Saturday, January 20, 2007

Irony at the Inauguration

This past week saw two important inaugurations that brought us a new Governor down in Annapolis and a new Mayor here in Baltimore. There was enough pomp and circumstance to make a Naturalist Poet roll his eyes and speeches long enough to make a pretentious professor's lecture sound like a 10-second sound bite. But of all the festivities, what most struck The League was the performance of Maryland, My Maryland, and just who sang it.

The little diddly has been Maryland's state song since April 29, 1939 when the state legislature said so. But it was written at the dawn of the Civil War as a call for this original colony to secede. Maryland remained a Unionist state througout the conflict, but popular sentiment was so strongly with the Confederates that Union troops were stationed in places like Baltimore's Patterson Park to make sure there wasn't any Hanky Panky.

With lines like "Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl, / Than crucifixion of the soul," Maryland, My Maryland is known as the most violent state song of any in the United States. It was written in response to the Pratt Street Riot of 1861 in which Union troops clashed with Confederate sympathizers on the streets of downtown Baltimore - an incident often pointed to as the first bloodshed of the Civil War.

Of the 12 civilians who died that April 19, one of 'em was the buddy of James Ryder Randall. Baltimore Born and Raised, Randall transformed his personal loss into a nice little poem criticizing President Abraham Lincoln as a "tyant" who spilled "the patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore." Randall was known as the "Poet Laureate of the Lost Cause" for his many Odes to the South during the Civil War.

So on Wednesday afternoon, at the inauguration ceremony of Gov. Martin O'Malley, just who performed their rendition of this song that called for taking up arms to defend slavery? An all-black choir from Morgan State University, a historically-black college in the northeast section of the predominantly black City of Baltimore.

Our Governor can throw a party, but he can't seem to spot Irony.

from The League: Reassembled

5 Comments:

Blogger Stephanie Dray said...

Is there a big push in the black community to abolish this as our state song, or have we all kind of come to terms with translating it in the way that suits us best in the present?

1/21/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Terry in Silver Spring said...

I think there's also irony in having violent lyrics sung to the tune of a Christmas carol. Gore flecked streets of Baltimore versus the Prince of Peace.

On the other hand, it is our history. We learn and we grow. Also, there are a LOT of more important things to worry about.

1/22/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Sara da Muse said...

Who woulda thunk? Thanks for letting us know this history, Leaguers!

1/23/2007 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger The League: Reassembled said...

No push that we're aware of, Stephanie.

1/23/2007 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Mdman said...

You missed the best part: "The despot's heel is at thy door," referring to Lincoln. It is ironic that the Morgan State Choir sang that song, but I doubt that anyone was going to change the lyrics for the inaugural.

How many people really know what the song is really about? Also know that many people from Baltimore were jailed at the time of the riots, including, I believe, the mayor and one of Frances Scott Keys' grandsons.

I also recall, as a high schooler visiting the State House and seeing the displays of historic flags, many of which were Confederate flags!

1/24/2007 04:18:00 PM  

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