Giants of both literature and the American spirit share today, America’s Independence Day, in significance. From today’s The Writer’s Almanac:

On this day in 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on Walden Pond. It was 10 feet wide by 15 feet long, had an attic and a closet, two windows, and a fireplace. It cost twenty-eight dollars and twelve cents to build. The single biggest expenditure was three dollars and ninety cents for nails. Thoreau boasted that he was a good builder, but when the cabin was excavated a hundred years later, the investigators found hundreds of bent nails in the cellar hole. He had two knives and forks, three plates, one cup and one spoon. He had a huge garden, seven miles of bean rows altogether, and he spent a lot of time weeding them and chasing away the woodchucks.


On this day in 1855, the first edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was printed. It consisted of 12 poems and a preface. The printers were friends of his, and they did not charge Whitman for their work. He helped set some of the type himself. “Grass” is a printer’s term; it refers to a casual job that can be set up between busy times.

Both of these authors have over time come to influence much of my philosophical and theological thought. When I think of the promise of America, I don’t think of Barack Obama, John McCain, or anyone else really. I think about Walden. I think about poems such as “Long, Too Long America,” or “Beat! Beat! Drums!” and, of course, “O Captain! My Captain!” These are America and will always be America.

Also, I want to post a set of lyrics for a song entitled “Jefferson and Liberty” for all of you to read. This song became known to me through The Boston Camerata from their CD, Liberty Tree: Early American Music 1776-1861, and the lyrics, I believe, are appropriate for today:

Jefferson and Liberty

The gloomy night before us lies,
The reign of terror now is o’er;
Its gags, inquisitors and spies,
Its hordes of harpies are no more
Rejoice, Columbia’s sons, rejoice
To tyrants never bend the knee
But join with heart, and soul and voice
For Jefferson and Liberty.

O’er vast Columbia’s varied clime
Her cities, forests, shores and dales;
In riding majesty, sublime,
Immortal liberty prevails,
Rejoice etc.

Hail! long expected glorious day
Illustrious memorable morn:
That freedom’s fabric from decay
Secures – for millions yet unborn.
Rejoice etc.

His country’s glory, hope and stay,
In virtues and in talents tried;
Now rises to assume the sway,
O’er freedom’s temple to preside.
Rejoice etc.

Within its hallow’d walls immense
No hireling band shall e’er arise;
Array’d in tyranny’s defence,
To hear an injur’d people’s cries.
Rejoice etc.

No lordling here with gorging jaws.
Shall wring from industry its food;
No fiery bigot’s holy laws,
Lay waste our fields and streets in blood.
Rejoice etc.

Here strangers from a thousand shores
Compell’d by tyranny to roam;
Shall find, amidst abundant stores,
A nobler and a happier home.
Rejoice etc.

Here art shall lift her laurel’d head
Wealth industry and peace divine;
And where dark forests lately spread
Rich fields and lofty cities shine.
Rejoice etc.

From Europe’s wants and woes remote
A dreary waste of waves between;
Here plenty cheers the humble cot,
And smiles on every village green.
Rejoice etc.

Here, free as air’s expanded space,
To every soul and sect shall be;
That sacred privilege of our race,
The worship of the Deity.
Rejoice etc.

These gifts, great Liberty, are thine,
Ten thousand more we owe to thee;
Immortal may their mem’ries shine,
Who fought and died for Liberty.
Rejoice etc.

What heart but hails a scene so bright
What soul but inspiration draws;
Who would not guard so dear a right
Or die in such a glorious cause.
Rejoice etc.

Let foes to freedom dread the name,
But should they touch the sacred tree
Twice fifty thousand swords would flame,
For Jefferson and Liberty.
Rejoice etc.

From Georgia up to Lake Champlain
From seas to Mississippi’s shore;
Ye sons of freedom loud proclaim,
The Reign of Terror is no more.
Rejoice-Columbia’s sons, rejoice!

To tyrants never bend the knee;
But join with heart, and soul and voice