Sweet Land of Liberty!

He was born October 21, 1808, in Boston, Massachusetts, and attended the first public school in America, the Boston Latin School.  He was a good student and became proficient in foreign languages, becoming eventually a translator and thereby earning money to pay for his Harvard college education.

Called to the ministry, he would enter Andover Theological Seminary.  While a student there, he honed his writing skills and also further mastered languages.  Studying in Germany in the early 1830’s he was moved to write a poem for German school children who began each day by reciting a poem.  He put words to the English hymn “God Save the Queen,” and adapted it for American schools.

Returning to America, he became a professor of modern languages and a prominent Baptist pastor in Maine.  By the end of the 19th century, he had worn the hats of pastor, editor, professor, translator, hymnist and secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union.

However, none of the above is what we remember this early American for.  His classmate at Harvard, Oliver Wendell Holmes, described in verse what happens to many a poet’s lines:

Full many a poet’s labored lines, A century’s creeping waves shall hide.  The verse of people’s love enshrines, stands like a rock that breasts the tide.

Time wrecks the proudest piles we raise, the towers, the dome, the temples fall.  The fortress crumbles and decays, when breath of spring outlasts them all.”

And the classroom hymn, first performed July 4, 1832, at Boston’s Park Street Church has outlasted most.  Boston paid special tribute to its author in 1895, and on November 16, 1895, when Samuel Francis Smith died, “America” was sung in his honor, and it is still sung, not only by school children but by freedom-loving Americans in every state of this great Union.  Let us never forget that we live in the “Sweet Land of Liberty.”.:  And, let us always remember that Almighty God is the author of liberty.

“My Country ‘tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing:

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the Pilgrims’ 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 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!”

***************************

Samuel Francis Smith, 1808-1895

(Copied, public domain)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Ps.33:12)

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