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Sorry, Mrs. Clifford

The words to “Arizona,” the state song, were mercilessly parodied



Intoxicated with the success of Arizona achieving statehood in 1912, the state’s inhabitants enthusiastically set about boosting all things Arizona. We had a flag, a seal, a flower, and a bird. But the Territorial Song of 1901, “Hail to Arizona, The Sun-Kissed Land,” was felt by many to be obsolete, as it explicitly recognized that before 1912 Arizona was NOT a state (“Thy day of birth is near at hand …”). A new state song must be written!


Margaret Rowe Clifford of Douglas, widow of a pioneer rancher, took on the task of writing the words that would do the Baby State justice. Writing in the popular allegorical style of the day, Clifford penned three stanzas and a chorus that glorified the taming of the West and the manifest favor of God for the pioneering enterprise. It is the purplest of prose, even for 1917, when it was written. She partnered with Maurice Blumenthal, a Bisbee student destined to become a prominent attorney, to set her poem to music. The resulting composition livened up the pompous lyrics with a cheery, up-tempo march.


The Cochise house delegation to the 3rd state legislature in 1917 co-sponsored the State Song bill as a bloc. Of course, such a momentous piece of legislation received press coverage, and the lyrics to the proposed anthem were printed for the public to review.  Since most Arizona residents at the time were gritty folk, they found the poem amusing, and worthy of comment.


To fully appreciate the parody-worthiness of Mrs. Clifford’s poem, it is worth reprinting here, for those not familiar.


Arizona

Margaret Rowe Clifford

 

Come to this land of sunshine

To this land where life is young.

Where the wide, wide world is waiting,

The songs that will now be sung.

Where the golden sun is flaming

Into warm, white, shining day,

And the sons of men are blazing

Their priceless right of way.

 

Chorus

Sing the song that’s in your hearts

Sing of the great Southwest,

Thank God, for Arizona

In splendid sunshine dressed,

For thy beauty and thy grandeur, 

For thy regal robes so sheen

We hail thee Arizona

Our goddess and our queen.

 

Come stand beside the rivers

Within our valleys broad.

Stand here with heads uncovered, 

In the presence of our God!

While all around, about us

The brave, unconquered band, 

As guardians and landmarks

The giant mountains stand.

 

Not alone for gold and silver

Is Arizona great.

But with graves of heroes sleeping,

All the land is consecrate!

O come and live beside us

However far ye roam

Come help us build up temples

And name those temples “home.”

 

Within two weeks of filing the State Song bill, Lilian Applewaite was inspired to take a different tack to honoring her home state. This one was a little more earthy:

 

ARIZONA!

Not a State Anthem

Lilian Francis Applewaite

 

Arizona! Arizona! where the sun is hot and bright,

Where the gila monster warbles to the pensive moon at night,

Where the state is “dry” as tinder and you cannot drown your thirst

Though you drain the oaken bucket ‘till you very nearly burst.

 

Where the horned toad and the lizard flourish like the mesquite tree,

Where the omnipresent woodtick keeps you scratching constantly,

Where the cowboy in his anguish, executes a frenzied dance

When the scorpion jabs his stinger through the bosom of his pants.

 

Where the irrigated pumpkins grown in clusters on the vine,

Where the plutocrat yank copper from the bowels of the mine,

Where the housewife runs for office while her hubby herds the kid

And the rampant sufragettist is still holding down the lid.

 

Where the everlasting cactus stabs you with its renowned thorn,

Where the sizzling heat of summer makes you look on clothes with scorn,

Where the neighbor’s blatant rooster crows throughout the night and day,

And the whistling, seething sandstorm drives your peace of mind away.

 

Where the mocking bird and burro sing in pleasing harmony, 

Where the wobbly Indian maiden is a joyous sight to see,

Where the blooming legislature bars the festive poker game,

But–we love you Arizona! yes, we love you just the same!

 

Published Arizona Republican, February 23, 1917

 

Applewaite’s submission soon inspired an answer:

 

ARIZONA

With Apologies to Lilian Francis Applewaite

 

By Aileen M. Butterfield

 

Arizona, Arizona! where the sunny skies are blue, 

Where the buds burst into blossom in a single night or two;

Where the state is “dry as tinder,” but it’s all that’s dry, I think,

For the odor of the atmosphere speaks loudly of a drink.

 

Now, the horned toads and lizards, I have seen them in a shop

Between Washington and Adams on Center where we stop.

View the relics of days past, not that little bottle of beer—

He who looks upon its amber, sheds a hot and scalding tear.

 

Speaking of the scorpion jabbing stingers through the pants

Of our bright and wiley cowboy! Well, it hasn’t got a chance.

Mr. Cowboy wears a pair of chapps and, goodness knows, what not, 

And when he sits him down to rest, he executes a squat.

 

Talk about the pumpkins growing many on a vine,

Then cast your eyes at “Magma,” now, isn’t she a mine?

And even, too, that cactus that stabs you with its thorn—

It makes the finest candy and puts all else to scorn.

 

Then listen to the housewife, whose hubby isn’t worth a fig;

She will tell you, night and morning, that her neighbor wears a wig.

But she can run the highest office; she can drive her own machine;

She can hand you cards on any trick—she’s a dandy and a queen.

 

Then, all hail a state that’s able to make a burro sing

In harmony with mocking birds or any other thing.

And why kick the legislature, or scorn at poker poke,

If life in Arizona is such a blooming joke.

 

Published Arizona Republican, February 28, 1917

 

The State Song bill never made it out of committee in 1917. In those days, the legislature met biannually, and the bill was brought back up in the 4th legislature, 1919. The critics once again rose to mirthfully ridicule the proposed anthem. The following paraphrase of the Clifford poem appeared in the Arizona Republican’s humor column, “The Camels’ Back.” (Double-O meant to give it the Once Over.)


HERR KRITIK PUTS OUT DUBLE O ON ANTHEM

The proposed state anthem has been submitted to our Musik Kritik for his eminent consideration. After giving this creation of brain and brawn a thorough “Double O,” Herr Kritic says:

“One of the surest tests to determine whether or not a given piece of work is genoowine poetry is to see how it stands up under the strain of paraphrasing. This I done to ‘Arizona,’ the piece of carpentry proposed as a state anthem. Here it is – I leave it to you.


I.

C’mon over in the sunshine and

Sing while the men blaze their

Right of way into the (Chorus) Sing-Sing of

The Great Southwest.

 

II.

C’mon and stand down by

The rivers in our broad valleys

(Not including Brewery Gulch)

And take your hat off while

The mountains stand around us

In the (Chorus) SingSing of 

The Great Southwest.

 

III.

Besides her gold and silver,

Arizona is great for lots of

Things – such as her many graves

Of heroes. 

C’mon over and build your home

In our graveyard – 

The (Chorus) Sing-Sing of

The Great Southwest. 

 

P. S. – The parenthesis are not part of the song.


Despite the ridicule given to the “Arizona March Song,” the legislature felt bad for the aging Margaret Rowe Clifford and passed the State Song bill in 1919. It is all but forgotten today. But the parodies deserve to be remembered!

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