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View of Cayuga Lake.

"Far Above Cayuga's Waters" is Cornell University's alma mater. The lyrics were composed circa 1870 by roommates Archibald Croswell Weeks, 1872, and Wilmot Moses Smith, 1874, and set to the tune of "Annie Lisle", a popular 1857 ballad by H. S. Thompson about a heroine dying of tuberculosis.



This song is the one of the better known alma maters in the United States. It is the only alma mater song included in Ronald Herder's 500 Best-Loved Song Lyrics.[1] In a novel, Betty Smith called it "the saddest and oldest of all college songs".[2] Edward Abbey, in One Life at a Time, Please, mentions a campfire sing in which he contributed "the first line of the only Ivy League song that occurred to me: 'Far above Cayuga's waters . . .'".[3]

The tune has been adopted since by dozens of universities, colleges, high schools, and camps worldwide. For example, Professor George Penny of the University of Kansas wrote his school's alma mater by changing a few words from Cornell's song ("Far above the golden valley..."). Other colleges and universities that have borrowed the song include the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, the College of William and Mary, the Colorado State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Syracuse University, the University of Missouri, the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama, Indiana University, Wofford College, Birmingham-Southern College, Emory University, Erskine College, Lehigh University, Lewis & Clark College, Moravian College, Xavier University, Acadia University, Vanderbilt University, the American University of Beirut, and even the fictional Plainfield Teacher's College. Camp Conrad Weiser near Reading Pennsylvania adopted it for its camp song in 1952.

The song traditionally concludes campus performances by the Cornell University Chorus and Cornell University Glee Club. It is also heard between the second and third periods of men's ice hockey games, halftime or the end of the third quarter of football games, and half time of other Cornell athletic contests attended by the Cornell Big Red Marching Band or the Cornell Big Red Pep Band. A rendition of the tune is also used to conclude all of the school's daily afternoon chime concerts (evening performances traditionally end with the "Evening Song"; the morning concert begins with the "Jennie McGraw Rag" but has no traditional finale).


The first two verses and the chorus are the best known and are usually the only verses sung. These verses and the rest of the song are as follows:

Far Above Cayuga's Waters
With its waves of blue,
Stands our noble Alma Mater
Glorious to view.
Lift the chorus, speed it onward,
Loud her praises tell.
Hail to thee, our Alma Mater,
Hail, all hail, Cornell!
Far Above the busy humming
Of the bustling town;
Reared against the arch of Heaven,
Looks she proudly down.
Sentry-like o'er lake and valley towers her regal form,
Watch and ward forever keeping, braving time and storm.
So through clouds of doubt and darkness gleams her beacon light,
Fault and error clear revealing, blazing forth the right.
To the glory of her founder rise her stately walls.
May her sons pay equal tribute whene'er duty calls.
When the moments, swiftly fleeting, ages roll between,
Many yet unborn shall hail her: Alma Mater, Queen!
In the music of the waters as they glide along,
In the murmur of the breezes with their whispered song,
In the tuneful chorus blending with each pealing bell,
One refrain seems oft repeated: Hail, all hail, Cornell!
Here, by flood and foaming torrent, gorge and rocky dell,
Pledge we faith and homage ever to our loved Cornell.
May time ne'er efface the memory of her natal day,
And her name and fame be honored far and wide always!

See also


  1. ^ Herder, Ronald (1998). 500 Best-Loved Song Lyrics. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9780486297255.'s%20Waters&f=false. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Smith, Betty (2000). Joy in the Morning. HarperCollins. pp. 177&178. ISBN 9780060956868. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Abbey, Edward (1988). One Life at a Time, Please. Macmillan. pp. 87. ISBN 9780805006032. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 

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