Saturday, December 16, 2006

Poem by the woman who wrote the verses to "America the Beautiful"

A distinguished teacher and friend of mine sent along this link, a very scholarly web site on early anti-imperialist literature and history in America. Histories and literature not being taught in early social study classes now struggling under the facetious "No Child Left Behind" regime.

Click the title line above, explore the web site, rich in a culture now dumped into a lost period of American history.

From the short bio about Katherine Lee Bates, (1859-1929) was a feminist and longtime professor at Wellesley College. She is best known as the author of "America the Beautiful," a poem she first published in the July 4, 1895, issue of The Congregationalist. Writing the country's unofficial second national anthem earned her a memorial statue on the public green in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where she was born, and a public school is named for her in Wellesley.

Although she was an early opponent of U.S. imperialism and the Philippine-American War, that part of her career is neither widely known nor celebrated today.

Bates does not seem to have had any organizational connection with the Anti-Imperialist League, but she wrote numerous poems about the Philippine-American War, the Boer War in South Africa, and dashed hopes for peace at the turn of the century.

Like other anti-imperialists, she did not question westward expansion "from sea to shining sea," but she saw imperialism as a policy that undermined the values extolled in her most famous poem: freedom, self-control, and liberty in law.

The first section of her 1911 collection, America the Beautiful and Other Poems, begins with the title poem, includes a number of others on national topics, and ends with the poems on imperialism and abandonment of national traditions. These poems are included in the site linked above in the title line.


by Katherine Lee Bates, anti-imperialist educator and feminist
From America the Beautiful and Other Poems (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1911).

At the crowded gangway they kissed good-bye.
He had half a mind to scold her.
An officer's mother and not keep dry
The epaulet on his shoulder.

· · · · · · · ·

He had forgotten mother and fame,
His mind in a blood-mist floated,
But when reeling back from carnage they came,
One told him: "You are promoted!"
His friend smiled up from the wet red sand,
The look was afar, eternal,
But he tried to salute with his shattered hand:
"Room now for another colonel!"

· · · · · · · ·

Again he raged in that lurid hell
Where the country he loved had thrown him.
"You are promoted!" shrieked a shell.
His mother would not have known him.

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