A Toast

I poured myself a glass of sweet red wine last night. Sitting on the patio, I stared off into the magnolias and listened to the jar flies sing. While taking in the North Carolina evening, I thought: this is worthy of a toast.

It made me wonder if it was on a similar night that Leonora Monteiro Martin wrote the poem that became North Carolina’s official state toast.

The poem is believed to have been written for a banquet hosted by the North Carolina Society of Richmond back in 1904. On the 129th anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, the society celebrated the memory of North Carolina’s ancestors with speeches and toasts. The dinner concluded with Rev. Walter W. Moore reciting Martin’s prose.

Throughout the early 1900s, the poem appeared in newspapers, in anthologies, on postcards, and was used as a toast at other celebrations. It was even printed in the 1909 booklet honoring President Taft’s visit to Wilmington.

Mary Burke Kerr of Sampson County turned the poem into a song in the 1930s. The song was played on radio stations around the state, and generations of North Carolina students learned the lyrics in school.

The efforts of Martin and Kerr were acknowledged in 1957 when the NC General Assembly made “The Old North State” the official state toast of North Carolina. Today, we remain the only state with an official toast.

Did you learn the toast when you were growing up? If not, I’ve printed it below. Y’all enjoy!

The Old North State: A Toast

Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!

Here’s to the land of the cotton bloom white,
Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night,
Where the soft southern moss and jessamine mate,
‘Neath the murmuring pines of the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where the galax grows,
Where the rhododendron’s roseate glows,
Where soars Mount Mitchell’s summit great,
In the “Land of the Sky,” in the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where maidens are fair,
Where friends are true and cold hearts rare,
The near land, the dear land, whatever fate,
The blessed land, the best land, the Old North State!

– Leonora Monteiro Martin

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