Monday, February 20, 2012


Music Muse
Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Performed by The Shannon Quartet
In the summer of 1893, when Katherine Lee Bates was lecturing at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, she joined a group that took a rough prairie wagon ride plus a struggle by mule, followed by an exhausting hike to the top of 14,000 foot-high Pike’s Peak. Overwhelmed by what she saw, Bates scribbled in her notebook these four verses:

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 impassion'd stress
A thorough-fare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd

In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov'd
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 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.
When published, the poem was an instant hit, first appearing in The Congregationalist  for Independence Day, 1895. It reached a wider audience when her revised version was printed in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 19, 1904. Her final expanded version was written in 1913, and copyright provided her continuing royalties for years.
Bates never married.
In 1910, when a colleague described "free-flying spinsters" as "fringe on the garment of life",  she answered: 
"I always thought the fringe had the best of it.
I don't think I mind not being woven in."
More about her here:
Harvard Library
Various Biographical References

1 comment:

MulticoloredPieces said...

Hi, Michele. Thanks for this post remembering Bates--I had no idea a woman wrote the words to "America the beautiful." Women get erased so easily. Great comment about the fringe! It's hard not to get woven in.
best, nadia