To Anacreon in Heaven

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Francis Scott Key set The Star-Spangled Banner to the tune of the song To Anacreon in Heaven.  Anacreon was a Greek lyric poet of the Sixth Century BC, famous particularly for his drinking songs.  The  Anacreontic Society was a club of amateur gentlemen musicians in Eighteenth Century London.   Ralph Tomlinson, the club president, penned the words of what was initially known as The Anacreontic Song.  The tune was composed by another member of the club John Stafford Smith in the 1760s.  The song was published in 1778.

The song became popular in America with new lyrics, Adams and Liberty, written by Robert Treat Paine, Jr. in 1798.

Here is the text of the orignial song:

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 arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian:

“Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, no longer be mute,

I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,


And besides I’ll instruct you, like me, to intwine

The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

The news through Olympus immediately flew;

When Old Thunder pretended to give himself airs.

“If these Mortals are suffered their scheme to pursue,

The devil a Goddess will stay above stairs.

Hark, already they cry, in transports of joy,

Away to the Sons of Anacreon we’ll fly,


And there with good fellows, we’ll learn to intwine

The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’ Vine.”

“The Yellow-Haired God and his nine fusty Maids

From Helicon’s banks will incontinent flee,

Idalia will boast but of tenantless shades,

And the bi-forked hill a mere desert will be.

My Thunder no fear on’t, shall soon do its errand,

And dam’me I’ll swing the Ringleaders I warrant.


I’ll trim the young dogs, for thus daring to twine

The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s 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 showing 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 clubroom, they jovially twine

The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

Next Momus got up with his risible Phiz

And swore with Apollo he’d cheerfully 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’s Vine.”

Ye Sons of Anacreon, then join hand in hand;

Preserve Unanimity, Friendship, and Love!

‘Tis yours to support what’s so happily plann’d;

You’ve the sanction of Gods, and the Fiat of Jove.

While thus we agree, our toast let it be:

“May our Club flourish happy, united, and free!


And long may the Sons of Anacreon intwine

The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”


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