Katharine Lee Bates Poems

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Katharine Lee Bates
Katharine Lee Bates, (August 12, 1859 March 28, 1929), is remembered as the author of the words to the anthem "America the Beautiful". Bates was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts. The daughter of a Congregational pastor, she graduated from Wellesley College in 1880 and for many years was a professor of English literature at Wellesley. While teaching there, she was elected a member of the newly formed Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences because of her interest in history and politics for which she also studied. She lived at Wellesley with Katharine Coman, who herself was a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesley College Economics department. The pair lived together for twenty-five years until Coman's death in 1915. These arrangements were sometimes called "Boston marriages" or "Wellesley marriages". In the years following Coman's death, Bates wrote Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance. Some see in the text of some of the poems (for example If You Could Come and Yellow Clover[1]) a confirmation that the relationship between the two women was actually a lesbian relationship. The first draft of "America the Beautiful" was hastily jotted in a notebook during the summer of 1893, which Bates spent teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Later she remembered "One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

america the beautiful
 
 
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majestie... [read poem]
footsteps
 
 
On an ebony bed decorated
with coral eagles, sound asleep lies
Nero --- unconscious, quiet... [read poem]
in harbor
 
 
A young man, twenty eight years old, on a vessel from Tenos,
Emes arrived at this Syrian harbor... [read poem]
ithaka
 
 
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of disco... [read poem]
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