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native country

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

"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 or Queen, 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.

History

Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" in 1831, while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. 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.

Lyrics

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 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.
7
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!

Cultural references

The American composer Charles Ives wrote Variations on America for organ 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.

External links

Bibliography

  • 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.

References

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