America the Beautiful

America The Beautiful

Written by poet and Wellesley professor Katharine Lee Bates in 1893 during a celebratory trip to Pike’s Peak, “America The Beautiful” evolved into one of the nation’s best-loved and most recognizable patriotic songs. Bates wrote in a 1925 essay that her inspiration for the poem came from the breathtaking views, the “sea-like expanse of fertile country…under those ample skies” that she saw as she and other professors from Colorado Springs made their ascent to Pike’s Peak by prairie wagon.
Bates did not publish ‘America The Beautiful’ until two years after she wrote it. It was printed first in a weekly newspaper “The Congregationalist” in their July 4th, 1895 issue. The lines of the poem were shortly after turned into lyrics of a song to the tune of composer S.A. Ward’s “Materna.” The song became enormously popular immediately. Bates was surprised by the poem’s success and, after revising some lyrics in 1904, she gave her permission and all the rights of the lyrics to the nation to be sung at churches, parades, and other patriotic events, in addition to being published in countless other magazines, newspapers, hymnals, etc. She later recalled that while she was stunned at how the poem had taken the nation by storm, at the same time it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise because the poem’s enduring “hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.”


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 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!


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