42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh

Let mortal tongues awake

Samuel Francis Smith’s America—more commonly known as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee”— is short, direct, and a wonderful hymn to God as the soul of liberty. It’s a perfect hymn for the Fourth of July. It’s also very easy to play using the piano script from 42 Astounding Scripts.

Jerry Stratton, June 29, 2022

Samuel Francis Smith’s America is a staple patriotic song at religious gatherings around Independence Day and other patriotic holidays. It’s more commonly known as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” because “America” appears only obliquely in the lyrics as “Thy name I love” in the second verse. It is short, otherwise direct, and a wonderful combination of looking forward to liberty and looking backward to what that liberty cost.

Smith wrote America in 1831, when some people could still remember the events of the revolution and some were beginning to recognize the likelihood of further bloodshed in the name of liberty. He lived past our Civil War, and wrote hymns to the freedom secured through that great sacrifice, too.

The four verses rise from the birth of liberty, through the physical country, to hope for the spread of liberty, and end on a plea to God as the author of liberty to preserve and protect our country as a free country.

The several verses added later going into more detail about the beauties of our land seem excessively inventorical. The original second verse handles our country’s physical beauty just fine. I see no need to belabor the point. This is a hymn, after all, but not only that, one of the beauties of the hymn is it’s simplicity. Making it really long kills part of what makes it a great and memorable hymn.

The lyrics in my 1925 Hymns of Praise Number Two are:

    • 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 thrills
    • 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.

As you can see in the scanned image, the lyrics are attributed to Smith, but the melody is attributed simply to “English”. At the time Smith wrote his lyrics, he used a German melody. A friend had given him a collection of German songs that included a patriotic German tune, and he was “struck ‘by its simple and natural movement”.

It’s the same, or nearly the same, as Thomas Arne’s 1745 melody for God Save the King—or Queen, depending on when you sing it. Arne likewise took his arrangement from an existing melody already associated with God Save the Queen. It was a common enough tune that it was used in several patriotic songs throughout the world.

So Smith didn’t deliberately write it as a comment on America’s English heritage. He didn’t shy away from the metaphor, however.

Wilbur Tillett: national hymns

I do not share the regret of those who deem it an evil that the national tune of Britain and America is the same. On the contrary, I deem it a new and beautiful tie of union between the mother and the daughter, one furnishing the music…, and the other the words.

Smith wrote America as a way for students to begin the day praising God for their freedoms. That’s how he conceived it; how it was birthed is especially symbolic. It was first sung on July 4, 1832 at a Park Street Church, Boston, children’s celebration.

Part of his desire was also to express the need for faith in patriotism.

I was profoundly impressed with the necessary relation between love of God and love of country; and I rejoice if the expression of my own sentiments and convictions still finds an answering chord in the hearts of my countrymen.

Until The Star-Spangled Banner replaced it, America was used throughout the United States not just as a national hymn but as a national anthem, albeit never officially.

Since it contains references to both “fathers” and to the burdens of liberty and faith, I was worried about bowdlerization by modern editors. There’s been very little, however. Searching hymnal.org, the only serious change I could find is in the 2010 Celebrating Grace Hymnal. That book’s editors chose to de-emphasize the faith of our fathers who died, replacing the first line in the final verse about “Our fathers’ God” with “Our sovereign God”. That change moves the reference from the founding to us in the present.

As others have written a faith in some divine authority outside of the political is necessary for political freedom to flourish. The final verse isn’t just an appeal to God but an acknowledgment that great deeds require great faith. Our fathers were willing to die here because they believed in a divine power greater than themselves, greater than politics. As Smith’s final verse says, America has no political king; our King is God.

That’s a strange thing for a hymnal to edit out, especially after leaving in the first reference to fathers. Fortunately, this change doesn’t seem to be widespread.1

America expresses simple truths that lie at the heart of American freedom: that God is the author of liberty, and that an acknowledgement of God as a greater power who protects, inspires, and judges is necessary to the creation and maintenance of a free land. It’s not surprising that it spread so rapidly through the United States after its debut and remains popular today.

The download (Zip file, 2.4 MB) contains the piano text file that you can use with the piano script from 42 Astounding Scripts. It also contains two MIDI files created from that script, the treble and the bass clefs. And it contains the audio file I used for the slideshow.

[toggle code]

  • # America (My Country ’Tis of Thee), Treble Cleff
  • # S. F. Smith
  • # From Hymns of Praise Number Two, p. 285
  • # Jerry Stratton, astoundingscripts.com
  • --key F
  • "-C F" "-C F" "-D G"           | "-C. E." 8 "-D F" 4 "E G"
  • "F A" "F A" "G B"              | "F. A." 8 "E G" 4 "F F"
  • "-D G" "-C F" "-C E"           | 2 "-C. F."
  • 4 "A C" "A C" "A C"            | "A. C." 8 "G B" 4 "F A"
  • "G B" "G B" "G B"              | "G. B." 8 "F A" 4 "E G"
  • "F A" [8 B A G F] F F          | "F. A." 8 "E B" 4 "F C"
  • 8 [D 16 C B] F G 4 "F A" "E G" | 2 "F. F."

The bass clef is similar, and sounds fascinating on its own; it’s the same rhythm but a different melody.

[toggle code]

  • "F A" "F A" "-B B"    | "-C. G." 8 "-C C" 4 "-C C"
  • "F C" "-D D" "-B D"   | "-C. C." 8 "-C B" 4 "-D A"
  • "-B B" "-C A" "-C G"  | 2 "F. A."
  • 4 "F C" "A C" "C C"   | "F. C." 8 "F C" 4 "F C"
  • "-C C" "E C" "G C"    | "-C. C." 8 "-C C" 4 "-C C"
  • "F C" [8 D C B A] F F | "F. C." 8 "G C" 4 "A C"
  • 8 B D 4 "C C" "-C B"  | 2 "F. A."

Play the music using the piano script:

  • piano [ bass.txt ] treble.txt

Or if you’d like to play just the “Let freedom ring” notes, use:

  • piano --key F 8 [ D 16 C B ] F G 4 "F A" "E G" 2 "F. F."

I didn’t do anything particularly special for the slideshow. The first verse uses trumpets and only plays the treble clef. The second verse uses a cathedral organ for the treble clef and trumpets for the bass clef. The third verse returns to trumpets for the treble and continues using trumpets for the bass. And the final verse uses both trumpets and organ for the treble clef with full brass for the bass clef.

It is a very simple melody and the verses are short. These four verses take only a minute and a half to complete!

National hymns do not become such by virtue of their loftiness of poetic thought and expression, but because they have in them that indefinable, simple something that gets into the hearts of the people.—Wilbur Fisk Tillett, Methodist Hymnal

  1. More amusingly, if hymnal.org is correct the 1997 Celebration Hymnal replaces that line with “Our father’s God”, moving the apostrophe to make “father” singular rather than plural! That looks a lot more like a typo than a deliberate change.

  1. <- Holy, Holy!