Sweet Land of 'Halls of Learning Fair'
Most Americans recognize their country as a "sweet land of liberty,'' thanks to Samuel Francis Smith's 1831 song, "America.''
But according to a recently retired community-relations official for the Polk County, Fla., public schools, the 19th-century songwriter also intended to laud the nation's "halls of learning fair'' in two of five apparently long-forgotten stanzas of the nationalist song.
Lucy DuCharme says she discovered the discarded verses in 1983 while searching for a few good patriotic quotes to spice up a speech.
The first lost stanza turned up in a book of quotations, Ms. DuCharme said. She eventually found four more, bringing the total to nine--five more than is recorded in most songbooks.
But what really delighted Ms. DuCharme was that two of the "new'' verses sing the praises of education. Since 1983 was the year of "the rising tide of mediocrity'' in education and praise for the nation's schools was scarce, Ms. DuCharme launched a campaign to publicize her discovery.
First, she persuaded fellow officials to allow the new verses to be taught in the Polk County system. Letters were also sent to senators, President Reagan, and the U.S. Education Department to enlist help in making the discovery known.
Unfortunately, said Ms. DuCharme, these letters had little effect, now only students in Polk County and a few surrounding areas have the additional words in their songbooks. And even though the National School Public Relations Association has widely distributed the lyrics, most people are unaware of them, she said.
Efforts to prove that the rediscovered stanzas were indeed penned by Mr. Smith have proved fruitless. N.S.P.R.A. officials say their research has not provided confirmation. Nor could a music specialist at the Library of Congress verify them.
But Ms. DuCharme feels that even if the new stanzas were not part of the original composition, they should be.
Here are the lyrics on education that Ms. DuCharme discovered:
Our glorious Land today,
'Neath Education's sway
Soars upward still.
It's halls of learning fair,
Whose bounties all may share,
Behold them everywhere,
On vale and hill.
Thy safeguard, Liberty,
The School shall ever be;
Our nation's pride.
No tyrant hand shall smite,
While with encircling might
All here are taught the Right
With Truth allied.--E.F.