It is from the fourth verse of "America, the Beautiful" Music by Samuel Ward, 1882 Words by Katharine Lee Bates, 1895 O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond …the years Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good With brotherhood From sea to shining sea!.
It was first published as a poem in 1895 in " The Congregationalist ". The melody was added later. The Ward version of the melody - the one we know today - was already popular around 1910. There were other melodies written for it. Bates amended the lyrics after publication in both 1904 and 1913. It was on an 1893 train trip from Massachusetts to teach a summer session at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that Bates visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the "White City", with its promise of the future contained within its alabaster buildings. This inspired the line, "Thine alabaster cities gleam ...". ( Full Answer )