This song is the one of the better known alma maters in the United States. It is the only alma mater song included in Ronald Herder's "500 Best-Loved Song Lyrics." In a novel, Betty Smith called it "the saddest and oldest of all college songs." Edward Abbey, in One Life at a Time, Please, mentions a campfire sing in which he contributed "the only Ivy League song that occurred to me: 'Far Above Cayuga's Waters.'"
The tune has been adopted since by dozens of universities, colleges, and high schools (ex. Shelby High School) worldwide. For example, Professor George Penny of the University of Kansas wrote his school's alma mater by changing a few words from Cornell's song ("Far above the golden valley..."). Other colleges and universities that have borrowed the song include the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the College of William and Mary, the Colorado State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Missouri, the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama, Indiana University, Wofford College, Birmingham-Southern College, Emory University, Erskine College, Lehigh University, Lewis & Clark College, Moravian College, Xavier University, Acadia University, Vanderbilt University, the American University of Beirut, and even the fictional Plainfield Teacher's College.
The song traditionally concludes campus performances by the Cornell University Chorus and Cornell University Glee Club. It is also heard between the second and third periods of men's ice hockey games, halftime or the end of the third quarter of football games, and half time of other Cornell athletic contests attended by the Cornell Big Red Marching Band or the Cornell Big Red Pep Band. The evening bell concert in McGraw tower also concludes each day with a rendition of the tune.
Students of Ithaca College on the other side of Cayuga Lake, like to point out that the song's lyrics are not as magnificent or accurate as one might think -- Cornell's campus is actually at a much lower elevation (in feet above sea level) than the campus of Ithaca College. The school bookstore has, at times in the past, sold t-shirts to this effect, with the motto: "Farther Above Cayuga's Waters."
The first two verses and the chorus are the best known and are usually the only verses sung. These verses and the rest of the song are as follows:
As expected in a song that has become part of popular culture, it is the subject of parodies. Allan Sherman's "No One's Perfect," about choral clinkers, put these words to the tune:
"Far above the other singers
In the treble clef
A soprano sings in E Flat
But... the key is F."
Fans of other Ivy League institutions have been known to sing doctored versions of the lyrics when playing Cornell in athletic contests. The most popular version goes as such:
A variant of the above is: