What I See in Patriotic Songs

SSBI love music, especially patriotic music. It fills my heart with joy and gratitude for the blessings I enjoy and the country in which I have been blessed to live. It also opens a window to the soul of the people who penned the words. (Warning: I have removed some of the words here and there to keep this post under control.)

America, the Beautiful

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

When I study history, I see that our great patriots and founders had a firm belief in God, and in His guiding hand and protection. Whether coincidence or not, our country grew to greatness under those beliefs. No, I am NOT claiming that we have a perfect and spotless history. There are a lot of sins and mistakes in our past, just as in every country’s past. We have always been led by imperfect people — that seems to be all that are available. In the end, I believe that our founders and patriots did their best to fulfill their duty to God and to country, and that created a culture of greatness.

And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Perhaps it’s just a sentimental glossing of history in my mind, but it seems that we are losing the feeling that “we are all in this together” in the United States. Maybe it’s time to open our front doors, step outside, and really get to know the people living around us again.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!

What a short, but incredibly moving tribute to the “rank and file” Americans who wore out their lives building their country!

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Again, I see a reliance on God to help us improve in our weaknesses. I also see the great principles of self-control, and finding freedom in laws. While I could write a huge paper on these two topics, I’ll keep it short. One of the things that I find myself saying a lot as a teacher is the reminder to children that I don’t have to take care of their behavior if they do first. It’s the same with adults. Gun control laws, as an example, would not be considered necessary if we lived in a culture of self-control. Law provides structure. It sets boundaries so that, as I live my life, I’m not unabashedly intruding into yours. Again, when I choose to abide by law, I have the liberty to come and go as I please, and to pretty much do whatever I want to do.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!

Amen. As we approach Independence Day, may we each pause for at least a moment of gratitude for all of those who have sacrificed their lives to give us ours.


America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)

My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim’s pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

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 fills
Like that above.

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.

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!

I’m not sure I could write anything that would add to what is written here. I hope you take a moment to reread the words, SLOWLY.


 The Star Spangled Banner (National Anthem of the United States of America)

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?

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!

We teach the first first of the Star Spangled Banner to our fourth grade students every year. I love the story of Francis Scott Key being detained on the enemy ship after working out the release of Dr. Beans, and waiting all through the night to see if Fort McHenry still stood under American control, or if it had fallen into enemy hands. As I sing these verses, I can imagine what I would have felt had I been in his place. I imagine the relief every time an explosion revealed that the United States’ flag was still flying over the fort.

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!

I don’t know that I have ever seen a call to duty to God and country put so beautifully. May we all “praise the Power that [has] made and preserved us a nation.”