Saturday, July 5, 2008

Then Sings My Soul Saturday - Patriotic

My heart is always stirred by the music associated with 4th of July celebrations. One of my favorites has always been America the Beautiful. It is such a wonderful expression of the beauty of our country and the sacrifices made by our founding fathers and those who have battled for its freedoms.

But this national hymn does more than inspire us to praise our great nation. It also encourages us to pray for it. Each stanza is completed with an earnest plea for God's grace, God's healing, and His refining until we as a people achieve true brotherhood, law-abiding control, and nobility.

The author felt deeply about the message of her patriotic hymn:

We must match the greatness of our country with the goodness of personal godly living. If only we could couple the daring of the Pilgrims with the moral teachings of Moses, we would have something in this country that no one could ever take away from us.
Katherine Lee Bates, who was a teacher and head of the English department at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, wrote the original lines of this text in 1893, while teaching summer school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains and Pike's Peak had especially impressed her.

Source:Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth Osbeck, 2002
Although it quickly became popular with all who heard it, it would be several years before the poem found its musical match:
The Congregationalist opted to publish her "America, the Beautiful," in its July 4, 1895 edition. Most magazines at that time published poetry, but few of those poems have made any lasting impact. This poem generated hundreds of letters of response from readers. One man sent the Congregationalist a melody he had written to go with the poem.

Other magazines and newspapers from all over the United States reprinted the poem, inspiring more musicians to write melodies. By 1900 there were at least 75 different tunes for the poem, but none had any staying power. It seemed the poem was more powerful read than sung.

However, in 1904 a Baptist preacher, Clarence A. Barbour determined that words so spiritual and inspired needed a tune that was also inspired, not simply written. He turned to his library of Christian songbooks to find a melody that would fit. He found Samuel Ward’s hymn tune MATERNA and realized he had found it. It was as though they had been written at the same time and inspired by the same vision.

Miss Bates lived long enough to see her poem become the best-loved patriotic hymn. Few people know, however, that she did not make a single claim for song royalties, nor did Samuel Ward’s family, for the use of his tune. They each felt the song was inspired by God and therefore a gift from God to America.

Yesterday I posted the Gaither Vocal Band singing this song. I also love Larnelle Harris' version here. I love his comments before he sings.


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, T
hy 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.

Words: Katherine Lee Bates, 1913 (final revision)
Music: Samuel Ward, 1882
Be sure to visit Amy's blog for more wonderful songs!


View blog reactions


SharonB said...

Linda once again you honor us, not only with a great hymn, but the history behind it! Thank you so much!!

Peggy said...

Thank you Linda...Larnelle Harris' comments on the beauty of our country and how small and insignificant we are...and how thankful to believe in a GOD that loves us so much! Again, I so appreciate your background othis great song...and oh, how I love to hear it sung like Larnelle sings!
May God shed His Grace bountifully upon you and yours! Be blessed as you have blessed & touched me today! oohhh Thank you for including the words though WE ALL should know theses words, I have heard many do NOT...simply aMazing!

Cheryl said...


Great choice! Love this song! We should be proud of our America and even more grateful we can worship our God at any time.


Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...

I am really enjoying this patriot edition of TSMS. I love all of these songs, and it stirs a pride in my soul for our country.

Lauren said...

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

I love this song too. And Larnelle my father in law used to say, "If that don't get your fire going, you're wood's wet!"

Marina said...

thanks for the history on the song,
and I love all these songs too.
God Bless America,marina

Laurie Ann said...

Great choice, and thanks for this history lesson. Very interesting! Happy TSMSS!

Jai said...

Excellent choice! Love Larnelle!!!!! The history is what is so important too.

Thank God for freedom in Him and in our country!

Lysa TerKeurst said...

That was just simply the perfect 4th of July post. Thanks for all the time it took to post this.

Loved the Larnelle video.


Natalie said...

Thanks for the reminder to sign Mr. Linky! I get going sometimes and get side-tracked.

Becoming Me said...

Love that you did so much homework. And I love this version

Lisa Ann said...

I love this song to. Great post!

Cristine said...

Loved this version. Loved the history. Great post. Thanks!