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Patriotic Songs


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 the 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!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

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
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Words by Katharine Lee Bates


Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

-- Francis Scott Key


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

-- Julia Ward Howe

The 10 Essential Songs About America

By Brian Mansfield
CDNOW Senior Editor

They are the songs that everyone knows: "The Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," "God Bless America." They have served the country in war and in peace. They are sung at sporting events, woven into the scores of movies, played at Fourth of July band concerts. They have stirred strong feelings, often creating controversy.

In many cases, children have hummed them for more than 100 years, so that these melodies literally drift across the history and the landscape of the United States of America. They're so familiar that, during times of peace, they may be taken for granted, trotted out on holidays and during elementary-school programs. When the nation is threatened, though, they become more than traditions that remind the country's citizens of their shared musical past with previous generations; they are unifying forces, binding people together in ways they couldn't have imagined previously. The songs live.

There's more to them than the first verses that have embedded themselves into the consciousness of a nation. The stories behind the songs, the lives of the writers, are every bit as varied and fascinating as stories of the nation itself. And, like living things, the songs continue to change and grow with each person who interprets or hears them.


1."The Star Spangled Banner"

Having already torched the White House and the Capitol, the British military set its sights on Baltimore's Ft. McHenry on Sept. 13, 1814. But a 25-hour land-and-sea assault failed to overwhelm American troops, marking a turning point in the War of 1812. The sight of the flag above the fort inspired lawyer Francis Scott Key's poetic muse. Seeing the flag was no problem: Ft. McHenry's commander had commissioned one so large its stars measured 2 feet from point to point. Set to the tune of the English tavern song "Anacreon in Heaven," Key's song became the United States' official anthem in 1931.

2. "America the Beautiful"

English professor Katharine Lee Bates wrote her poem about "spacious skies" and "purple mountain majesties" as a result of a venture to Pike's Peak during an 1893 summer lecture trip to Colorado. Bates first published her poem in 1895, though she revised it a few years later. It became the most popular patriotic poem of World War I and was set to several melodies, the most popular an 1882 tune called "Materna" by Samuel Ward.

3. "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)"

Boston native Samuel Francis Smith, a Baptist minister and a classmate of future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, penned this patriotic hymn in 1831 while a student at Andover Theological Seminary. Smith, who would later become a co-editor of the influential hymnal The Psalmist, used a popular European melody that had also been borrowed by composers Beethoven and Weber but is best-known as the English national anthem, "God Save the King (Queen)."

4. "God Bless America"

Irving Berlin, the Siberian-born composer of "White Christmas" and "Puttin' on the Ritz," yanked "God Bless America" from a World War I armed-forces charity show, saying it sounded "like gilding the lily." He revived the song 20 years later for a 1938 Armistice Day broadcast by Broadway and radio star Kate Smith, as the world teetered on the brink of a second global conflict. The song became an immediate smash, and Berlin set up a fund to donate its royalties to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

5."This Land Is Your Land"

Incensed by what he perceived as the opiatic nature of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," folk singer Woody Guthrie sat down in his New York hotel in February 1940 to write a populist response to the song – the final line of its verses initially went "God blessed America for me." By the time Guthrie recorded the song a few years later, the line had changed into "This land was made for you and me." It became Guthrie's best-known song, used in ad campaigns for Ford Motor Company and United Airlines and even mentioned briefly as a potential new national anthem.

6. "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

New Englander Julia Ward Howe, an advocate of abolitionist and women's suffrage causes, wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" after visiting Union Army camps in 1861 and published it in the February 1862 edition of the Atlantic Monthly. Though the North used it as a rallying song during the Civil War, its melody is credited to Southern composer William Steffe. It became an unofficial national anthem until Congress picked "The Star Spangled Banner." Several presidents preferred "The Battle Hymn," including Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote that it "ought to be a great national treasure."

7. "Dixie"

Just as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" had roots in the South, "Dixie" came from the North. It was written by minstrel performer and composer Dan Decatur Emmett in 1859, to be used as closing number for a New York show. It was introduced to the South a year later, during a female march-and-drill routine in New Orleans. In 1861, "Dixie" was played at Jefferson Davis' 1861 inauguration as president of the Confederate States of America. It's one of the few songs associated with the Confederacy that still enjoys widespread popularity.

8. "The Stars and Stripes Forever"

A Washington, D.C., native of Portuguese and Bavarian descent, John Philip Sousa became America's best-known composer of marches and "The Stars and Stripes Forever" was most famous composition. Sousa wrote the song –- which later became the national march of the United States -– on Christmas Day, 1896, following a transatlantic steamer voyage. The tune became so popular that Sousa later added words to it, and he conducted it at nearly every Sousa Band concert afterwards. Sousa died in 1932 following a rehearsal; "The Stars and Stripes Forever" was the last piece he ever conducted.

9. "Yankee Doodle"

"Yankee Doodle" -– "doodle" meaning "fool" -- predates the American Revolution. Its simple melody has roots deep in the Old Country, and its most familiar lyrics are said to have been written by an English Army physician watching American army maneuvers near Albany, N.Y., around the time of the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War, the British used one set of lyrics to mock the Yankees, but the Colonials used the tune -– with different words –- as an battle song, singing it after victories at Concord, N.H., and Yorktown, Va.

10. "Home on the Range"

Called by Roy Rogers the "Cowboy National Anthem," "Home on the Range" is usually credited to Kansans Dr. Brewster Higley and Dan Kelly. Though they're said to have written the song in 1873, it didn't become widely known until the 20th century. Its vision of unencumbered freedom and optimism made it popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s, particularly after Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared it his favorite song on the night he was first elected president. "Home on the Range" became the official state song of Kansas in 1947.