America the Beautiful is an American patriotic song with words by Katharine Lee Bates and music by Samuel A. Ward. In the third verse, the author scolds the materialistic and self-serving robber barons of her day, and urges America to live up to its noble ideals.

At various times there have been efforts to give America the Beautiful legal status either as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, The Star-Spangled Banner, but so far this has not succeeded. Proponents prefer America the Beautiful for various reasons, saying it is easier to sing, more melodic, and more adaptable to new orchestrations while still remaining as easily recognizable as The Star-Spangled Banner. Some prefer America the Beautiful over The Star-Spangled Banner due to the latter’s war-oriented imagery. While that national dichotomy has stymied any effort at changing the tradition of the national anthem, America the Beautiful continues to be held in high esteem by a large number of Americans.

In 1893, Bates had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College, and several of the sights on her trip found their way into her poem. When she saw the majestic view of the Great Plains from atop Pikes Peak, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room. The poem was initially published two years later and it quickly caught the public’s fancy.

Several existing pieces of music were adapted to the poem. The tune composed in 1895 by Samuel A. Ward was generally considered the best, and is still the popular tune today. Ward had been similarly inspired. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City after a leisurely summer day, and he immediately wrote it down. Ward died in 1903, not knowing the national stature his music would attain. Miss Bates was more fortunate, as the song’s popularity was well-established by her death in 1929.

It is often included in hymn books in a wide variety of religious congregations in the United States.

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 ev’ry 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,
Til 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!

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