This Land is Your Land

“This Land Is Your Land” is one of the United States’ most famous folk songs. Its lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie in 1940. Recently I heard a radio show that mentioned the genesis of the song and that most often we do not hear all the original lyrics.  For some reason, rising early on our nation’s Independence Day, I looked up the original lyrics. The song was a musical response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he wrote a response originally called “God Blessed America for Me”.

Here are the original lyrics to This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

…Anslem of Canterbury once wrote that freedom is not simply a matter of choice (he held such a notion to be an impoverished idea of freedom) – but the lifting of burdens so that nothing obstructed one’s movement to God.  There before God one would experience the great paradox: to be free is to have no choice at all.

Perhaps Guthrie’s last verse is a reminder of our role in helping people achieve true freedom – lifting burdens from them as we are able.

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