Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day 2014

America the Beautiful

Blue Mountain from the upland meadow in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park
A Turkey Vulture over the upland meadow
A view from the upland meadow
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 of 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! 

Yes, faithful readers, it's that fateful day again. For those of you fairly new to this blog, I have a particularly loud bee in my bonnet, and I let it out for a spin every U.S. Independence Day (aka Fourth of July). That bee is - we need a new national anthem.

I don't like "The Star Spangled Banner". It's a chest-thumping, militaristic poem about a particular battle early in our history, set to a British drinking tune, which explains why it's so hard to sing - you have to be drunk to sing it, and that rise up to the high note (... o'er the laaaaand of the freeeeee...) was where they raised their flagons high in the pub and spilled beer all over themselves. It doesn't say anything about the country, the people, and what the country is all about. All it's about is barely winning one battle. And as the character Belize says in Tony Kushner's Angels in America: "The white cracker who wrote the National Anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word free to a note so high nobody could reach it." (Yes, Francis Scott Key, the "poet" who composed the lyrics, was pro South, pro slavery, from a slave-holding family from Carroll County, MD.)

My suggestion for a new national anthem is "America the Beautiful". The words were written by Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, in 1893 after a trip from Boston to Colorado Springs. The music was composed by Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster. Unlike "The Star Spangled Banner", "America the Beautiful" is meant to be sung in a reverent and respectful manner and actually praises America for its beauty and principles. Let's face it, it's just a much more pleasant song, both lyrically and musically, than the current national anthem.


And of course it wouldn't be my annual Fourth of July post without Ray Charles singing this song. Happy Fourth everybody!


© 2014 by A. Roy Hilbinger

4 comments:

  1. It's a beautiful song, but I'm not really comfortable with the God aspect in it.

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  2. The USA could always adopt "My Country 'Tis of Thee". It would be very confusing at international sporting events! I always thought that tune was an odd choice for the British national anthem (I much prefer Jerusalem). The words of the British anthem are pretty belligerent, too (but the worst verses are often omitted).

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