America the Beautiful Lyrics

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 of 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 their 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!

musical notes

The Story of “America the Beautiful” 

During an 1893 hiking trip in Colorado, Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write undoubtedly one of the most famous songs in US history. Bates was a professor, poet, and writer who traveled up Pike’s Peak (by covered wagon and mules) with fellow teachers from Colorado College. 

After the long trek, they reached the top and took in its the magnificent view. 

At the 14,000-foot mountain summit, Katharine stood in awe and later recalled that moment: “I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.”

Bates wrote a poem from that experience, which was first published on July 4, 1895, in The Congregationalist. The poem was set to music a few months later by Silas G. Pratt, and by 1900, more than 75 musical versions existed. 

It was Samuel Ward’s 1882 “Materna” hymn, however, that has stood the test of time and is the tune Americans recognize and sing today. The lyrics also have changed, though Bates has always been the author. She updated them in 1904 and again, for the final time, in 1911.

Original Poem

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 pilgrim feet
Whose stern, 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 or 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!

Watercolor picture of purple mountains and forest.

Click the button below to print a copy of the “America the Beautiful” song lyrics and also Bates’ original poem.

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