Tuesday, July 04, 2006

OH BEAUTIFUL

Most Americans can remember the first stanza or so of America's other national anthem, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL. The spacious skies, the amber waves of grain, the fruited plain, and so on from sea to shining sea. Unlike the STAR-SPANGLED BANNER, its tune is easy enough that most people can actually sing it and hit all the notes. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL was written by a woman named Katherine Lee Bates, inspired by the view from the top of Pike's Peak, a 14,000 odd ft. peak that overshadows Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was the daughter of a Congregationalist Minister; she herself was deeply religious but as an adult could find no home for her faith in any church. She was a prolific poet, and a professor of English at Wellesley, but other than this unofficial national anthem, her work and her name are forgotten.

Katharine Lee Bates lived for twenty-five years with Katharine Coman in a committed partnership that has sometimes been described as a "romantic friendship." Bates wrote, after Coman died, "So much of me died with Katharine Coman that I'm sometimes not quite sure whether I'm alive or not."

Many Americans who mouth the remembered words of her love song to her country would condemn this woman today, three ways from Sunday, as my Grandmother would put it. Today, many good Christians in these United States would deny her faith as false, see her hope as evil, judge her love as sinful.

But there are other words in Katherine Bates' song that are not sung or remembered by Americans on days like today, the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (which also has a lot of words to it that most American citizens don't bother to read or remember).

Words like:

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

or:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

or:

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

or:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

or:

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

3 Comments:

Blogger Lyssa Strada said...

Outstanding, Dr. O! Thank you for this!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Thursday Next said...

Ditto!

10:35 AM  
Blogger Dr. Omed said...

You're welcome!

9:22 AM  

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