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America the Beautiful

About America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful was inspired by the view from the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. This version features all four verses and choruses, which are not frequently heard or sung, but they are pretty magnificent (see lyrics below).

In the summer of 1893, poet Katharine Lee Bates was teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Later she remembered:

"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."

On the pinnacle of the mountain a poem started to come to her, and she wrote the words down upon returning to her hotel room. The poem was first published with the name Pikes Peak in the Independence Day edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. Over the years, several existing pieces of music were adapted to the poem. A hymn tune composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward in 1882 was first published with Bates’ poem in 1910 as America the Beautiful.

Lyrics to America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

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 they 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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