Not sure what's in store for you and your friends or family on the Fourth of July yet? No matter; the only thing you really need to focus on at this stage of the game is which awesomely patriotic poem about America you're going to recite at the barbecue, the pool party, or while alone on your couch with your cats and red, white, and blue cupcakes. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Independence Day — irrespective of whether it includes fireworks or aesthetically-balanced adult beverages — it's nice to take a moment to reflect on the reason for the celebration.
Don't think you will, should, or want to do such a thing? I ask, what better way to break up the monotony of a normal Independence Day affair than to bring about a stirring ode to the good ole US of A penned by a historical wordsmith? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Yeah, he probably gave a decent toast in his day, so why don't you let him do the talking for a few minutes this weekend? Ask everyone to place their hand over their heart and observe the beauty and triumph that IS the indomitable American spirit.
Feeling patriotic yet? Let these revolutionary poems inspire a weekend of fun, flag waving, and seasonal celebration. 'Merica!
1. "The American Flag" — Joseph Rodman Drake
When freedom, from her mountain height/ Unfurled her standard to the air/ She tore the azure robe of night/ And set the stars of glory there. She mingled with its gorgeous dyes/ The milky baldric of the skies/ Then from his mansion in the sun/ She called her eagle-bearer down/ And gave into his mighty hand/ The symbol of her chosen land.
2. "The Republic 'The Building of a Ship'" — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on the fate! We know what Master laid the keel, What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel, Who made each mast, and sail, and rope, What anvils rang, what hammers beat, In what forge and what a heat Were shaped the anchors of thy hope! Fear not each sudden sound and shock, 'Tis of the wave and not the rock; 'Tis but the flapping of the sail, And not a rent made by the gale! In spite of rock and tempest's roar, In spite of false lights on the shore, Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea! Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee, Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, Are all with thee, — are all with thee!
3. "I Hear America Singing" — Walt Whitman
I Hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;The wood-cutter's song—the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.
4. "America the Beautiful" — Katharine Lee Bates
O beautiful for spacious skies,For amber waves of grain,For purple mountain majestiesAbove the fruited plain!America! America!God shed His grace on theeAnd crown thy good with brotherhoodFrom sea to shining sea!O beautiful for pilgrim feet,Whose stern, impassioned stressA thoroughfare for freedom beatAcross the wilderness!America! America!God mend thine every flaw,Confirm thy soul in self-control,Thy liberty in law!O beautiful for heroes provedIn liberating strife,Who more than self their country loved,And mercy more than life!America! America!May God thy gold refine,Till all success be nobleness,And every gain divine!O beautiful for patriot dreamThat sees beyond the yearsThine alabaster cities gleamUndimmed by human tears!America! America!God shed His grace on theeAnd crown thy good with brotherhoodFrom sea to shining sea!
5. "The New Colossus" — Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame."Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries sheWith silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
6. "My Country" — Sarah Josepha Buell Hale
America! my own dear land- O, 'tis a lovely land to me;I thank my God that I was bornWhere man is free!Our land- it is a glorious land- And wide it spreads from sea to sea- And sister States in Union joinAnd all are free.And equal laws we all obey- To kings we never bend the knee- We may not own no Lord but GodWhere all are free.We've lofty hills and sunny valesAnd streams that roll to either sea- And through this large and varied landAlike we're free.You hear the sounds of healthful toil,And youth's gay shout and childhood's glee,And every one in safety dwells,And all are free.We're brothers all from South to North,One bond will draw us to agree- We love this country of our birth- We love the free- We love the name of Washington,I lisped it on my father's knee- And we shall ne'er forget the _name_While we are free.My Land, my own dear native Land,Thou art a lovely land to me;I bless my God that I was bornWhere man is free!
7. "To the Fourth of July" — Swami Vivekananda
Behold, the dark clouds melt away,That gathered thick at night, and hungSo like a gloomy pall above the earth!Before thy magic touch, the worldAwakes. The birds in chorus sing.The flowers raise their star-like crowns-Dew-set, and wave thee welcome fair.The lakes are opening wide in loveTheir hundred thousand lotus-eyesTo welcome thee, with all their depth.All hail to thee, thou Lord of Light!A welcome new to thee, today,O sun! today thou sheddest LIBERTY!Bethink thee how the world did wait,And search for thee, through time and clime.Some gave up home and love of friends,And went in quest of thee, self banished,Through dreary oceans, through primeval forests,Each step a struggle for their life or death;Then came the day when work bore fruit,And worship, love, and sacrifice,Fulfilled, accepted, and complete.Then thou, propitious, rose to shedThe light of FREEDOM on mankind.Move on, O Lord, on thy resistless path!Till thy high noon o'erspreads the world.Till every land reflects thy light,Till men and women, with uplifted head,Behold their shackles broken, andKnow, in springing joy, their life renewed!