America The Beautiful

America The Beautiful

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 for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry 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 ev’ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabster 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.

Information About This Song

Written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) as a poem after a trip to Pike’s Peak. It underwent a number of revisions before it became the current form. The music is not Ms. Bates work, but is actually from another song named “Materna.” (Samuel A. Ward in 1882). There were numerous contests to create alternate music to the song, but the Materna version is the one that stuck.

Katharine Lee Bates (1859–1929) grew up in Falmouth, Massachusetts. She attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Later, Bates became a professor of English at Wellesley College and went on to become the head of its English department.

Bates made a trip to Colorado in 1893, when she was thirty-three years old. A college in Colorado Springs invited her to teach for three weeks that summer. She was happy to make the trip, both to see new sights and for the employment.

The train stopped at Niagara Falls and in Chicago, where she saw the “alabaster” buildings of the 1893 World’s Fair. It passed through Kansas on the Fourth of July where she saw “amber waves of grain.” On arriving in Colorado Springs, she saw many other things that impressed her, like spectacular rock formations and Pike’s Peak. From the top of Pike’s Peak, she could see many miles of plains on one side and many miles of the Rocky Mountains on the other side. After climbing down, Katharine Bates began writing a poem about all of the sights she had seen on her trip. That poem became “America, the Beautiful.”

Two years later, Katharine sent the poem to a magazine called The Congregationalist, and it appeared in the Fourth of July issue. The melody we know today comes from a hymn called “Materna,” written by Samuel Augustus Ward in 1882. The words and music were first published together in 1910. This was one of the melodies to which the poem had been sung for years.

Samuel Ward was born on December 28, 1848, in Newark, New Jersey. He started playing the accordion when he was six years old, and by the age of sixteen, he was an organist at a church in New York City. Later, he owned a music store, played the organ at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, and composed music.

Ward wrote the melody for “Materna” on his way home from a trip to Coney Island, an amusement park at a beach in Brooklyn, New York. The tune just popped into his head as he stood riding on the boat back to Newark. Unfortunately, he never got to hear his melody used for “America, the Beautiful.” The words and melody were first joined in November of 1904, and Samuel died on September 28, 1903.


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