others imitated the eponymously named “Anacreontics.” Anacreon was rediscovered by English poets in the 19th century and they swooned for him like a well-oiled boy in the gymnasium. The vogue for Anacreontics in English culminated in the popular song “Anacreon in Heaven,” the famously un-singable tune for the American national anthem. There have been attempts to convince Congress to seek a new national anthem, something a tad more accessible vocally for the masses. Our bet: if you want to accelerate this movement, just whisper in the ear of the Moral Majority the story of the foreign fay and his poems about “dipping his star-spangled banana” in young men. (thank you Perry Brass!) That ought to do the trick.