American Patriotic Songs (Part I)

American Patriotic Songs (Part I)

A few days ago we celebrated Independence Day on July 4th in the USA, which brought memories of our national history from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the present. We may easily divide our history into three parts based on the Wars that have defined and molded us: the Revolutionary War of George Washington’s times between America and Britain for Independence and Liberty; the Civil War of Abraham Lincoln’s day between the North and the South to preserve the Union and abolish Slavery; and World War Two which has created a new world order with America as the greatest super power among the nations.
While I contemplated what patriotic songs to share for this annual holiday I was sent by email one of those songs that I have encountered among the churches over the years. So beginning with ‘America the Beautiful’, then we have ‘My Country Tis of Thee’, then next ‘Star Spangled Banner’, and last ‘The Battle Hymn Of The Republic’. These four songs echoes our national experiences from Washington to Lincoln from Independence to Emancipation. Yet these songs do not reflect the complete story, nor portray the fuller picture, which we must share next week some songs which complete our national reflection and memorial. But for now here is our celebration and patriotic songs.

1. ‘America the Beautiful’ ‘Katharine Lee Bates, a 33-year-old English literature teacher at Wellesley College, was on “a merry expedition up Pike’s Peak” in Colorado in 1893 when she looked out “over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies.” In an instant, she said, “the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.” Those lines became “America the Beautiful” — a song that has featured in countless parades and band concerts.’
“The song has always stirred deep emotion. “I can’t read the lines without swallowing hard,” one early reader wrote Bates. Voices quavered as crowds solemnly sang the song outside the White House in 1941 after Pearl Harbor and, six decades later, at Ground Zero after 9/11.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II recited its fervent prayer — “America, America, God shed his grace on thee” — as he descended from his plane on his first trip to this country.
The many memorable recordings and renditions — from Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Mariah Carey and others — all share a moving simplicity, without the vocal acrobatics that too often accompany “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The music plays a large part in the song’s mystique. Samuel Howe, a church organist, composed it during an 1882 ferry ride from Coney Island to his home in Newark — for an entirely different hymn. It was attached to Bates’ words in 1904 after his death.”

2. ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ – National Hymn of the United States.
“My Country ‘Tis of Thee (also known as “America”) is a patriotic hymn written by Samuel F. Smith in 1832, while a student at Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. My Country ‘Tis of Thee was first performed on July 4, 1832 at the Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. Remarkably, about 500 Sunday school children premiered the piece at a memorable Independence Day celebration. Samuel F. Smith was a Baptist minister, author, and journalist. The melody had traveled around Europe in several variations, including “God Save the King.” Even Beethoven and Haydn had used the music in some of their own compositions.”…it “was the lyrical result of Samuel Smith’s drive to create a national hymn for the United States. In about 30 minutes on a rainy day, he wrote the now classic anthem. The first three verses encourage and invoke national pride, while the last verse was specifically reserved as a petition to God for His continued favor and protection of the United States of America.

3. ‘Star Spangled Banner’: “On September 14, 1814, while detained aboard a British ship during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry, Francis Scott Key witnessed at dawn the failure of the British attempt to take Baltimore. Based on this experience, he wrote a poem that poses the question “Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave?” Almost immediately Key’s poem was published and wedded to the tune of the “Anacreontic Song.” Long before the Civil War “The Star Spangled Banner” became the musical and lyrical embodiment of the American flag. During the latter war, songs such as “Farewell to the Star Spangled Banner” and “Adieu to the Star Spangled Banner Forever,” clearly referencing Key’s song, were published within the Confederacy.”
“On July 26, 1889, the Secretary of the Navy designated “The Star Spangled Banner” as the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag. And during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, it was chosen by the White House to be played wherever a national anthem was appropriate. Still the song was variously criticized as too violent in tone, too difficult to sing, and, by prohibitionists, as basically a drinking song. But on its side “The Star Spangled Banner” had a strong supporter in John Philip Sousa who, in 1931, opined that besides Key’s “soul-stirring” words, “it is the spirit of the music that inspires.” That same year, on March 3, President Herbert C. Hoover signed the Act establishing Key’s poem and Smith’s music as the official anthem of the United States.”

4. ‘The Battle Hymn Of The Republic’: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” went through a number of versions in the years immediately before the Civil War….The song first gained popularity around Charleston, South Carolina, where it was sung as a Methodist Camp Meeting song, particularly in churches belonging to free Blacks. By contrast, it was also used early on as a marching song on army posts. The song gathered new verses following the insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, led by John Brown and carried out by a cadre of nineteen men on October 16, 1859. Brown’s actions, trial and subsequent execution made him a martyr to Abolitionists and African-Americans… By the time of the Civil War “John Brown’s Body” had become a very popular marching song with Union Army regiments, particularly among the Colored troops. The Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment, in particular, has been credited with spreading the song’s fame on their march to the South, where Confederate soldiers then inverted the meaning of their words and sang, “John Brown’s a-hanging on a sour apple tree.” The war’s rivalry continued to be carried on in music as the northerners then sang in turn, “They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree.”…..But it was when Julia Ward Howe visited Washington, DC in 1861 that the tune properly came to be called “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Howe and her husband, both of whom were active abolitionists, experienced first-hand a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops in nearby Virginia, and heard the troops go into battle singing “John Brown’s Body.” That evening, November 18, 1861, Ward was inspired to write a poem that better fit the music. It began “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Her poem, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862 soon became the song known as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

 

1.“America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Music by Samuel Augustus Howe (1847-1903)

1
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!
2
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!
3
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!
4
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!

2. My Country ‘Tis of Thee
The following are Samuel Smith’s original lyrics for “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (‘America’):

1
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!
2
My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.
3
Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.
4
Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

 

3. ‘Star Spangled Banner’ by Francis Scott Key 1814

1
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
2
On the shore, dimly seen through 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 in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
3
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 washed 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!
4
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it 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!

 

4. “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” by Julia Ward Howe(1861).

1
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 has loosed the fateful lightening
Of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on
2
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 have read His righteous sentence
By the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on
3
I have read a fiery gospel
Writ in burnish’d rows of steel
As ye deal with My contemptors
So with you My grace shall deal
Let the hero, born of woman
Crush the serpent with his heel
Since my God is marching on
4
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

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
His truth is marching on
His truth is marching on

About mjmselim

Male, 64, born in Jamaica, USA since 1961; cobbler for 40 years, Christian since 1969; married to same wife since 1979; 6 daughters and 2 sons, with 7 grandkids. Slowly adapting to the digital world of computers and internet; hobby in digital editing.
This entry was posted in Christian Poetry, Psalms Hymns Spiritual Songs, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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