America the Beautiful

by


Bates' inspiration for writing America the Beautiful came near Pikes Peak, Colorado, when she was teaching at Colorado College in 1893:
"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."
It was first published in The Congregationalist to commemorate the Fourth of July, 1895, and instantly became popular. Amended versions were published in 1904 and 1911. The song, recorded by Charlie Rich, hit number 22 on the Hot Country Songs of 1976. We offer the original poem below the more popular version.

An illustration for the story America the Beautiful by the author Katharine Lee Bates
"America the Beautiful" sheet music, 1917
An illustration for the story America the Beautiful by the author Katharine Lee Bates
"America the Beautiful" sheet music, 1917
An illustration for the story America the Beautiful by the author Katharine Lee Bates
Most people are familiar with the 1911 lyrics below, though they have been altered in recent years by performers to reflect these politically correct times (e.g., "sisterhood" added to "brotherhood"). We'll stick with the original!

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!

America the Beautiful: Pikes Peak

Original poem (1893)

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!

Featured in our collection of American Patriotic Songs. You may also enjoy You're A Grand Old Flag and other patriotic tunes by George M. Cohan


9.5

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