Friday, March 30, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 2)

If it says "state song" on the cover, it must be true, right?
[Continued from Part 1]

Even as his marriage fizzled out, F. B. Silverwood was writing and promoting what would eventually become California’s official state song.  He was not the first to write such a number. Many others had already tried and failed to promote their own proposed state songs. In doing so, they paved the way for Silverwood.

For example, "Hail California" (1896) by recent New York transplant Josephine Barrelle Howard Grow (a.k.a. Josephine Gro) sold at least 25,000 copies to public schools before fading into deserved obscurity. Gro simply printed “State Song” under the title on the cover of the sheet music rather than taking steps to obtain official status.

Describing Gro’s song, Ambrose Bierce wrote, "On the music I forgo judgement, lacking the gift and faculty devine of the musician; but the words are about the meanest, mangiest yellow dogs of words that ever scampered ki-yi-ing out of the cerebral kennel to lay waste the night and desolate the day."
Josephine Gro, circa 1895
The lyrics to “Hail California” follow:
O California--Hail to thee!
And to the day that gave thee birth!
With countless mines and fruitful vines,
Thou art a land of wonderous worth;
Thy Native Sons give homage true,
And glory in thy golden frame;
Thy foster children bless thee, too,
And sound they praise with loud acclaim.

Hail! All hail to California!
Shout from her Sierras to her Golden Gate;
Richest gem in fair Columbia's crown--
Hail to California, the Goden State.

Where once thy deserts lay in waste,
Now, scent of blossoms fills the air,
And fertile plains of golden grains
And groves of vast extent are there.
Since first thy rugged border-land
Gave entrance to the pioneer,
With steady stride and triumph grand,
Hast thou marched on thy proud career.

Oh, El Dorado--treasure land!
Of goodly gifts thou hast a store;
Thy yellow show'rs of fruit and flow'rs
In free profusion round us pour;
Thy flocks graze on a thousand hills,
Thy cattle roam o'er poppied plains,
In every breast a true heart thrills,
And over all contentment reigns.

O, Queen of the Pacific, with
Thy throne upon its golden sands;
Thy ships defy its billows high,
And bear thy wealth to other lands.
Thy South 'neath ever-smiling skies
Is a perennial garden fair--
Caressed by breezes soft, she lies
In luxury beyond compare.

Thy motto, "Watch and Guard," adorned
The banners of thine early days;
Thy record tells 'twas heeded well,
And each, its mandate still obeys.
And should the nation be in need,
Thy sons in all their loyal might,
To its defense will boldly speed,
Beneath Old Glory's colors bright.
Beirce was right about it being “insufferable stuff.” It would be more than a decade before anyone had the guts to broach the topic of a California state song again.
Next time: Westminster and the Land of the Setting Sun

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