Revised state song moves forward in Annapolis

The Senate is considering a total overhaul of Maryland's state song.

A compromise on a new Maryland state song is moving forward in the General Assembly.

The state Senate will begin considering a bill Tuesday that would relegate the current pro-Confederacy lyrics to "Maryland, My Maryland" by James Ryder Randall to the status of "historic state song."

Meanwhile, the bill establishes a new "official state song," combining one of Randall's verses with part of a poem written by Frederick County educator John T. White in 1894. The words would be set to the same tune, which most people know as "O Christmas Tree."

The compromise was approved Friday by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

"I think these two verses together are a good compromise," said Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat who is sponsoring the bill. His wife, Del. Karen Young, is sponsoring a similar bill in the House of Delegates.

The Senate committee also killed a bill that would have set up a competition for a new state song.

Various lawmakers have attempted to change the state song since at least the 1980s. They've expressed concern that "Maryland, My Maryland" is a pro-Confederate rant that is embarrassing and offensive.

Randall wrote his poem in 1861 when he was distraught by a friend who was shot during a melee when Union troops marched through Baltimore en route to Washington.

The poem's opening line is "The despot's heel is on thy shore," a reference to President Abraham Lincoln. It continues with a rousing call to action to "avenge the patriotic gore / that flecked the streets of Baltimore."

The proposed song salvages part of Randall's lyrics for the first verse, with part of White's more genteel poem as the second verse:

I.

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,

Maryland!

Thy beaming sword shall never rust,

Maryland!

Remember Carroll's sacred trust,

Remember Howard's warlike thrust --

And all thy slumberers with the just,

Maryland! My Maryland!

II.

Sail on, sail on, O ship of state!

Maryland, my Maryland.

May we, thy children, make three great.

Maryland, my Maryland.

May gratitude our hearts possess

And boldly we thy claims express,

And bow in loving thankfulness,

Maryland, my Maryland!

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