Great God Our King

America has  always been my  favorite patriotic song.  Written by a Baptist minister, Samuel Francis, and set to the tune, ironically, of God Save the Queen, the song was first performed on July 4, 1831 at Park Street Church in Boston.  Near the end of his life, Francis was proposed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, for an honorary degree from Harvard.  Harvard turned this proposal down on the grounds that Smith had not written the tune.  The reply of Holmes was memorable and prophetic:  His song will be sung centuries from now, when most of us and our pipings are forgotten.

 

The rendition above is by Marian Anderson, perhaps the most gifted songstress of her generation.  A devout Christian, this granddaughter of slaves was denied the opportunity by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939.  In 1939 the District of Columbia was controlled by committees of Congress.  Democrat segregationists rigidly enforced rules of segregation in the District.  Blacks were rightly upset that during a performance by Miss Anderson, if it had been held at Constitution Hall, they would have been required to sit in the back of the hall.  The District of Columbia Board of Education, controlled by Democrats, declined to allow Marian Anderson to perform in the auditorium of a white school.  To her credit, Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband arranged for Anderson to give her unforgettable performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday.

 

During the war years, Miss Anderson spent a large part of her time entertaining troops.  In 1943, at the invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she sang before an integrated audience for a Red Cross benefit.  The always gracious Miss Anderson remembered the event:  When I finally walked onto the stage of Constitution Hall, I felt no different than I had in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt that it was a beautiful concert hall and I was very happy to sing there.”

 

 

Patriotic songs contain our aspirations and hopes for our nation, and America gives us a look, in Lincoln’s ringing phrase, into the better angels of our beliefs as Americans.

 

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From ev’ry mountainside

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 thrills,

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 fathers’ 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.

 

Something for the weekend.  America has  always been my  favorite patriotic song.  Written by a Baptist minister, Samuel Francis, and set to the tune, ironically, of God Save the Queen, the song was first performed on July 4, 1831 at Park Street Church in Boston.  Near the end of his life, Francis was proposed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, for an honorary degree from Harvard.  Harvard turned this proposal down on the grounds that Smith had not written the tune.  The reply of Holmes was memorable and prophetic:  His song will be sung centuries from now, when most of us and our pipings are forgotten.

 

The rendition above is by Marian Anderson, perhaps the most gifted songstress of her generation.  A devout Christian, this granddaughter of slaves was denied the opportunity by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939.  In 1939 the District of Columbia was controlled by committees of Congress.  Democrat segregationists rigidly enforced rules of segregation in the District.  Blacks were rightly upset that during a performance by Miss Anderson, if it had been held at Constitution Hall, they would have been required to sit in the back of the hall.  The District of Columbia Board of Education, controlled by Democrats, declined to allow Marian Anderson to perform in the auditorium of a white school.  To her credit, Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband arranged for Anderson to give her unforgettable performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday.

During the war years, Miss Anderson spent a large part of her time entertaining troops.  In 1943, at the invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she sang before an integrated audience for a Red Cross benefit.  The always gracious Miss Anderson remembered the event:  When I finally walked onto the stage of Constitution Hall, I felt no different than I had in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt that it was a beautiful concert hall and I was very happy to sing there.”

Patriotic songs contain our aspirations and hopes for our nation, and America gives us a look, in Lincoln’s ringing phrase, into the better angels of our beliefs as Americans.

 

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From ev’ry mountainside

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 thrills,

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 fathers’ 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.

 

Published in: on July 16, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. Not so ironically. The concept of a national anthem was new, and many people simply imitated what was available. To my knowledge, the God Save The King tune was adopted by both Prussia and Russia; Prussia later adopted the German anthem whose tune was actually written by Haydn for Austria, and Russia, in 1847, the majestic song “God protect the Tzar” (hence Tchaikovsky was wrong when he used it for the Russian victory of 1812 – twice wrong, in fact, since he also used the Marseillaise instead of the Napoleonic Chant du Depart).

    • Fascinating Fabio. There is a good book waiting to be written about national anthems.


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