It's a prayer ....
April 28, 2006 7:52 PM   Subscribe

The verses no one dares to sing these days... Till selfish gain No longer stain The banner of the free!
posted by hank (39 comments total)

 
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul
In self-control,
Thy liberty in law!


Words by Katharine Lee Bates,1893
posted by hank at 7:54 PM on April 28, 2006


Well, it was written by a lesbian, so I don't think we need to pay any attention to it.

Actually, we do dare sing all of the verses at my church, so I'm not sure what your point is.
posted by Biblio at 7:58 PM on April 28, 2006


Really, what's the point of this?
posted by odinsdream at 8:01 PM on April 28, 2006


Get
Your
Own
Blog
From Sea to Shining Sea!
posted by yhbc at 8:04 PM on April 28, 2006


Pilgrim feet?

That's fucking wrong, man.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2006


Which church? That's good to know. Yes, we might pray the words a bit differently now than when they were written, but do we ask for anything more worthy? I wondered.

I looked the lyric up after hearing Neil Young's latest album, which only uses the familiar first verse.
posted by hank at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2006


The Episcopal Church. We sing it a few times a year.

(and hey, I'm a proud descendent of those pilgrim feet. Well, not the feet, exactly.)
posted by Biblio at 8:20 PM on April 28, 2006


The lyrics from "This Land is Your Land" you don't hear much:

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus

posted by marxchivist at 8:32 PM on April 28, 2006


Note too the final verse:

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men
Keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Ruh-roh.
posted by rob511 at 8:37 PM on April 28, 2006


Everybody also forgets about the "lost verse."

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
No Robots will
Destroy us til
At least next century.
posted by Falconetti at 8:41 PM on April 28, 2006


Actually, I'm pretty sure the lost verse is something about Portabello mushrooms. Or pancakes.
posted by Biblio at 8:48 PM on April 28, 2006


Okay, maybe this is the place I can find someone to explain to me the third verse of the Star Spangled Banner.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:10 PM on April 28, 2006


I'll try, d_w_s:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?


"Where are those guys who said they were going to make war on us and destroy our country?"

Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.

"We kicked their asses."

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,


"There was no place for them to hide, so they fled and we killed them."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


"U.S.A! U.S.A!"
posted by bac at 9:31 PM on April 28, 2006


Thy whiter jubilee!

This is in the same verse as Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears. So, it's more likely to be about the World's Columbian Exposition than some Klan-driven purity. The exposition was called "The White City."

And "jubilee" could be a Biblical reference, being that the Exposition was celebrating a 400 year anniversary and the century was just eight years from being over.

And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. - Leviticus 25.8-10

Something in that last sentence seem... familiar?
posted by dw at 9:35 PM on April 28, 2006


Last verse explicated here:
http://www.salam-shalom.net/salam-shalom/990602.htm

"whiter jubilee is a reference to the book of Revelation .... The revelation describes those ... who are moral and just as deserving of wearing white, and then goes on to describe the throne room of heaven as populated by elders wearing white. So Bates was asking that God protect America, from this jubilee (World's Fair) on earth, until men are noble enough to celebrate God's yet whiter Jubilee ...."
posted by hank at 9:38 PM on April 28, 2006


Compare that with verses from the popular 19th century missionary hymn, "From Greenland's Icy Mountains":

What though the spicy breezes blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.

Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high,
Shall we to those benighted the lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim,
Till earth’s remotest nation has learned Messiah’s Name.


(un?)Surprisingly, it's still popular among the more fundamentalist crowds.
posted by dw at 9:51 PM on April 28, 2006


"Huzza! She spurns the northern scum!"
posted by bugmuncher at 10:20 PM on April 28, 2006


LESBIAN PANCAKE SCIENCE
posted by loquacious at 10:49 PM on April 28, 2006


I always thought that the Star Spangled Banner was a shitty anthem.

Give me "America the Beautiful" for our anthem
and the turkey for our national bird. Seriously.
posted by xthlc at 11:31 PM on April 28, 2006


Also:

the point is that, beneath all the xenophobia and pigheaded know-nothing ignorance. I think most Americans find something quite beautiful and inspiring about the promise of our country. All too often, a promise broken, but still a dream of the worth of the individual and the glory of the free human being.

All the more reason to despise those who have shat all over it, and to fight for the restoration of that simple promise that is the birthright of all human beings.

oh shit, I'm an American patriot.
posted by xthlc at 11:45 PM on April 28, 2006


PLEASE VOLUNTARILY REPORT TO GUANTANAMO FOR REPROGRAMMING, INFRARED CITIZEN XTHLC.
posted by loquacious at 1:17 AM on April 29, 2006


Oh beautiful for smoggy skies ..Damn I used to know all the lyrics.
posted by Gungho at 5:57 AM on April 29, 2006


"music-hearted sea" Guh?
posted by trip and a half at 6:01 AM on April 29, 2006


Give me "America the Beautiful" for our anthem
and the turkey for our national bird. Seriously.


I'm with you on the turkey, but I've always liked Laurie Anderson's take on the Star Spangled Banner:
"You know, I'd have to say my all-time favorite song is probably the US national anthem. It is hard to sing though, with all those arpeggios. I mean you're out at the ballpark and the fans are singing away and it's sort of pathetic watching them try to hang on to that melody."

She seems to stop and think. "The words are great, though - just a lot of questions written during a fire. Things like:

'Q: Hey? Do you see anything over there?

A: I dunno...there's a lot of smoke.
Q: Say! Isn't that a flag?

A: Hmmmm...couldn't say really, it's pretty early in the morning.

Q: Hey! Do you smell something burning?'

"I mean, that's the whole song!

"It's a big improvement over most national anthems though, which are in 4/4 time: 'We're number one! This is the best place!'"
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:19 AM on April 29, 2006


Christ, the excessive patriotism of a self-mythologising people is so incredibly embarrassing to witness. How anyone can take execrable, puffed-up, narcissistic wank like that even slightly seriously is quite beyond me.
posted by Decani at 6:50 AM on April 29, 2006


It's a big improvement over most national anthems though, which are in 4/4 time: 'We're number one! This is the best place!

Not to mention that it's to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," which rocks.... blah blah blah dare to entwi-i-ine, the myr-yrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:56 AM on April 29, 2006


I agree about the turkey, now that we have "discovered fossils in southern Utah that appear to be a prehistoric version of the modern-day turkey. Named Hagryphus giganteus, the creature stood seven feet tall and could run upwards of 25 mph."

That one you can easily see painted on the nose of a Stealth Bomber or an ICBM or a main battle tank or a Presidential limousine, "undimmed by human tears."

Oh, wait ....
posted by hank at 9:01 AM on April 29, 2006


Decani : "Christ, the excessive patriotism of a self-mythologising people is so incredibly embarrassing to witness. How anyone can take execrable, puffed-up, narcissistic wank like that even slightly seriously is quite beyond me."

C'mon, Decani, you can certainly appreciate execrable, puffed-up, narcissistic wank if you try.
posted by Bugbread at 9:24 AM on April 29, 2006


C'mon, Decani, you can certainly appreciate execrable, puffed-up, narcissistic wank if you try.

Oh, alright. I'll download some Miles Davis and give it a shot.
posted by Decani at 10:05 AM on April 29, 2006


Bugmuncher: don't stop there:
Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! She burns! She'll come! She'll come!

I never realized how hot state anthems were until today.
posted by zaelic at 10:57 AM on April 29, 2006


Can I ask a serious question, or is this a joke-only thread ('cause if it is, that's cool, I've got a couple) but I'm wondering, isn't there a bit of cognitive dissonance at work here? I mean, these lines from the end of verse 3:
May God thy gold refine
Till all success
Be nobleness
And every gain divine!
Sound like the familiar protestant work ethic crap work hard and if you do well god loves you (and if you don't he hates you) but the line quoted in the post till selfish gain no longer stain etc. sounds a bit socialist.
Now, I realize that it is "all success be nobleness" which can be read as a spiritual plea, you know, may we all look to our souls rather than be greedy bastards. But, well, the rhetoric is of capital "gold" "success" "gain" and the spiritual overtones don't really exclude the opportunistic materialism of the words. The choice of language almost subverts the superficial message of nobility and divinity. I understand that "selfish gain" is in opposition to "gain divine" i.e. a spiritual reward rather than a financial reward, but the metaphysical frame is one of physical and material goods being the sign of divine approval. Thus one could argue that American gain is divine while everyone one else is selfish and damned.
Just a thought.
posted by Grod at 1:55 PM on April 29, 2006


Grod.
I think you may be reading way too much into that line. You say that the choice of words almost suberts the spiritual meaning, but I think you're minsinterpreting the words because of their modern connotations. There doesn't seem to be anything about capitalism and materialistic gain in that verse at all, unless someone with a modern bias forced that meaning. Words like "gold", "success", and "gain" are very commonly used in prayers. "May God thy gold refine" refers to purifying one's soul, not asking God to further refine our gold. I really think you're forcing the meaning you've arrived at, and I'm not sure at all how you would derive your last sentence from these words without completely ignoring the original meaning and putting your own in.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2006


Give me "America the Beautiful" for our anthem
and the turkey for our national bird. Seriously.

Ditto the latter, but we'd be better off with "Yankee Doodle" as the national anthem. A country that joyfully sang "Yankee Doodle" together on a regular basis would have a hard time generating the pomposity required for imperialism, or the pious hypocrisy needed to become a theocracy.
posted by Creosote at 8:10 PM on April 29, 2006


C'mon, Decani, you can certainly appreciate execrable, puffed-up, narcissistic wank if you try.

Oh, alright. I'll download some Miles Davis and give it a shot.


Unpleasant and music-impaired. Two great tastes, etc.
posted by Wolof at 9:39 PM on April 29, 2006


The lyrics from "This Land is Your Land" you don't hear much:

I always associate this song with a documentary about a teenage heroin addict living in the Bronx that I saw sometime in the 1980's.

Kid was Hispanic -- probably Puerto Rican -- aged about 14. His mom and his stepfather were both addicts, and he worked in the family business, selling pot from their front step.

His stepfather had just turned him on for the first time, and he's sitting there, out on the step, waiting for customers as he nods, scratches his nose and softly sings to himself:

"This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to Staten Island,
This land is your land, this land is my land,
This land was made for you and me."

The scene stuck with me for all kinds of reasons.

Why was the kid singing an old Woody Guthrie song rather than the new hiphop that was rocking the Bronx at that time? Probably because he'd learned it at school. He may have been 14, but to all intents and purposes, the kid was still a child.

And didn't he see the irony inherent in his singing that song? In some sense, if any place *wasn't* made for him, it had to be America. And yet on the other hand, America was built upon immigrants and their role in organized crime. For every Al Capone, there had to be a thousand footsoldiers.

That said, the chances of that poor kid still being alive today are almost non-existant. HIV/AIDS decimated the population of injecting drug users in NYC, and minority groups were hit hardest. By the early 80's, at least 50% were infected in NYC.

But I still can't shake that scene from my mind because of the powerful way in brought home to me the extent to which the most disadvantaged and marginalized outsiders in the USA seem to completely buy into the ideology of log cabin to White House, and the notion that if only you work hard enough in your chosen profession -- even if that profession is selling loose joints for two dollars a pop -- then you really can be a part of the American Dream.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:41 PM on April 29, 2006


From sea to shining sea!
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:46 AM on April 30, 2006


Unpleasant and music-impaired.

Maybe, but I fuck like a slutmonster. Rrrr.
posted by Decani at 5:19 PM on April 30, 2006


OK, I can't knock that.
posted by Wolof at 12:37 AM on May 1, 2006


ROU_Xenophobe, since you bring it up, here it is. (Typed from memory, memorized eleven years ago, no guarantees of accuracy.)

To Anacreon in heaven, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition
That he their inspirer and patron would be,
When the answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian:
"Voice, fiddle, and flute no longer be mute,
I'll lend ye my name, and inspire ye to boot.
And besides, I'll instruct ye, like me, to entwine
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine."

Translation: Some musicians wanted to be devotees of Anacreon. He said, "Sure thing, kids, and I'll also teach you the finer points of drunken macking!"

Ah, the good old USA. Bringing you sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll since 1776.
posted by eritain at 2:37 PM on May 1, 2006


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