A New Haven Anthem

A New Haven Anthem

…with apologies to Francis Scott Key.

Ohhhh, say, can you see…

What if it’s not “Oh, say,” but Old Saybrook? That’s where Yale University was founded, in 1700 before moving to New Haven a few years later, and of course there’s still a college at Yale named Saybrook.

By the dawn’s early light…

Lux et Veritas, the Yale motto, means “Light and Verity,” as in enlightenment, principles and truth. The motto of the University of New Haven is “We Make Tomorrow.” Quinnipiac’s is “Challenging Students to Meet the Challenges of the Future.”

Or “Dawn” could be Donald Kagan, the noted Yale conservative, classical historian and even acting director of Yale’s athletics program for a year in the late ’80s. Kagan retired from Yale this April after over four decades of teaching there. He’s remembered for a blistering speech he gave in 2001 regarding what patriotism meant in the wake of September 11.

sponsored by

Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

What so proudly we hail…

Nathan Hale. The man who is credited with saying, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” went to Yale and has a school and a park and a fort in New Haven named for him. He is the official state hero of Connecticut.

At the twilight’s last gleaming…

Our city had a nightclub in the 1980s called the Twilight Zone where the likes of Cheap Trick and Stevie Ray Vaughan once played. These days, there are other twilight concerts: the Twilight Concert Series sponsored by New Haven Museum happens outdoors at the Pardee-Morris House. (This year’s remaining shows are the Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet on July 24 and the SOUND Proof vocal ensemble on August 14). The Twilight Tuesdays series is held every (you guessed it) Tuesday at (you guessed it again) twilight (in this case, 6:30 p.m.) at Neighborhood Music School (100 Audubon Street, New Haven), where upcoming acts include Brother Sun on July 9, Cosmic Jibaros on July 16, Goodnight Blue Moon on July 23 and Ron Sunshine & Friends on July 30.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars…

Yale’s stripes aren’t broad; they’re blue pinstripes on seersucker jackets. The city does have a Broadway, though. And stars? More than there are in the heavens: Paul Giamatti, Lauren Ambrose, Liz Phair, baseball’s Craig Breslow, film director Martha Coolidge and George W. Bush were all born here.

Through the perilous fight…

Don Perry was a player and coach with the obstreperous local hockey team the New Haven Blades from 1954 to 1972. That’s when the team left town, and things have felt Perry-less ever since.

O’er the ramparts we watched…

William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006), the famous Yale preacher who calmed souls on New Haven Green during the demonstrations of the early 1970s, had a deep understanding of this city’s special character. Rev. Coffin once delivered a cool sermon on “The Flame of Creativity Vs. the Fires of Sin” in which he compared “the disciples at Pentacost with the tower builders at Babel. Instead of trying to storm the ramparts of heaven, the disciples allowed heaven to take them by storm. Their zeal was no less than that of the tower builders, only their creativity stemmed not from ambition based on insecurity but from gratitude for forgiveness and the love of God in whom they now lived and moved and had their being.”

Were so gallantly streaming…

Now streaming from Yale onto an iPad near you: everything from online courses to lectures to footage of a cappella groups. As for New Haven, the catchphrase in the more progressive trash pick-up circles for a few years now has been “Residential Single Stream Recycling,” whereby all your recyclables can go in the same big blue bin.

And the rockets’ red glare…

One of the pivotal members of the local music scene in the 1970s was Craig Bell, who came here after playing bass for the vastly influential Cleveland proto-punk band Rocket from the Tombs. One of the best local bands of the ’00s, Bloarzeyd, had a killer song called “Rocket Science.” These days, there’s a clever hip-hop act in town called Peanut Butter Rocket, doing savage hip-hop pop tunes and remixes.

The bombs bursting in air…

Many a theater-lover knows this phrase: “We bombed in New Haven.” It applies to pre-Broadway try-outs which failed to click at the Shubert. One of them is particularly fitting here: The Star-Spangled Girl by Neil Simon, who had over half a dozen shows try out at the Shubert.

Gave proof through the night…

Cole Porter (Yale class of ’13) built upon that sentiment: “All through the night/From a height far above/You and your love brings me ecstasy!” Both Cole Porter and the New Haven-rooted doo-wop group The Five Satins had hit songs called “In the Still of the Night.”

Today, nightlife in New Haven means dancing, dining, live theater, live music and more. It’s one of our defining characteristics as a city.

That our flag was still there…

The flagpole on New Haven Green has outlasted many other structures in that common space, including a statehouse and a munitions storehouse. It’s even been augmented, with memorials to fallen soldiers and a fountain.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

That one’s special, but all kinds of banners wave in New Haven. For an official “Application to Hang Street or Pole Banners in the City of New Haven,” check here.

O’er the land of the free…

The New Haven Free Public Library is truly a land of the free—a bastion of community, freedom of information and civic engagement, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

One of the city’s educational innovations of recent years is offering free college tuition to Connecticut state universities (and some private ones, such as Yale) to high school students who live in the city and have maintained a high grade point average.

You can also find free books at New Haven Reads, and share your knowledge at the New Haven Free Skool at the corner of College and Crown Streets.

And the home of the brave?

How brave are we? This city has braved national disaster, revolutionary wars, been on the forefront of civil rights movements for centuries. We have marched and rallied and spoken out and led and preached and taught others. We have created a city celebrated around the world for its culture, its creativity and intellectualism, its inventiveness and ingenuity.

And its penchant for celebration. Happy Fourth of July!

New Haven Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration
at the summit of East Rock Park in New Haven.
Thursday, July 4, at 9:15pm (rain date: Friday, July 5)
www.cityofnewhaven.com/… | (203) 946-8378

Written and photographed by Christopher Arnott.

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Christopher Arnott has written about arts and culture in Connecticut for over 25 years. His journalism has won local, regional and national awards, and he has been honored with an Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. He posts daily at his own sites www.scribblers.us and New Haven Theater Jerk (www.scribblers.us/nhtj).

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