31 May 2010

We will remember them ...

When I was much younger, Memorial Day was celebrated on 30 May each year. The observance began in in 1868 when Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued what was called General Order Number 11, designating 30 May as a memorial day. He declared it to be
for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.
Southern women had been decorating the graves of soldiers before the end of the Civil War. After the war, the Women's Memorial Association in Columbus, Mississippi, put flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in 1866, an act of generosity that inspired the poem by Francis Miles Finch, "The Blue and the Grey," published in the Atlantic Monthly.

I usually post In Flander's Fields on Memorial Day, but it is really appropriate for Armistice Day, 11 November when Europe remembers its soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. This year I'm posting Mr. Finch's poem which was written for our Memorial Day.
    By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
    Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Under the one, the Blue,
    Under the other, the Gray

    These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
    All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgement-day
    Under the laurel, the Blue,
    Under the willow, the Gray.

    From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
    Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgement-day;
    Under the roses, the Blue,
    Under the lilies, the Gray.

    So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
    With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Broidered with gold, the Blue,
    Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

    So, when the summer calleth,
    On forest and field of grain,
    With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day,
    Wet with the rain, the Blue
    Wet with the rain, the Gray.

    Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
    In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
    Under the blossoms, the Blue,
    Under the garlands, the Gray

    No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
    They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
    Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day,
    Love and tears for the Blue,
    Tears and love for the Gray.
Although I am a peacenick, I have a great respect for our military, and am a strong supporter of those serving in our military. I close with the Ode of Remembrance.
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.