Maryland My Maryland

Written by James Ryder Randall

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, My Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
Maryland, My Maryland!
My Mother State! to thee I kneel,
Maryland, My Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all they slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come with thy panoplied array,
Maryland, My Maryland!
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come! to thine own heroic throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And cgive a new Key to thy song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain!
Maryland, My Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
Maryland, My Maryland!
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
Maryland, My Maryland!
But lo! There surges forth a shriek
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the vandal toll,
Maryland, My Maryland!
hou wilt not crook to his control,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

Official Song of the State of Maryland.

Go back to US State Songs

There are a few unusual features to this song (which remains the Maryland state anthem to this day).

First off, it's set to the tune of O Tannenbaum, a.k.a. Christmas Tree. Which just seems like an odd choice to me.

Now, take a look at these lines:

  • Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain...Virginia should not call in vain!
  • Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum! See that? This song dates back to the American Civil War, when Baltimore was kept under martial law by the Union so as to keep the northern approach to Washington, D.C. open. The basic message is "Give us half a chance, Union scum, and the 1st Maryland Regiment Infantry will kick the shit out of you like they did to the English." Not that they ever did; Maryland remained basically neutral in the War Between The States.
  • I figure it's only a matter of time before someone brings this up in Annapolis. Given that now is a time when the biggest controversy in South Carolina is whether or not to fly the Confederate flag at the state house, I figure we'd better start working on a new anthem now.

    Maryland's "neutrality" was heavily... er, shall we say, influenced by the thousands of Union troops President Abraham Lincoln ordered to occupy the state after Virginia seceded. In 1861, the MD legislature was very close to approving articles of secession, and the state's governor was actually in favor of the move. In general, residents of urban areas like Baltimore and Annapolis supported secession, while rural residents, especially in the western part of the state, weren't so excited about it. ("Maryland, My Maryland" aside, Confederate soldiers didn't get much help from the local citizenry at Antietam in 1862.)

    The secession of Maryland would have been disastrous for the Union (encircling the capital of Washington with Confederate territory), so Lincoln resolved to stop that by any means necessary. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended, pro-Confederate legislators and journalists were jailed, and Maryland was effectively put under martial law for most of the duration of the Civil War. The decree was only lifted once victory was so close for the Union that there was no danger of secession.

    In the early days of the civil war, a mob in Maryland attacked a Massachusetts regiment and a few of the rioters were killed in an incident known as the Pratt Street Riots. Randall, a Marylander who was a teacher in Louisiana, penned this song as a call to action for his native state. Despite this, "Maryland, My Maryland" was not adopted as the state song until 1939, chosen to celebrate that state's proud tradition of racism and treason. (Not that I can talk, my state song actually contains the word "darkies"!) It is the only US state song, and probably the only state or provincial song in the world (except for maybe Quebec), that advocates a violent overthrow of the national government. A rant impressive for its sheer hysteria, it takes swipes at that pesky "despot" Abraham Lincoln and those "Northern scum", a thinly veiled racist code word for white ethnics like Germans and Irish.

    At least three attempts have been made to eliminate the song in the state legislature, but all failed because of stiff resistance. Some legislators even received death threats. A vocal and influential segment of the state's population, including some influential rich wasps who trace their families back to Confederates, resist the change.

    Sure, people can be proud of their Confederate heritage if they choose to be, that's fine. Call me crazy, but a state song should represent everyone in a state, not just the Confederate sympathizers. Like the descendants of those who fought in the Union Army, or the 27% of the population who is black, or more recent immigrants who don't give a rat's ass what some crazy white people did 140 years ago and think that they should get over it already.

    Replacing the state song does not erase the state's heritage. Take the words of 15 year old Ben Meiselman, who started a drive to get a new state song for his high school civics project. He was forced to learn and recite the song in 4th grade social studies: "By making it not the official state song, that doesn't mean it's not part of our history. People can still look at it and say, `Oh, that used to be the Maryland state song.' It just means it doesn't represent us anymore. I don't think I want it representing me.''

    Don't you love it when a teenager is smarter than an entire state legislature?

    Source: Facts come from an Associated Press report in today's newspaper, opinions come from my own ego.

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