America the Beautiful
Pike's Peak is an American beauty spot, about 10 miles west of Colorado Springs, in the state of Colorado. It is actually a 14,000 ft mountain, with a road up to the summit, although many people choose to climb to the top and look out across the "spacious skies", and "purple mountain majesties".
Katherine Lee Bates did just that back in 1893, and the view she saw inspired her to write the words to America the Beautiful.
She was born in 1859, the daughter of a Pastor, and she graduated from Wellesley College, in Massachusetts. Later she returned to teach at the college, and became head of the English department.
By 1893 she had written a number of books, including her research into the history of American literature. But the work that she is best known for is the poem that became the country's second most popular patriotic song.
She formed a romantic relationship with another Katherine, who was the head of the Economics department and with whom she lived until her partner's death in 1915.
She had been on an extended holiday in 1893 when she visited Pike's Peak, in Colorado. After she returned to her room that night, she remarked to friends that countries such as England had failed because, while they may have been "great", they had not been "good" ... she went on "unless we are willing to crown our greatness with goodness, and our bounty with brotherhood, our beloved America may go the same way."
The poem itself remained unpublished until it appeared two years later in the Congregationalist Newspaper, and after that it went through a number of revisions before eventually being published by he Boston Evening Transcript in 1904.
It was originally never intended to be sung, but its metre fitted a number of tunes around at the time. The one that it is most closely associated with is a tune called Materna, written by Samuel Augustus Ward in 1882. originally for a hymn, O Mother Dear, Jerusalem.