Friday, July 4, 2014

Waxing Poetically for Independence Day

                                    A Nation's Strength-  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904)

What makes a nation’s pillars high

And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, we should find ways to deepen our appreciation of what America means.  This can be accomplished through art, poetry and music.

The stylized skyline  resembling the stars and stripes brings to mind  that the Declaration of Independence was a divine gift to the world where our founders gathered in Philadelphia in 1776 asserted that self evident truths that rights and freedoms are granted from God not from the state.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "A Nation's Strength" reminds us that this foundation of freedom is grounded by brave men and women who toil to protect our freedom, often at great personal cost.

But these celebrations can not become ossified.  So A Capitol Fourth on the National Mall will feature a new arrangement of the National Anthem.

This version of Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled Banner seems more fit for orchestral performance than to be sung.  However, considering the history of the base tune and the difficulty which singers have singing on key, this arrangement can be a blessing.  

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