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House Hears a Song

A House of Delegates committee heard a bill yesterday to change the words of the Maryland state song from a poem written in 1861 that urges that the state secede from the union to a less fiery 1894 poem.

Fourth graders from Glen Burnie Park Elementary School in Anne Arundel told lawmakers they thought the Randall T. Ryder poem that was adopted in 1939 as the state song and sung to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree" was old fashioned, negative and too long. The poem calls to President Abraham Lincoln a despot and refers to the north as "scum."

You can listen to the fourth graders singing an alternative proposed by Del. Pamela G. Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) here.

Beidle has said she does not believe Maryland's wartime strife should be celebrated through the official state song. A companion bill has been sponsored in the state senate by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Montgomery).

Opponents of the measure included a Civil War reenactor, a descendant of a man killed by union soldiers in a Baltimore riot that prompted the writing of the song and a member of the Son of Confederate Veterans, who compared any attempt to rewrite the words of the state song to the Taliban's 2001 destruction of historic statues of Buddha in Afghanistan.

"It would be the moral equivalent in its artistic and cultural damage," said Jay Berringer II.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 11, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
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