"My Country, 'Tis of Thee
", also known as "America
", is an American patriotic song
, whose lyrics were written by Samuel Francis Smith
. The melody was derived from the British national anthem
, God Save the King
, by way of a German adaptation. The song served as a de facto national anthem of the United States for much of the 19th century.
Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" in 1831, while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary
. His friend, Lowell Mason
had asked him to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks or to write new lyrics. A melody in Muzio Clementi
's Symphony No. 3 caught his attention. Rather than translating the lyrics from German, Smith wrote his own American patriotic hymn to the melody completing the lyrics in thirty minutes. He had never heard Clementi's symphony before and had no idea of its derivation or associations with the British national anthem, "God Save the King."
Smith gave Mason the lyrics he had written and the song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831, at a children's Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston. First publication of 'America" was in 1832.
- 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 father's 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.
5 (added to celebrate Washington's Centennial)
- Our joyful hearts today,
- Their grateful tribute pay,
- Happy and free,
- After our toils and fears,
- After our blood and tears,
- Strong with our hundred years,
- O God, to Thee.
Additional Verses by Henry Van Dyke (see CPDL version link below)6
- We love thine inland seas,
- Thy groves and giant trees,
- Thy rolling plains;
- Thy rivers' mighty sweep,
- Thy mystic canyons deep,
- Thy mountains wild and steep,--
- All thy domains.
- Thy silver Eastern strands,
- Thy Golden Gate that stands
- Fronting the West;
- Thy flowery Southland fair,
- Thy North's sweet, crystal air:
- O Land beyond compare,
- We love thee best!
The American composer Charles Ives
wrote Variations on America
when he was eighteen. It is a light-hearted set of variations on the main theme, including a polonaise
, a scherzo
and even a tarantella
. Orchestrated by William Schuman
, it remains a popular orchestral showpiece.
- Martin Luther King Jr. quoted this song during his "I Have A Dream" speech.
- Ani DiFranco referred to this song ironically in her song "Tis Of Thee", which includes the line, "My country 'tis of thee, to take shots at each other on prime time TV."
- George Orwell also wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four that Oceania's national anthem was titled "Oceania, 'Tis for Thee", a name which appears to be derived from "My Country, 'Tis of Thee".
- A song supporting women's suffrage, "The New America," is a spin-off of this song. It reflects a common suffrage argument--that giving women the vote simply fulfilled the promise of 1776.
- George and Ira Gershwin wrote the 1931 political satire musical Of Thee I Sing, but the "thee" in this case was not the USA but rather the President's romantic interest.
- In the South Park episode World Wide Recorder Concert, four million third-graders from around the country are organized by Kenny G and Yoko Ono to play the song on recorders. However, the song is ruined by the bizarre effect of the brown note.
- On The Simpsons, in the episode “Moaning Lisa”, Lisa begins to play bebop during a band practice of this song, and in “Bart Vs. Australia”, Homer proudly sings it to a toilet in Australia engineered to overcome the Coriolis Effect.
- Singer Neil Diamond quoted this song in his song “America”.
- The first verse of this song can be found on Michael Hedges' song Holiday.
- LeRoy Jones (Amiri Baraka) refers to this song in his play The Slave (p. 74)
- In The West Wing episode 5.14 (entitled An Khe) features a version of this song played by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
- A parody of the song is featured on the Ren & Stimpy episode The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen.
- The theme is whistled by the Sharks gang in the candy store (just after the War Council) in the musical West Side Story.
- In a performance at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 3, 2006, Peter, Paul and Mary sang the first three lines of this song as a final verse to "Don't Laugh at Me".
- W.E.B. Du Bois wrote a poem title "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in which he revises the poem to better suit his own opinion about the country.
- Music, David M., and Paul A. Richardson. I Will Sing the Wondrous Story: A History of Baptist Hymnody in North America. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008.