AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL                                                          written in 1893

The Story

Along with several other professors from Eastern Colleges, Katherine Bates (1859-1929) was teaching at a new summer school in Colorado Springs, CO when the group took a day-trip to hike Pike’s Peak. Since it was 1893, without the roads and trails we have today, it was quite a climb.

When Katherine got to the top, she later recalled, she “gazed in wordless rapture over the far expanse of mountain ranges and sea-like sweep of plains.” She was in awe. That evening, in Colorado Springs, she wrote this anthem.

On her way to Colorado, Katherine and the others had stopped to see the Chicago World’s Fair, and, she said, Chicago was “in no small degree responsible for at least the last stanza”.

Later she wrote, “If only we could couple the daring Pilgrims with the moral teachings of Moses, we would have something in this country that no one could ever take from us.”

The Song

            Read this song, and – today – re-examine the beauty of America.

This version is the original, though you probably know it by the 1904 or 1911 version…

O beautiful for halcyon skies, for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties above the enameled plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
till souls wax fair as earth and air and music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern, impassioned stress
a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee
till paths be wrought through wilds of thought by pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale of liberating strife,
when once or twice, for man’s avail, men lavished precious life!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee
till selfish gain no longer stain, the banner of the free!

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
till nobler men keep once again Thy whiter jubilee!


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