America the Beautiful IS America the Great

America the Beautiful, the lyrics we have all grown to cherish, were not written as a song, but as a poem. In 1893 Katharine Lee Bates, a young English Literature teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, came to the words on Pike’s Peak in Colorado. As she wrote:

“One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top, we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.”

The words, she said, just “floated into my mind.”

The year, 1893, was troubled year, known as the “Panic of 1893,” when a run on the Treasury’s gold, creating a credit crunch that sent America into a financial depression. The depression lasted until 1897.

Ms. Bates had been able to arrange her once-in-a lifetime trip to Colorado to teach a summer course at Colorado College, traveling from Massachusetts to Chicago and its World’s Fair [celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of America], where “cities gleam,” through the Midwest with wheat fields and their “amber waves of grain,” to Pike’s Peak and its “purple mountain majesties.” On that defining trip, she traversed across almost our entire nation, “from sea to shining sea.”

Ms. Bates first published the poem in 1895, as “America: a poem for July 4.” It was an instant success.

In 1904 music written in 1882 by church organist Samuel Augustus Howe, who died in 1903, posthumously became the sacred music for the poem. The result became a national hymn.

Ms. Bates wrote that the “hold it has on our people is clearly due to the fact that Americans are idealists at heart.” [Emphasis added.]

Lynn Sherr wrote in 2001 in “America the Beautiful: The Stirring Story Behind Our Nation’s Favorite Song:”

“Music is the universal language of emotion. Men will sing what they would be shamed faced to say…. It is not food for the soul, but wine… the most portable of all religious things. No external equipment is required. Singing it becomes an almost sacramental experience – a moment of transcendence and timelessness, a source of comfort and strength…. If George M. Cohen’s ‘Over There’ was the jaunty theme that took [America] to war [WWI], ‘America the Beautiful’ was what they were fighting for. It was the song that brought them home.”

For more than 125 years, America the Beautiful has stirred our deepest emotions and sense of patriotism, pulling us together in trying times as one people. America the Beautiful was sung on the White House grounds after Pearl Harbor. America the Beautiful was sung in New York at Ground Zero after 9/11.

And today, as our government reopens following a misguided and damaging shut-down, each of us need to sing it again. Loud and Clear. And whereever possible, Together! It’s time to pull together as one people.

America the Beautiful is more than spiritual tribute to our Nation’s wonders and our heroic, pioneering beginnings. The song is a prayer for the future.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Mark Krikorian, who heads the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote in 2014: “’America the Beautiful’ is most decidedly not just about our country’s physical beauty. It’s not a hymn about the landscape but a humble prayer to the Creator…. It’ a plea, an entreaty, not a boast. In fact, it’s deeply conservative, asking the Almighty’s assistance in mending our flaws, in helping us avoid libertinism, in avoiding boastfulness. All in all, a fitting song for a republic.”

After the events that ended 2018 and ushered in our New Year, there is no need for me to provide comments about what’s going on, as thousands, if not millions, of words have already flashed across the Internet and the pages of our newspapers and journals. Most of us are overwhelmed with words if not embarrassment.

Watch the short video that introduces this blog. Listen to its music. Savor its pictures.

Then read the lyrics above.

Think about the lyrics.

Live the lyrics.

Make America Great by Making America Beautiful, not just in its amber fields of grain, its specious mountain majesties and its fruited plains. But in its spirit. In our spirit. In our heart. Be a Real American. Dwell within the spirit of America the Beautiful.

________________________
The Week Magazine published a poll December 7, 2018: “Offered a list of traits defining what it means to be a “real American,” 90% of respondents picked “treating people equally,” 88% chose “taking responsibility for one’s actions,” 81% picked “accepting those of different racial backgrounds,” and 80% said “supporting the U.S. Constitution.” Having been born in America, at 49%, and having lived most of one’s life here, at 45%, came in lowest.’’

11 Comments
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Jean
1 year ago

What a delicious blog!

Thanks for sharing, Dick!

Hugh
1 year ago

A splendid “reminder”, Dick. Thanks!

Lois Patton
1 year ago

A great posting, Dick. I don’t think I’ve ever heard all the words to America the Beautiful. As always, thought provoking and inspiring. We are grateful you continue to raise our awareness.

Jan & Bill
1 year ago

Thank you, thank you!!! Love to you both, J and B

Lori
1 year ago

The blog and video were perfect!

Bill
1 year ago

Dick: You nailed it! Thank you. Keep the faith!

Bill

Peter
1 year ago

Beautiful rendition; unfortunately it does not apply to what we have wrought.

Missing: ‘Borders Language Culture’…

In essence, ’Squandered’…

Peter

Hannah
1 year ago

Thank you !
It is a beautiful poem and statements Interesting about dining when people can’t say the words themselves.
We hope you and your family are fine.
Be well, Hannah and Arthur

Susan
1 year ago

Thank you, Dick. This is uplifting and just what we all need!

Happy New Year!

Susie

Evelyn
1 year ago

THANK YOU DICK for sharing this—it’s very inspiring. Most gratefully..evelyn kuttler hines—you continue to be in my prayers

Greg
1 year ago

Gentle

I posted on Facebook