Bates, Katharine Lee
Waldman, Neil, Illustrator
America the Beautiful
New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002
Happy July 4th! This year we are celebrating our country’s 240th Birthday. We are so blessed to live in a country with such diverse beauty. Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write this poem in the summer of 1893 when she was lecturing at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Neil Waldman was inspired to illustrate her poem on a cross country drive. There are days when I wish I had the talent to draw or paint the beauty that I see.
We are so lucky to live in a country with so much diversity. We need to remember that the majority of us who call the United States of America home came from some other country, if we look far enough back. Our family comes from England, Ireland, Germany and Lebanon. My hopes for our next year is to do as it says on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, you poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Let us open our hearts to new people.
America the Beautiful is one of my favorite songs to sing on this day. This book is the kind I like, you can read it or sing it. I love music and singing. Today another song has been running through my head, it is Irving Berlin’s Song of Freedom. I leave you with a link to a version of this song from the movie Holiday Inn.
Katharine Lee Bates (1859 – 1929)
Katherine was a poet and a scholar. Her father died shortly after she was born. Her father’s pension was not enough to support the family so everyone pitched in and helped. Education was important to her mother and she strove to provide her children with education.
They moved to a town near Wellesly so her mother could care for an ailing sister. Wellesley College was just being completed and Katharine was determined to attend. Attend she did and later became the head of the English Department there.1
Bates was a noted scholar, poet and writer. She was a prolific author publishing many volumes of poetry, books on her travels to Europe and the Middle East and stories, verses and plays for children. She also published several books on Shakespeare and pre-Shakespearean English Religious drama.2
Neil is a serious traveler. His own travels inspired him to illustrate this book. Here is a part of his own artist’s statement.
“But what type of artist are you?’
“A painter, of course. A landscape painter.”
For the earth’s landscapes brighten my darkest caverns
They are the beating of my heart
And their glorious colour is the stuff I breathe
Raging rivers are my life’s blood
Fields of flowers feed me
Twisted trees and mountain meadows heal my deepest wounds
They are like midwives
Continually ushering me
Into sunsparkled mornings3