Saturday, July 18, 2015
I just got back from a conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the magnificent bulk of Pikes Peak looking down on us the whole time.
One afternoon I took the opportunity to go by car to the summit. This being my second visit I immediately headed over to the large bronze plaque mounted on a boulder by the parking lot at the visitors’ center at the top of Pikes Peak. The plaque tells the reader that it was after standing on this peak that a teacher at Colorado College named Catherine Lee Bates went home and penned the powerful and beloved poem “America the Beautiful.” It would be set to music by someone else at a later date.
I stood there in the bright sunshine and read the first two verses cast in bronze, imagining Ms Bates standing beside me as we looked eastward over the plains that are checkerboard of farm fields as far as the eye can see, while to the left and right are more mountain peaks.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
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!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
It’s easy to see why in each of the eight verses the poet keeps bringing up God, who blessed America with all of this beauty and who despite our many flaws blesses us with the beauty of liberty and a spirit of idealism.
Mountains have always inspired humans with a sense of the religious, and this peak has been doing so since the first native Americans gazed up at it in awe hundreds of years ago. I found a rock to sit on and prayed easily despite the tourists passing by and cars pulling in and out of the lot. I found myself using the words of the poem to ask the Lord to shed his grace on us crown our country’s good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. Click here for a three-minute YouTube rendition of the song.